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HC-Pedia Entry

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are brown or reddish brown oval shaped insects that feed at night on the blood of mammals. While there are a number of species, the common and the tropical bedbug are generally the ones to feed on human blood. Roughly 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch (4-5 mm) long as adults, bed bugs cannot fly, but can move quickly and readily hide in small spaces.

 

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Once thought nearly eradicated throughout North America thanks to the widespread use of the now-banned pesticide DDT, bed bugs have made a comeback in recent years. Infestations have been reported throughout the United States. Bed bugs do not transmit disease. However, saliva injected during feeding frequently induces an allergic reaction that causes itching, redness, and/or swelling at the site of the bite.

Bed bugs are not an indicator of unclean conditions or filth. They live on blood, not garbage. Also, bed bugs are particularly tough to eradicate given their small size, their resistance to many common pesticides used today, and their ability to live for several months without having a blood meal. It’s possible to bring a bed-bug infestation home in luggage after travel, even if one stays in a top-notch hotel. Infestations can occur in any neighborhood, but tend to be more common in areas with multi-family housing where population densities are higher.

Infestations may be indicated by the appearance of bite marks and the presence of live, crawling bugs. Cast-off skins, and small blood marks from crushed bugs or their feces may also be seen.

Short-term control methods include regular vacuuming of all bedding, carpeting, drapes, and upholstery in sleeping areas, with particular attention to using a crevice tool on seams and folds in mattresses and pillows. When finished, remove the vacuum cleaner’s bag from the premises to prevent reinfestation.

Bedding should be washed at least weekly in hot water of at least 120oF (50oC), and then dried at the warmest setting safe for the fabric. Steam cleaning will kill bedbugs in mattresses and box springs, but only within one-half inch (1.25 cm) of the surface.

Mattresses may be sealed in plastic to isolate the bugs and prevent them from feeding until they die. Eliminate clutter on and around the bed where the insects can hide. Leaving mattresses and bed frames outside in freezing weather will kill any bed bugs not well insulated.

These methods may help reduce an infestation but will not eradicate bed bugs. Hire a pest-control professional to eliminate an infestation. Be prepared to follow the expert’s advice closely on how to prepare your home for treatment. Successful eradication may require a great deal of patience since ridding a home of the bugs without using DDT is an evolving science. It may take as many as three applications by the contractor to eradicate a bed bug infestation.

Bed bugs:  Created on November 3rd, 2009.  Last Modified on December 26th, 2009

 

References listed above credit sources The Housekeeping Channel consulted for background or additional information.

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