Have you ever been lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, when you think you might have felt something on your leg? Just the idea of something crawling around in your sheets is enough to make you kick off the covers and run for the light switch.
Bed bugs are an increasingly common problem for homeowners in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. In fact, Washington D.C. was ranked 2nd
on the list of cities most affected by bed bugs in January 2018.
Let’s explore how bed bugs get into your home, signs you may have a bed bug problem, and what to do to eliminate an infestation.
Are bed bugs common?
A widespread perception about bed bugs is that their presence is indicative of an unclean living environment: a dirty motel room, an unkempt apartment — you get the idea. Unfortunately, bed bugs are much more common than homeowners realize, even in the cleanest of homes.
About 97 percent
of pest control professionals have reported treating bed bugs in the past year, with single-family homes representing about 91 percent
of the serviced properties.
Regardless of how clean you keep your home, bed bugs can still manage to find their way in — and, as the data shows, they often do.
Where do bed bugs come from?
As their name implies, bed bugs often set up shop in mattresses. However, these pests will travel on clothing or in luggage in order to get close to humans because bed bugs must feed on a blood source to survive.
Bed bugs will live anywhere people gather, including homes, hotels, offices, and retail stores. That might be why Washington, D.C., a place where residents mingle with millions of travelers and tourists all year long, ranks high on recent lists of cities most affected by bed bugs.
Signs of a bed bug infestation
Since bed bugs are so common and can easily travel from place to place unnoticed, you may find yourself wondering: do I have bed bugs?
- Itchy, red bites on your skin. Bites are the most commonly reported sign of bed bugs. It’s important to note that bed bugs are active at night, so bites will occur while sleeping. If you find yourself waking up with itchy, red welts, there’s a chance you have bed bugs.
- While there are other household pests that can leave similar bites on your skin, there are a few markers that set bed bug bites apart from the rest.
- Mosquito bites are usually much larger than bed bug bites and, unlike bed bug bites, occur infrequently. Bed bugs often leave clusters of bites on the skin, while you may only wake up with a bite or two from mosquitoes.
- Bed bugs will also bite any area of exposed skin, unlike fleas that leave bites mainly around the ankles.
- Shed exoskeletons. Bed bugs will have gone through several stages of their lifecycle by the time you realize you have an infestation. As bed bugs mature, they shed their exoskeletons, which are left behind wherever they’ve nested.
Bed bug exoskeletons are translucent and resemble the insect itself, although they can vary in size as the bed bugs go through different life stages.
If you notice these small shells in common bed bug nesting areas, like along the edges of your mattress, around bed posts, or even in the corners of bedside tables, call a pest control professional immediately.
- Blood stains on mattress or sheets. Before feeding, fully-matured bed bugs are about a quarter-inch long, flat, oval-shaped, and brown in color. However, their bodies swell up and turn a reddish color after feeding due to the amount of blood they’ve consumed.
As people toss and turn in their sleep, these swollen bed bugs can be crushed, leaving a blood stain behind. Finding small, inexplicable blood stains on your sheets, mattress, or even pillowcases could be a sign of a bed bug infestation.
- Small brown or black spots on mattress or sheets. In the event of a bed bug infestation, you may find small black or brown stains in areas where bed bugs commonly nest. These stains come from bed bug excrement and are often harder to spot than the blood stains from crushed bed bug bodies you may find on sheets or pillowcases.
Look for these black or brown stains along the edges of your mattress, or even in the seams of your box spring frame, since bed bugs look for dark places to hide from the sunlight during the day.
- Musty odor. Another sign of bed bugs in your home is a musty mildew smell that can’t be linked to any other home maintenance issues, like a leaky pipe or excess humidity.
In large quantities, bed bug pheromones can leave a strong, unpleasant smell lingering in your home, likely in your bedroom.
How to prevent bed bugs
The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to avoid bringing them into your home in the first place. Bed bugs can’t fly. They don’t just crawl into your home on their own. They get in by hitchhiking, whether it’s on clothing, in luggage, or attached to furniture.
Here are some tips to keep bed bugs out of your home:
- Check what you bring into your home. If you are buying used or vintage furniture, check it closely for bed bugs before you bring it into your home. Think long and hard before accepting a second-hand mattress.
- Use a protective cover. By encasing your mattress and box springs with a protective cover, you can eliminate many of the hiding spots that bed bugs look for. The light color of the cover will also make bed bugs easier to spot.
- Watch out for shared laundry. If you share your laundry facilities — either at the local laundromat or in your apartment building — it’s important that you wash, dry, and transport your clothes with caution. After washing your items, dry them on high heat (which can kill bed bugs). Once done, transfer your clothes directly into a clean bag and fold them at home.
- Be vigilant while traveling. When staying in a hotel room, inspect the mattresses for bed bug activity before settling in. Keep suitcases off the ground and away from the bed. If you’re comfortable living out of your suitcase for the duration of your trip, avoid unpacking clothing in dressers or armoires. Lastly, be sure to inspect your clothing and luggage before returning to your home.
Eliminate bed bugs for good
It’s important to contact pest control professionals at the first sight of bed bugs. A widespread infestation can be nearly impossible to eliminate on your own and will only continue to grow without proper treatment.
If you notice signs of a bed bug infestation, call CroppMetcalfe’s pest control experts
at 1-877-740-6657 or schedule an appointment online. Our team can assess the severity of your bed bug problem and work with you to create an effective elimination plan.