Bed bug sightings have been on the rise in the United States recently.
Infestations of this pest had been declining during the mid-20th century, but many countries are now experiencing large bed bug increases.
Their numbers have been on the rise in Europe for several years, and scientists contribute the global economy and ease of world travel for recent infestations.
Bed bugs are also beginning to show signs of resistance to insecticides used in their treatment.
How do you know when you have bed bugs? They are small (1-7 mm long), flat, wingless insects that can be flesh-colored or blood-red when feeding. Bed bugs feed on blood. They have straw-like mouthparts that insert into skin and suck out blood.
Luckily, bed bugs are not known to transmit any diseases. However, some people will have allergic reactions to the bugs' saliva. Severe scratching of the itchy feeding wounds may also result in secondary skin infections.
Bed bugs release an anesthetic into the bite wound, so most people don't even know they have been fed upon until morning.
Bed bugs have traditionally been thought of as only being acquired from places with poor sanitation. This is not the case. They can be acquired from even the nicest of hotel rooms. Bed bugs crawl into and hide in the seams of luggage, clothes, bedding and furniture.
Bed bugs will usually infest the areas on and around your bed. Because they feed on blood, they need to be close to their food source.
They can be found in the seams of mattresses and in cracks and crevices of the walls and flooring around the bed. Large infestations will often have a characteristic ‘sweet' smell.
If you think you have a bed bug problem, please call a professional pest control company. Even for the most experienced operator, bed bug infestations are not an easy fix.
As I mentioned earlier, bed bugs are becoming resistant to some commercial insecticides. Also, the bugs' habit of living in tiny crevices makes pesticide application tricky. Bed bugs, along with termites, are a species in which do-it-yourself control is never recommended.
Prevention is always the first and best option. Do your best to avoid acquiring bed bugs when you travel.
UGA Extension Entomologist Dr. Paul Guillebeau suggests always checking hotel beds for signs of bed bugs. Strip off the sheets and check the seams and cording of the mattress. If you see dark spots, request a different room.
Bed bug ‘poop' appears as small brown or blood-colored stains on the mattress. Always check the head boards of hotel beds. If possible, take them down off the wall and check the back side.
If your hotel room has two beds, resist the urge to use the other bed to store your luggage. This is a good way for bed bugs to crawl into your suitcase and hitch a ride back to your house. Hang up your clothes and store your luggage on a high shelf.
Avoid buying used bedding and mattresses. Many thrift and second-hand stores are now refusing to take donated mattresses because of bed bug fears.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442