Richmond’s climate encourages pests to make their home around yours. Most of us won’t mind seeing the occasional deer or bunny romping through our yard. But we draw the line when creepy crawlers make it inside our home. We’ve got you covered: Here’s expert advice on how to get rid of bed bugs and cockroaches in your Richmond home.
Bed Bugs and Cockroaches in Virginia
Bed bugs and German cockroaches are enough to make your skin crawl, but Virginia Tech Urban Pest Management Specialist Dr. Dini Miller talks passionately about them. Termites and ants are also common pests in the Richmond area, but “bed bugs and roaches have the most impact on people,” she said.
She explains that “the cockroaches are the most prolific, but the bed bugs are more challenging.” Dr. Miller frequently goes into public housing where she sees firsthand the impact of these pest infestations but notes that these bugs affect all socioeconomic levels.
She explains: “I was in an upper-middle-class home where the people had become disabled. You could tell that once they had been doing great, but when the lady followed me outside, I literally pinched bed bugs off her sweater.”
Let’s delve into how these pests cause trouble and learn Dr. Miller’s advice on how to deal with them.
The biggest victims of these blood-sucking insects? The elderly. “The elderly are particularly plagued with bed bugs because our immune system doesn’t respond as well as we get older. Often, they’re unaware of them because they don’t see them,” she explains.
While bed bug bites do not transmit diseases to people, these bugs are a nuisance, and the stigma of having them causes psychological stress. And it’s one of the hardest bugs to get rid of. “You’ve got to find and kill each one of them,” Dr. Miller said. “Most people don’t know a thing about bed bugs. The things they read off the internet are not biologically correct.”
When dealing with bed bugs, Dr. Miller advises connecting with a professional exterminator — but even that advice comes with a warning. She says some exterminators “go in believing they have a spray that works for three months. But the bugs have become so resistant to insecticides that their populations have grown and spread all over the planet.”
To give a clearer idea of how tricky a bed bug infestation can be, she points out: “These are not your grandma’s bed bugs. They are thick-skinned mutants that have adapted to insecticides.” So to successfully get rid of these pests, you need a pest control service that’s experienced with bed bug treatments.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: DIY Advice
If you’re set on going the DIY route before contacting pest control experts, the EPA has some useful advice for bed bug control:
- Identify the bug. Bed bugs can be mistaken for other insects, so be sure of what you’re dealing with before taking other measures. You can collect a sample and hand it to a county extension agent, who will identify the pest for free. If you live in an apartment building, notify your landlord, as other units might be infested as well.
- Remove bed covers and discard mattresses infested with bugs, but only when treatment is not possible. Remove the stuffing or mark “bed bugs” with spray paint to prevent someone from taking it home. To avoid bed bugs from installing themselves in your mattresses, seal them in bed bug-proof liners you can find in stores or online.
- Treat bed clothing, clothes, and small items in a dryer set on high for at least 30 minutes. You can do a heat treatment by sealing the items in a plastic bag and placing them in a place of extreme heat, such as a closed car in the sun.
- Clean the indoor area thoroughly, including curtains, furniture, baseboards, and behind electrical outlets. Keeping a good maintenance routine can do wonders to control pests in general, but experts point out that it isn’t a decisive factor when it comes to preventing bed bugs.
- Vacuum repeatedly and place sealed vacuum bags in an outdoor trash receptacle.
- Check the area every few days and repeat the process if necessary.
On a curious note, Dr. Miller said wheelchairs for the disabled and elderly are another common carrier of bed bugs and their eggs, as are automobiles. She included: “Also check the chair or couch with the best view of the TV. That’s a good place for them.”
The German cockroach is the only roach that lives entirely in homes. “This insect has evolved with humans over thousands of years,” Miller explains. Unlike bed bugs, roaches can spread illnesses to people. The pest is responsible for the spread of asthma and allergies, with low-income children taking the hardest hit.
Dr. Miller sees plenty of homes loaded with cockroaches in the Richmond area. “In one home, we caught 1,300 of them in a single night,” she said. “They shed skins multiple times. They leave their dead bodies, they leave their poop, all of which contain pathogens.”
How to Get Rid of Cockroaches: Gel Baits
To get rid of cockroaches, Dr. Miller recommends gel baits, which attract the insects and poison them. She advises supplementing gel traps with insecticide sprays. But ensure that they get to the gel bait before using the spray. “You want them to like the gel,” she teaches. “If you’re going to feed them, you can’t spray them. They’ll run off, and you probably won’t kill them.”
Additionally, it’s important to vacuum up dead roaches because live ones feed on the bodies and body parts of the carcasses. Miller recommends immediately emptying the vacuum into an outdoor trash container to avoid attracting more bugs and keep your home pest-free.
A major obstacle homeowners face is the resistance that roaches, bed bugs, and other pests have developed to the currently available insecticides. Manufacturers are reluctant to develop effective new household products because of EPA regulations.
“It takes about 10 years of data and $350 million investment. They never make their money back,” Miller said. “We need something new.” Although these new technologies are not here, the best approach is to adopt an integrated pest management plan by combining preventive measures and control measures to expel these little critters from your home.
About the Expert
Dini M. Miller is a Professor at Virginia Tech and the Urban Pest Management Specialist for the state of Virginia. Dr. Miller is an internationally recognized expert in the area of urban pest management, particularly German cockroach and bed bug biology, behavior, and control.
Dr.Miller received her undergraduate degree from UCLA in Geography/Ecosystems. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Florida where she studied Urban Entomology.
Young cockroaches are among the many bugs that look like bed bugs and can be easily confused as such. But there are tell-tale differences between them that you can try to identify in case you’re in doubt:
• Size: Adult German cockroaches can reach from 1/2 to 5/8 inches in size, while adult bed bugs are around 1/4 inch.
• Color: Cockroaches have a brown color varying from tan to light. Bed bugs are reddish-brown.
• Shape: Roaches have a flat and cylindrical body while bed bugs have an oval shape.
• Disease potential: Roaches carry bacteria and can transmit diseases, while bed bugs do not.
• Habitat: Bed bugs prefer soft and puffy surfaces, as the name suggests (beds and sofas, for example). Cockroaches live in dark, moist environments.
• Eating habits: Bed bugs feed mainly on blood, and that’s why they also bite humans. Cockroaches don’t bite, but they’ll eat almost everything within their reach, from food residue (especially sugary food) to cardboard boxes and even hair.
According to the EPA, pyrethrins and pyrethroids are the most common pesticides used to kill bed bugs and other indoor pests (such as roaches).
Other common pests that bug Virginia are:
• Carpenter bees and wasps
• Millipedes and centipedes
• Stink bugs
• Ticks and fleas
Luckily, pest control companies are equipped to deal with them.
Follow Expert Advice
If you notice signs of bed bugs or cockroaches in Richmond, Henrico County, Chesterfield County, or the surrounding area, Pest Gnome connects you with the top pest control experts in your area. Contact an exterminator to provide you with an adequate treatment plan for your pest problem.