How do you check for bed bugs in your mattress, your home and in your hotel room? Plus, the latest news of the bed bug epidemic sweeping the nation.

If you have arrived in a hotel room and want to inspect it for bed bugs first, before sleeping there, you may have good reason to. The media has been filled with news stories in the last year of hotels being infested with bed bugs, even 5 star hotels, like the Sheraton and other. Bed bugs are a real epidemic problem, and if you have woken up with a number of bites, then you need to check your room for bed bugs. A tell tale sign of bed bugs is black or dark spots (fecal matter) in the lining of the mattress or in crevices. So please check for that and the presence of bed bug molts.

For more information, please read the Question and answer session below. There is a good section on how to check for bed bugs in that article, which is, by the way, an excellent article on all bed bug related subjects.

Below that article, we have added 2 news articles from the past year that deals with the severity of the bed bug epidemic in the US and Europe.



QUESTIONS AND ANSWER  bed bugs session, from Dateline.

Dini M. Miller, Ph.D., an associate professor in Urban Pest Management at Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology answered some of the questions viewers e-mailed Dateline after the report on bed bugs.

On preventing bites, hair Question: If you put on “Off” or some other insect repellant before retiring in a hotel will this prevent them from biting? Can they get in your hair? –Dolores Hill, Bessemer, Ala. Answer: Although we have not specifically tested mosquito repellants on bed bugs, we have tested repellant insecticides. Bed bugs do not seem to respond in the slightest to repellent insecticides. In fact, they will sit on top of them until they die. These results have been confirmed by the older bed bug literature (Usinger 1966) who stated that many repellant materials were applied to bed frames in an attempt to keep bed bugs from crawling up, but none had any effect. Because we have not tested repellants on skin, we can’t say for sure whether bed bugs would be willing to stick their mouth parts though repellant treated skin or not. But we have found bed bugs to be very determined little creatures and I think it would be hard to stop a hungry bed bug. In addition, the repellants that you buy for mosquitoes last only a couple of hours before the effects begin to wear off. If you apply a repellant before getting into bed, a lot of the material could rub off on the sheets etc. Also, bed bugs are most active between 3 and 5 am, which is several hours after the time you would have put the on the repellant to go to bed. Bottom line, a repellant may prevent you from getting a bite or two but I do not believe that they will significantly hinder a hungry bed bug.Bed bugs can get in your hair but the good news is that they really don’t want to be there. Unlike fleas and lice that have bodies or claws that are specifically designed for navigating through hair, the common bed bug does not have these modifications. In fact, bed bugs need to set their front claws in a particular position so that they can insert their mouthparts into the skin just so, in order to be in the proper feeding position. Hair on the human head would make this very difficult. They would much prefer to feed on the bare skin. If they encountered your head first, they would most likely move to your face (many people suffer face bites) or some other less hairy area to feed. If you are bald, well, the head is fair game.

On sleep sacks Question: Would the silk “sleep sacks” sold as a travel accessory be any help at all against bed bug bites at a hotel? –L Hart , Irvine, Calif.

Answer: Unlikely. Bed bugs can very probably feed directly through the weave of the “sleep sack.” Even if the bag were to offer some protection, the bed bugs could crawl to the opening of the sack and enter that way. The best defense is to inspect the bed (mattress and sheets) and the head board for signs of bed bugs. If you find any, report this to the management and request a different room.

On Lysol Question: When traveling I carry a can of Lysol spray and spray the bed with it. Is this helpful in getting rid of bed bugs? –Ennis, Tex.

Answer: The only way that Lysol spray could help you is if you sprayed the bugs directly. The alcohols and propellants would probably kill bed bugs if you wetted them down with the material. However, dried spray on or around the bed would have no effect.If you are traveling, always inspect your mattress for bed bugs by pulling back the covers and looking carefully at the seams and tufts for bed bugs or bed bug evidences (black fecal spots). If you find bed bug, don’t spray them yourself. This may cause them to move around and infest other areas. Instead, contact the hotel management inform them of the bugs and ask for another room immediately. Leave the spraying to a professional.

On bed bug spray Question: Are the pesticide companies trying to develop an effective bed bug spray? –Diana Shea, Descanso, Calif.

