Bed bugs may be an innocuous line in a classic nursery rhyme, but when you find an infestation in your home, they are NOT harmless. Different varieties of bed bugs are found worldwide, and in recent years they have been more prevalent than ever, even in New Jersey! These days, 97% of pest control services report treating cases of bed bugs, compared to 25% of pest control services only 20 years ago. Whereas bug infestations used to be signs of overcrowding and dilapidated conditions, bed bugs can now show up anywhere, even in the cleanest of conditions and well-kept quarters.
This increase in the number of reported cases is not entirely understood but may be due to the rise in traveling in the modern era, as more people are moving luggage and personal belongings from place to place. Increasing regulations, globally and in NJ, have discontinued a common pesticide that kept them at bay, another possible reason for their resurgence.
Bed bugs infestations are incredibly challenging to get rid of, and leaving them unchecked can lead to cases becoming severe and even more challenging to handle. A professional exterminator will bring you peace of mind that your bed bug problem is really put to bed. How do you spot a problem, and how do you know when to call in the professionals? Read on to learn more.
How do you spot a need for bed bug exterminators?
Unfortunately for us, bed bugs are very good at hiding and are most active when we are our most sedentary — at night. If you are worried about an infestation, you are more likely to see dead bugs than live ones, but you should know what to be searching for. They are about the size of a small orange seed, flat and reddish-brown before feeding, and red and swollen after feeding. The first place you should look is the seam of the mattress or box spring as this is a common place they will gather, but can spread elsewhere. You can contain your search to the bedroom, rather than kitchens or other living spaces, as bed bugs prefer us at our most sedentary, hence the “bed” in their colloquial name.
Even if you do not see a live bed bug, due to their top-notch hiding skills, you may be able to identify their eggs. Bed bug eggs are ovular and white, often appearing in groups near the seams where the live bugs gather. Female bed bugs lay about 500 eggs annually! Hence, it is essential to call in the bed bug exterminators at the first sign of an infestation to keep this problem under control while still possible.
Even if you have not seen a live bed bug in your home, you should consider an infestation if you wake up with many bites. They are not particularly distinguishable from other bites, but since these bugs feed while we are asleep, waking up to many new bites is a common first sign of an infestation. Not everyone is allergic to the bites, but some may be especially sensitive, so keep a watchful eye and monitor your reaction.
One interesting and off-putting sign of a bed bug infestation is a noticeable odor, musty and semi-sweet, caused by a pheromone they release. Their molted shells also give off an odor. There are many descriptions of this scent, from almond to locker room, but any unfamiliar strong odor should alert your concern.
Other secondary signs of bed bugs include evidence of their shells, fecal matter, and blood droplets. Molted shells can be found grouped together in the same places where you would find the bed bugs, look at the mattress seam first. This can be a more sure-fire way of identifying a bed bug problem than some more evasive indicators. For example, bed bugs leave behind fecal matter and bloodstains, but these show up as small brown stains. If you find one, run a damp cloth over it, bed bug fecal matter will turn reddish-brown. The edges and undersides of mattresses and furniture are good places to check for fecal matter. And pajamas or bedding is a good place to look for dried blood.
If you begin to find these infestation signs, you may be tempted to try to handle the problem yourself. A quick internet search will show many DIY options for getting rid of a bed bug problem. You may be convinced that peppermint essential oils or rubbing alcohol will cure you of your infestation, the problem with these methods is they have to be applied to each individual bed bug to be effective.
Unfortunately for us, bed bugs bet their survival on their superior hiding skills. And even in the open, they are often too small to spot. You are bound to miss at least a bug or two, and even small numbers can reproduce quickly, causing your problems to spread further. Even just one live mating couple can reproduce to take over your house in a matter of months. While these strategies may be tempting, you are much better off nipping the problem in the bud at the onset with a professional exterminator at the first sign on these pesky pests.
So what does a bed bug exterminator do?
Exterminator’s first step is a thorough inspection to determine where the bed bugs are hiding and how severe the infestation is. This inspection will help establish an effective treatment method and period. Bed bugs can travel through rooms, so it is also vital to check neighboring apartments or rooms during this inspection.
After this inspection, proper bed bug exterminators often practice what is known as Integrated Pest Management. In New Jersey, this calls for a range of strategies, from heat and freezing to pesticides. They may also take preventative measures like sealing openings or crevices and fixing windows and doors to prevent their re-entry. If a pesticide is used, professional bed bug exterminators are trained to apply these chemicals while ensuring residents’ safety.
Bed bug exterminators will use the least toxic option to rid you of your bed bug problem correctly, but even so, exterminators will instruct you post-inspection on how to remove unnecessary objects and encase mattresses with plastic before the extermination process if deemed necessary.
Proper bed bug exterminators will also instruct residents on the intensity of their infestation, the likely cause of the problem, and how to avoid it in the future. You should expect a follow-up inspection after a few weeks.
These thorough methods will ensure your peace of mind that your bed bug problem is put to rest.