With bed bug infestations rising at an alarming rate, proper bedding inspections have fast joined the front line of defense in protecting and preventing against the establishment of this insidious pest into expansive infestations. To minimize bed bug incidents, pest management professionals (PMPs) need to implement an extensive checklist of inspection activities of bedding to protect their clients:
• Spend the majority of a bedding inspection searching mattresses, box springs and any of the surrounding areas. These areas can include headboards, nightstands, lampshades and any pictures hanging on the walls.
• Areas should be searched from the bed working your way out, rather than from the outside of the bed inward.
• Bed bugs are very flat, and can slip between creases or inside the stitching, tufting and edges of a mattress. Pay special attention to whether there are any holes or tears. Box springs, especially the wooded support structure within the underside of the dust cover, are notorious sites for bed bug harborage. Make sure to inspect the frame of the bed as well.
• As a rule of thumb, if a credit card can fit through the area, so can a bed bug. Classic areas are the space between the headboard and adjoining wall, holes made by picture hooks, and the underside of drawers.
Tell-tale signs of infestation
• Actual sightings of bed bugs: Adults may approximate the size of an apple seed, but juvenile forms and eggs may be more difficult to identify because of their small size.
• Overt bites (welts) dispersed throughout a person’s body: However, not all incidents will result in signs of bites; with some people, it may be days before a welt appears.
• Bed bug fecal droppings: These can often look like black magic marker smudges on fabric surfaces.
• The presence of casts, or molted skins: As bed bugs mature, they will shed their skin on multiple occasions.
• Blood-splattered linens: Often, a sleeping person will unconsciously slap at a bed bug biting — resulting in a bloodstain on the sheet or pillowcase.
If a bedroom shows a sign…
• Whether incident or infestation, do not let objects leave the room. That includes linens, unless they are securely sealed in a container or non-penetrable bagging.
• Suggest that the homeowner place all secured personal belongings in the area in a dryer. Thirty minutes of heat at the hottest setting available will kill any bed bugs, juveniles or eggs. Original bagging should be discarded in outer bag labeled as “bed bug contaminated,” and the heated belongings placed in a clean bag and securely fastened. Consideration must be given to those objects that cannot tolerate the heating process.
• If a room is determined to be positive for bed bugs, best practice suggests to quarantine and treat the adjoining rooms beside, below and/or above as if they were also affected. Do not forget common hallways and other areas common to the affected room.
• Do not suggest that the homeowner move any furniture around. To contain the problem, have as few people involved as possible, and minimize any disturbance of the room.
Joseph Latino is Chief Operating Officer at Allergy Technologies LLC, Ambler, Pa. An executive viewpoint he authored for Pest Management Professional magazine in 2012 can be read here.