Posts Tagged ‘bed bugs’

5 Bed Bug Myths Demystified

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

mage courtesy of CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack Photo By: Piotr Naskrecki.

Image courtesy of CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack Photo By: Piotr Naskrecki.

In recent years, bed bugs have become a major problem in the U.S. Although they’ve lived with humans since ancient times, bed bugs were largely unheard of in the U.S. after World War II, thanks to pesticide use. Here are five of the most common myths about bed bugs.

Myth No. 1: Bad hygiene triggers bed bug infestations

Bed bugs don’t care if a place is messy or clean. They live on blood, and have been found everywhere from apartments to five-star hotels. If you’ve had bed bugs, don’t be embarrassed; it’s not a reflection on your personal hygiene.

Myth No. 2: Bed bugs spread disease

Although this is theoretically possible, bed bugs have not yet been shown to spread disease, according to the CDC. However, their bites can cause severe allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, and the bites often become red and inflamed several days after contact.

Myth No. 3: Bed bugs are only found in beds

Bed bugs do tend to prefer beds, since that’s where their food source is regularly found. However, they can be found on other furniture and surfaces. They’re even being found in libraries — and you thought silverfish were annoying!

Myth No. 4: Bed bugs live on human bodies

Bed bugs aren’t like lice or ticks. They actually don’t like to stay on human skin, which is too warm for their taste. They prefer residing on objects held away from the body, such as suitcases. You won’t “catch” bed bugs from another human being, though you may get them from secondhand furniture that’s been exposed to them.

Myth No. 5: Bed bugs can fly

Bed bugs can’t fly. To get where they’re going, they use their six legs and hitchhike as much as possible.

Undoubtedly, bed bugs are a major pain to deal with, but they are treatable. If you suspect that you have bed bugs in your home, purchase only U.S. EPA-registered products to apply yourself or consult a licensed pest-control professional.

Trivia Thursday: How much do you REALLY know about bed bugs?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Bed bugs are pestering people across the U.S. While you may think bed bugs lurk in unfamiliar hotel beds, they might be unnerved to know bed bugs are infesting more places, such as movie theaters, schools, college campuses, and even commercial spaces, such as offices and waiting rooms. How much do you REALLY know about bed bugs and their habits?

Image courtesy of CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack Photo By: Piotr Naskrecki.

Image courtesy of CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack Photo By: Piotr Naskrecki.

I don’t travel very often, so there’s no way I’ll have to deal with bed bugs. True or False?

The adage, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” is giving many people the wrong impression, as bed bugs are increasingly expanding their horizons. The Center for Disease Control reports bed bugs can go long periods of time without feeding, making them perfect castaways on cruise ships or stowaways in movie theaters. Bed bugs are non-discriminatory in their lodgings, as long as they can find a nice, dark crevice to snuggle into during the day. They easily can be transported from one location to another, so always keep a lookout when settling into high-traffic areas such as hotels, movie theaters, dorm rooms, libraries, public transportation or apartments.

Bed bugs spread disease. True or False?

False. Today there is no evidence to support the idea that bed bugs transmit any diseases, although they have been found to carry 24 known pathogens. However, bites from bed bugs can be pretty irritating and painful.  In susceptible individuals, their bites can cause allergic reactions and the bites often become red and inflamed several days after contact. Here are some helpful tips to help you avoid becoming a bed bug’s midnight snack:

Keep your home uncluttered. Bed bugs love to hide in small cracks and crevices. The more clutter around your home, the more opportunities those bed bugs will have to find a nice place to hide.

Regularly wash and heat dry your bedding, blankets and any clothing that touches the floor. Items on the floor make for great opportunities for bed bugs to make new homes. Make sure all bedding and clothing is washed regularly and heat dried to kill any bugs that may have crawled in. Bed bugs also can make their homes in laundry bins and baskets, so it is important to clean those regularly, as well.

Don’t panic. If you are confronted with a bed bug problem, there is no reason to panic. First, treat bites with an antiseptic cream, take an antihistamine and avoid scratching the area, as too much scratching could cause a secondary infection. Second, contact a pest professional to discuss your options. It is important to realize that infestations are treatable, so there is no need to immediately throw out all of your possessions.

For more tips on how to avoid bed bugs on the road and at home, also check out a previous post, “Don’t Bring Bed Bugs Back as Souvenirs,” by guest blogger and research entomologist, Robin Tabuchi.

Top 10 Resolutions to Make 2013 Pest Free

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Written by: Bobby Kossowicz, mother of two, Branchburg, New Jersey

Editor’s Note: Bobby Kossowicz is a mother of two from Branchburg, New Jersey, who has past personal experience with pests and the importance of controlling them. Before becoming a full-time mom, Bobby worked in the pest control industry, and she combines her professional experience with her perspective as a mom to share the importance of understanding pests and how to protect your family from them.

