"Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite" may have been a clever thing to say when tucking children in at night, but bed bugs are more than just child's play. Bed bugs have long been a threat to humans and other animals. Archaeologists have found that bed bugs in human dwellings date back roughly 3,550 years.
Even though bed bugs are commonly associated with areas void of cleanliness, just about any person can end up with a bed bug infestation. That's because bed bugs are very good at hitchhiking. They can nestle into small crevices, such as in the cracks of suitcases, clothing and linens.
Then those same bed bugs can take up residence in another home, dormitory or office.
The National Pest Management Association says bed bug encounters have become more common in public places in recent years. Travelers need to protect themselves by learning how bed bugs operate and how to prevent them from becoming a problem. The following are some fast facts about bed bugs.
- Bed bugs are found living with humans worldwide.
- Bed bugs feed on human blood to survive and reproduce, feeding roughly every three to seven days.
- While an immature female bed bug or a male bed bug will not cause an infestation in a home, all it takes is one pregnant female to lay eggs anywhere she wanders. It takes eggs only six to 10 days to hatch, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.
- Bed bugs can survive cold temperatures and go months without feeding. Drying out kills bed bugs in isolated areas more so than not feeding.
With this knowledge in mind, people can prevent bed bugs from becoming a problem. The NPMA recommends the following bed bug prevention tips, particularly during and after staying in a public place.
- Pull back sheets and inspect mattress seams for telltale bed bug stains. Inspect the entire room, including sofas and chairs and behind the headboard, before unpacking. Notify management of anything suspect and change rooms or establishments immediately.
- If you need to change rooms, don't move to a room adjacent or directly above or below the suspected infestation.
- Keep suitcases in plastic trash bags or protective covers during your stay to prevent bed bugs from nesting there.
- When home, inspect suitcases before bringing them into the house and vacuum them before storing.
- Wash all clothes - even those you did not wear - in hot water if you suspect the presence of bed bugs and their eggs.
- Inspect yourself for any bites. While a bed bug bite may not hurt, it can cause itching and irritation. Presence of bites is a clear indication that bed bugs are around and need to be treated.
Bed bugs can be problematic. With the increase in travel or the start of a new school year, bed bugs can start spreading to new areas. Be diligent in your efforts to prevent infestations.