How to identify bed bugs and what to do about them – Press Enterprise

Bed bugs, once associated with overcrowded and dirty homes, have become a more prevalent problem in recent years. They can be found anywhere – from public transport to beautiful hotels. Like most unwanted guests, they are notoriously difficult to eliminate.

These blood-sucking beasts live wherever humans live. Although they can feed on other mammals and birds, they prefer human blood. They are wingless, red to reddish brown, with a flat oval body just under 1/4 inch long. Although their size makes them easy to identify, they’re good for hiding if you’re not looking for them.

Usually, the first sign of a bed bug problem is the appearance of red, itchy bites a few hours after exposure. Sensitive individuals may develop severe dermatitis from these bites, resulting in a painful, itchy, and persistent rash.

Bedbugs can feed undetected because they usually attack at night when their host (you) is sleeping, and their saliva contains a natural anesthetic that prevents you from feeling their bites.

Once you suspect you’ve feasted, you’ll likely notice the signs of a bed bug infestation. Look along mattress seams and tufts, between box springs and bed frames, behind wall art, and along baseboards. Bed bugs can usually be found within 6 feet of the bed. Other signs of bed bugs include the presence of small reddish-brown spots on the sheets. In cases of extreme infestation, a foul “meat” odor may be present.

Bedbugs can go without feeding for a very long time. Depending on the temperature, they can survive more than a year without food. Forget starving them!

In case of a small or limited infestation, bed bugs can be eliminated by vacuuming and steam cleaning. Although there are many products available to the homeowner that are labeled for use against bed bugs, none of them have been shown to be completely effective. If the infestation is moderate or severe (or you just want to be absolutely sure), professional pest control is your best bet. Licensed exterminators have access to the most effective insecticides and are a most valuable resource in this battle.

Infested clothing and bedding can be washed at high temperatures to kill the insects and their eggs. Exposure to temperatures above 140 F for 2 hours (or 130 F for 3 hours) can destroy bed bugs and their eggs, but this high temperature treatment should probably be done by a professional so as not to put the fire at your house.

How do you avoid this problem in the first place? There are several precautions that will prevent or limit the likelihood of an infestation. Obviously, don’t bring home furniture you found on the freeway. If you buy used furniture, inspect it carefully and have it steam cleaned if possible. When you stay at the hotel, keep your luggage in the bathroom. Inspect the bedding as soon as you arrive in your room (and certainly before you go to bed!). When you return from your trip, wash everything and store suitcases away from sleeping areas.

Have questions? Email [email protected]


Looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.

Los Angeles County

[email protected]; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/

Orange County

[email protected]; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/

Riverside County

[email protected]; 951-683-6491 ext. 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/

San Bernardino County

[email protected]; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/

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