Don’t let the bed bugs bite: what to know

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Feb. 2 — For as long as humans have been around, so have bed bugs. Unlike traditional pests, bed bugs cannot be blamed on pets or lack of cleanliness. Bed bugs can affect people of any race, age or social class around the world. Because humans are the primary food source for bed bugs, hotels and homes are ideal spaces for the creepy crawlers to infiltrate.

Bed bugs have become a major concern in global tourist destinations such as Paris, France, where the 2024 Summer Olympics will be held later this year. In a nationwide survey compiled by the mattress review company Mattress Clarity in 2023, Oklahoma City was the ninth worst city for bed bugs, based on service requests.

When it comes to bed bug infestations, higher-density populations have the potential to see more reports of bed bugs. Dense populations aren’t necessarily more susceptible to infestations, it just means there are more people to report them.

How to remediate bed bugs

While they are a nuisance, bed bugs do not transmit diseases to humans. Bites can cause allergic reactions in some people, but others never show a physical reaction.

The most effective solution for bed bug removal is calling a trusted pest control specialist. These experts are equipped to not only assess the situation within your home, but also provide the most efficient remedy.

Oklahoma State University Extension specialists advise how to choose a bed bug remediation service in the fact sheet “Choosing a Pest Management Professional for Bed Bug Control.”

Traditional insecticides do not have much impact on these pesky houseguests unless used directly on the pest. Penetrating heat at around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit has proven the best method for treating infested spaces.

Although tedious and expensive, heat is the most effective regimen because it kills all life stages of the bed bug, said Kevin Shelton, Oklahoma State University Extension entomology and plant pathology associate specialist.

Bed bugs can adapt the rate they mature based on temperature and food resources available at a given time. They can stretch their maturation period out to upwards of five to six months, Shelton said.

Quick tips when bed bugs are suspected

Identification is the biggest hindrance when it comes to bed bugs. It is important to remember that if you wake up in bed with a bite, it does not mean it came from a bed bug.

Learn more about accurately identifying bed bugs in the fact sheets “Help! I Think I Have Bed Bugs” and “Preventing Bed Bugs.”

For furniture or mattresses that have been infested, cover them in plastic bags and set them outside in the summer heat to kill the bed bugs in and on the item.

Vacuuming the bugs into a sealed bag and disposing is also a quick way to remove infestations from homes.

When staying in a hotel, do not set luggage down on the floor or bed until inspecting the area. The bathtub is a safe place to store luggage initially because bed bugs cannot climb the surface. If there is evidence of bed bugs, request a new room from management.

Used furniture is an easy way to potentially introduce bed bugs into environments, and Shelton advises residents to be cautious when picking up furniture from thrift stores and other alternatives.

Learn more in the fact sheet “Bed Bugs: Reduce Risk While Thrift Shopping.”

OSU Extension uses research-based information to help all Oklahomans solve local issues and concerns, promote leadership and manage resources wisely throughout the state’s 77 counties. Most information is available at little to no cost.

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