Bed bugs are nocturnal insects that prefer to hide close to where the human host rests or sleeps. The bugs will squeeze their flattened bodies into cracks and crevices in mattresses, box springs, headboards, and bed frames. Bed bugs will congregate in these hiding places, leaving spots and stains from their feces. Various life stages of the bug will be present, in addition to molted skins and empty eggshells.
Another sign seen on bed sheets and mattresses is dark reddish-brown bloodstains from regurgitations and crushed bugs that have recently engorged with blood. In severe infestations, there may also be a sour, moldy smell associated with infestations, but this odor is not a reliable detection sign.
Yet another factor to keep in mind when dealing with severe infestations is that the population pressure leads to bugs being scattered throughout a bedroom and eventually to other rooms in the structure. In apartment buildings and other multi-family housing situations, bed bugs will move from unit to unit through naturally occurring openings in floors, walls, down hallways, etc. Therefore, it is important to inspect high and low as well as far and wide.
Items stored beneath beds need to be thoroughly inspected. Sofas and upholstered chairs and other furniture near beds need to be examined above and below, especially crevices, tufts, seams, and skirts. Sofas used for sleeping often become the primary area for bed bug infestations. Nightstands, chests of drawers, and other bedroom furniture should be emptied and inspected inside and out as well as underneath (cracks, corners, recesses, and other crevices).
Even pristine homes and apartments have plenty of hiding places and available warm-blooded hosts. Unlike cockroaches, which are typically found in association with filth and an abundance of food materials, the level of cleanliness does not have any impact on bed bug infestations because they feed on blood alone. Thus, a thorough and more targeted inspection for bed bugs may be more important and time-consuming than other pest inspections. Patience and persistence are the keys to thorough and successful inspections - and because most inspections are conducted visually, a bright, durable flashlight is essential.
The main reason for bed bug treatment failure is lack of customer cooperation and preparation for the pest management professional (PMP) services that will be provided. It is imperative that the customer is educated about bed bugs and their control, whether they are tenants in an apartment complex, homeowners in a residential area, or managers of an infested institutional facility. They need to know about bed bug identification and some facts related to bed bug biology, behavior, control, and prevention from further infestation. They also need to know how to prepare for treatments by following instructions and guidelines prepared by the PMP.
Depending on the program being offered, the customer may be asked to empty all closets, chests of drawers, nightstands, and other furniture; launder or dry clean all bed sheets, mattress pads, blankets, bed skirts, bedspreads, pillows and clothing; and place them in plastic bags or bins. They may also be asked to thoroughly vacuum mattresses, bed frames, upholstered furniture, draperies and carpeted surfaces in infested rooms giving special attention to the baseboards, the crevices where the baseboards meet the carpet, and all cracks and crevices in furniture.
Once the vacuuming is completed, the vacuum bag should be immediately placed in a plastic bag, sealed and removed from the premises. Such cooperation may be necessary to eliminate bed bugs from clothes, linens and other possessions and to enable the PMP with the access necessary to follow up with chemical and non-chemical control measures.
When working with clients (owners, managers, etc.) in commercial and institutional accounts, cooperation is critical to success. In addition to the cooperation outlined above, property owners and managers of such facilities as hotels, apartment complexes, dormitories, cruise ships, resorts, etc. may need to institute housekeeping practices to reduce or eliminate the spread of bed bugs; correct structural deficiencies like cracks in walls that are contributing to bed bug problems; take certain rooms or apartments out of service until certified as bed bug-free; and allow inspection of adjoining units or floors to determine how far an infestation has spread.
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