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Bed Bug Frequently Asked Questions

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Bed bugs are small, wingless, flat insects that are similar to ticks in appearance. Initially they are clear and as they get older they become darker in color. Bed bugs feed on the blood of people and animals and are most active at night. Therefore, when looking for evidence of bed bug infestation it is best to concentrate on areas in and around the bed or sleeping areas. However, as bed bug populations increase they may migrate to adjacent areas or to nearby rooms through small holes in the wall. Signs of a bed bug infestation include:

 

  • Reddish or brownish fecal spots on bed linens, mattresses, and adjacent walls and baseboards.
  • A musty, sweetish odor
  • Small, itchy, red welts on the skin

 

If you suspect the presence of bed bugs, a licensed pest control operator should be notified so your home can be inspected, the insects can be identified, and an extermination plan can be formed.

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Bed bug infestations are not directly related to sanitation levels. However, excess amounts of clutter in and around beds and sleeping areas will offer bed bugs numerous places to hide near potential blood meals. Bed bugs can enter the cleanest of homes by way of luggage or clothing during travel. They can also be found on used furniture, which is why it is a good idea to thoroughly inspect (and dismantle if possible) any piece of used furniture prior to bringing it into your home. Since bed bugs can migrate to adjacent rooms through cracks, holes and outlets in walls, infestations in multi-home buildings, such as apartment buildings, are most common.

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Female bed bugs will lay eggs in small batches consisting of two to five eggs and can lay between one to five eggs per day. Typical sites for egg-laying include crevices and folds in mattresses, in the joints of bed frames, behind wallpaper and along baseboards. Eggs hatch in six to 10 days, and nymphs develop into adults in approximately a month and a half. However, nymphs require a blood meal prior to each molt to reach full adulthood. An adult bed bug typically lives about nine months and can survive cold temperatures and periods of starvation for many months at a time.

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When a bed bug feeds on the blood of a person or animal, saliva is injected into the bite wound, which contains proteins that often cause some form of an allergic response from the host. The severity of this allergic reaction varies greatly, and some people may not realize they have been bitten at all. However, most people experience some level of inflammation, swelling, reddening, and itchiness at the bite site. There is nothing unique about the bed bug bite, which is why the detected presence of the bugs themselves is needed for diagnosis of a bed bug infestation.

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Bed bugs like to hide in very discreet, dark, small spaces. Since they feed at night, they are generally found in and around the bed or sleeping areas, though they can migrate to other areas of the room or from room to room through cracks and holes in the wall. Areas to look for bed bugs include:

 

  • beds (including the seems and crevices of the mattress and box springs)
  • headboards
  • blankets and clothing under the bed
  • carpets and baseboards
  • creases of curtains
  • inside drawers
  • behind picture frames and wall paper
  • cracks and outlets in walls
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Getting rid of a bed bug infestation involves a combination of cleaning, room-modification, and insecticide administration by a knowledgeable, licensed pest control operator. Insecticide treatments may need to be applied more then once to kill bugs that have hatched from eggs (which are not killed by insecticides) and adult bugs that may have been missed during previous treatments. General recommendations for addressing a bed bug infestation include:

 


Contact a licensed pest control operator who is experienced and knowledgeable in the inspection, identification, and extermination process of bed bugs. The Colorado Department of Agriculture at 303-239-4146 can provide a list of licensed pest control operators. Using insecticides on your own can be dangerous and ineffective, and may even spread the infestation.

 

 

  • If you live in an apartment building or are a tenant in your home, contact your landlord or property manager to discuss a treatment plan.
  • Launder all sheets, bedding, towels, and clothing that may have been in contact with the areas where bed bugs have been identified. It is a good idea to handle these materials carefully and put them in a bag as they are moved to the washing machine, to avoid any accidental spread of the bugs. The high heat associated with drying is sufficient to kill bed bugs. Once everything has been washed and dried, place the items away from known infestation sites and in a tightly closed bin or bag to prevent re-infestation.
  • Vacuum your home, paying particular attention to the areas where infestation has been identified. Use a vacuum attachment to reach corners and crevices. This should be done after an initial inspection and once a week thereafter for several months.
  • If possible, carefully dispose of infested mattresses, box springs and other furniture. These items should be properly disposed of, as leaving them out on the street without properly treating them may allow the infestation to spread. It is best to carefully clean/vacuum these items and place them in large bags before moving them.
  • If the item cannot be disposed of, carefully dismantle, vacuum, and wash and scrub the item. Mattresses, pillows and other items may then be enclosed in zippered bags after cleaning them, which will prevent re-colonization of bed bugs on these items.
  • Search your homes for cracks and possible entry points in the walls and seal them with a high-quality, silicone-based sealant.
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Although it is possible for bed bugs to be spread through clothing, it is very unlikely. Provided you have followed the suggested measures for eliminating an infestation, particularly the washing of clothing and bedding and keeping those items in a secure place, it is safe for you to continue going to work. If you feel comfortable sharing your situation, it may be wise to alert your co-workers so they can be aware of their surroundings and watch for signs of bed bugs. Bed bug infestations often begin in multi-person dwellings, which could include office buildings.

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Bed bugs are extremely small and can easily hide and burrow in tiny, narrow spaces, such as cracks in the wall, electrical outlets and joints in furniture. Although they cannot fly, they move very quickly and routinely travel from their hiding place to a blood meal in one night. Since they are active primarily at night, they are difficult to detect during the hours people generally are awake and alert. In addition, bed bugs may remain dormant for long periods of time if blood meals are not available or if temperatures drop. Bed bugs that remain inactive and in hiding for an extended period of time may not be initially killed by insecticides, as treatment is most effective when the insecticide directly contacts the bed bug. The majority of available insecticides are ineffective against eggs, so repeated applications generally are required to kill bugs that have hatched from eggs and the adult bugs that may have been missed during previous treatments. Recent evidence also suggests they may be able to sense and avoid certain chemical agents, such as cleaning detergents.

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There is currently no evidence indicating bed bugs are capable of transmitting pathogens causing infectious disease in humans. However, some individuals may have moderate to severe allergic reactions to proteins found in bed bug saliva, thereby increasing inflammation and itchiness of the bites. Excessive scratching of bite marks may also cause secondary infections.

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Neither the communicable disease division nor the Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment investigates bed bug outbreaks because there is no evidence that bed bugs transmit diseases to humans.

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The state health department can offer guidance on the prevention and elimination of bed bugs but is not responsible for mandating tenant-landlord issues in regard to legal and cost issues associated with bed bug infestations. Local environmental health departments may be able to provide more specific suggestions on local agencies and organizations involved in landlord-tenant and housing issues. Organizations involved in housing regulations and tenant-landlord mediation include:

 

State of Colorado Community Housing Services Inc.
http://www.chsico.org/
303-831-1750

 

Denver County Environmental Health and Housing
720-865-3200
This group assists Denver County residents only.

 

Jefferson County, Colorado, Landlord Tenant Issue Line 303-237-0230
This group assists Jefferson County residents only.

  


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