Everyone has encountered a pest problem from time to time. An infestation can be inconvenient, embarrassing and, at times, a serious danger to our family’s health or property. So while we resolve to make 2013 healthier, wealthier and wiser, let’s consider what we can do to also make it pest-free! Here are the Top 10 ways to make 2013 a pest-free year.

1. Inspect your attic. Take a few extra minutes when returning those holiday decorations, and at least a few more times a year, to inspect your attic or storage area. Have you heard any strange noises or scratching in the attic? Look for visible signs of squirrels, raccoons, rodents or other wildlife infestation by inspecting the perimeter of the room for droppings and nesting material. Depending on the type of critter, droppings can vary in size but are typically dark in color and in the shape of a pellet. Check your walls for droppings as well as these could indicate a bat infestation. Look in narrow crevices for roosting bats in attic walls. Also, inspect for broken vents or holes which would allow wildlife to enter the attic from outside. When not in the attic, simply listen and inspect at the first sign of any strange scurrying or scratching noises coming from the attic.

2. Trim trees and other brush away from your home. Overgrown trees and brush around your home offer a highway into it for wildlife and pests. Walk around the outside of your home regularly and cut back tree branches that are growing too close. Branches can promote bat infestations with their shade and literally create a bridge into your home for squirrels and other wildlife. Shrubs and other brush can encourage pest infestations around the outside of your home. Plus, insects will enter through tiny gaps around your foundation, windows and doors.

3. Caulk windows and doors. After trimming back trees and brush, thoroughly inspect the inside and outside of your windows and doors. Caulk any gaps or openings. This is primarily how insects enter the home and, as the old saying goes – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

4. Do a perimeter spray. Your home offers the necessary elements an insect needs to survive: food, water and shelter. Create a barrier around your home and you will see a dramatic decrease in common household pests such as spiders, ants, silverfish and more. If you are a “do-it-yourselfer,” visit your local home and garden store to inquire about a perimeter pest control spray. If such work is too much for you, contact a local pest management professional and inquire about using a quarterly service plan to protect your home from pests.

5. Properly collect and store firewood both inside and outside the home. Your state likely recommends or requires that you buy firewood locally, ideally within 50 miles of your home! Doing so helps to minimize the spread of invasive species. Firewood pests can include beetles, carpenter ants, bees, rodents, termites and more. Do your best to store firewood at least 20 to 30 feet away from your home so as not to invite termites and other insects to take up residence. Dry your firewood quickly and keep it dry. Raise the wood off the ground and keep it covered from the elements once it is dry. Always shake firewood rigorously before bringing it indoors to remove any insects that may be living on it.

6. Don’t bring bed bugs home from a trip. The best way to avoid a bed bug infestation is to travel wisely. When at a hotel, pull back the fitted sheets and inspect the mattress for signs of a bed bug infestation.  Immediately change rooms if you find blood stains or bug casings in the folds of the mattress or box spring. Store your luggage on hard surfaces and away from fabrics while in hotel rooms. Leave your luggage in the garage upon returning home. Launder all clothing immediately upon returning and dry at a high temperature to kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home with you. Read “Don’t bring bed bugs back as souvenirs” for some additional tips on how to avoid bringing bed bugs home.

7. Clean your gutters! Not only will clogged gutters cause damage to your home, but they also are inviting to insects. Mosquitoes and other insects are attracted to the water in clogged gutters, plus birds and squirrels may even nest in them! Experts recommend cleaning gutters at least twice a year to keep them free flowing and pest free.

8. Put a tight seal on pet food! Many pet owners don’t realize how inviting pet food is to rodents and insects. Eliminate the food source by storing in a rodent- and pest-proof container with a tight seal. Take up your pet’s food bowl when meal time is finished.

9. Perimeter spray your yard to keep ticks at bay. Lyme disease is all over the news these days and can be quite serious causing long term effects if it goes untreated. Protect your family by doing a tick check on each member, including pets, every night, especially during the height of tick season (typically April through September).  Have your lawn perimeter treated by a pest management professional, or do it yourself with products from your local home and garden store to reduce the number of ticks. Read my previous post about the dangers of Lyme disease, “Lyme Disease Danger Gets Personal.” You also may want to check read other posts on Lyme disease here.

10. Keep a clean house. Regularly vacuuming your carpets and sweeping floors can help reduce the number of pests. Declutter your home and always try to quickly dispose of garbage to keep your home free from bugs. A clean and tidy home is a healthy home, and it’s probably the easiest step to take to stay pest-free in 2013.

Celebrate the holidays pest, worry free

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Written by: Robin L. Tabuchi, Research Entomologist, University of California, Berkeley.

Winter is here, and although we are less likely to encounter pests this time of year, we need to ensure pest prevention occurs year round. In between sipping your hot chocolate, opening gifts, and enjoying the company of your family, take a few minutes to read these holiday season tips.

