Bed bugs have been a constant nuisance in human civilization's posterior since the day we started building homes and sleeping in beds. Over the millennia, they've developed a taste for human blood (becoming the less exciting and well-dressed vampires) and evolved to use us as their principal source of sustenance.
Humans have been trying to rid our homes of these disgusting invaders for thousands of years, and it did look like the problem was finally under control. Fifty years ago, you'd only find the notion of a bed bug infestation in old spaghetti westerns and WW1 flophouses. Unfortunately, with an uptick in mobility and the use of public spaces, bed bugs are back with a vengeance.
Every year hundreds of New Braunfels households struggle to clear their homes and belongings of bed bugs.
The bed bug is a small insect, often less than a 1/4 of an inch in size. In between the feedings, their bodies have an apple seed shape and are mahogany in color. As bed bugs feed, their bodies swell to almost double their original size and change their color to reddish-brown. Bed bug appearance will vary a bit across the country, but all bed bugs have a segmented beak, antennae with four sections, and rudimentary wings incapable of flight.
Bed bug young, or nymphs, are much smaller and translucent, making them practically impossible to see with the naked eye unless they've recently eaten.
Bed bugs reproduce by laying eggs which are usually pearl white and the size of a pinhead. Once hatched, a bed bug will undergo six stages, shedding its skin at the end of each stage as it grows. Between each change, an immature bed bug, the nymph, requires feeding, and the whole cycle can be completed in less than a month, producing an adult bed bug capable of laying eggs and increasing the colony numbers.
Bed bugs feed on blood, and while their preferred flavor is human, they will make do with animal blood if they have to. While they are unlikely to carry blood born diseases, the effect bed bugs have on our health and well-being is hard to overestimate.
Bed bugs hunt using traces of body heat and carbon dioxide, similar to mosquitoes. They spend most of their day hiding in cracks and crevices within three to five yards of a sleeping host bed and wait for an opportune moment to feed.
The lines and clusters of bed bug bites follow the journey the insect made on you while you were sleeping. Once they reach your body, they crawl on the skin probing for a capillary that will provide sufficient blood flow. It takes less than ten minutes for an adult bed bug to drain enough blood to sustain itself, and once done, it immediately makes its way back to its hiding spot, making it very difficult to spot.
But do not assume bed bugs only bite when you are asleep. All they're looking for is a period of relative immobility. A chair in a restaurant or an infested seat in a movie theater is enough to expose you to a bed bug bite.
Let's look at how you can get rid of bed bugs, how to prevent bed bugs from setting up camp in your home in the first place, and, if prevention fails, how to find reliable pest control in New Braunfels.
How To Properly Check For Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are small, nocturnal bugs that are experts at staying out of sight. They're capable of hiding where we'd never think to look, like inside the mattress, your phone case, or between the pages of a book. They stay in their hiding spots through most of the day, coming out to feed between 12 and 5 a.m., when we're fast asleep.
As reclusive as bed bugs in New Braunfels are, infestations often go unnoticed until bed bug numbers become out of control. Often the only sign of bed bugs in your home is the bites they leave behind. Unfortunately, bed bug bites are often confused with other skin issues or simply not noticed for days, if not weeks. Bed bug saliva contains numbing and anti-coagulant properties to ensure that the insect is not disturbed while feeding.
Some of the other signs of bed bugs in your home to watch for include:
- Bloodstains on your bedding. Bed bugs are messy feeders and often regurgitate blood as they feed.
- Dark rusty spots of bed bug excrement on your sheets.
- Bed bug eggs, shells, or shed skins in the bed frame crevices or other places bed bugs hide.
- The musty odor of bed bug pheromones they use to mark their territory and communicate.
Just a couple of bed bugs in your room will not generate a pheromone smell you're likely to sense. If you are starting to smell the musty smell that signals their presence, the infestation is likely in its advanced stages and past the point when prevention and DIY methods can do much good.
Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
Bed bug bites don't transfer contagious diseases, unlike some of their distant blood-feeding relatives, like mosquitoes and ticks. Some people will not notice bed bug bites, some will just spot a small bite mark, and some will develop a serious allergic reaction. Scratching at the bite sites will often introduce a secondary infection.
The biggest danger of bed bug infestation in your New Braunfels home is mental rather than physical. The biggest concerns resulting from a bed bug infestation in your house are the inability to sleep, stress, and anxiety.
How To Prevent Future Bed Bugs Infestations
The old tale connecting bed bug infestations and dirty homes doesn't have much to do with the truth. Bed bugs are interested in a single thing; access to blood. They don't care much about your housekeeping skills and have little choice about which house their next blood donor happens to live in.
Bed bugs can't fly or even run very fast, having evolved over thousands of years to hitchhike to their next victim. A suitcase set on the floor in a public transport or airport, a library book that's spent time in an infested home, or a piece of used furniture not properly inspected can result in a full-blown infestation in no time.
Taking the following steps to make your home less appealing to bed bugs and making their way in more difficult will help reduce the chances of an infestation:
- When traveling, make sure to inspect the hotel room you're staying in and your bedding. Keep in mind that nymphs are very hard to see.
- If possible, don't set your luggage on the floor in airports and public transportation.
- Inspect secondhand furniture carefully before bringing it into your house.
- Once home, immediately wash the clothing you've traveled in and dry them at the hottest temperature.
- Vacuum your luggage as soon as you're home.
- If you live in an apartment with neighbors down the hall, make sure there is no crack between the door, and the frame bed bugs can make their way into your home from an infested apartment next door.
Sometimes, regardless of the preventative steps you've dutifully taken, bed bugs still make their way into your home. If you're starting to see signs of a bed bug infestation, begin with the following:
- Remove bedding, curtains, and clothing in the room and toss them into a wash.
- Vacuum your bed and the surrounding area. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in the outside garbage immediately.
- Check mattress seams and bed frame joints for bed bugs and bed bug eggs.
- Remove bed bug hiding places by repairing cracks in wall plaster and torn wallpaper.
Clearing bed bugs out once they've made their way into your house is not a task for the faint of heart. Each bed bug can lay over 200 eggs, and missing a single egg can begin a new infestation. And, to make matters worse, a single bed bug can wait for up to a year and a half for its next meal, so you cannot starve them out. If you think your house has a bed bug infestation, it's best to get a bed bug control professional on the job as soon as possible.
Call The Professionals At The First Sign Of Bed Bugs
Unfortunately, our experienced and well-trained pest control professionals at Gold Star Exterminators are very familiar with treating bed bug infestations. We've provided bed bug control services in New Braunfels and the surrounding area for over 40 years. Our technicians will inspect your house to determine the extent of the infestation and, once done, utilize a chemical treatment to make sure both adult insects and eggs are taken care of. We are locally owned and operated and will be happy to help you clear your home of these disgusting invaders.
If you have a bed bug infestation, call Gold Star Exterminators today for a free quote and to learn more about our residential and commercial pest control services in New Braunfels.