Monday, September 01, 2008

Unwelcome Roommates

First it was hotel rooms. Now college campuses have joined in the unpleasant experience of blood-sucking bed bug invasions. With increasing numbers of students studying abroad, opportunities for bringing these annoying pests back in luggage or on clothes have also increased.

What are the symptoms of a bed bug attack? Unlike flea bites which have a red spot in the center, bed bug bites usually result in a small, hard, swollen, white welt with rows of three or more welts being common. Although these pesky insects are not thought to carry disease, scratching the itchy bites sometimes results in infection.

It is not easy to get rid of bed bugs since they can live for extended periods of time without food. For heavy infestations using the services of a professional exterminator is advised.

Telltale signs of bed bugs are rusty or dark spots of excrement on sheets and mattresses, bedding, or walls. At the beginning of an infestation the bugs are most likely to be seen in the folds, seams, and tufts of mattresses and bed covers, but can hide in cracks in the floor, furniture, or wall. They have also been found under carpets and behind baseboards and moldings, window and door casings, pictures, and loosened wallpaper. Bed bugs are brown (red after feeding), about the size of an apple seed (1/4" to 3/8" inches long), oval shaped, and look something like a wood tick. Young bed bugs are translucent except after feeding.

For more information about how to control this pest, see Bed Bugs available from the Texas Department of Agriculture's Household Insects page or the Fact Sheet from the Ohio State University Extension Service. Color pictures of the bugs and their wastes are available from the University of Minnesota's Traveler Q & A: Preventing Bed Bugs From Hitchhiking to Your Home.