“Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” was a quaint old rhyme mothers said as they tucked their children into bed, but not anymore. Bed bug infestations are being found across the United States, not only in homes and hotels but in retail shops, schools, libraries, movie theaters, and anywhere that people congregate. Although preferring areas where people sleep, the bugs will hitch a ride in clothing, luggage, and other objects and infest new areas. Tiny, wingless insects about the size of a small seed, bed bugs feed only on the blood of warm-blooded animals, mainly mammals and birds.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends a comprehensive approach to bed bug eradication in an infested home. Once a bed bug infestation is confirmed, use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that includes the use of chemicals to kill the insects and strategies that will prevent another infestation. A thorough inspection of infested areas will help in finding the spots where bed bugs hide. They prefer cracks and crevices, inside furniture, baseboards, and even behind electrical outlets. They only come out at night when they feed, then return to a safe, dark sport to hide. The less clutter, the fewer hiding places the bed bugs will have. Cleaning the area and washing and drying bedding and upholstery will remove adult and larval bugs. High temperatures in the washer and dryer also kill bed bugs. To help prevent infestations, check all used items before bringing them into a home, inspect luggage on return from traveling, and immediately wash all clothing after a trip.

The EPA has approved over 300 chemicals for use against bed bugs, and the list continues to grow as the problem increases. The chemical pesticides fall into three main categories, contact insecticides, insect growth regulators, and dusts. Contact insecticides are meant to kill on contact. Pyrethrins are the most commonly used contact insecticides. Made synthetically or from extracts of plants, pyrethrins are natural organic compounds. Insect growth regulators disrupt the life cycle of bed bugs and other insects. This method takes longer to work than contact insecticides, but is a sure method to completely stop an infestation over time. The last category of pesticides is insecticidal dust. These work by puncturing an insect’s outer protective layer, eventually leading to dehydration and death. Although there are many chemicals available for home use, the wisest approach is to have a professional exterminator.

One of the primary reasons to use a professional exterminator is their ability to correctly apply and manage potentially dangerous pesticides. Using the wrong pesticide may be worse than doing nothing, as bedbugs will simply hide from the pesticide, reemerging later. Any home with children or pets is particularly susceptible to the dangers inherent in pesticide use. Inhalation and skin contact of powerful insecticides can cause a host of problems, from allergic reactions to dangerous long-term side effects. Bed bug remediation and control may be effectively done by the homeowner, but in more cases than not, professional services are the only guarantee that the job is done correctly and with the desired results.