Indianapolis named one of the top cities for bed bugs (again). Here’s how to get rid of them

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Indianapolis has (again) been named one of the worst cities in the country for bed bugs.

On Monday, pest control company Orkin released its Top 50 Bed Bug Cities List for 2024 and Indianapolis received the dubious honor of ranking among the top ten. The Circle City this year landed at No. 8, which to be fair, is a slight improvement from 2023’s spot at No. 7.

The list is based on data from metro areas where Orkin performed bed bug treatments between Dec. 1, 2022 through Nov. 30, 2023. It includes both residential and commercial eradication.

That tiny sound you’re hearing? It’s the smug applause of a billion insects. Read on and learn how to shut them up.

Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. They’re small, measuring roughly 1-7mm with a flat oval body, dark protruding eyes, and they have short antennae.

Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color after feeding on blood (gross). The young are whitish-yellow and closer in size to a poppy seed — and while science hasn’t confirmed it yet, younger bed bugs probably enjoy listening to all the music you think is garbage.

Bed bugs are active year-round, but the summer and fall months bring ample opportunity for the tiny pests to hitch rides on vacation luggage as people move across the country via airports and visit hotels and Airbnbs.

While there is no official bed bug season, August through October often see an uptick in infestations as those summer tagalongs find new homes and head off to dorm rooms alongside college students.

Bed bugs leave itchy, red swollen marks on the skin like a mosquito bite that can take upwards of a day or more to break out. That’s because these pests inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant to prevent people from knowing they’re being nibbled on.

Bed bugs will bite the arms, back, neck, face and any exposed body parts of people while they sleep. Feeding can take anywhere from 3-12 minutes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and the bites are often grouped closely together, sometimes in lines or even zig-zag patterns.

Bites from bed bugs can affect people in different ways. A lucky few might show no physical symptoms at all while some people might experience serious allergic reactions. To rule out other household pests, check for signs of a bed bug infestation.

Most people don’t realize they’ve got a bed bug problem until their skin breaks out in itchy red welts. These bite marks can take anywhere from 14 days to appear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who recommend you check your bed sheets or mattress for the following signs:

These insects can be terribly annoying but they’re not known to spread disease, according to the CDC, even after feeding on multiple hosts. However, the itchy welts might leave you scratching a lot, which could lead to a secondary skin infection.

Bed bugs are resilient little jerks who play the world’s worst game of hide-and-seek. To begin, they’re small and sometimes difficult to spot. They cling to luggage, gym and travel bags, furniture, bedding and clothing. They can be found across the globe, from cost-friendly motels to fancy five-star resorts, moving from place to place, infecting each location where they often hitch a ride into your home.

While bed bugs feed every 5-10 days, they can survive several months to a year without consuming blood.

A bed bug infestation can happen no matter the season, according to American Pest Solutions, who offer these tips for preventing their spread:

Other tips you can follow at home include:

Bed bugs can spread insidiously fast. A wandering female can lay an egg in any room of your house. After 37 days, the egg will have grown into a mature adult bed bug that can live in a crack the width of a credit card. Females also can lay eggs continuously so long as they have a steady supply of blood, and they can lay up to 500 eggs in their lifetime, according to Catherine Hill and John MacDonald of the Entomology Department at Purdue.

We know you don’t want to hear this, but getting rid of bed bugs can take weeks, sometimes months. Insect repellents do not work against bed bugs. Foggers or “bug bombs” cannot reach the tiny cracks where these insects like to hide. In fact, residue from the fogger might cause the bed bugs to move into a new room of your home.

Most experts recommend you call a professional exterminator as soon as possible to eradicate these pests.

The Indiana Department of Health recommends you place items like clothing, bedding, toys and backpacks into sealed bags to prevent the spread of bed bugs. These pests hate the heat, so place your clothing in the dryer on a high heat setting for 20-30 minutes.

Experts recommend you isolate your bed by pulling it from the wall and set the legs in bed bug traps. When finished vacuuming, place the dirt, dust and leftover contents into a separate sealed plastic bag before dumping it in the trash.

If you can, dispose of any beds, mattresses and cloth-covered furniture where bed bugs have been present. And don’t just leave them on the side of the road; be a good Hoosier.

Wrap those contaminated items in plastic to prevent any bed bugs from escaping, and label the items clearly, “bed bug infested,” so others won’t accidentally bring these pests into their home.

For more information online about bed bugs, visit the websites of the EPA, CDC or the Indiana Department of Health.

John Tufts covers trending news for the Indianapolis Star. Send him a news tip at JTufts@Gannett.com

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