There was a time when bed bugs were almost eliminated in this country. By the end of World War II, it looked like these household pests that had bugged humans for centuries were on their way out. But bed bugs are everywhere now, including Denver. But here’s everything you need to know about bed bugs and Denver — and how to stop them from biting you
Bed Bugs in Denver
The use of pesticides such as DDT were responsible for the near demise of the blood-sucking bed bugs. But over time, scientists think the critters developed resistance.
Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, an entomology professor with the Colorado State University Extension Service, says travel is the most significant factor in bed bugs coming to the Denver area. “The reason Colorado is at risk is because we get so many tourists.”
The resurgence in bed bugs about 20 years ago became apparent in hotels and motels – places where travelers stay, he explains. From there, they moved back into our homes. For instance, the 2015 Bugs Without Borders executive summary showed that 74 percent of pest management professionals reported finding bed bug infestations in hotels and motels.
Fortunately for the human race – the exclusive prey of bed bugs – these parasites do not spread disease. In rare cases, they can cause an extreme allergic reaction, but in most instances, they leave their victims with small welts, like a mosquito bite. They look so much alike that oftentimes it is hard to tell mosquito bites from bed bug bites.
How to Check for Bed Bugs
The first step in getting rid of bed bugs is finding them, and that’s not an easy task. As night feeders, bed bugs hide out during the day in our bedding, clothing, carpet, and furniture. They’re usually small, too – only about the size of an apple seed and reddish-brown in color.
If you suspect you’re dealing with these tiny critters, you will have to run a true, Sherlock-style bed bug inspection. Look for the physical signs of bed bugs:
- Rusty stains they leave on bed sheets when crushed.
- Dark spots of their excrement on bedding (a nauseating tell-tale sign of bed bugs)
- Eggshells or eggs, which are very small (around 1mm).
- Skins shed by bed bug nymphs, which are pale yellow in color
Bed bugs often group together in clusters, and when doing so, it’s easier to spot them. But where should you look for bed bugs? Here’s a checklist of places they can hide:
- In the seams of couches and chairs
- In curtain folds
- In cracks on bed frames and baseboards
- Under loose wallpaper
- At the junction of the wall and the ceiling
- In electrical receptacles, such as outlets
Dr. Cranshaw said if you think you have bed bugs, take a sample to your county extension agent for identification.
The bad news is if you discover you have bed bugs, getting rid of them is going to be a challenge. “You’re probably not going to be able to do it successfully by yourself – good luck,” Dr. Cranshaw warned.
“It’s really complicated. You have to comprehensively treat all areas of the home at the same point in time. If you don’t, it’s not going to work. This is tough for professionals. In fact, it is the most difficult pest control.”
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in the Mile High City
If you’re set on going the DIY route before calling a bed bug exterminator, keep in mind that bed bug removal is challenging. This CSU fact sheet spells out what’s involved:
- Clean, bag, or heat treat all fabric in the infested area. Disinfect sheets and other bedding by laundering.
- Perform bed bug heat treatments by drying the infested items at a high temperature to successfully kill bed bugs.
- Use plastic coverings to seal mattresses, pillows, and other items. This will protect the items from chemicals during treatment, kill any existing bed bugs on the item, and prevent these items from bed bugs after the treatment. You can find these special bags at retailers and online.
- Vacuum thoroughly: Use the vacuum’s nozzle attachment to extract bugs hiding in protected crevices in couches and other furniture.
- Place sticky traps under the four posts and any portions of the bed that touch the floor. Bugs that are in the room will come to feed and get caught in the traps.
- Treat with pesticides that are effective against bed bugs. Some you’ll find contain pyrethroids. Some dusts made from diatomaceous earth and silica aerogels are also effective, but aerosol “bombs” and sprays will not do the job.
- Dispose of mattresses, couches, box springs, or other infested furniture, but only if they cannot be safely treated. The EPA recommends ripping covers and removing stuffing, or marking “bed bugs” with spray paint to prevent others from taking it into their homes.
Keep in mind that disposing of infested furniture should not be a first option, only applicable when treatment is not possible. Dr. Cranshaw warns any pesticide a homeowner tries to apply himself comes with problems. “In some areas of the country, bed bugs are no longer susceptible to pyrethroids. Most people are incapable of applying the dust correctly, and they can be damaging to the lungs.” But if you do opt for a chemical treatment, he suggests you always use a protective face mask.
Like fleas, cockroaches, and lice, bed bugs carry the stigma of poor housekeeping. “It has zero to do with cleanliness. People shouldn’t feel that way,” Dr. Cranshaw said. “It wasn’t your fault.”
About The Expert
Dr. Cranshaw admits that as an entomologist he loves bugs – except bed bugs, in which he finds no redeeming value. “The word bug derives from boogieman, the bed bug that feeds on you at night like a vampire,” he said. “I can’t say anything nice about them. They don’t make the world a pleasant place. They make it meaner.”
Whitney Cranshaw, Ph.D., is Professor of Entomology and Extension Specialist at Colorado State University. He is the author of the bestselling Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs – Second Edition.
The following bugs that look like bed bugs are also found in Colorado:
• Bat bug (Cimex pilosellus)
• Swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius)
• Poultry bug (Haematosiphon inodorus)
Bed bug bites can present different reactions for each person, but the typical signs of a bed bug bite are:
• Red or purple small bumps grouped together
• Round bumps that form a zigzag pattern, a line, or a random pattern
• Raised skin that can look like a pimple or a rash
Bed bug bites usually cause itchiness, mild discomfort, and even a burning sensation.
People often mistake bed bug bites for mosquito bites, flea bites, and spider bites.
Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bug You
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