Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Separating Fact from Fiction
Orkin recently released its list of the cities with the most bed bugs. (The list is based on the cities in which the company performed the most residential and commercial bed bug treatments.) The top 10 cities, in order, are Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Columbus OH, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose and Dallas/Fort Worth.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding these bugs. Whether you live in one of these cities or not, here’s what you need to know to keep these pests out of your bed.
Myth #1: Bed bugs can fly
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Fortunately, they cannot fly. “Bed bugs cannot fly because they do not have wings,” according to Sydney Crawley, Ph.D. public health entomologist at Scotts Miracle-Gro. “Instead, they crawl, traveling one meter per minute on average,” Crawley tells Freshome, adding that they also cannot jump.
Myth #2: They only bite at night
Bed bug activity tends to peak at night, but Crawley says they can bite at any time during the day. “This is especially true if the primary host is active during the night and sessile during the day.” In fact, Crawley says these bugs will adapt to the habits of the host. “Motivation to take a blood meal may drive them to bite at any time.”
Myth #3: They are too small to see
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Bed bugs are indeed visible. “Although bed bug eggs and first instars (newly hatched bed bugs) are very small, they are still large enough to see with the naked eye,” Crawley says. “After the first instar, juvenile bed bugs will molt 4 more times before reaching the adult life stage. First to fifth instars range anywhere from 1.3 mm to 4-5 mm and adults range from approximately 4-7 mm in size.”
Myth #4: They prefer unsanitary conditions
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It’s possible to have bed bugs even if your home is spotless because these insects don’t discriminate, according to Crawley. “Bed bugs prefer small cracks and crevices which are found in every home,” Crawley says. “Populations of bed bugs will continue to grow in homes where proper elimination strategies are not performed, regardless of the level of cleanliness.” Granted, you still need to clean your house, especially the nine nastiest areas of the home.
Myth #5: They only inhabit beds frames and couches
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While they like bed frames and couches, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bed bugs can be found in stuffed animals, suitcases, wheelchairs, purses and on the inside of bedside lamps.
Myth #6: They are usually found in hotels and apartments
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These may be the two places that get the most media coverage, but they’re not the only place you’ll find these pests. According to the NPMA, the 3 most common places where they are found include single-family homes (91%), apartments/condominiums (89%), and hotels/motels (68%).
But guess where else they show up? Nursing homes (59%), schools and daycare centers (47%), offices (46%), college dorms (45%), hospitals (36%) and public transportation (19 %).
Myth #7: If you don’t see them, you must not have them
You may not always see the bugs themselves, but you can see what they leave behind, and you can also feel them. For example, they tend to leave fecal spots on your mattress, walls, and upholstery (ranging in color from red to reddish brown). You may also see empty eggshells. Another sign is the presence of bite marks on your arms, legs and other parts of your body. In addition, if there are a lot of bugs, you may start to detect a sweet smell.
Tips for avoiding bed bugs
“At home, inspect furniture, especially mattresses, box springs and bed frames,” Crawley says. She warns people to be very careful when purchasing secondhand furniture. “Before bringing any used furniture into your home, inspect it thoroughly to ensure that no bed bugs are present.”
When you’re traveling, be advised that these pesky bugs like to travel for free – in your suitcase. Search your hotel room carefully, inspecting the mattress seams, sofas, chairs, and behind the headboard. If you find bed bugs, the NPMA recommends changing rooms to another area since rooms next to, above or below might also be infected.
“Search all bags, luggage and clothing thoroughly before you return, and take special care to inspect the seams, as they are a common hiding place for bed bugs,” Crawley says. “When you return home, put clothing and bags in the dryer on high heat for a minimum of two full cycles on high heat to ensure that all potential bed bugs and eggs have been killed.”
Whether you’re at home or traveling, she also recommends a product like the Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Trap. “These detectors can determine whether there are bed bugs present – within an hour.”
Do you have any additional tips for preventing these bugs from getting into your bed? Let us know in the comments.