Firewood Forethought. Cuddling in front of a fire is a winter tradition. Whether you are traveling to visit relatives or staying home for the holidays, bear in mind that firewood needs to stay local. Why? Tree-destroying insects and diseases are commonly found in firewood. On their own they can’t disperse far, but in the bed of someone’s truck they can disperse hundreds of miles. Our forests and houses are vulnerable to infestation from these introduced pests. It is recommended that you purchase local firewood and do not move it more than 10 miles. Visit for more information about preventing the movement of forest pests and your state’s regulations for moving fire wood.

If you are home for the holidays, make sure you also store firewood properly.  Termites are decomposers and will feast on firewood just like a fallen tree in the forest. Store firewood away from your house and stack it on concrete blocks. This helps limit the amount of soil-to-wood contact, which makes it easier to spot termite mud tubes, and increases the distance a termite would have to travel to feast on your house.

Unwanted Guests. No, I don’t mean relatives! I’m talking about pests that like to hitchhike while we travel or overwinter in our warm, cozy homes. Two unwanted guests that come to mind are bed bugs and rodents. Read, “Don’t bring bed bugs back as souvenirs,” for some tips to avoid bringing bed bugs home. If weather permits, take a quick walk around your house and search for holes in the roof and crawl space vents, and gaps under doors. Seal them with fine mesh screen to limit entry points for mice and rats.

Protect Your Pets. Like many of you, my pets are considered family members. Their safety is just as important as my child’s. Pet hospitals see a large increase in patients around the holidays. As holiday gifts arrive, please ensure the contents will not harm your pet in case it decides to open one without your knowledge. Keep gifts containing chocolate and strongly scented items somewhere your pet can’t access them. Decorations and holiday plants also can be harmful. Christmas trees, poinsettias, mistletoe and holly, can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested. Ornaments, tinsel, and ribbons, can cause blockages if swallowed. Protect your furry family member this holiday by limiting access to these items.

As 2012 comes to an end, I wish all of you a very special holiday season and a happy New Year!

Day 3 of NIAP Week: Eliminating Entry Ways for Pests

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Today is the third day of National Inspect and Protect Week. In the past couple of days, we’ve read an account from guest blogger Bobby Kossowicz, mother of two, about her experience removing mice from her country home, and we’ve also promoted investigating, studying and preparing for pest problems. The next step in the INSPECT (INvestigate, Study, Prepare, Eliminate, Clean and Treat) process is to eliminate any entry ways for pests into your home.

Pests like mice, spiders, and ants seek places that fill their basic survival needs of food, water, and shelter. These three conditions are what prompt these creepy crawlers to invade your home and establish it as their own place to live and breed. Often, you can cut off their life support by eliminating one of these three key elements.  Doing so requires physical action.

In the elimination step, you actually take action to reduce or prevent pest invasions by enacting a variety of preventative methods you considered appropriate for your home environment during the previous steps in the INSPECT process.

To effectively pest-proof your home, you are going to have to start by fixing problem areas both inside and outside of your home. The key is to tackle any problems before they become too overwhelming. Employing a good preventative strategy beforehand will save you time and money in the long run.

  • Eliminate water. Remove standing water outside from bird baths, lined gutters, wheelbarrows, and inside from sinks and showers. Fix any leaky pipes both inside and out that may provide a source of water these annoyances. A lack of water will make it harder for bugs to reproduce.
  • Eliminate food. Keeping a clean kitchen can go a long way in making your home less attractive to pests. Sweeping for crumbs that may have fallen and keeping food tightly sealed in containers will make it harder for these bugs to find food.
  • Eliminate shelter. This action is probably the best line of defense against pests entering your home environment. In the investigate step, we learned that pests can wiggle their way into your homes through openings as small as one quarter of an inch. A simple solution is to seal up these tiny cracks and crevices with caulk from your local hardware store.

Inside your home, caulking around all doors, windows and window seals where tiny bugs can easily penetrate can prove invaluable, especially in older homes that have settled and might have more points of entry for pests.  Check under sinks for the space around where the pipes enter and make sure to seal this area too.

Now take a walk along the exterior of your home — where most pests come from. It is extremely important to seal all windows and doors with gaps that could serve as access points. Chances are, if air and light can pass through, so can pests. So even if you think the crack may be too small, seal it anyway.

Trim trees and bushes near homes so they do not provide direct routes for pests into your home. A good rule of thumb is to leave 18 inches from the plant to the foundation. Consider mowing and weeding often to reduce creating a safe haven for pesky creatures.

Most preventative methods require a little extra time but using these solution suggestions and others found at will be a lot less expensive than hiring a professional exterminator. Be sure to also check out Janet Hurley’s video for more tricks on eliminating pest entry.

