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Bah, bedbugs!

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joseph McKee
  • 914th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A pest from the past has returned with a vengeance; Bed Bugs!

Bed bugs have upgraded their living quarters to upscale hotels, homes and military installations. This especially affects military members who travel and often stay in hotels or extended stays in military lodging.

Bed bugs are small, oval, non-flying insects that bite and feed off people. Adult bed bugs reach 1/4 inch in length, while nymphs (juveniles) are smaller than a grain of rice. Bed bugs have flat bodies and may sometimes be mistaken forticks or cockroaches. Bed bugs feed by sucking blood from humans or animals. Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color, appearing redder after feeding on a blood. Nymphs are clear in color and will appear bright red after feeding. Bed bugs cannot fly but are excellent hitchhikers stowing away in clothing and luggage.

Bed bugs were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT. They remained very common in other parts of the world and recently have made a comeback in the U.S. Increases in travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of pesticides may be factors that have led to the recent increase in bed bug infestations. While bed bugs are often reported to be found where housing conditions are poor bed bugs can also thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bed bugs.

Bed bugs can live in any area of the home and can reside in tiny cracks in furniture as well as on textiles and upholstered furniture. They tend to be most common in areas where people sleep and generally concentrate in beds, including mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as much as cracks and crevices associated with the bed frame and mattress. Other areas where bed bugs may hide include curtains, carpet edges, inside furniture, cracks in wallpaper and light switch covers. There is an upside: bed bugs are not known to transmit disease and are a preventable pest.

Those concerned about the potential for bed bugs bites in hotels should examine hotel beds and mattresses for signs of a bed bug infestation.

To keep bedbugs away, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends:

· Vacuum off luggage and items that cannot be washed
· Do not let sheets or blankets touch the floor
· Check secondhand furniture before bringing it home
· Examine beds and hotel rooms when you travel
· Keep luggage off the floor when you travel
· Undress on a hard surface floor rather than on carpet if you suspect bed bugs are on your clothing. Bed bugs do not travel on people like lice do. Wipe off the floor to capture any bed bugs that fall off the clothes

The EPA also recommends calling a reputable exterminator, preferably one who applies eco-friendly solutions that can be used around children and pets.