Bed Bugs

You may have purchased the best mattress in the world that provides you with a fantastic night's sleep, but if that bed is home to dreaded bed bugs, your sleep will be anything but satisfactory.

The common bed bug has long been a pest to people. These little guys feed on blood, causing itchy bites and irritating their human hosts. The EPA, the CDC and the USDA all consider bed bugs a public health pest. Bed bugs, however, are not known to transmit or spread disease.

These little bloodsuckers feed off any warm blooded mammal, that means you, and are nocturnal - they are awake when you are asleep. So when you purchase your mattress and box spring, pick up an impervious covering for your set as well as your pillows. Bed bugs are attracted to warmth, blood and carbon dioxide. They will hide anywhere including rugs, any crevice, drawer or hidey hole, but the mattress set can be a great residence near their food supply. They have been known to go for a year without eating, so consider them tenacious little buggers.

Don't just rely on bites to determine if you have bed bugs -- those could be misunderstood and from another source. A far more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. These are some of the earliest and most accurate methods to determine if those buggers are there. When cleaning or changing bedding look for dark spots the size of a pen point, which are bed bug excrement that may bleed on the fabric like a marker. Also look for eggs and eggshells, which are tiny and white, the skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger. Of course, if you see live bed bugs, you know you have a problem.

What should you do to get rid of these pesky invaders? First, don't panic. Remember they don't carry disease. Controlling and eliminating bed bugs does takes time and patience. There are non-chemical approaches that are effective. In addition, pesticides are available to aid in the control process. Thoroughly clean the room. Remove the bottom gauzy stuff on your box spring and give the whole set a thorough vacuuming. Then vacuum your whole room as well as empty drawers. Pay particular attention to seams of the mattress, anything upholstered in the room. Then take that vacuum bag, seal it tight and take it out to the trash. You will need to launder all the bedding and dry at hot temperatures. Reduce clutter where they can hide. Cover your mattress, pillows and box spring with a protective cover. This should work. But if the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs everywhere. . . . in the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains, in drawer joints, in electrical outlets, under wall hangings. Since bed bugs are tiny, about the width of a credit card, they can fit most everywhere. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug. Hopefully, you have caught the problem before this stage.

You can do this yourself, but remember it takes time, diligence and patience. If they have become unmanageable, you may need to call the exterminator.