(BPT) - One of the most feared household pests of the past decade has been the bed bug. What may be the most unnerving part about these tiny pests is how they hide in mattresses, couches and even dressers waiting for their next blood meal.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of bed bug infestations across the country. About 99 percent of pest professionals have treated for bed bugs in the past year, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
'Bed bugs have several qualities that specifically help them survive and spread,' says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. 'The best ways to stop the spread of bed bugs are through education and taking precautions. Consumers should be aware of their surroundings when traveling and be vigilant about searching for signs of an infestation.'
Understanding bed bugs
Bed bugs are often mistaken for being nocturnal. The truth is they are attracted to the carbon dioxide emitted by their hosts. For this reason, they tend to feed at night while a person is sleeping and emitting a steady stream of carbon dioxide. However, they will also consume a blood meal during the day - especially in heavily infested areas. Although bed bugs prefer to feed on humans, they will feed on other warm-blooded hosts, too.
Bed bugs hide very easily thanks to their small size and flat, seed-like shape, allowing them to squeeze into tiny cracks and crevices. They can also spread very quickly. One female bed bug can lay one-to-five eggs per day, several hundred in a lifetime. If left untreated, bed bugs can quickly become a much bigger problem for homeowners.
Keeping your home bed bug free
Bed bugs are very good hitchhikers. They can latch onto luggage, clothing or linens and easily move from place to place or room to room. The best defense against bed bugs is awareness and prevention, especially when traveling or on vacation.
If staying in hotels, even five-star accommodations, pull back the sheets on any beds and check for bed bugs themselves or the telltale signs they've been there. Look for shed body casings, and dark red or brown spots on the mattress or along its seams. Consider packing a flashlight to use in these visual inspections. When checking an area for bed bugs, be sure any bags are placed off the floor on a hard surface. This reduces the likelihood of a bed bug latching onto it for a ride home. And once home, throw clothes in the dryer on high heat, vacuum the suitcase interior and exterior, and dispose of the vacuum receptacle contents immediately.
Treating an infestation
Bed bugs are very elusive and hard to control, so infestations should only be treated with the help of qualified and licensed pest professionals. If you think you have a bed bug infestation, visit PestWorld.org to find a pest professional in your area.