Property owners who think bed bug problems are confined to apartments and hotels – high-density inhabitations – may want to think twice. Bed bugs don’t discriminate on where they set up shop; they are just as much at home in a one-story rental home as they are in a high-rise.
Bed bugs have been a particularly aggravating pest in the rental industry in recent years. Tenants and landlords sometimes are at odds at who’s responsible for an infestation and how it gets cleaned up. The problem has escalated as high as the legal system, which recently ruled in favor of a tenant to the tune of $800,000.
As temperatures drop in the winter and the heat gets turned up, the time is right for bed bugs to become a problem. They are most at home in cozy, warmer climates like heating ducts, electrical outlets, bedding and warm electronics. These are perfect places for the tiny creatures to colonize and multiply.
“Because bed bugs are so small, an infestation is often difficult to see,” says John Robinson, a pest control specialist with Venturi Technologies, Inc. “Although they can live a year without feeding, bed bugs seek food about once per week; human and animal blood is their ideal meal.”
Robinson said bed bugs don’t stray far from their food source, and with a five-week cycle from egg to maturity, a small dinner party can turn into a banquet if an infestation isn’t quickly identified.
He says the best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to perform regular inspections. Encouraging your residents to be on the lookout for these little guys is the first step. While bed bugs are seldom seen, they leave noticeable evidence, and Robinson offers five identifiers:
1. Unexplained Blood Stains on Bedding
Blood stains resulting from a bed bug bite are often visible on lighter-colored sheets and pillow cases. The stains are typically dark or rusty spots of excrement. But these signs of an infestation won’t always be found on bedding, because bed bugs are highly mobile and move fast. In addition to bedding, stains can be visible on furniture, clothes, and even walls.
2. Bed Bug Poo
Unlike blood stains, fecal spotting tends to be black or dark in color. The stains are from partially digesting blood and clustered in groups in areas that bed bugs inhabit. The spots will smear if wiped with a wet rag. Evidence of fecal spotting is usually visible in their typical hideouts, like along mattress seams, box spring edges, and corners.
3. Bed Bug Clusters
Bed bugs are small, oval parasitic insects that are light brown or reddish-brown in color but are hard to spot. Nocturnal in nature, they feed and move quickly. As they multiply, bed bugs tend to hang out together until overcrowding forces them into other areas. They are fantastic hitchhikers and can end up anywhere, including phones, purses, backpacks, clothing, etc. Look for them along mattress seams, box spring edges and corners, and baseboards.
4. Line Bites
Bites are not initially felt because of a natural anesthetic in the saliva of bed bugs. Often, it is difficult to distinguish bed bug bites from other insect bites, like those from mosquitoes. One sign, however, is that bites sometimes appear in a line of three, known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” by disease experts. Bites create small red welts that become itchy and eventually blister. Bed bug bites can occur anywhere on the body, including the face.
5. Bed Bug Shells
Throughout their life cycle, bed bugs will shed their skin – or molt – five times before becoming an adult. The discarded shells look like clear, empty exoskeletons and can be found in box springs, wood framing, inside books, telephones, radios, and carpet.
With help from residents, property owners can identify a bed bug infestation before the problem gets out of hand.
“Being familiar with these signs can help build awareness and educate residents who are likely targets of bed bugs,” Robinson said.
(Image Source: Shutterstock)