Answer: This is an excellent question. All pesticides that are labeled for use in the United States have to be registered by the EPA. To get an EPA registration, the pesticide product has to be thoroughly tested for acute and chronic effects on mammals (laboratory rats and dogs), the potential effects on birds, fish, and honeybees has to be documented, and the environmental fate (half-life) of these products in water or soil also must be quantified. The cost of having a product registered is now estimated to be around $ 100 million. This cost naturally limits the number of products that make it to the marketplace. In addition, there has been a 10 to 15 year trend in reducing the number of pesticide products that receive registration for use in the indoor environment. In short, it is very hard to get new pesticides registered that are labeled for indoor use (as opposed to agricultural use).
However, throughout this trend of limiting indoor pesticides, we were bed bug free. Like the EPA, many people have concerns about applying chemicals where children sleep or play. But, if bed bugs should become as big a problem as they were at the beginning of the 20th century, the public may demand that the federal government register products that are effective against bed bugs. We will just have to wait and see. At this time, we do not know of any product that is in development specifically for bed bug control.

Waking up with bed bugs Question: Why is it that I get bit but my husband does not? –Denise, Indian Trail, N.C.

Answer: Bed bugs tend to aggregate together when they are resting. It is possible that you are on the “bed bug side” of the bed. Bed bugs don’t switch back and forth from one host to another so if they find you first, you may be the only one bitten. It is also possible that your husband is getting bitten but does not have a significant reaction to the bed bug bites.

On where they bite Question: Will a bed bug ever bite a reproductive body part? –Tyler P., Brookfield, Conn.

Answer: Yes. They do not discriminate; any body part that is accessible and with good blood flow is fair game to a bed bug.

Bed bugs on cruise ships? Question: I’m getting ready to go on a cruise, should I be concerned about bed bugs there? –Debbie

Answer: Because we know that bed bugs are an increasing problem (some would call it an epidemic), it is prudent to inspect any location away from home where you are planning to sleep. Inspect your cabin thoroughly, looking for signs of bed bugs prior to unpacking. Look behind the head board if possible, and inspect your mattress. There is no need to tear the room apart, but a close look at the mattress seams and inside the cabin drawers prior to putting away your clothes should become part of your traveling routine. Editor’s note: Dateline did receive some e-mails with anecdotes from cruise ship goers who say they were bitten.

On treating bed bug bites Question: Once a person has been bitten by a bed bug, how does one treat it? Lotions? Creams? — Rachelle Berven, Denver, Colo.

Answer: First, do not scratch it. Just like mosquito bites, scratching makes the reaction much worse. Instead wash the area with warm soapy water and then apply an anti-itch cream (examples: Benadryl cream or Hydrocortisone cream).

Do kinds of beds matter for bed bugs? Question: Can you have bed bugs if you have a water bed? –E. Merlino, Rockville Centre, N.Y.

Answer: Absolutely, you can have bed bugs anywhere in a room (behind pictures hanging on the wall or in popcorn ceilings) because the attractant is not the bed itself but the warm blooded person that lays in it quietly for hours at a time. We have seen bed bugs in many types of beds: egg foam, sleeping bags, or stacks of cardboard on the floor. We have also seen them in a metal frame with a blanket over it, and even a balled up jacket in a corner that someone was using as a pillow. Basically, they can infest anything that people sleep on. I think the bed bugs might enjoy a water bed. Water bed frame typically have many nooks and crannies where bed bugs can hide and the heater would keep them quite comfortable.Question: Can bedbugs also live in visco-memory foam beds? I have read some claims online that say that the bedbugs cannot get into the foam beds. Answer: Remember that bed bugs get on mattresses and harbor and under the sheets in the seams and tufts. While they may not be able to get into the actual foam, it hardly matters. They can harbor on the foam, in the seams of the mattress cover or in the bed frame. Remember the mattress itself is not the bed bug attractant, the host that uses it is. So bed bugs do not have to live inside the mattress in order to feed on you at night. They might crawl down from the picture frame hanging above your bed or from some other location.

Mattress covers, can they prevent bed bugs?

Answer: The answer is no. Bed bugs can still get on top of the mattress cover or harbor in the bed frame. The advantage of the mattress cover is that if you already have bed bugs, you can trap them inside the cover and they cannot bite through. If you don’t have bed bugs the cover saves you from having to throw out the mattress if you ever get bed bugs.

