June often marks the beginning of travel to and from summer camps, sporting events, dormitories and apartments, hotel rooms, and numerous other destinations both near and far. With increased travel comes an increased risk of encountering and inadvertently introducing bed bugs in your home.
Bed bugs are a problem throughout Ohio, the US, and worldwide – a problem we all may encounter at some time in our lives. Bed bugs are small insects that hitchhike on clothing, luggage, and other items that have come into contact with an infested location. These unwanted “house guests” can enter our homes on travel gear, luggage, clothing, shoes or other personal items. Acquiring or purchasing used bedding, mattresses, and upholstered furniture can also introduce bed bugs into the home.
Bed bugs are commonly found in areas where people sleep or rest such as beds, couches, or recliners. Adult bed bugs are brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened, and about 3/16 to 1/5” long. They move very quickly but do not have wings and cannot fly.
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects that feed mostly at night while their host sleeps. Their bite is painless but may result in small, swollen welts that may itch. Rows of three or more welts on exposed skin are characteristic signs of bed bug feeding. Fortunately, bed bugs do not carry nor transmit disease, but some people may have an allergic reaction to the bites.
When staying away from home, check beds, mattresses, box springs, and baseboards for dark, rusty spots that are bed bug feces, eggs, or shed skins. Adult bed bugs often hide in crevices any may be difficult to find. If you spot any of these, request another room or move locations if possible. Remember to keep clothing, suitcases and other items off beds and on luggage stands, even if a room appears to be clean.
Here are some tips for preventing bed bugs from entering your home:
- Carefully inspect all items that will be brought into your home after traveling.
- Clothing should be removed from luggage and washed in hot water (hot water kills bed bugs). Similar precautions should be taken when family members move back home from an apartment, dormitory, hospital stay, or summer camp.
- Use caution when placing backpacks, bags, purses, and coats on floors or upholstered items.
If you suspect that your home has been infested with bed bugs, confirm their identification by bringing insects to the the local OSU Extension office. Please make sure insects are in a sealed container.
Prevention and good sanitation in the home are the best defenses for all types of insect concerns including bed bugs. Bed bugs are difficult to eliminate once established in a dwelling. Over the counter baits, insect fogs, insect bombs, and do-it-yourself remedies do not work. Eradication often requires a professional exterminator, several insecticide applications, extensive cleaning and sanitation, along with a healthy dose of perseverance and patience.
For additional information on bed bugs, visit the Ohio State University bed bug website maintained by Dr. Susan Jones, OSU bed bug entomologist, at http://u.osu.edu/bedbugs/. Household pest id cards (image) can be obtained from the Putnam County Extension office at 419-523-6294, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.