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Before the turn of the century, you would have been hard-pressed to find a bed bug in the United States. But in the last two decades, they have taken root and spread throughout the country at an alarming rate.
In our Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. service areas, these blood-eating insects find the ideal conditions for survival. While bed bugs live almost exclusively inside man-made structures, the warm climate in our region can help bed bugs to reproduce quickly in homes or businesses that are not climate controlled. The large density of human population and numerous, closely packed, man-made structures help bed bugs to spread. And the tourism of our Federal capitol brings travelers from many countries of the world that do not have the level of pest control that we have here. Together, these work to make our region a hotbed for bed bug activity.
When bed bugs get into homes and businesses they present many problems—not the least of which is itchy, and sometimes painful, red welts on the skin. But far worse than the bites they inflict is the trauma they can cause. These insects come out mostly at night to crawl on us and feed on us. For some people, this creates severe anxiety.
If you’re already suffering from a bed bug infestation and don’t have time to waste, contact American Pest immediately for a consultation. We can guide you toward a plan that will work to get rid of those bugs. We use the most advanced equipment and strategies to locate and eliminate bed bugs. Check out our bed bug control page for more information.
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What You Can Do to Prevent Bed Bugs Right Now
Spring Bed Bug Control
Bed bugs can be a threat all year long, but spring has some unique challenges. When temperatures warm up, it can cause these insects to reproduce more quickly and spread more readily, even though they are an indoor pest that hitchhikes from one area of infestation to the next. Not every home or business is temperature controlled. Spring is also a time for spring cleaning. Spring cleaning can lead to free furniture on the side of the road or great deals on furniture at yard sales. Do a close check of all used furniture you purchase, not just beds. Here are two more spring specific bed bugs tip:
- When college-age kids head off to spring break, they can be exposed to bed bugs in many ways. Teach them to identify these insects and the warning signs bed bugs leave behind. It can help to protect them at school and when they come back to stay with you.
- Memorial Day is a big holiday for some. If you find yourself on the road, heading out to visit family or friends, remember to do a quick bed bug inspection when you stay anywhere. Also, keep in mind that your friend or relative could have bed bugs in their home and not know it. It can take a month or two for a bed bug infestation to become obvious.
Summer Bed Bug Control
While bed bugs live almost exclusively with humans and do not enter homes through cracks in exterior walls, the summer temperatures give them the warmth they need to reproduce quickly in homes and businesses that are not temperature controlled. Be vigilant to take steps to prevent bed bug infestations this summer.
- The summer provides many opportunities for vacations and holiday travel. Always do a quick bed bug inspection when you stay anywhere and keep in mind that bed bugs are highly attracted to clothing that has been worn. Keep your laundry in a sealed plastic bag during your travels.
- While school is out for most of the summer, your kids are likely to take advantage of sleepovers and other activities that can allow bed bugs to go from one home to another. Check the creases and cracks in carriables and put items in the hot dryer for 30 minutes to kill bed bugs in all stages of development.
- The end of summer is the beginning of school. Keep in mind that this can increase your chances of getting bed bugs because schools offer many opportunities for close contact between children. Educate your kids on bed bug identification and how to detect warning signs.
Fall Bed Bug Control
Bed bugs can be a threat all year long but they are a big fall pest because fall provides opportunities for these indoor pests to hitchhike from one home to the next. They'll take advantage of Thanksgiving, so take some time to learn holiday prevention tips. They'll take advantage of the close quarters of eager shoppers on Black Friday, so consider putting your clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes if you have been in a tightly packed crowd, and make a quick bed bug check of those deals you bought. Here are a few more fall bed bug tips to consider:
- Learn to identify a bed bug. Recognizing these bugs early can help you stop them from infesting your home.
- Learn to identify the signs of a bed bug infestation. These insects are great at hiding but not so great at hiding the evidence of their presence. They leave speckles of black feces, shed skins, brown blood stains, and tiny white eggs.
- Don't be afraid to have a conversation with family and friends about bed bugs. The more we openly talk about bed bugs with each other, the less of a stigma there will be. Bed bugs can invade any home, no matter how clean. The best prevention is bed bug awareness.
Winter Bed Bug Control
We often think of bugs as a summer pest problem, but bed bugs live almost exclusively inside man-made structures. So they are unaffected by the winter cold. They're as toasty as a bug in a rug--or a bed, or anywhere else bed bugs hide. In fact, the threat of bed bugs can actually be increased during the cold winter months.
While bed bugs are certainly a threat through the warmer months, during the winter when many people travel for the holidays, they can become more of a problem. If you plan to go somewhere, check out our bed bug prevention guide for the holiday. It has lots of great tips for preventing bed bugs from hitching a ride back home with you. Here are a couple of specific tips that can keep bed bugs from coming into your home this winter.