On  trauma, psychological impact of bed bugs Question: My husband recently stayed at a very reputable hotel and was bitten by bed bugs, he has been so severely traumatized that he is not only having me wash the bedding and clothes everyday, he has to inspect the bed several times before he is okay to get in it. He also continues to wake up in the middle of the night throw back the covers and flip the light on just to make sure there are no bugs in the bed. He has even gone so far as to buy a pair of magnifying goggles with lights and an extra magnification lens just to be able to inspect our bed. This is driving me insane! What can I do to help him? He is not a man who is easily bothered or effected by things like this normally, but after his (one night)encounter with the bed bugs he is truly freaked out. I need help! –Lezlie H., Navarre, Fla.

Answer: One of the things that I tell everyone about bed bugs is DON’T FREAK OUT! Why? Because it does not effect the bed bugs one bit. Not a bit. They could care less, those self-centered little creatures.That being said, I understand that bed bugs can cause a lot of stress, and you can best help your husband by dealing with the problem calmly and systematically. Is your husband still experiencing bites? If not, it is quite possible that he did not bring any home. If he is experiencing bites, you should contact a pest control operator to inspect the room for bed bugs. If you are not sure if he is getting bitten, I suggest using bright white bedding (sheets and pillowcases) and using them on the bed for a week or more, so that you can more easily see blood spots (black specs) that might be left by feeding bed bugs. If after a week or more you do not see any signs of bed bugs, you can reassure your husband that he may have been fortunate and didn’t bring any home with him.

Bed bugs and  elder care Question: I am writing from Ma. My mother lives in elderly housing and has been dealing with this for about a year now. For the longest time she had none and did all the precautions that she could, but finally they arrived at her apartment. They did the extermination and had to remove her sofa, luckily they did not make it to her bedroom. Right now she has none and was recently checked but she lives with everything in plastic bags and the fear that they will be back. The problem though is that they are not doing all the apartments as I feel they should. They do one at a time as they are found you could say. They wash the tenants clothes for them and exterminate. The problem though is that most of these tenant’s are elderly, some their vision is not the best and have no idea what to look for and unless something is said they don’t go in and always check. My question is how do I get the city to listen and take more affirmative action. I have talked to some employee’s but it is always the same thing, “ they are working on it” and of course my mother doesn’t want to say or do too much in fear of being shunned, embarrassed, or doesn’t want to cause waves as she says. Hopefully someone can tell me what more I can do to help her and the other tenants with this problem. Thank you for your time. –Joy B., Swansea, Mass.

Answer: Dealing with bed bugs in a “sensitive” environment is particularly difficult. First, I tend to agree with the management that pesticide applications have to be made on a case by case basis. Elderly people are known to be particularly sensitive to bronchial contaminants and applications of pesticide as a preventative measure may be more dangerous to these people than the bed bugs themselves. If pesticide is applied in an apartment that does not have bed bugs and someone gets sick, the apartment management could be in serious trouble. Currently, bed bug treatment is pesticide intensive with several products being used multiple times. Even so, these treatments may not be 100% successful. So how do we protect the elderly from bed bugs using as little pesticide as possible? The immediate answer is, do not simply rely on the apartment management or the pest control company to take care of the bed bug problem. You must play a role as well. Bed bugs are everyone’s problem, and you may have to be the monthly inspector for your mother if she cannot do it herself. Next, ask the apartment manager to put you in touch with the pest control company. Ask that company to give you, the apartment staff, and the tenants a training seminar in how to inspect for bed bugs. Most companies will gladly do this. They need all the help they can get. If the company won’t help you, call the health department and ask them if they would be willing to train the apartment staff and the tenants how to inspect for bed bugs. If the apartment staff is reluctant to put you in touch with the pest management company or refuses to attend the bed bug training, you can remind them about the bed bug lawsuits taking place all over the country and the bad press involved with these lawsuits. I believe that in the future the success of surviving a bed bug lawsuit will depend on whether or not a facility has a bed bug inspection policy in place. Give the apartment management the opportunity to act in good faith. They might think your bed bug training seminar is an excellent idea.

