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Bed Bugs Are Back!

Ouch! I remember bedbugs. Occasionally they would raise welts on the kids and my mother would go into a cleaning frenzy! Where did they come from?

Now I know!

Bedbugs like warm, cozy bedrooms. In medieval times, only the rich people got bedbugs...they had warm, cozy bedrooms. See a pattern here?

A global re-infestation of bed bugs is happening because of global shipping and travel.

Heavy infestations of bed bugs can cause anemia in children and the elderly. Bed bug problems in the home may also cause stress and sleeplessness.

The common bed bug (C. lectularius) prefers to feed on humans, but will feed on mice, rats, bats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds, especially chickens and swallows. Pets such as dogs and cats are not a major host for bed bugs.

Bed bugs feed for 5 - 10 minutes at night while the host sleeps, then drop off and crawl to a sheltered crevice where they’ll remain for several days while digesting the meal.

They tend to bite all over the body, especially on the areas that are more exposed while we sleep, such as the face, neck, arms, and hands. But you may not see this evidence of their feeding because people experience a range of reactions to bites from blood-sucking insects. Some people are hardly aware they’ve been bitten, but others suffer an allergic reaction to the saliva injected while the insects fed, and may develop painful swellings. For this reason, people in the same household may have different opinions about how “bad” the infestation is, or whether bed bugs are present at all.

How to inspect for bed bugs

In the early stages of an infestation, bed bugs will be found around the seams and tufts of the mattress, while later on, they’ll spread to cracks in the bed frame and then to gaps behind baseboards, pictures, window and door casings, wallpaper, and other similar shelters.

Look for the insects, their cast skins, and eggs near crevices.

Check pillowcases, sheets, and the mattress for bloodstains, smears, or flecks (the sign of their feeding). When their populations are high, you may notice a pungent, sickly-sweet odor that’s smells like raspberries. Examine the room thoroughly, moving in a logical pattern. Use a flashlight to peer behind and underneath furniture and woodwork. Look under all items that are attached to or against the wall.

Tips for travelers

Bed bugs are often found in places that experience a high volume of overnight guests, such as hotels and motels, hostels, and dormitories. When they retreat to a sheltered crevice by morning -- that shelter might be your luggage or souvenirs! Don't store anything on the floor!

When visiting a hotel, check the room quickly for signs of bed bugs, such as blood stains on the pillows or linens. Inspect the seams of the mattress carefully.

Peek behind the headboard and wall decor. Bed bugs will hide in these places; if you don’t see them or their signs, there should be no problem.

If it’s possible, move the bed away from the wall. Tuck in the linens and keep the blanket from touching the floor.

Unfortunately, leaving the lights on will not unduly stress bed bugs.

If you visited an infested place, inspect your luggage and souvenirs before bringing them back into your home. If infested, clothing should be placed in hot dryers; cold treatments might be appropriate for other items.

Check possible hiding places such as

  • seams, creases, tufts, and folds of the mattress and box spring
  • cracks in the bed frame and head board
  • underneath chairs, couches, beds, dustcovers
  • between the cushions of upholstered furniture
  • underneath area rugs and the edges of carpets
  • between the folds of drapery or curtains
  • in the drawers of night stands, dressers, etc.
  • behind the baseboards
  • around door and window casings
  • behind electrical switch plates
  • under loose wallpaper, paintings, posters, etc.
  • in cracks in the plaster
  • in telephones, radios, clocks,and similar places

How do you get rid of bed bugs?

There’s no getting around it: if you want to get rid of bed bugs, you need to clean. A lot.

And get rid of all the clutter, especially in your bedroom.

Remove things they could hide behind or underneath, such as pictures, posters, and area rugs.

VACUUM Vacuuming is an effective way to remove bed bugs and the dirt that provides them with shelter (it works for many other insects, too). To manage bed bug infestations, it’s best to vacuum each area thoroughly, every day. Tilt the mattress, boxspring, and furniture upside down so you can reach all sides. Concentrate on seams, creases, folds, and around any tufts or buttons.

CLEAN BED LINENS Bed bugs are sensitive to extreme temperatures in all of their life stages; the young are more vulnerable than the adults. So toss your sheets, pillowcases, bed skirt, and blankets into a hot (140°F) dryer for 20 minutes to kill bed bugs.

MAKE YOUR BED AN ISLAND Move your bed away from the wall, and make sure the linens, bed skirt, and blanket don’t touch the floor. This will make it harder for the bed bugs to crawl into your bed. They don’t fly or jump, so crawling is their only option.

SEAL CREVICES Do your best to eliminate their shelter by sealing the crevices you found during the inspection. Caulk will work well in many areas, such as around window sills or along baseboards.


Pesticides are another option for killing bed bugs, but as early as 1948 there were reports of bed bugs that were resistant to such insecticides

If you decide to hire a pest management professional to deal with the infestation, ask for an IPM (Integrated Pest Managemnt) approach to minimize or eliminate harmful chemicals.

For more complete information, read the full report from Cornell: BED BUGS - PDF