In a 2013 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, a whopping 99.6 percent of pest management professionals said they had treated a bedbug infestation in 2012. While that kind of statistic might have you feeling ill at ease as to your chances of getting bedbugs, much depends on the establishments you frequent and the preventive measures you take.
Places You Visit
Staying in a hotel, watching a movie at your local theater, sending your kids off to school or even sitting down for the start of your workday can all subject you to bedbugs. In fact, just about anywhere that sees human traffic or the exchange of used goods can put you at risk for bedbugs, but some locations are more plagued by infestations than others. In the 2013 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, 75 percent of pest management companies responded to reports of bedbugs in hotels, while 47 percent responded to reports in college dorms. From there, nursing homes came in at 46 percent, office buildings at 38 percent, schools and day cares at 31 percent, and public ground transportation at 21 percent. The remainder of places listed, such as restaurants and libraries, weighed in at below 20 percent.
In the past, picking up a used couch from the curb or shopping for used furniture at a thrift store didn't have too many risks. Blindly purchase secondhand furniture now and your chances of getting bedbugs jump dramatically. Simply put -- if you have no idea where the furniture came from, you're in the dark as to whether the previous owners had bedbugs. It's best to avoid used furniture in general, unless the furniture comes from a house you know is not infested. At the very least, you should perform a thorough check of the furniture to ensure no bedbugs are present.
Knowing what bedbugs look like can help you prevent them from setting up office in your home and dramatically cut down the chance you encounter an infestation. They're about 1/5-inch to 3/8-inch long at maturity. The University of California Integrated Pest Management Program points out that youngsters are light colored and adults are brownish-red. You'll likely see brownish spots of fecal matter and empty bug shells where bedbugs are present. The University of Minnesota Extension notes that adult bedbugs somewhat resemble wood ticks.
To prevent bedbugs, follow the avoid, inspect and eliminate strategy. Avoid surfaces and areas where bedbugs are commonly found. For instance, sit on plastic or metal chairs in libraries, dorms and public places if you have the option, and keep your luggage, shoes and clothes on luggage racks rather than on the floor and bed in hotels. Inspect everything that could have come into contact with bedbugs, such as the clothes you wore to the movies and your suitcase after a trip. Also inspect anything that may house bedbugs, such as mattresses in hotel rooms. Eliminate bedbugs that you find after an inspection by heating or freezing everything that could have come into contact with them. The University of Minnesota Extension notes that items must reach a minimum core exposure of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two hours or 23 degrees Fahrenheit for five days. The University says typical methods of reaching those temperatures involve placing the items in your washer or dryer at the highest heat setting or placing them in your freezer for two weeks.
If you encounter a bedbug infestation in your home, call a pest control specialist. This is not something you want to or even can handle yourself, warns the National Pest Management Association. Professional elimination methods are needed. Note that in addition to seeing bedbugs, frequent small, itchy and red bumps on your skin can also indicate the parasitic insects.
- National Pest Management Association: New Bed Bug Survey Shows Problem is Not Waning; Bed Bug Awareness Week Calls for Attention
- University of California Integrated Pest Management Program: Bed Bugs
- Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Bed Bug Prevention Methods
- University of Minnesota Extension: Traveler Q & A: Preventing bed bugs from hitchhiking to your home
- National Pest Management Association: Bed Bugs FAQs
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Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.