All they want is your blood. They are usually active at night as you sleep. What are we talking about? Vampires, you say? Wrong. We mean bed bugs. You might wake up in the morning only to experience severe itching on your skin but not see an insect of any sort in your bed immediately. Believe it or not, the same bed bugs that caused you that inconvenience as you slept can travel over 100 feet in a night and generally reside within eight feet of their sleeping human hosts.
Bed bugs spend most of their time clustered in small, dark crevices, like the seams in a mattress or in the folds of your blanket. In the dark, they crawl out, to stick their needlelike mouthparts into your flesh in order to feed on your blood. However, the bite of a bedbug, though annoying during your waking hours, does not sting like the bite of a bee since these clever bugs inject an anesthetic to keep you from noticing their stealthy midnight meal. In fact, a sleeping person usually goes on sleeping while the bug slurps up their blood! However, the problem in this whole equation is the bug’s spit, which enter the little hole pierced in your skin. A lot of people are allergic to the substances in the bedbug’s saliva (about 70%), which causes rashes and bumps, and that itch quite a bit.
So, how can you identify the presence of bed bugs?
· Bite marks on your body can be a good indicator but in some individuals it takes as long as two weeks for a visible mark to develop.
· Bed bugs molt, so you may find what are dried up exoskeletons of these creatures in your bed as evidence of the bugs’ presence.
· Black or rust colored spots on your bed are probably the blood-filled fecal material of bed bugs after they dined on your blood at night.
· Carefully inspect your mattress and sheet to check for the bed bugs themselves. They are flat with rust-colored oval bodies from 1 mm to 7 mm. The only way to be sure that you have bed bugs is to find and identify a live bed bug.
· Qualified pest management professionals can tell you for sure, upon inspection, whether or not you have bed bugs. These insects often go undetected to the average person.
· If you think that the bites you have received have not occurred at night, chances are they are not bed bug bites. Again, have your home inspected to be sure.
What to do if you have bed bugs?
· Firstly, DO NOT use pesticides to get rid of bed bugs yourself. General insect pesticides will not rid your home of bed bugs. Instead, if may cause the bed bugs to spread further around your house.
· If you live in an apartment or a rented home alert the housing manager or owner of the property about the problem.
· The simplest and most effective way to get rid of bed bugs is to be on the look-out as soon as you suspect a problem, clean your house regularly, and have a pest management professional take care of the job for you.
· If you use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of bed bugs make sure to carefully seal the vacuum bag in another plastic bag and properly dispose of it outside your home. Similarly, if you use soap and water to clean certain areas of your home, you can place the dirty water in a toilet and flush it down to keep captured bugs from escaping out into your home again.
· Clean your mattress and bedding properly and disinfect the bed frame and the head/foot board to keep bed bugs from infesting your bed again.
Most importantly, remember what your mom used to tell you as she tucked you in—“Night, night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best savings account rate.