Detection of Bed Bugs:

Bed bugs can often be very hard to diagnose in a place of residence. Due to the similarity of bite appearances, victims often confuse their bites with those of mosquitoes or especially if someone has a pet, with the common household flea. Bed bugs are found virtually anywhere in your home where a crack, crevice or hiding place exists. Common places include your bed itself (including bedding, pillows, sheets, encasements, keep an eye on folds and seams), the bed frame, the headboard, under baseboards, in electrical sockets, upholstery and decorative items – the list goes on, but a sure fire place to find them would be at those stated locations. Again, employ caution and be thorough; detecting bed bugs is harder than it sounds. Look everywhere you suspect they could be.

Three bites in a row from bed bugs.

One of the first ways to detect a bed bug infestation are the bites themselves. Bed bug bites have the unique characteristic of commonly appearing in batches, lines, or clusters of three or four bites. The bites appear this way because the bed bug was disturbed during its feeding and resumed or relocated nearby to continue feeding. Bed bug bites are extremely itchy and when scratched enough will cause open sores which expose victims to other complications like bacterial infections. Welts/swelling varies in size, we suggest looking at the pictures in the link below to get an idea of how they look. Again, everyone reacts differently to bed bug bites, some lucky and very fortunate individuals have no reactions to bed bug bites. It is recommended that you employ minimal scratching to the bite, although this is more difficult than it sounds. Not only will minimal scratching help reduce welt/bump size, but it will also prevent you from having an open sore at the bite location.

Using topical, anti-itch creams could provide relief for very itchy reactions, although personally I found it provided little relief (I used hydrocortisone). Bed bug infestations should be diagnosed with a physical examination of your residence by a professional. Bed bugs are active during all times of the day, however are commonly found feeding at night when you are most vulnerable: in your sleep. If possible, set your alarm a few hours before sunrise and have your flashlight handy. Shine the line around your bedding and on your bed and look for movement. Catch any you find with duct tape to show your exterminator or building managers in the event they ask for a sample.

Roscoe, the bed bug sniffing dog from Bell Environmental Services

A new method for detecting bed bug infestations has been the use of dogs who sniff out the musky scent of bed bugs. There are very few dogs in the United States currently trained to smell bed bugs but we expect this number to rise exponentially as the epidemic becomes more apparent. Bed bug sniffing dogs work similar to drug sniffing dogs. When a bed bug scent is detected, the bed bug will alert by one of many different ways, depending on how they were trained. A common alert is a simple bark, a half sit or a full sit.

One important thing to know about bed bug sniffing dogs is to verify that the alerts are not false alerts. Meaning, make sure your PCO is verifying the alert with his own physical inspection for bed bugs in the alerted area. Some dogs will show an alert signal (either by accident, mistake, or through a PCO action) just to win your business. Dirty tactics – make sure you are not falling victim to false alerts and pouring hundreds of dollars down the drain if you really do not have a bed bug infestation.

There has been ongoing debates on the usefulness of employing bed bug sniffing dogs in general, as they lack the range of smelling high up on walls and ceilings, where bed bugs are completely capable of climbing and hiding. View our blog article about it here.

How To Prevent Bed Bugs:

Many people are naturally concerned about getting a bed bug infestation and ask ‘How Can I Prevent Bed Bugs?’

The answer is that although there are preventative steps you can take, there is no 100% guarantee that you won’t be infested by these frightening and expensive insects.

The truth is that if you travel a lot, especially staying in areas where these pests are endemic then there is a high chance that sooner or later you will bring bed bugs home with you.

If you don’t travel much, don’t stay in hotels and don’t use public transport much then your chances of getting bed bugs are much reduced, unless of course you live in the same block as somebody who does!

If you travel to the Far East or even cities like London and New York then there is a fair chance that sooner or later you will encounter these pests.

Fortunately, whilst there is no 100% safe method of preventing bed bug infestation there are common sense things that you can do to a) reduce your chances of becoming infested and b) reduce the severity of the infestation if you are unfortunate enough to succumb.

Most of the bed bug infestations we deal with can be associated an overseas location, a student child backpacking in Asia, staying in backpacking hostels etc. Many of the cases we deal with involve apartments leased to persons from overseas or are adjacent to them.

Some just involve sheer bad luck, bed bugs are frighteningly easy to acquire.

So what can you do to reduce your chances of becoming infested?

Well as we have discussed many infestations start with a stay in an infested hotel or lodgings.

Your first safety precaution is to thoroughly check out any hotel before you book it. Fortunately that is easy to do these days with Google.

Just Google the name of your hotel, location and ‘bed bugs’ so you would google ‘Freds Hotel Anytown Bed Bugs’ and if anyone has reported a bed bug problem it is likely to show up.

Check out the reports of your proposed hotel at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ as bed bug problems are often reported there to give you forewarning before you book.

Even this however is no substitute for a visual inspection of the hotel bed before you even unpack your case.

It may be late, you may be tired after a long journey but a 5 minute inspection of the bed may save you countless heartache and hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

As a precaution you can carry with you an insect repellent which may have some effect.

We currently have a presentation under construction aimed at teaching hotel management and staff how to do regular inspections of hotel bedrooms for these pests. If you would like us to inform you when this is available please fill in the contact form on this page.

Strip the bed down to mattress level. Inspect closely around the folds and edges of the mattress looking for the dark smear marks as in the photos on this page.

Of course in an infestation of any size live bugs and cast skins will be easily visible.

Check the wood of the bed frame, bed bug smears, which are digested blood, usually show up well against wooden frames.

If you see evidence of bed bugs refuse to stay in the hotel, although in a foreign country that might not be all that simple. If you are on a package tour get hold of your representative immediately and demand to change hotels, threaten to involve the press etc. But whatever you do, do not stay in that room, not even for half a night!

On a foreign holiday it is common to get bites and that does not mean your hotel has a bed bug infestation, mosquitoes, midges etc can all cause bite like reactions.

However, if you suspect bed bugs then there are simple precautions you can take when you return home to lessen the chance of transferring the bugs to your home.

Pack all washable clothing in bin bags inside your case and as soon as you return home wash everything, including the clothes you stand up in, on a hot wash. Do that immediately you return home.

Then place your case with any clothing, shoes etc, which can’t be washed inside your chest freezer for 4 or 5 days **.

Beyond that there is little else you can do to prevent an infestation, however there are steps you can take to lessen the severity and catch one in the early stages.

The weak point in any bed bug treatment are bugs which get inside the mattress. We cannot get at these easily and it may mean that the mattress needs to be replaced.

However, it is a good idea to fit the bed with bed bug proof mattress covers either as a precaution or as part of the treatment.

These covers are impermeable to bed bugs and extend the life of a mattress and so are well worth fitting in any case.

Please check them out at Protectormattress.com

A wonderful new tool which has arrived on the market recently is the ‘bed bug moat’ which is useful for both preventing infestation of your bed and for early detection should the worst happen.

Make sure that if possible the bed is pulled a few inches away from any walls, especially the headboard and fit the bed with bed bug moats, every bed should have them.