Working in pest control, I am constantly fielding questions and concerns from clients about the mysterious bites they’ve discovered on their body. Understandably, no one wants to accept the fact that they’ve possible had a run in with bed bugs, but I often have to be the bearer of that bad news. Never did I think I’d be on the other side of that coin, but during a recent trip to Montreal, just that happened.
I woke up to a distinct, linear trail of three welts on my right forearm –“breakfast, lunch and dinner”, as they call it. Judging from the two nearby bites, an appetizer and dessert were had, as well. Throughout the morning, 15 to 20 additional bites would reveal themselves on various areas of my body that were exposed while I slept, mainly my arms, legs and ankles. Of course I would get eaten alive by bed bugs on my first night of vacation, I thought.
The ensuing panic was all too familiar to me, but the difference this time is that I was the one doing the panicking instead of the reassuring. My boyfriend, who made it through the night seemingly unscathed, was of little help. “I mean, they kinda look like mosquito bites to me” was his response to the welts emerging all over my body. He wasn’t entirely wrong, either; it’s nearly impossible for anyone (dermatologists included) to distinguish a bed bug bite from a mosquito bite or any other insect bite. The “one, two, three” bite pattern is usually a good indicator of bed bug bites, but other insects like fleas have been known to bite in a similar fashion. Only after a quick inspection was I able to confirm my suspicions by discovering a live bed bug nestled in between the mattress and boxspring on the side of the bed where I had slept.
Thankfully, my bites have since healed, and although the psychological trauma still lingers, I don’t seem to have brought any unwanted guests home with me.
With a good month remaining of vacation season, many of us will be taking off for one last getaway before the humdrum of fall begins. Here are some simple travel tips to help you avoid an experience similar to mine:
- Keep your suitcases and other luggage off of the bed and floor. Luggage may be the number one mode of transportation for bed bugs, so don’t use luggage racks, closet shelves, or drawers during your stay. In fact, you may want to consider storing your belongings in the bathtub until you are confident your location is free and clear of bed bugs; this way you can easily grab your belongings and run if you find anything suspicious during your inspection.
- Perform a quick visual inspection of the bed and surrounding area(s) when you arrive. Bed bugs are drawn to us as we emit heat and exhale CO2 during our sleep, and are likely to be hiding in immediate sleeping areas. If possible, pull the bed and headboard away from the wall and look for any potential live bugs. Popular hiding spots include on or behind baseboards, and within the grooves and crevices of the mattress, bedding and adjacent furniture.Contrary to popular belief, these tiny vampires are absolutely visible to the naked eye at various stages. Eggs and 1st instars will be difficult to see, but all other stages are easily seen. Look for something shaped like an apple seed with horizontal stripes running across their backs. The bugs are normally very flat and brown except after a feeding when their bodies are red and engorged. Even if no bugs are found, continue to look for other telltale signs of bed bug activity including dark brown/rust colored droppings in the seams and corners of the mattress and boxspring. Be certain to completely strip all bedding and linens from the bed while performing your inspection.
- Play it safe. With bed bugs, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you believe that you have been bitten by a bed beg or stayed in a location with active bed bugs, make sure to launder any and everything that could potentially bring the bugs home with you. All stages of bed bugs (eggs, nymphs and adults) die at 122° F, so about an hour in the dryer on “high” should be sufficient. If you still believe you may have an issue once you are home, it is always best to reach out to a professional pest management firm. Bed bugs are not something you want to try and DIY. Your well-intended efforts may actually end up worsening your situation, and push the bugs into areas of your house where they previously were absent.
For more information about bed bugs or to get a free estimate for treatment, visit us online at www.triuspest.com.
Natavia Hayes is the Customer Service Coordinator at Trius Pest Management based in Boonton, NJ. You can reach Natavia directly at (973) 335-2777 or email her at email@example.com.