- If you have a college-age kid coming home for the holidays be aware that college dormitories are the perfect environment for bed bugs. Share bed bug inspection tips with your son or daughter to help prevent an infestation.
- If you have family visiting for the holidays, be aware that they can pick bed bugs up if they stay somewhere along the way or bring them from their home. Don't be afraid to have a talk about bed bugs. It will help to protect everyone.
Problems Bed Bugs Bring
No one likes waking up to small bug bites all over their body. But being bitten by bed bugs can be much more than an irritation. Here are just a few ways bed bugs can be a problem when they get into a home or business.
- Trama: For some people, bed bugs are more than an irritation. They can be traumatic. There is something unsettling about having bugs crawling on you and feeding on your blood while you sleep.
- Hotels, motels and other businesses that offer sleeping accommodations can get bad reviews and lose revenue.
- Assisted living facilities can earn a bad reputation when infestations aren't handled properly.
- Daycares, headstarts, and schools can have major fallout from parents when bed bugs appear, no matter what is done to correct the issue.
- A clothing retailer that accidentally ships bed bugs with merchandise could find itself the center of a social media frenzy.
- When bed bugs get into an apartment complex, they can move through wall voids and spread from one rental unit to the next.
- When bed bugs take root in a home, it can create problems with friends and family. Would you go over to someone's home if you found out they were dealing with a bed bug infestation, or they had bed bugs but got them exterminated? Not only is there a stigma attached to having bed bugs, there is a fear of picking these bugs up. Awareness of what bed bugs are and how they can be controlled is the solution to this unwarranted fear.
- In a recent study, it was found that bed bugs have the ability to transmit the protozoan that leads to Chagas disease. While this is not conclusive proof that bed bugs are linked to the spread of this dangerous disease, it shines light on the possibility that bed bugs do more than just leave itchy red welts.
While this is certainly not everything you need to know about bed bugs and the problems they present, it should help you understand the nature of this pest control issue.
Signs of Bed Bug Infestation
When bed bugs get into a home, you would think that bite marks would be the first sign of an infestation but often they aren't. Infestations can begin with the hatching of a group of eggs. The newly hatched bed bug nymphs can leave bite marks that aren't obvious. So it is important to know all of the warning signs bed bugs provide and where you can find those warning signs.
Bed Bug Identification
You may have seen a bed bug posted on the news. It is becoming a common sight. But those photos of apple seed-shaped, brownish-red bugs, with their horizontal crease lines, are a little deceiving. First of all, bed bugs don't always look like that. In fact, if you see a bed bug, it is more likely to be pale colored and have a bright red abdomen. This is because the bed bugs most people see are immature nymphs feeding on their skin. Adult bed bugs, the ones from the pictures on the news, come out at night while you're sleeping. Second, bed bugs are really small. When you see a big picture of a bug on the news, you don't get a realistic idea of the size of these insects. You can hold dozens of adult bed bugs on your thumbnail. And an infestation can be very small to look at. But don't let the small size fool you. Dozens of bed bugs in a tiny one-inch square piece of real estate between your mattress and your box spring can make you very miserable.
When bed bugs first hatch, they are pale and mostly transparent. As they develop, they become tan and eventually reddish brown, like the photos on the news. In all stages of development, bed bugs have six legs, two antennae, and three body parts. After a blood meal, the abdomen of a nymph will be bright red. While not as pronounced, adult bed bugs will appear more of a reddish color after a blood meal. An engorged bed bug will also appear to be more of a pill shape, rather than a flat oval.
Bed Bug Warning Signs
In areas of infestation, you're going to see speckles of black droppings or black patches, shed insect skins, 1 mm white eggs in a batch or as individuals, and tan staining caused by blood excretions. Keep in mind that these are not going to be large and noticeable. They may be tucked in a crack or crease. They may be in a pocket or under a flap of cloth. Bed bugs are skilled at hiding. It is also possible for bed bugs to hide in a place you can't search, such as inside wall voids, outlets, electronics, and the interior of your couch.
How Did I Get Bed Bugs?
If you've found bed bugs in your home, you may be tempted to think that they came from your yard because that is where most bugs come from. But bed bugs are somewhat unique among bugs. These insects have been dwelling almost exclusively with humans since the beginning of time. So the way they got into your home is likely to be one of the following ways.
- You went on a vacation and accidentally brought them back from a hotel, motel, or resort.
- You spent the night at a friend's or family member's home.
- Your children spent the night somewhere and brought them home.
- Your kids had a friend over who unknowingly brought them in.
- You had family come spend the holidays with you and, you guessed it, they brought bed bugs with them. They may have even picked them up on the way to your house when they spent the night somewhere.
- You may have gotten them when your grandmother visited from the assisted-living facility.
