Bed bugs are back and they've returned with a vengeance! The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius), has survived in temperate climates for thousands of years and is currently enjoying a Renaissance in North America, due to increased international travel and the banning of DDT and other toxic pesticides, over the last few decades. They are sometimes referred to as the mahogany flat, the heavy dragon, the crimson rambler, the nachtkrabbler or the redcoat. These loathsome critters do not generally carry disease, but their bites are irritating and uncomfortable and their presence is decidedly unwelcome in our homes.

The adult bed bug is reddish-brown in color and generally about the size of a lentil (5 mm). Nearly translucent when newly hatched, bed bugs develop into flat, oval-shaped, wingless insects covered with tiny hairs that give them a striped appearance. Bed bugs are nocturnal creatures that are attracted to heat and carbon dioxide and feed on humans as well as animal blood. To facilitate their feeding, bed bugs have two tubular appendages; one is used to pierce the skin and deliver anticoagulants and anesthetics, while the other extracts blood from the host. Because this ingenious creature has numbed the site of his injection, the bed bug's initial bite usually goes unnoticed. The welts and itching that may develop later in the day are a result of the anticoagulants and anesthetics in the bed bug's saliva, which do irritate the skin and can lead to infections and scarring. Though bed bugs prefer human blood, they have been known to feed on dogs and cats as well as people.

Bed bugs may deposit up to five eggs a day in hidden locations and typically produce up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. These agile insects generally hide during the day and become active at night, particularly in the last hours before dawn. Bed bugs will feed for about 5-10 minutes before retreating, and may leave a cluster of bites if they are disturbed by movement while feeding. Bites are commonly on the limbs, although they can be found on any part of the body.

If you find a bed bug infestation in your home, do not panic. Contrary to popular myth, with proper care and treatment methods, bed bugs can be controlled and eliminated.

Eradication: Identifying a bed bug problem may be difficult in the early stages of infestation. If you suspect bed bugs may be present, examine sheets, mattresses and pillowcases at night with a flashlight. Putting on the overhead light will likely make the bed bug s scatter. Telltale signs of infestation include brown or reddish streaks on sheets and pillowcases, as well as the aforementioned bites and welts. Bed bugs typically feed every five to ten days, and can survive for up to eighteen months between feedings.

Bed bugs feed on blood, not dirt, so although hygiene and cleanliness will make a bed bug problem easier to eradicate, those factors alone won't prevent or control infestation. Because bed bugs hide close to where they feed, eliminating them will require a through examination of the cracks and crevices surrounding one's bed. Bed bugs can hide in seams and along the edges of mattresses and box springs in the joints of wooden headboards and platforms, along the edging of walls floors, and carpets and in more serious infestations, in any number of dry, undisturbed locations in the home. Fabrics and wood are favorite hiding places; bed bugs are much less likely to be found on smooth surfaces such as metals and plastics.

It is essential to locate the source of a bed bug infestation in order to properly eradicate the problem. Channel Sherlock Holmes and his magnifying glass when examining your own mattress, box spring, headboard, flooring and furniture. Locating the source of a bed bug infestation can be challenging and ti me consuming, and you may want to consider the services of bug sniffing dogs if you are physically limited or lacking in time to conduct a thorough search yourself. Vacuuming is helpful, but it will not necessarily dislodge bed bug eggs that may have been deposited in mattress seams and other crevices.

Once you have eliminated all visible signs of bed bugs from your bed and bedding, you can make your sleeping environment inhospitable to tiny unwelcome guests by applying Vaseline or another non-toxic, slippery agent to the feet of your box spring or mattress platform. Bed bugs do not fly and can only travel to your sheets by foot. Mattress encasements such as the Protect-A-Bed® (Bed Bug Proof) Aller-Zip® Bedding Encasement are also effective barriers against bed bugs that serve the additional function of sealing your bedding from microscopic organisms, dust mites and allergens.

All infected bedding should be washed in hot water of at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Both extreme heat and extreme cold are detrimental to bed bugs, so steaming or ironing mattress seams for extra security can also help eliminate tiny eggs and hidden bed bugs. It is not a bad idea to pour boiling water over pillowcases and sheets in a bathtub before sealing infected bedding in plastic bags prior to laundering.

Bed bugs are not attracted to gel based exterminating agents, so the current popular methods for eliminating cockroaches and other domestic pests are ineffective in treating a bed bug infestation. Short of locating and physically killing bed bugs in their hiding areas, chemical fumigation is needed to control and eradicate a bed bug problem. In many instances, however, commercial exterminating agents, even those seemingly "approved" by the FDA, may contain neurotoxins and other dangerous chemicals that are unhealthy and unsafe for adults, children and pets. Fortunately there are non-toxic exterminating agents available, including fruit and vegetable insecticides, which are comprised of canola oil and natural pyrethrins and eco-friendly commercial products such as Kleen Green for Bed Bugs. Spraying rubbing alcohol directly on bed bugs should kill them on contact, however this is not recommended for wider prevention or maintenance.

When tackling a bed bug problem, it is important to take extreme care in how you transport and dispose of contaminated items. Vacuuming is helpful, but will not necessarily dislodge bed bug eggs that may have been deposited in mattress seams and other crevices. It is important to seal vacuum cleaner bags in plastic, to eliminate the possiblility of spreading the problem from one location to another. Bedding that is to be washed or discarded should also be wrapped and sealed tightly in plastic bags to prevent the spread of infestation to uncontaminated areas and adjacent apartments and buildings. Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers, and can travel in suitcases and clothing. The bugs are difficult to dislodge, and their tiny eggs are equally stubborn and easily overlooked.

Bed bugs are resourceful creatures, so it is important to always take care whenever buying used furniture or other items that can provide numerous hiding places for bed bugs and their eggs.

For additional recommendations on locating and eradicating bed bugs quickly, safely and effectively, please contact us by phone Toll Free at 888-774-4046, or click on our Contact Us Link and provide your name and phone number and we will call you back. Emails without a phone number will not be responded to. All information is kept confidential.