On bed bug city policies Question: Bed bugs have been found in my daughter’s “industrial loft” apartment in Brooklyn, NY. The landlord has treated one room at a time with insecticide spray and floor varnish, yet not all spaces in the apartment have been treated at the same time. Other apartments on the same floor have also been found to have bed bugs. Is there any remedy or effective treatment to rid the building of the bed bugs? Also, what can a person take to reduce the reaction to the bites? Does the county or city have an extermination policy for rental units? –Margaret S., Buffalo, N.Y.

Answer: At this time we are not very good at curing bed bug problems. There is no pesticide or application method that works 100 percent of the time. Depending on the clutter that may exist in each apartment, treatment can have variable success. Bed bugs are very tough and the more clutter there is, the easier it is for bed bugs to hide away from the treatment. Sanitation efforts on the part of the resident may need to be extreme to get good bed bug control. So bed bug management requires just as much cooperation from the occupants as from the management and pest control company. Actual treatment requires patience and persistence. Treatment usually requires multiple products being applied at least 3 times at 2 week intervals. So, bottom line: treating an entire building will require all tenants and management to join in a cooperative, ongoing to inspect for bed bugs on a regular basis and keep sanitation levels high so that bed bugs problems do not get established. Is this cooperation a possibility in your daughter’s loft?

Question: Is there any remedy or effective treatment to rid the building of the bed bugs?

Answer: Fumigation has been tried but with limited success and the cost is usually more than $20,000, a lot more.



