With the increase in the number of international travellers, people moving more frequently, overcrowded living conditions and the lack of effective insecticides, the number of bed bug infestations have increased significantly.
Bed bugs are dispersed largely by people bringing them into their homes in their luggage or on clothes after visiting an infested dwelling or hotel. They are usually associated with poor housekeeping and low standards of hygiene but will find suitable harborages and hiding places in clean premises. Although their mobility is restricted to crawling they will infest adjacent rooms or neighboring buildings. There are two species of bed bugs in Australia Cimex lectularius (Common bed bug) & Cimex hemipterus (Tropical bed bug).
What do Bed Bugs look like?
Bed bugs spend most of their time hiding in cracks and crevices in fairly close proximity to their sleeping host. They are about 4-5 mm long, rusty red- brown in colour, are wingless with an oval flattened body.
When do Bed Bugs Bite?
Bed bugs feed mostly at night on blood and retreat back to their hiding places after feeding; they are somewhat gregarious so they are normally found grouped together and will crawl several meters to feed.
When bed bugs bite, most people have a skin reaction due to the anticoagulant saliva they inject into the body when feeding. Local swelling occurs on the skin at the bite site and the bite can become inflamed and itchy and can cause a lot of discomfort. Skin reactions may be delayed up to 9 days. Adult bed bugs live up to 6 – 12 months depending on conditions and all stages, nymphs and adults of both sexes require blood for nutrition and development. The female lays up to 3 eggs a day and may lay 200 -500 eggs in her life time. Eggs hatch usually in 7 – 30 days.
Where are Bed Bugs found?
They can be found almost anywhere in your home or hotel, here are a few common areas:-
- In luggage and clothing.
- In mattresses, especially in the seams and behind mattress buttons.
- In bed frames and in and behind headboards especially if fixed to the wall.
- In and behind furniture i.e. bed side tables, closets, clothing draws, wardrobes, book shelves etc.
- Along and under the edge of wall-to-wall carpeting and under carpet tack strips.
- In floors between the floorboards.
- Behind picture frames & wall hangings.
- Inside electrical and electronic fittings and equipment i.e. light fittings, inside clocks, phones, televisions and smoke detectors.
- In switch plates and outlets.
- Under loose wallpaper, tiles & panelling.
- Curtains, curtain rods and window furnishings.
- In upholstered chairs and sofas (especially in the seams, cushions, cushion buttons).
Bed Bug Prevention
Prevention is better than cure and in many cases improving standards in hygiene and housekeeping will make premises less favorable for bed bug infestations. The following guidelines will also help prevent bed bug infestations:-
- When traveling, inspect the hotel bed and furniture especially the mattress and bed head.
- Keep luggage (suitcases) and personal items away from the bed and off the floor.
- Be sure to thoroughly check all luggage before leaving your hotel and prior to bringing it into your home.
- Avoid placing suitcases and backpacks in or on areas that are used by many people, unfortunately sometimes this is unavoidable when flying and your luggage needs to be checked in, or when you are on a cruise or it has to go into a luggage department.
- Before packing for home, check along the seams and folds of luggage for live bed bugs.
- When returning home, unpack luggage outside or place clothes directly into a plastic bag or when unpacking, wash laundry right away; and closely inspect items that can’t be washed or dried
- Be sure to thoroughly check all second hand, used or rented furniture for bedbugs before bringing it into your home. This particularly applies to bedroom furniture.
- Seal cracks and crevices in your home with caulk, even if you don’t have bedbugs. This will help prevent bedbugs and other pests from coming in.
- If you suspect you have been around bedbugs, prevent further spread by immediately washing and drying your clothing or isolating items that you suspect have been infested.
If your home becomes infested, you need to carefully consider all treatment options. While there are a variety of DIY options available for bed bug control, improper use of pesticides can be harmful. The most effective option is to call in an experienced professional.
Bed Bug Management & Treatment methods
The best advice is to call an experienced professional pest manager who can advise you of the most appropriate treatment method for you as this will depend on many factors such as location and the extent of the infestation.
The first step when treating for bed bugs is to measure the extent of the infestation, your pest professional will be able to do this by carrying out a thorough inspection to all areas including inside light fittings, clocks, phones, televisions and curtain rods.
The next step is to ensure the bed bug infestation is contained to one area, disturbing the infestation may cause the bed bugs to disperse throughout the building and removal of items to other locations may also spread the infestation. All bed linen, curtains and clothing must be removed from the infested areas and they must be bagged and sealed before they are removed from the room. They should then be laundered and if this is not possible then they must be disposed of. Mattresses and pillows should either be heat treated, fumigated or disposed of.
Next all floors, carpets and other soft furnishings such as sofas must either be vacuumed or steam cleaned at a temperature of at least 70-80ºC, in extreme cases the carpet may need to be replaced.
Once all items have been removed and the floors and soft furnishings vacuumed and steam cleaned the premises can then be treated with an insecticide. When using an insecticide all occupants and pets must vacate the premises and/or area of treatment and kept unoccupied until the infestation is eradicated, in extreme cases this could be several days.
Heat treatment can also be an effective option against bed bugs and many companies are currently exploring this option.
Remember if you are unsure always call a professional pest manager.