Where did these pests come from? It’s a common question asked when someone finds bed bugs in their home. Instead of immediately tackling the issue of eradicating these annoying critters (a few bed bugs do not equal an infestation), people often spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to discern the business or item they deem responsible for bringing in their new and unwelcome house guests. Well, I’ll save you a bit of time. Look in a mirror and you’ll find the culprit. That’s right, most of the time we are the ones bringing bed bugs into our own homes.
Hitchhikers Not Welcome
Bed bugs are hitchhikers. While we’ve always been taught to avoid picking up strangers, these pests are too small to be noticed and they hop onto or into our luggage, clothing, and even our shoes. Those who travel or live in and/or frequent apartment buildings (where occupant turnover is constant), are most susceptible to bringing home an unwanted guest. Also, emergency personnel, day care workers, and social workers are all vulnerable to acquiring bed bugs, as they often enter homes with infestations during the daily course of their work.
The introduction of used upholstery and mattresses can also be a source of bed bugs.
Clean Doesn’t Mean Bug-Free
There is no relationship between cleanliness of a facility and bed bugs. Bed bugs feed on blood, so they need an environment that is conducive to this, with a food source 5-20 feet from where they dwell. Therefore, bed bugs tend to locate themselves in the crevices of upholstered goods and mattresses, or in areas nearby.
If you do find bed bugs in your home, it is imperative to take immediate action. Have a professional evaluate your situation to discover if this is a smaller localized issue, or a larger infestation. Quick action can prevent a one-time exposure from growing to something which can be more difficult to eradicate.
Tips For Avoidance
When traveling, look along the seams of mattress, headboard and upholstered furniture for bed bugs. Keep luggage on stands and off of the floor. Avoid placing clothes or jackets upon mattresses, couches or floors where bed bugs are commonly found. If you experience bed bug bites during a trip, be sure to launder and heat-dry all of your clothes once you’re home. Place your luggage (if possible) in a dryer on a heat setting of at least 120 degrees for 10-20 minutes to help kill any bed bugs you may have potentially brought home (heat exposure is one of the most effective means to kill bed bugs).
Unfortunately, bed bugs aren’t easy to spot, and they don’t come with a return address stamped upon them to determine their point of origin. The best you can do is be vigilant when traveling, avoid areas where there is a known bed bug infestation, and don’t introduce used upholstered furniture or secondhand mattresses into your home. And if you do notice bed bugs in your home, act swiftly and contact a professional to help avoid them spreading and multiplying. Then you can worry about where they came from.
Both the EPA and University of Kentucky have some excellent and detailed information on bed bugs and their treatment.