The guardian, Thursday 21 October 2010

New York City is under attack from a mass infestation of bedbugs that is leaving a trail of itching, sleep deprivation and panic in its wake.
Sleepless in Manhattan . . . bedbugs are on the march across New York City. Since the early days of moving pictures, a favourite staple of Hollywood has been to imagine New York city being invaded by nasty creatures that hide in dark corners. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, one of the first monster films, starred a dinosaur that emerges from hibernation to crunch its way up Fifth Avenue, spreading mayhem in its wake. Then, of course, there was King Kong perched atop the Empire State Building. More recently, the zombies roaming Washington Square in search of Will Smith in I Am Legend were classics of the form, as were the aliens who lopped off the head of Lady Liberty in Cloverfield.
Having been raised on all these celluloid enactments of non-human invasion, you would have thought that New Yorkers would be pretty unfazed when the real thing happens. But, judging by the increasingly hysterical headlines that have been blasted across the pages of the New York Post in the last few weeks, that’s not the case.
For the truth is that the city really is under attack this time, and its residents are starting to panic.
Today you can go to the cinema in Manhattan to be scared out of your wits by images of New Yorkers being eaten alive by monsters and, at the very same time, you can yourself be eaten alive. That’s what happened to several cinemagoers last month at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, and, again, at the AMC theatre in Harlem.
The monsters in question may lack the muscle structure of King Kong or the fire-breathing capacity of The Beast, but boy do they bite. Cimex lectularius, the common bedbug, is on the march, steadily extending its reign of terror across the five boroughs and onwards to cities across America.
The invasion has already claimed some of the biggest names in the city. Last month, the mammoth Niketown store on 57th Street was shuttered after bedbugs were discovered, and the New York headquarters of Google was also forced to admit it had an infestation after one of its employees Tweeted on the subject. “Jeepers,” she posted, “I am not immune to the bedbug panic. Bedbugs have been found at work.” (The Twitter feed rapidly disappeared.)
Bloomingdale’s also had a visitation, though, being Bloomingdale’s and a cut above the rest, the store made clear it had found just one insect in its 59th Street store, which it dispatched post-haste. The fourth floor of the Wall Street Journal’s Sixth Avenue headquarters was also struck. The Guardian offices in 27th street have so far remained delightfully free of the blighters, though as I’m typing this I appear to be breaking out in psychosomatic itches.
Earlier victims of the epidemic include Abercrombie & Fitch, teen’s clothing store Hollister, Victoria’s Secret, posh Manhattan condos, Broadway theatres, the headquarters of the chief Manhattan prosecutor – no chance for a plea bargain there – and, in a neat link back to King Kong, the Empire State Building. The problem has got so bad over the last 12 months, with some 24,000 recorded complaints of infestation, that mayor Michael Bloomberg has set up a bedbug advisory board and is soon to appoint a bedbug tsar.
It’s all very New York. One of the great modernist cities, where people from around the world congregate to share in its energy and lust for new thinking, is in the grip of an epidemic of wingless, flightless, grubby insects. And the results are not pretty.
Here’s what happened to Annie Weinstock, who works for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York. In May, she returned from a year’s trip to Africa and, after a few weeks sleeping on her sister’s couch, found an apartment to rent in Brooklyn.
At 2am on her first night in the new flat she woke up. (Health warning: If you are phobic to insects, you may find the next bit distressing. Please ensure you are seated before reading on.)
What woke Weinstock up was that she could hear something moving around in her ear. Yes, a bedbug in her ear! “I couldn’t actually feel anything because they are so light, but I could hear it jumping around.”
It doesn’t get any better.
“I put on the light and I immediately saw something in the bed, I smashed it and there was blood everywhere!”
Weinstock retracted that statement as soon as she had made it on the grounds that it was exaggeration. There wasn’t, she corrected herself, “blood everywhere”, but there was a red stain about the size of a dime where the bedbug had been, though I’m not sure that’s much of an improvement.
Without even searching she could see two or three other bedbugs on the bed. “They were very big because they were bloated with my blood.”
So what did she do?
“I freaked out.”
She left the bedroom and spent the rest of a fitful night in the living room. Next morning she had another look at the bed and there were at least seven bedbugs on it. She called an extermination company and they found the insects all over the apartment: in and under the bed, in the closet, in the curtains.
At first, she couldn’t feel the bites at all. That’s a common reaction, as it takes a while for the body to sensitise itself to the bedbugs’ juices. But four days after that first night, she started itching. She had blotches all over her neck, shoulders, arms and face, about 25 in all, and they kept on itching for three weeks. “The bites were so itchy it was painful. I just sat at my desk at work and doused myself every 10 minutes with anti-itch gel.”
Weinstock, unsurprisingly, couldn’t bear to move back into the apartment, despite it having undergone a pesticidal equivalent of the blitzkrieg. “I realised I had been rather traumatised. I still think about it, and sometimes wake up in the night and have to check my new bed to see if there are any there.”
So what are these creatures and what is it about them that makes them so panic-inducing? Bedbugs are of the insect family Cimicidae. They are oval in shape, flattish and grow to about the size of a small apple seed. They are light in colour and hard to detect, though become dark red after they have fed on your blood. That’s the fun part. They come out at night like ghouls and gorge on your blood when you are deeply asleep, for up to five minutes.
Then they scurry back to their hiding places in bed frames, box springs, carpets, under floorboards, in cracks in the wainscoting, behind wall hangings, in clothing, in the electrics – you name it. They can live for up to a year without feeding, which makes them very hard to eradicate.
Richard Cooper is a director of BedBug Central, an educational website and prevention company that last week organised a nationwide “summit” in Chicago, attended by about 400 of America’s top bedbug experts. He also sits on Bloomberg’s advisory board.
Over the last 10 years he has got to know the bloodsuckers very well, watching them multiply from virtually nothing to take hold of New York, and now other US cities such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Cincinnati. So what does he think of them?
“I’m fascinated by them. I respect them. They have extraordinary strategies for succeeding.”
One reason often cited for the resurgence of the pest is the banning of the toxic chemical DDT, with which they had previously been brought under control. But Cooper believes the main cause of their success today is human ignorance. People are unaware of what to look for and miss the early signs, allowing the bedbugs to establish themselves and spread throughout a dwelling. Part of the problem is the assumption that infestation is confined to poor neighbourhoods with dirty and crowded living spaces.
Wrong, says Cooper, who is taking a PhD in the impact of bedbugs on low-income communities. The bedbug invasion began among the wealthy and middle classes, where frequent international travel for work and/or leisure allowed the insects to penetrate salubrious homes via luggage.
It is only in the last few years that the insects have begun to encroach on poorer areas of New York, with devastating results. Families there often can’t afford the cost of extermination, and that further aids the bugs’ march across the city.
Kate Lewis, a magazine editor in Brooklyn, knows how expensive dealing with an infestation can be. She spent about $3,000 (£1,900) after she discovered the insects a year ago – about $2,000 to exterminate them and about $1,000 on new clothes, bedding and so on.
Her family had been staying in a rental holiday house in Florence, and when they got back to Brooklyn her husband Jacob began unpacking the suitcase on their bed. Big mistake. That’s one of the easiest ways to allow the monsters into your life. Jacob actually saw a bedbug crawl out of the luggage and on to the bed.
He ignored that, but a little later they saw another one so they tore the bed apart and found at least five bedbugs in it. “There’s a traumatic moment,” Lewis says, “when you kill one and realise they are full of your blood. It’s upsetting. I’m not that bothered by insects, unlike Jacob, but they eat you! They are kind of sweaty-looking and glistening, and you think to yourself, ‘They are going to do me in.'”
They acted swiftly, bagging up all their clothes and all the fabric material in their three-storey house and putting it in the basement, then leaving the house immediately. Even after all the money they spent, they lived for much of the last year in terror, waiting to see whether the bugs would make their nocturnal return.
A further problem is the stigma attached to infestation. A Manhattanite I spoke to made the point elegantly for me by asking to be anonymous. Four months after his bedbug saga he still fears the opprobrium of victimhood.
“There’s a definite stigma around it. When I had bedbugs, people wouldn’t come round to my apartment. You could understand that, but they also wouldn’t invite me round to their places, as though I was a carrier or something.”
The pest control company Usbedbugs is so aware of the sensitivities that it sends out its products in plain brown cardboard boxes, with no mention of the nature of its business on the labelling.
That suits the bedbugs well. People who have suffered attacks keep silent for fear of the consequences, thus failing to alert neighbours to the danger and, in turn, allowing the bedbugs to advance undetected. And so the shiny creatures proceed, slowly, steadily, bloodsucking their way across the city and spreading misery in the form of itchy blotches and panic in their wake. It’s an interesting twist on the classic New York invasion storyline. In the Hollywood movies, the monster is always finally defeated. In this real-life battle of Cimex lectularius versus Homo sapiens, a happy ending should not be taken for granted.



