Our public health website gets thousands of visits every month. Common searches include restaurant workers seeking food safety cards, parents looking up immunization schedules, and families who want to obtain birth or death certificates from our Vital Statistics office. But the most popular search by far, generating at least 20,000 page views a month, is our Bedbug Factsheet page.
Cimex lectularius, or the common bed bug, is blood sucking, reddish-to-black hued in its well-fed, adult form, and is about the size of an apple seed. The mere thought of them makes me want to leap out of bed and check the sheets for their telltale signs: Small blood smears on bedding from having crushed them (while thrashing in bed from a bad dream), or tiny dark spots on the sheets, mattress or box spring, which are their fecal droppings. Since bed bugs are excellent hiders and can be hard to see, light colored sheets aid in detecting these signs of nighttime carnage. To aid in diagnosing whether you have bedbugs, check out this great resource from Public Health’s childcare resources page. It comes complete with repulsive photographs of clustering bedbugs.
Bedbugs’ preferred food source is human blood. Yes. They have evolved to favor the blood of home sapiens. Thankfully, though, bed bugs don’t appear to carry disease. Apart from itchy welts that can become infected from scratching, bed bugs are relatively benign, at least compared to mosquitoes or ticks, which both carry diseases that cause human illness.
No one should feel that they are bad housekeepers or otherwise morally deficient because they have an infestation of bedbugs. Bedbugs can happen to anyone. Bed bugs get inside homes in infested luggage, backpacks, purses, furniture, bedding, shoes or clothing. They can also travel between apartments through cracks in walls and floors. That free couch on the sidewalk? Perhaps it’s best to just walk by.
The bottom line is, if you’ve got ‘em, you’ve gotta get rid of them, and it can be tricky. Stay calm: do not use foggers, Raid, or other general pesticides. These measures will not help. First stop, learn everything you can about bedbugs. Public Health’s bedbug website is the place to start. Second, hire a licensed pest control operator. PCOs typically use a combination of non-pesticide techniques and precisely placed applications of pesticides. This is the most effective and practical way to eliminate a bed bug infestation. Third, prevent a re-infestation with frequent vaccuming, laundering, and careful inspection of anything you bring into your home.
Remember, you’re not alone. 20,000 people every month look for information on our website about bedbugs. Be methodical, measured, and informed, and you too can get rid of bed bugs.