Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The habitual 'don't let the bed bugs bite' line, which Niagara parents often say when putting their kids to bed, has a newfound significance, with a growing number of bed bug infestations reported here.

The increase in the number of bed bug complaints from 2009 to 2010 prompted the Region's public health department to issue a news release on Monday, advising people to take extra care to avoid infestations of the little blood suckers.

Peter Jekel, manager in the environmental health division, said increased travel which can spread infestations, and limited pesticide use, have resulted in increased bed bug activity.

Health Canada said in an increasingly global world, bed bugs are making a comeback and can now be found everywhere from homeless shelters and five-star hotels to single-family homes and even buses.

Getting an infestation does not mean people aren't being clean enough, the health agency said.

The U.S. National Pest Management Association (NPMA), meanwhile, said Wednesday that bed bug infestations have increased "dramatically" in the past 12 months, infiltrating every part of Americans' lives.

A new NPMA survey found that in many cases the numbers of pest professionals who have reported treating certain types of businesses and commercial facilities has seen double digit growth in the last year.

Bed bugs are found in many places: mattress seams, behind bed-heads and at the attachment points of bed legs and bed frames, in bedside furniture, in floor joints and cracks, at carpet edges, behind skirting boards and even behind picture frames. They're drawn to humans by body heat and the carbon dioxide released when we exhale, and they feed on people while they sleep.

While the bugs can travel to adjoining rooms, they're often carried in and on people's luggage and belongings, or accidentally transported by cleaning staff, leading to infestations at people's homes, motel and hotels, Health Canada said.

People tend to be bitten around the shoulders and arms, often in distinctive lines as the bugs move along, said Jekel. Skin reactions may take several days to appear and can include redness, swelling, itchiness and burning sensations.

Jekel said people can help avoid bed bugs by the following steps:

• If you are travelling, inspect the room for signs of bed bugs in the mattress seams, bed linen, bed frame, or skirting boards; and check for dark spots on mattresses
• Place luggage on luggage racks or in the wardrobe, not on the bed;
• If bed bugs are seen, alert the management staff of hotels or motels;
• If bed bugs are seen on your luggage, wash your clothing, bed sheets, blankets, mattress pads and pillows in hot water and dry them on high heat for at least 30 minutes; 
• If bed bugs are found in your home, contact a licensed pest management technician for specific treatment.

Health Canada also cautioned people against accepting secondhand items such as furniture and mattresses. Inspect and clean them before bringing them into the home.

Adult bed bugs are four to six millimetres in diameter, oval in shape and dark reddish brown in colour. Adult females lay up to three eggs a day, which hatch up to 10 days later.