Bed Bugs are Back

What You Need to Know to Avoid a Bed Bug Infestation

It’s no secret that bed bugs have experienced an unwelcome resurgence in the United States over the past few years. It seems as though everyone has a personal experience or story to share about an encounter with the problematic pest. In fact, the NPMA’s 2011 Bed Bugs in America survey found that one in five Americans has had a bed bug infestation in their home or knows someone who has encountered bed bugs at home or in a hotel. A combination of factors, such as increased international travel, more targeted pest control products and methods and a lack of awareness of prevention tactics, has led to the spike in the prevalence of bed bugs that much of the country is experiencing today. 

The 2011 Bugs Without Borders survey conducted by the NPMA and the University of Kentucky revealed that 99 percent of U.S. based professional pest management companies have encountered a bed bug infestation in the past year. Compare that to the fact that prior to 2000, just 25 percent of those respondents had encountered a bed bug infestation and it’s clear that the bed bug pandemic is a growing threat to public health. Specifically, the dangerous and irritating pest can leave itchy, bloody welts on human skin that can become infected when irritated by scratching.

Adding to the problem is the fact that according to 76 percent of pest professionals, bed bugs are considered the most difficult pest to treat, more so than cockroaches, ants and termites. Adult bed bugs can live for several months without eating and once inside a building, they spread rapidly from room to room - through pipes, in vacuum cleaners, on clothing and luggage. In a hotel, bed bugs can even spread to neighboring rooms, since guests may end up moving to another room. Because of the bed bugs' ability to "hitchhike" on people and their belongings, they are a much greater problem in urban and suburban areas with larger populations of people who live close together and interact in enclosed spaces on a regular basis. According to the survey, 52 percent of pest management companies reported treating bed bug infestations in rural areas compared to 71 percent in urban and 80 percent in suburban areas.

Unfortunately, while residences and hotels/motels account for the majority of reported bed bug infestations, they are not just restricted to those areas, and are not just found in beds. They can be found in chair cushions, sofas, behind electrical outlets, cracks and crevices around baseboards, or even behind picture frames. In other words, they can be live pretty much anywhere. An alarming 35 percent of respondents reported treating bed bugs infestations in college dormitories, 9 percent on various modes of transportation, 5 percent in laundry facilities, and 4 percent in movie theatres. 

It may seem as though there is nothing one can do to avoid a bed bug encounter, but luckily, that is not the case. The NPMA offers extensive educational materials on All Things Bed Bugs that range from best practices for pest professionals and commercial protocols for business owners dealing with bed bug infestations. In addition, consider the following tips on ways to prevent a bed bug infestation:

  • Vacuum suitcases after returning from a vacation.
  • Check your sheets for telltale blood spots.
  • Consider bringing a large plastic trashbag to keep your suitcase in during hotel stays.
  • Carry a small flashlight to assist you with quick visual inspections.
  • Never bring second-hand furniture, especially mattresses and box springs, into a home without thoroughly examining for signs of a bed bug infestation. You might consider having a pest control professional inspect the furniture as it is difficult to detect an infestation without training.
  • Regularly inspect areas where pets sleep for signs of bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs are elusive creatures, so it is imperative to seek professional pest control assistance to address an infestation.

Fortunately, as the public's awareness of the bed bug resurgence grows, many Americans are modifying their behaviors to minimize their risk of an infestation. According to the survey, 27 percent of respondents have inspected or washed clothing upon returning from a trip; 25 percent have checked a hotel room for bed bugs; 17 percent have inspected or vacuumed a suitcase upon returning from a trip and 12 percent have altered or canceled travel plans because of concern about bed bugs. These are promising statistics, as vigilance is key in preventing a bed bug infestation.

If you suspect an infestation, visit our Find a Pro page to find a pest control professional in your area.

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