- Your college-age kid could have brought them home from their dormitory.
- You could have gotten them because another child accidentally carried them into your child's daycare or school.
- You could have purchased a piece of used furniture or picked something up from the side of the road that had bed bugs in it.
- You could have gotten bed bugs from a book you picked up from the library.
- Someone in your home could have brought them back from a movie theater or some other public placewhere people sit in dark places.
- You could have gotten them when your neighbor visited from across the hall or from another apartment complex.
- You could have gotten them during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other holiday gatherings.
- You could have gotten them from work.
While hotels and motels were once the primary location for picking up bed bugs, that is definitely not the case anymore. They can go from business to business, business to home, home to business, and home to home.
Bed Bug Bites and Where They’re Found
There are many bugs that can bite you, and it can be difficult to tell what bit you by just looking at a bite. Fortunately, bed bug bites have some helpful characteristics.
- A bed bug will bite, move forward, bite again, move forward, and bite again. This is a common pattern. Entomologists jokingly refer to these bites as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When several bed bugs feed, they may congregate and move across the skin together. If you see bites on your skin that look like they follow a path, it is likely that you've been bitten by bed bugs. Other biting pests usually bite once. So the bites left by mosquitoes, for instance, would look like a random pattern on the skin, not a path.
- Bed bugs tend to bite toward the top of the body because they are attracted to carbon dioxide emissions. If you have lots of bites on your feet and ankles, those are probably flea bites, not bed bug bites.
- Bed bugs can feed on the sides and back if these parts of the body are near the infested area. Look for the path across the skin to determine whether or not you have bed bug bites.
- Bed bug bites can be in areas of your body that your clothing usually covers. This can rule out horseflies, black flies, mosquitoes, and other pests that tend to attack exposed skin.
- When bed bugs begin to bite or when young bed bugs bite, the bites may be slight and not very noticeable. But the longer bed bugs bite and the older the bed bug, the more likely bites will begin to become swollen and inflamed.
- If you have a bite that has an ulcer or pustule in the middle, it is not a bed bug bite.
Bed Bug Prevention Steps for Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. Homeowners
There are many ways to keep pests out of your home. You probably apply some of them, such as keeping exterior trash contained or controlling moisture near your foundation walls. But bed bugs are hitchhiking bugs that pass right over your pest control barrier to get into your home and infest it. Here are some ways you can prevent them from taking root in your home.
- When you spend the night anywhere, be sure to do an inspection for bed bugs and the signs they leave behind (black droppings, shed skins, tan blood stains, tiny white eggs). If you find bed bugs or their signs, move to another room that is not adjacent to that room.
- When you travel, make a habit of keeping laundry items in a sealed plastic bag. Bed bugs are drawn to garments that have been worn. You don't have to purchase special bags, a trash bag with a bread tie around the top is more than enough to keep bed bugs out.
- When you purchased used beds and other furniture, do an inspection for bed bugs and the signs they leave. Inspect gaps, cracks, and recesses. Bed bugs will rarely come out in the open, especially when there is light.
- When your children come home from school or daycare, do a quick check for bed bug signs. If you see something suspicious, put the item in a dryer for 30 minutes (if possible). This will kill bed bugs in all stages of development.
- Educate your kids about bed bugs. Teach them to identify bed bugs in all stages and learn what bed bug warning signs look like.
- Don't be afraid to talk about bed bugs with family and friends. The more you keep the lines of communication open, the greater your chances will be of preventing a bed bug infestation in your home, and theirs. We're all in this together.
If bed bugs take root in your home, don't turn to DIY bed bug solutions. You're likely to find that you can't get rid of bed bugs with many of the suggestions you find on the internet. It is best to get professional bed bugs control to eliminate all the bugs in your home and to prevent ongoing infestation.
Why You Should Call a Professional If You Have Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are extremely difficult to exterminate. They have natural behavior patterns and adaptive abilities that make them resistant to pest control treatments.
Behavior: Bed bugs naturally avoid danger. If you lay down the wrong product, you could drive bed bugs deep into your walls where they will come back out from time to time to feed on you. This will have you feeling as if you keep getting bed bug infestations when you never really got rid of them in the first place. It is also possible for bed bugs to avoid treated areas and simply continue to feed without cessation.
Adaptation: a Bed bug goes through 5 instars (development stages). As it passes from one to the next, it sheds its skin. If it encounters chemicals in its environment that are a threat to it, the bed bug can create a new skin that is resistant. Using chemicals to kill bed bugs can actually make chemical-resistant bed bugs in your home.
Danger: Attempting to get rid of bed bugs can be a threat to your health and your property. There are far too many cases of serious injury and property loss due to an improper application of household products and attempt to perform heat treatments with space heaters.
