There’s hardly a pest out there that is more misunderstood, or dreaded, than the bed bug. While no one wants to deal with getting an infestation of pests of any kind, a bug that inhabits the space where you sleep is the ultimate inconvenience. Bed bugs can be tricky to treat and are complicated critters for a number of reasons.
“They’re very good at surviving, and can go long periods without eating,” Robert Sherwood, director of operations at Rambo Total Pest Control, says about the pests.
Robert’s expertise has developed over his nearly 20 years in the industry, with the last 10 years focused on learning more about bed bugs. “There’s so much misinformation, misleading information, or outdated information on the internet about fighting bed bugs.”
One such piece of misinformation is what Robert refers to as an “old school mentality” when it comes to handling bed bugs. The advice that you should wash and bag up everything in the room where you’ve found an infestation and then spray every square inch isn’t an effective practice, nor is it necessary.
“The main thing you want to avoid – once you’ve determined you have bed bugs – is to just start treating them yourself,” Robert says. “People using DIY treatments can make the problem worse and even endanger themselves and their families. You should consult or hire a professional.”
Although the pests can get their meals from animals, bed bugs prefer to be sustained from human blood, making mattresses, couches or other areas in the home where people sit or lay for prolonged periods their prime territory.
Once the pests take in a blood meal, they have a time of decreased activity. Their activity also depends on certain environmental factors, such as room temperature. A cooler room will slow their metabolism, while warmer temperatures cause them to be much more active, feed more often and reproduce faster. This is just one factor that makes this pest both an adaptable adversary and complex to treat.
Another thing that makes the bugs so complicated is that they can often go undiscovered until there’s a significant infestation. Bed bugs and their eggs start off extremely small and they like to live in tight crevices, which makes them difficult to find. The most common infestation locations are box springs as well as mattresses, but they’ve also been found hiding in night stands, light switches, under carpets and even inside electrical sockets.
Bed bugs were once prolific throughout the U.S., up to the World War II era when infestations slowed down dramatically. Newly developed chemicals and harsh treatment methods were implemented, and soon bed bugs became merely a children’s tale in the United States. Those older chemicals, such as DDT, were highly effective, but they proved to be harmful to wildlife and potentially people. As a result, DDT was banned for use in the United States by 1972.
As the times changed, the pest control industry’s methods and materials changed as well. The materials and treatment methods used today are far less dangerous for people to be around, but some insects like bed bugs, have been able to thrive in this new environment. As a result, bed bug infestations have been on the rise in the U.S. since the late ‘90s. According to Robert, these infestations are only going to become more common in the future.
“They’re developing a resistance to the current materials we use, and many varieties are even now resistant to the old outlawed materials that were once so effective.” This resistance develops because of the way these pests reproduce. The reproduction rate is so fast and diverse that they are quick to develop mutations that can make the materials less effective. These treatments end up killing off the weaker unmutated bugs and leaving only the resistant mutated bugs to continue breeding.
The way bed bugs reproduce is a major contributor to their durability and resurgence back into America. A female bed bud can produce 113 eggs over a lifetime. Almost half of those eggs are female. Over 99% of the eggs will hatch every time. All of the bugs are able to mate with each other once they mature, and there is virtually no down time between laying eggs and the female’s fertilization. This means that a bed bug infestation can double in size every 16 days.
To make things even more complicated, Robert adds, about one third of the human population doesn’t react when bitten by a bed bug. No bumps, no itches, not even discoloration, so it is possible for some people to get bitten without even knowing it.
One way to tell if you have bed bugs is to use light-colored bedding and look for what he calls “rust spots.” When a bed bug bites, there is an anticoagulant in their saliva. This will cause a person to bleed a little after being bitten. This results in dark red or almost orange spots on bedding. Spots almost the same color as rust.
Robert says Rambo Total Pest Control uses a new treatment methodology that doesn’t require customers to bag and launder all of their clothes and belongings. The process also doesn’t just spray every square inch of your home. They use the bed bugs’ own biology against them with a variety of methods including steam, vacuuming, traps, wall injections, targeted material applications, bed bug-rated encasements, and most importantly – knowledge.
Robert says, “One day bed bugs could be as common as getting ants, and we want to empower our customers so they know how to prevent bed bug infestations in the future.”