In recent years, pest control companies all over the country have reported a rise in calls from customers about bed bugs. Once thought to have been mostly eradicated in the U.S. thanks to powerful pesticides, increased international travel and bans of some strong pesticides have helped to facilitate a comeback.
As the bed bug problem spreads, more and more households are at risk for developing an infestation. Take a look at some common myths about bed bugs.
1. Bed Bugs Only Infect Dirty Homes
Bed bugs don’t just bring inconvenience and itching to your home — they also bring a stigma. Like cockroaches, bed bugs are often associated with dirt and filth.
However, this association is not based on the actual facts about bed bugs. The truth is, bed bugs are just as likely to inhabit a clean home as a dirty one.
Unlike cockroaches, bed bugs don’t require moist conditions, nor do they rely on food or waste materials to eat. They get moisture and nourishment from one place: the blood from their hosts. It doesn’t matter how clean you are; a bed bug will be happy to bite you.
A cluttered home does offer plenty of hiding places for bed bugs. But the small, flat bugs can easily hide in a picture frame, in a dresser drawer and underneath the tag on your mattress, to name just a few places.
Cleaning up clutter can help you spot a bed bug infestation, and you’ll need to do it before treatment for the treatment to be effective. But a bed bug infestation is not a sign of whether or not you keep a clean home normally.
The stigma associated with a bed bug infestation can lead to denial or an unwillingness to talk about the infestation, even with an exterminator. But the sooner you contact a professional pest control company for help, the easier it will be to get rid of the bugs.
2. You Get Bed Bugs From Traveling
It’s true that international travel is partially responsible for the resurgence in bed bugs. While they may have been mostly eliminated in the U.S., they still existed in other countries and would travel back to the U.S. in the suitcases of international travelers who stayed in bed bug–infested hotels.
But now that the bed bug population has exploded in the United States, you don’t need to travel overseas to get them. You don’t even need to stay in a hotel.
The name bed bug is really a misnomer. While the bugs are nocturnal and best known for attacking at night while you’re in your bed, they can exist wherever humans happen to be.
Bed bugs have been found in places like schools, stores, public buses, offices and movie theaters. You don’t have to visit these places at night to pick up bed bugs, either. While the bugs may prefer to come out at night, if they’re hungry and humans are only available during the day, the pests will emerge during the day.
3. Bed Bugs Can Make You Sick
You may have legitimate concerns about insects that bite and their ability to spread disease. After all, some ticks are known to carry Lyme disease, and some mosquitoes carry the Zika virus. If you’re being bitten by bed bugs while you sleep, it’s normal to be concerned that they may be able to make you sick.
The good news is that according to the World Health Organization, bed bugs are generally not known to act as disease vectors. That means that they don’t transmit diseases to humans the way that ticks or mosquitoes can.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’re totally safe. Bed bug bites can be extremely itchy and can cause you to scratch yourself in your sleep. If you scratch hard enough to draw blood, you could develop a secondary skin infection, especially if your immune system is lowered or if you don’t keep the wound clean.
Furthermore, it is possible for bed bugs to carry harmful bacteria on their bodies. While they may not pass a disease to you through their bites, if their bodies are carrying infectious bacteria when they come in contact with your body (and particularly if they come in contact with an open wound), they could spread the bacteria. There have been instances of the staph infection MRSA being transmitted in this manner.
4. You Can Get Rid of Bed Bugs Yourself
If you have a bed bug infestation, the chances are good that you will not be able to get rid of it without professional help.
The current crop of bed bugs is fairly resistant to pesticides, which means that sprays that you can buy at the store are likely to be ineffective. Home remedies involving essential oils or common household problems are even less effective and can actually drive the bed bugs deeper into your home, making the problem worse.
Exterminators use fumigation or heat treatments to eradicate bed bugs from the home. You’ll need to treat the whole house at once to make sure that you get rid of all of the bugs.
If you believe you have a bed bug problem, a local exterminator can help. Contact your pest control company for information about preparing your home for bed bug treatment.