Bed Bugs! Tips & Myths to Help You Sleep Soundly

September 26th, 2016 by Kirk Harrell

It only takes one, one of those dreaded little bed bugs for tenants and landlords alike to sound the alarms and head for the hills. No one enjoys these pests, and for good reason, bed bugs (Cimex Lectularius for you Latin buffs) is right at home, in your home, feeding on your blood! After all but vanishing in the 50’s, bed bugs have made a resurgence due, in part, to densely populated urban areas, global travel and increasing resistance to pesticides.

Yet, spreading just as quickly as these pests is a mass of information about their biology and behavior, some that we’d be more than happy to put….to bed!

Myths About Bed Bugs

Myth #1: Bed bugs can jump

Bed bugs can’t jump or fly, they can only crawl, which could lead to crawling onto things they would not otherwise be able to access.

Myth #2: Bed bugs can crawl from one apartment to another through bath tub drain pipes

Bed bugs cannot climb on slick surfaces like glass, porcelain, or slick plastics like PVC or ABS. They have been found in bathtubs but only as a result of falling off a wall or ceiling or someone throwing an infested item into the tub. However, bed bugs can use the pipe chases, electrical runs, and floor joists to travel from one apartment or room to the next. They can also easily crawl under walls and doors.

Myth #3: If I have bites, I must have bed bugs

Many insects produce a similar reaction to a bite (ants, spiders, etc.). The only proof of a bed bug infestation is to identify the bug and/or its eggs. Other signs of an infestation are blood spotting on linens and bedding and fecal staining on walls and furnishings.

Myth #4: Bed bugs only infest dirty or low income homes

Not even remotely true. Bed Bugs can literally be found anywhere at any time regardless of class or cleanliness. However, they do tend to thrive anywhere that provides plenty of hiding places and they like clutter.

Myth #5: Bed bugs are too small to see with the naked eye

While it is true that bed bug eggs and nymphs are extremely small and hard to see, the full grown adult can reach up to a quarter inch, about the size of an apple seed, and is dark reddish/brown. The reason why most people don’t see them is that they rarely come out in the daylight and spend 90 percent of their time in hiding.

Myth #6: Bed bugs are only found in beds

If only it were that easy! Alas, you simply can’t get rid of your bed to solve a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs can be found anywhere in the home, including in or under flooring, behind baseboards, in wall cavities, electronics, books, phones, clothes, as well as in any other furnishings. They can usually be found within 5-10 feet of the food source…YOU.

Myth #7: Bed bugs only bite women

In reality, women are more likely to react to a bite than men. In fact 70% of men don’t react to a bite. Since you can’t initially feel a bed bug bite due to anesthetic in saliva, some men may feel like they are not being bitten when actually they are.

Myth #8: I can get rid of bed bugs myself

A lot of “over the counter” items and home remedies will kill bed bugs (sprays, alcohol, kerosene, dusts, etc.). I’ve personally killed them with a soapy water spray. The problem (even for pest control companies) is finding them, especially their eggs. If you don’t get them all at once, you can’t hope to win the battle. Very few over the counter products leave any sort of residual to kill hatching eggs or hiding bugs. The best approach for property managers is to hire a pest management professional that specializes in bed bugs and follows an integrated pest management approach.

Myth #9: I don’t travel so I’m not likely to get bed bugs

Traveling is a common way of picking up bed bugs but far from the only way. Bed bugs have perfected the art of hitchhiking. You can pick them up from public transit, public venues like movie theaters, friends and family, second-hand stores, gyms, club-rooms, neighbors, and the list goes on and on.

Myth #10: Bed bugs transmit diseases

There is currently no evidence of a bed bug transmitting any disease.

Those are some of the most common myths pertaining to bed bugs, here’s a fun, easy to share, info graphic that highlights some of the most pertinent ones.

Myths about bed bugs

Myths about bed bugs info graphic – Perfect for sharing!

Tips For Battling Bed Bugs

The best way to control bed bugs is to prevent them from entering your home:

  • Inspect secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.
  • Enclose mattresses and box springs in covers labeled “allergen rated,” “for dust mites,” or “for bed bugs.” Periodically check for rips or openings and tape these up.
  • Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
  • Repair cracks in plaster, repair or remove any loose wallpaper, and tighten light switch covers.
  • Apply caulk to seal crevices and joints in baseboards and gaps on shelves or cabinets.

When traveling:

  • Use luggage racks to hold your suitcases when packing and unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor.
  • Check the mattress and headboard before getting into bed.
  • When you get home, unpack directly into a washing machine. Wash all items showing bed bug stains, and dry on the highest setting for at least 20 minutes. The heat from the dryer kills the bugs.
  • Inspect and then vacuum luggage. Empty the vacuum or seal and dispose of its bag outside of your home after each use.

These are just a couple quick myths and tips to get you started, there are plenty of great resources online to further span your bed bug knowledge:

Environmental Protection Agency – Bed Bugs

WebMD – Bed Bug signs, symptoms and treatments

Orkin Pest Control – Bed Bugs

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