Don’t Bring Bed Bugs Back as Souvenirs

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Written by: Robin L. Tabuchi, Research Entomologist, University of California, Berkeley.

For many of us, summer vacation means spending time with family and friends, relaxing and travelling. Although I love travelling, there’s one pest I don’t look forward to sharing my vacation with; the infamous, blood-sucking bed bug! By now you’ve all heard of bed bugs, but you might not know how to avoid them.

Your bags are packed, the gas tank is full, and you’re ready to hit the road. Travelling can be quite an ordeal, and once you arrive at your destination, you’re tired and want to get settled in to your hotel room. Resist the temptation to unload everything from your car just yet. If you arrived by plane, either ask the hotel staff to bring your luggage up shortly, or take it with you and place it in the bathroom or non-carpeted entry. Now it’s time to inspect your room for bed bugs!

As with any pest, identifying it is the first step to protecting yourself and your belongings. Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown. Their bodies are oval and flattened, and they’re about the size of an apple seed. They don’t have wings, can’t jump, and only move by crawling. Bed bug nymphs are smaller in size and lighter than adults, but they look similar in appearance.

Photo courtesy of Robin Tabuchi

Photo courtesy of Robin Tabuchi

All bed bug nymphs and adults feed on blood. The nymphs need blood to molt and the adults need blood to mate and lay eggs. If a room has bed bugs, you’ll likely find fecal staining too (a.k.a. bed bug poop).  Fecal staining is light brown to black and looks like tiny drops of dried blood.

Bed bugs are very good at hiding and can fit into tiny cracks and crevices. Begin your inspection with the bed and headboard, because after all, they are called bed bugs! They like to stay somewhat close to their food source and typically feed at night. Pull the sheets back and check mattress seams for adults, nymphs or fecal staining. Slide a credit card between the top of the headboard and the wall or remove the headboard and peek behind it.

Search other upholstered furniture for signs of bed bugs and walk around the room looking for fecal staining on walls, other furniture items, and the luggage rack.

What happens if you find a bed bug? If you’re brave, capture a specimen or take a photo. Discuss what you found with the hotel management. Request a new room and then inspect that room too.

What should you do if you don’t find anything? Just because you didn’t find something doesn’t mean there aren’t bed bugs. Keep personal items and clothing in a designated area of the room away from the bed. Bag your dirty laundry within your suitcase. Once you return home, leave luggage outside or in the garage and unpack there. Inspect luggage for bed bugs and then wash and dry all of your clothing on the warmest setting.

Safe travels!

The Battle of the Bed Bug

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

You’ve all heard about them—bed bugs—those sneaky, near-microscopic bugs that hitch a ride into your home uninvited and cause all kinds of mischief.

This past year, bed bugs have taken up residence in homes, hotels, and businesses across the United States. Los Angeles and other west-coast metropolitan areas are no exception.

While New York City remains the nation’s bed bug capital, cities along the west coast such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco are becoming breeding hotspots because of California’s alluring temperate climate, significant population in inner city areas, and dense residential communities. All places beg bugs love to live!

These resilient pests are excellent hitch hikers and easily ‘leap’ from one target to the next at hotels and/or public transit. These pests are often transferred from clothing to furniture, and once inside your home, these unwanted roommates begin venturing out to feed and multiply.

While they do not transmit disease, they leave evidence of their bites—large, itchy swellings on the skin similar to bites from mosquitoes, fleas, or spiders. In addition to welts, bed bugs may also leave bloodstains or droppings on linens where you sleep.

But don’t think you can easily spot bed bugs running rampant in your home. Bed bugs like to hide and because of their small size can do so just about anywhere—in clothing, furniture, electrical outlets, under wallpaper, mattresses, air conditioning vents, and in any crack or crevice.

As bed bugs become more pervasive, it’s almost impossible to know where they’ll show up next. Don’t let your home become their home too. Keep the pests at bay by staying vigilant and checking bedding, clothing, and material furniture.

Early detection is key. If you see signs of a problem, don’t waste time and money by trying to exterminate the bugs on your own. Hire a licensed and qualified pest professional to eradicate these pests. You can prevent infestations by:

  • Monitoring daily for pests.
  • Fully inspecting your suitcases prior to re-packing for a return home from traveling. Also, wash clothing and bedding at warm temperatures after returning from travel.
  • Purchasing mattress and pillow encasements. These bed bug proof enclosures are extremely affordable and provide a tight seal around your box spring, mattress and pillows.
  • Keeping children’s backpacks in plastic bags or closed storage bins. At minimum, do not leave backpacks in or near bedrooms.
  • College students should inspect dormitory mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots before putting sheets on the bed. Students should also thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If anything suspect is found, immediately contact a university facility manager.

Inspect and Protect Week is just a week away! Be sure to check back each day next week for more tips on keeping your home pest-free.