Professional Treatment Options for Bed Bug-Infested Homes
Okay. You have bed bugs. How do you get rid of those bugs? When bed bugs infest your home, you have many options. The best solution is to hire a licensed pest control professional.
There are also many methods pest control companies use to control bed bugs. They range from constructing a giant tent around a home and fumigating the entire structure to performing ongoing monitoring for bed bugs and an application of targeted treatments over the course of several weeks. While both of these can rid your home of bed bugs, they aren't the best solutions. Our approach to bed bug control is a combination of heat remediation and residual product applications for the effective, low-cost, and expedient control of bed bugs.
Heat remediation, also referred to as a heat treatment, is the application of heat to eliminate bed bugs in all stages of development. But performing a heat treatment in a way that will eliminate the bed bugs in your home requires the deployment of specialized, professional-grade equipment. And this equipment should be operated by a licensed individual. There are far too many cases of heat treatments destroying properties and leading to loss of life because someone thought they could do a heat treatment by opening an oven door or by placing space heaters in every room of their home or business.
With our specialized mobile heating units, we are able to raise the temperature of your structure to between 120°F to 135°F without placing your property in danger. By supporting this treatment option with other bed bug control methods as needed, we have the highest level of success in all of the many environments we treat.
Treatments come with professional inspections. These may be performed by highly-trained, licensed human inspectors or K-9 bed bug Inspectors, which are the most effective way to detect bed bugs.
When your bed bug treatment is done, you won't have to wonder if you did what was necessary to get rid of the bugs. You'll finally be able to rest easy—and that is a good thing because ongoing bed bug infestation can lead to sleep deprivation.
How to Prepare for a Bed Bug Treatment
Before your bed bug service, there are a few steps to consider. These will help make your treatment a success.
- Avoid doing any cooking before your inspection.
- Remove trash to eliminate odors.
- Refrain from using disinfectants or cleaners that have a scent.
- Remove, or store away, all items that generate scents, such as deodorizers, fresheners, potpourri, candles, incense, smoking materials, litter boxes, etc.
- Turn off fans, dehumidifiers, heating and cooling units, and other appliances that can cause air movement.
- Remove dogs, cats, and other pets that are allowed to roam around. This will help your K-9 Inspector concentrate on the job at hand.
- Cover bird cages and aquariums.
- Turn off all radios, televisions, computers, and other devices that may create a distracting sound.
If you put pet food and water down for your pets, please store them away during your inspection.
- Dogs will be dogs.
- Vacuum areas thoroughly to remove items your K-9 inspector might be exposed to such as pesticides, powders, pills, food, tiny pieces from toys, etc.
- Place pillows in the centers of your beds so your K-9 Inspector can easily check your bed boards.
- Refrain from using pest control products such as sprays, bombs, foggers, and repellents before your treatment. These can drive bed bugs deep into your walls or underneath your carpet pads, and make it harder to treat them.
- Move furniture and other objects away from the walls.
- Open drawers to allow the heat to fully penetrate the items within.
- Place all clothing in your home through a 30 minute dryer cycle and place them in sealed plastic bags.
- Take the blankets and sheets off your mattresses.
- If you have a waterbed, drain and deflate the mattress.
- Do a good cleaning throughout your home to remove objects that can shield bed bugs. This will also provide efficient access for technicians.
- Remove items that can be melted, such as candles, cosmetics, etc.
- Remove items that can explode or catch fire, such as fuel, alcohol, fire extinguishers, lighters, hairspray, solvents, etc.
- Take items off your walls that can be blown down by the wind generated by fans during your treatment.
- Store items away that are on top of desks and tables.
- If you have stringed instruments, they should be removed from the home but leave the cases in the treatment area.
- Put the clothing you will be wearing on the day of your treatment in the drier for 30 minutes. Do this as close to the time of your treatment as possible.
Why Call American Pest for Complete Bed Bug Protection
When you choose American Pest, you get the highest level of bed bug control. Our team includes board-certified entomologists who understand the behavioral patterns of bed bugs and how to counteract their natural defenses to rid your home of these tormenting pests. From beginning to end, we apply the most advanced methods and products to give you the level of treatment required. K-9 bed bug inspectors may be used or an inspection may be performed by a human inspector, depending on your specific situation. High-end heat remediation may be the solution or your technician might suggest a mixture of bed bug control methods. Which strategies are used will be determined by your licensed technician based on their experienced observations and attention to your individual needs. There are many misconceptions about bed bugs, so it is best to seek professional advice and instruction.
Do you need bed bug service or an expert to confirm an infestation within your home? We can help. Reach out to American Pest for immediate assistance.
Our hard-working team has earned the QualityPro seal of excellence from the National Pest Management Association. This seal is your assurance that our team has been tested and has surpassed guidelines for business operations, training, environmental stewardship, and consumer relations.
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