“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” This was a simple phrase that my grandmother would say to me each night before I went to sleep. I always thought of it as a sweet bedtime ritual—certainly not a safety warning! With stores like Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch closing due to bedbug infestastions as well as growing residential bedbug complaints, residents of New York City and other major urban areas might not share this sentiment.
New York City residents are not alone in their bedbug war. At a 2009 bedbug conference, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson, Dale Kemery, reported that bedbug infestation had tripled in the United States since 2005.
Bedbugs are tiny pests, typically 1/8 to 3/16-inches in length, that live in dark areas, such as baseboards, floor cracks, underneath carpet, behind loose wallpaper, and, yes, in box springs and mattresses. These insects usually emerge just before dawn to get a quick blood meal from humans and quickly disappear into the darkness.
Following a bedbug bite, you might experience itching, red welts, or swelling of the infected area. According to extermination experts, like Orkin, bedbugs do not carry or transmit diseases. The only side effects of bedbug bites are irritation, possible minor infections, and embarrassment thanks to the stigma attached to these pests.
People often unknowingly transport bedbugs to new locations in their suitcases, clothing, furniture, and many other ways. Increased travel and growing urban populations are being credited with the rise of bedbug infestations, according to the CNN.com article Bedbugs and Other Pests: The Ugly Side of City Life.
Bites aren’t the only indicator of a bedbug infestation. If you notice dark brown or even black spots on your mattress, clothes, suitcase lining, or other fabric surfaces, this could be dried excrement from the insects or dried blood. The Orkin article How to Detect Bedbugs also notes that these unwelcome bedfellows emit a subtle sweet, musty odor. Although relatively small, bedbugs can be seen by the human eye. Adults have flat, oval-shaped bodies that are brown in color. Nymphs, while much smaller, are white or gold and about the size of a lentil or apple seed.
To take precautions against bedbug infestations, consider using a high-performance steam cleaner, like the Ladybug XLT 2300 with TANCS, to clean your mattress, upholstery, sealed hardwood floors, and other hide-outs for bedbugs. This Ladybug steam cleaning system is an EPA-certified disinfection system that destroys harmful germs, bacteria, dust mites, fleas, flea eggs, and even bedbugs—without the use of harmful chemicals.
If you have a serious infestation, however, contact a professional exterminator immediately to determine the best course of action for making sure that your home is free of bedbugs and other pests.