Bed Bug 101


BedBugIt starts like any other nightmare.

Everything is normal. Everything is going just fine.

Then it isn’t fine.

We were about to put our 4 year old son to bed with a snuggle and a story. I reached down to pick up the large stuffed owl I use as a pillow when reading stories, and sitting right on top of the owl’s belly crawled a bed bug.

I quickly ran and grabbed a roll of packing tape, stuck it over the little jerk and held him up to the light.

Definitely a bed bug.

I would love to say that this is my first exposure to these awful pests. Having worked in a hotel in the Cincinnati area, I’ve seen more than my fair share. During my first week on the job I was given a crash course in bed bugs. What they look like. How to spot them, the whole routine.

Working in a school in Cincinnati, you are also bound to come across them here and there.

Let’s face it. Bed bugs are part of the realities of living in Cincinnati.

It feels awful when you discover them, but there are some key things to remind yourself. First, anybody can get these things. All it takes is one bug to ride in a back pack to school, to crawl over to your kid’s back pack, and right on into your house. If not a back pack, there are also purses, stuffed animals, pants cuffs, or just about any fabric with folds, nooks and crannies.

It isn’t a reflection of you, but once you spot them, you have a lot of work to do.

The next step was to start giving the bed a quick scan. The top sheet looked fine, but once we peeled it off, it was obvious that our owl crawling nuisance was not alone.

One of the first things I did, was started sticking pieces of tape over every single one I could find. The tape held them in place, and helped prevent them from escaping into the nooks and crannies around the room. After taping them all on the top, we flipped it up and started on the bottom, and moved to the box spring.

After we taped down as many as we could find, we took the next natural step and threw the whole bed out the window a piece at a time. After that point, we crammed our heads full of as much information on the subject as possible.

We have a long, annoying road ahead of us before we can be confident and sure that they are gone, but in the meantime here are some things to know.

Where Do They Come From?

-In the city of Cincinnati, bed bugs are fairly common. You can bring them into your house on your clothes and in your bags. This is why it is recommended if you work or spend time in places likely to have bed bugs, to change and store clothes outside of your bedroom. It is also suggested you don’t let your kiddos bring their backpacks into their rooms.

-Hotels are a common place to come across bed bugs. It is often recommended that travelers don’t put their bags on the floor or on beds to avoid picking up unwanted companions.

-Used furniture and clothing are also likely ways to bring bed bugs into the home. A stow away in a bag of clothes or in the back of a drawer can become a bigger problem if you don’t catch it. This is why it is highly recommended you bring used clothes and fabrics in to the house you wash them straight away.

-Bed bugs have also been known to hide out in the bindings of books. The crawl into the dark spaces in the spines, and when the books find a new home the unwanted guests set up shop.

– In reality, once you have them, it doesn’t really matter where they came from. The more important thing is to get rid of them.

How to Spot Bed Bugs

  • The best time to check is at night. Bed bugs are easier to spot and more active in the night time. They do a much better time hiding in the day, and are more difficult to spot.
  • Check the edges and seams of the mattress, pull back those blankets and sheets, for signs of the bugs.
  • Look for light yellow moltings. Bed bugs develop in three stages, and shed their exoskeletons when they transition from one stage to the next. These light yellow shells are an indication that you’ve had them for at least a cycle.
  • Look for small black and brown dots, often in concentrated locations. Like the book says, “everybody poops” and that includes bed bugs. A bunch of little black and brown dots is an indication that the bugs have been feeding.

What To Do Once You Have Them

-You have to make a pretty immediate decision. Do you want to keep an salvage the bed, or are you willing to toss it and start over.

– If you have them in your bed and furniture, and you want to salvage these things, the best thing you can do is call a professional. They will have the proper supplies and materials to treat your mattress and furniture so that you can continue to use it.

– If you are willing to get rid of things, how close is your exit? Since we knew we weren’t going to keep the bed, we were able to throw it right out the window. This helped prevent them from finding hiding places in the bedroom. If you don’t have a big enough window, the best thing you can do is to wrap the mattress and bed spring with plastic sheeting, seal with duct tape and get it out of the house as soon as possible. You don’t want to carry an uncovered bed out of the house, because all it takes is one to fall off and find a place to hide, and the whole problem will restart itself in the next month or so. Also, in Cincinnati, the garbage collectors will not touch a mattress that hasn’t been wrapped.

– As vile as it sounds, if you don’t plan on treating them immediately, it is recommended that you continue to sleep in the bed. If you abandon the bed, the bugs will figure it out rather quickly. They are drawn to the carbon dioxide of your breath, and they can follow you to another location.

– All clothes, blankets, sheets and all fabric objects should be tossed into plastic bags and kept there until they can be washed. If exposed to temperatures above 120 degrees for more than five minutes, the bugs will die. So a wash on a hot cycle, and a good drying should remove them from clothes.

-Stores carry a number of products you can use for the treatment of bed bugs. Food Grade diatomaceous earth is highly recommended as a safe way to eliminate bed bugs. You put it down around the nooks and crannies you would be most likely to find the bugs. Be sure to treat the area every couple of weeks to ensure you didn’t miss anything. After three to four rounds of treatment, you can start to rest easy.

-One of the most important things to remember is to be thorough. Bed bugs are a handful, and they are resilient. If you make a weak attempt to solve the problem, they are likely to come back.

Getting rid of these unwelcome house guests is no small feat. Often, even after doing everything possible to rid your home of these pests, you may find yourself unsuccessful and in need of professional extermination… which is where our story ended up as well.


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