Dale K. Pollet, Blanchard, Tobie M. | 2/2/2006 2:54:07 AM
They can travel across a country or even traverse continents in a suitcase or shoe, and they’re infamous for infesting intimate locations – beds. Now the fabled bedbug is infesting beds around New York City, and some people are concerned if the bugs will spread.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dale Pollet says even though the major infestations are more than a thousand miles away, he still is getting calls from people worried about and wondering about these pests.
While bedbugs deserve their bad reputation, Pollet says there are misconceptions surrounding these pests.
"Most people associate bedbugs with filth, and that’s not the case," Pollet explains. "Bedbugs don’t feed on filth. They feed on blood."
Bedbugs have been found in some of the finest hotels in the world, and just keeping things tidy won’t stop an infestation, experts say.
The problems with bedbugs are that they move easily and can live a long time without a meal.
Pollet say travelers, especially international travelers, should be cautious.
"You travel; they get in your suitcase, in your clothes, in your shoes," he explains, adding those aren’t the only times people need to be cautious.
For example, people can get a good deal when buying second-hand furniture, but Pollet says they may end up with more than they bargained for. Bringing used items into a home can introduce an infestation of bedbugs that were living in the used furniture or mattresses.
Bedbugs feed at night. They get their name because they are drawn to beds to get their nocturnal meal.
The first sign of an infestation are bites on the body.
"You don’t feel them when they bite you," says Pollet. "But the saliva they inject to make the blood flow is what makes you itch."
People often mistake bedbug bites for mosquito bites. Pollet says it is important to quickly identify an infestation. If you wake up with bites, check bedbug hangouts for potential problems, he says.
"They like dark areas. They hide in cracks and cervices, behind picture frames, between the mattress and box spring," the LSU AgCenter entomologist explains.
He adds, however, that it’s hard to detect the immature bedbug, since they are flat and clear. Older bedbugs are less than three-eighths of an inch long and have a brownish tint to them. They swell and turn purplish after a meal, Pollet says.
If you do find yourself with a bedbug infestation, Pollet says start by cleaning.
"Wash all the bedding materials in hot water," he advises. "Then you can spray a pyrethroid lightly on the mattress, box spring and bed."
Be sure to let the mattress and box spring dry out before returning it the bed, Pollet stresses.
In addition, the LSU AgCenter entomologist says travelers should do a thorough job of cleaning out their suitcases and washing all the contents. The suitcase can also be sprayed if there is a concern about an infestation.
Pollet points out a disturbing fact about bedbugs. "The adult bed bug can feed on a human for up to 15 minutes," he says, adding, however, that there also is a positive point. "They don’t transmit any diseases."