Finding even a single bed bug is sufficient cause for alarm. It is possible for a lone bug to hitchhike its way into your home or hide itself on your person. Unfortunately, the presence of one suggests there are more. As a single fertile female may lay four to five eggs every day for up to nine months, your home may quickly become infested. Thus it is important to take immediate action as soon as you discover a bed bug.
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If You Find a Bedbug at Home
Chances are, you have located the bed bug in or near your bed. By performing a few initial steps, you will make it easier for a comprehensive inspection. If found elsewhere in the house, there may be a larger infestation and you should contact a professional to schedule an inspection immediately.
Note that bed bugs closely resemble several other common pests. It is best to err on the side of caution if you are unable to tell the difference.
Making an Initial Examination
The first thing you should do is to examine the bed for signs of an infestation. This is the most likely place for bed bugs to congregate, although they may hide elsewhere. Carefully check the sheets, mattress, pillows, and headboard for the following:
- Live bed bugs: As bed bugs grow to the approximate size and shape of an apple seed, they may be difficult to spot and will hide in the cracks between joints in your bed frame, along the edge of the mattress, and anywhere else their bodies will fit.
- Eggs: The tiny, milky-colored eggs are only about the size of a period and easily overlooked.
- Feces: Bedbugs tend to defecate where they feed. The feces will resemble tiny dark brown or black spots on your sheets.
- Empty shells: Nymphs must molt six times before becoming an adult. Clear exoskeletons may be found within a five foot radius of the feeding ground.
Clear the Area
Bed bugs tend to remain within five feet of their food source. Any clothing, linens, or other washable fabric should be placed in the dryer on its highest setting for at least 30 minutes. Vacuum the room, mattress, and any furniture thoroughly. Do not place any items you frequently take from your home within the bedroom. If the bed bug was not found in the bedroom, clear that room and then check all bedrooms.
Contact a Professional
Unlike other common pests, bed bugs cannot be eliminated or controlled by do-it-yourself techniques. They have a high resistance to insecticides and quickly hide in cracks and crevasses. Once you have located one, it is best to call a professional and schedule an inspection. Depending upon the company, the inspection may be performed by exterminators or specially trained dogs.
If You Find a Bed Bug When Not at Home
When away from your home, the discovery of a bed bug requires a different approach. The bed bugs may be a local infestation or have been brought in by someone else. As it is not possible to clean and schedule a professional extermination yourself, the circumstances will dictate how you should proceed.
At Work or School
Finding bugs at a place you spend large amounts of time, such as school, the gym, or an office, is evidence that you may have inadvertently brought bugs home already. Begin by warning a supervisor or instructor of the discovery. It is their responsibility to schedule an inspection.
As a safety precaution, do not bring anything into your home that was at the location you discovered the bed bug. If possible, leave the items in your car or garage to reduce the risk of contamination. Put the clothes you wore into the dryer on its highest setting for half an hour to kill any unwanted passengers. Finally, perform an inspection of your bedrooms to check for any signs of infestation.
Much like humans, bed bugs use hotels and other common layover stops as a means to hitch a ride from place to place. Notifying a manager or employee of a potential bed bug problem and requesting another room may not prevent bugs from hiding among your possessions. Orkin Pest Control developed the S.L.E.E.P. method to help avoid layover infestations:
- Survey the bed and surroundings carefully for signs of an infestation, including the seams and tags on the mattresses.
- Lift the mattress, bed frame, headboard, and other furnishings within a five foot radius to further look for signs.
- Elevate your luggage to make it more difficult for the bugs to find it. Choose a rack or shelf away from the bed area, as bed bugs are known to hide behind outlets and pictures.
- Examine your luggage carefully as you repack. Store the luggage away from your bedroom when at home.
- Place all clothing and dryer-safe items from your trip in the dryer on its highest setting for at least 15 minutes immediately upon your return home.