by The WEEK.

Calls to bedbug exterminators in the U.S. have risen by 57 percent in the last five years — prompting fears of a national epidemic. Here are some stats behind the invasion.
Bedbugs are spreading through the United States. The country is slowly being invaded by the determinedly vexing cimex lectularius, commonly known as the bedbug. Infestations in the U.S. have been on the rise since the mid-90s, thanks to an increasingly mobile population and the critters’ growing resistance to pesticides. (Watch a local report about bedbug infestations.) Though particularly acute in New York, the problem is spreading quickly across the country.

Here are some alarming stats:
57 Percent increase in the number of calls to bedbug exterminators nationally since 2005

82 Number of confirmed infestations in NYC six years ago

4,084 Number of confirmed infestations in NYC last year

100 Percent increase in calls to bedbug exterminators in Houston in the last two years

1 in 6 Chances that a residents of Cincinnati had a bedbug infestation in 2008 — a few years prior there were no reports in the entire state of Ohio

2 Number of days the New York branch of the Hollister clothing chain was shuttered so that its bedbug infestation could be eradicated

3 Number of weeks Hollister allegedly waited to tackle its bedbug problem after the staff’s initial complaints. (Other NYC retailers and media offices that have reportedly suffered infestations include: Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Marie Claire magazine, and FOX News.)

600 Number of bites one woman allegedly received at a New York hotel in 2007

$382,000 Amount a Chicago jury awarded in 2003 to a couple who were besieged by bedbugs in a local motel

$8,000-10,000 Average amount a victim could expect to receive in an out-of-court settlement over bedbug infestation, according to one lawyer

$50 million Amount that Rep. George Butterfield (D—NC) proposed Congress spend to help tackle America’s bedbug problem. Sadly, his “Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act of 2008″ (its actual name) never became law

80° F Temperature at which bedbugs grow fastest and lay the most eggs
1 out of 3 Number of humans who don’t feel bedbug bites
550 Number of days an adult bedbug can survive without food


-We hope you enjoyed these article. For more tips on how to check for bed bugs and bed bug treatments, please see HOME page and the bed bug pictures page (for help with identifying bed bugs).

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