New Ohio State App Helps Users Identify, Prevent and Control Bed Bugs

New Ohio State App Helps Users Identify, Prevent and Control Bed Bugs

A close-up look at adult bed bugs, their eggs and fecal spotting. Photo: CFAESA close-up look at adult bed bugs, their eggs and fecal spotting. Photo: CFAES

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Not sure if the dark speck that crawled across your desk at work was a bed bug?

Wondering if the tiny insect you saw on the seat next to you at the movie theater or on the bus was a bed bug?

How about that fleck you thought you saw on the corner of the mattress the last time you stayed in a hotel?

A researcher at The Ohio State University has created a free new app to help you figure it out.

Created by Susan Jones, a professor of entomology with Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the Bed Bug Field Guide app comes complete with photos, descriptions and enough information for consumers to know, definitively, what bed bugs look like, where to find them, how to get rid of them and, most importantly, how to ward off an infestation in the first place.

Jones is an authority on bed bugs having studied these pests for more than a decade. She is a founding member of the Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force.

“Bed bugs can be found in homes, in the workplace, in schools, hotels, theaters, vehicles, in the soles of your shoes, nearly anywhere,” Jones said. “And, because they’re expensive to get rid of and many people are using ineffective chemicals trying to kill them, bed bugs aren’t going anywhere.”

Ohio has four major metropolitan areas ranked on this year’s list of top 50 cities with bed bug infestations, according to Orkin, a nationwide pest control company. Columbus ranks No. 5. Cincinnati comes in at No. 8. Cleveland-Akron-Canton holds the 13th spot, and Dayton ranks No. 32, according to the list.

That’s because bed bugs, which are strictly indoor pests, can reproduce quickly, travel easily and survive starvation for many months, occasionally even a year, Jones said. Additionally, Ohio’s many large cities are in close proximity and are linked by major interstate highways, so bed bugs are easily spread far and wide, she said.

“The bed bug problem is not going away, so we wanted to create an app to get factual, relevant information into the hands of as many people as possible in an easy-to-use format,” Jones said. “There’s so much misinformation out there, so we wanted to provide the most factual information that we can about bed bugs.”

With that in mind, Jones worked over the past year creating and writing the bed bug app. The app was funded through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via US EPA Region V pass-through funding to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Health, and developed by EduTechnologic LLC.

In addition to photos, the app contains multiple chapters on all things bed bugs:

If you think you have bed bugs but aren’t sure, Chapter One: How to Identify Bed Bugs, can help you decide.

Chapter Four: Preventing Bed Bugs explains how to avoid getting bed bugs in the first place. (Hint: Make sure that a bed bug inspection of second-hand items is part of your normal routine.) Chapter Three: Inspecting for Bed Bugs tells you how to do so.

Want to get rid of bed bugs? Chapter Seven: Treating for Bed Bugs explains how. (Hint: It’s not easy or cheap, but hiring a professional is preferable to do-it-yourself approaches, which tend to fail.)

“Bed bugs are a complicated insect — there’s not an easy way to get rid of them, and they can be found anywhere in your home, from the floor to ceiling,” Jones said. “Bed bugs are a difficult do-it-yourself project and aren’t going to be controlled with a single insecticide treatment.”

Chapter Nine: Advice for Residential Visits explains how you can safely visit people who have bed bugs in their homes and not bring the bugs home with you.

“This information is relevant for social workers and first responders who go into infested homes or people with relatives who have bed bugs,” Jones said.

Chapter 11: What Not to Do for Bed Bugs dispels many myths about bed bugs.

“There is a difference between finding a single bed bug and an actual infestation,” Jones said. “People freak out if they see an insect they think may be a bed bug, and there’s often a general panic when there is a bed bug sighting at work or other public place.

“But that’s not a rational response. Chapter 10: Bed Bugs in Workplaces, Schools, Vehicles can help you with that.”

In Chapter 8: Tips for Travelers, Jones offers these tips to reduce the likelihood of returning home with hitchhiking bed bugs:

  • Check for bed bugs at hotels and refuse to stay in a room showing signs of bed bugs.
  • Store luggage on a luggage rack after you’ve made sure it has no telltale signs of bed bugs. You can also store it in the bathtub to prevent hitchhikers.
  • If you purchase secondhand clothing, keep it tightly bagged until you can wash and dry it.

And if you have an infestation, she offers these tips to help alleviate the problem:

  • Treat as soon as you discover bed bugs, before their population increases or spreads to other homes.
  • Don’t throw away your furniture unless absolutely necessary; it can almost always be treated.
  • If you have no choice but to discard furniture, make sure to wrap it securely in plastic sheeting before moving it outdoors. Prior to wrapping it, be sure to damage or destroy the item, and also label it “Bed Bugs” so that others don’t reuse it.
  • Don’t give away or share items with others until you have treated your infestation.
  • Decontaminate your clothing and other washable items by washing them and then drying them for 30 minutes on medium to high heat.
  • Items that can’t be washed but can survive the clothes dryer, such as shoes or stuffed animals, can be decontaminated in the dryer for 30 minutes on medium to high heat.
  • Check your shoes before leaving your house so you don’t track bed bugs around.
  • Don’t store your backpack, briefcase or similar items near your bed, and leave them in a sealed plastic bag or plastic tote when you go to work or school.
  • At school, make sure children don’t intermingle their coats, backpacks, etc. These items should stay in individual cubbies, bins or other spaces.

The app, which is available for Android and iOS devices, can be downloaded free by searching for “BED BUG FIELD GUIDE” in the App Store and Google Play Store. The app will frequently be updated with new information.

Tracy Turner

Susan Jones