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Roughly the size of an apple seed but capable of wreaking havoc in a home, bed bugs — an insect that was all but wiped out by pesticides 50 years ago — are making a comeback.
According to local pest control companies, bed bugs have returned to the United States and have already invaded homes in central Kentucky.
“We get calls every week,” Adrian Shively, owner of Miller Pest Control, said. “They used to be around, and then after they knocked them out, people traveling overseas and everything has brought ‘em back.”
According to Darrell Miller, owner of Darrell Miller Pest Control, said there are several indicators of bed bugs homeowners can watch for. He said normal signs are bite marks and blood spots on a bed caused by bed bugs being crushed from tossing and turning. Fecal matter around the seams of mattresses is another classic sign. Shively said bed bugs typically prefer to bite the upper part of body, and the bite marks often have a linear pattern.
Although an individual bed bug is fairly easy to kill, Shively says they are capable of hiding not just under the covers, but in the seams of mattresses and inside box springs and behind baseboards, making them difficult to find and eradicate.
And Allan Courtwright of ABC Pest Control said bed bugs are not necessarily confined to the bedroom.
“Seems like we find as many on the furniture as we are in the beds,” he said. “It’s really hard [to see them], you’ve got to look really close the way furniture is made these days.”
Shively said homeowners often believe they can get rid of bed bugs on their own, but they can often do more harm than good by trying to eradicate the problem themselves.
According to Shively, he doesn’t know of any pesticide available to the public that effectively kills bed bugs and their eggs.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard for us to get rid of them sometimes,” Shively said.
And because bed bugs can live for months without a blood meal, if you miss just a couple of bugs during treatment, he said, the home can become re-infested.
“They’re not a hard insect to kill if you can get to where they are,” Shively said. “The problem is, you have to pretty much take everything apart. You have to dissect everything.” Miller said treating bed bugs requires a lot of time and patience. Multiple visits are sometimes necessary to completely rid a home of a bed bug infestation.
“We have to do a really thorough inspection,” Miller said. “Some people get rid of all their furniture, [but] we can treat different areas with different kinds of pesticides - mattresses, bed frames and baseboards.”
Maurice Perry, branch manager of Orkin, said one of the biggest challenges he encounters is the misconception by homeowners that if they get bed bugs, they are unclean.
“This is not a problem of how clean your house is or the sanitation level of your home,” Perry said.
“Anybody can get them.”
Shively said purchasing good quality mattress and box spring covers can help with the treatment and prevention of bed bugs. Shively said there is not much a homeowner can do to prevent bed bugs from coming into their home, but using some caution when traveling can help. Lifting covers and mattresses as soon as they go into a hotel room and never setting luggage on the floor or placing it under the bed are simple ways to avoid bringing bed bugs home.
According to Miller, bed bugs can also be brought into a home on furniture.
“I think they’re getting more into used furniture,” Miller said. “We seem to be getting more calls from people that are maybe renting used furniture or buying used furniture.”
If bed bugs are found, Shively said, his employees ask the homeowner to do a few tasks before they spray pesticides.
“When we go to treat a house, the heat from the dryer will kill bed bugs,” Shively said. “It’s the heat, you know. So I recommend to everybody, if they have bed bugs and before I go and do a treatment, I have them put everything they can possibly get in a dryer.”
If a homeowner suspects they have bed bugs, Perry said it is critical they don’t wait before calling a licensed pest control company.
“Treating them on their own is the worst thing they can try to do,” Perry said. “There are numerous examples of people who have tried to do that and ended up causing [the bed bugs] to spread throughout the home.”