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Kick the bedbugs out of your bed

October 06, 2008|By LYNN LITTLE

Bedbugs cause allergic reactions and send homeowners, hotel operators and dormitory supervisors into a frenzy of cleaning.

Bedbugs can't fly. They are hitchhikers. As people return home from a vacation or business trip, the pests are transported in luggage, clothing, bedding and furniture. If you are bitten by bedbugs, you will notice little red spots with a lighter red area around them. Unlike chigger bites, which tend to be grouped in one area or pattern, bedbug bites can be sprinkled all over you.

Once they're in place, each female will produce eggs that will hatch into hungry nymphs within just a few days. The nymphs immediately start looking for blood. They do so again every time they prepare to molt. Their adult lifespan is 12 to 18 months.

Once established, bedbugs can be difficult to eliminate completely, because they hide during the daytime in cracks and crevices, under mattresses and other furniture, under rug edges, behind pictures and even under loose wallpaper.

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Control of bed bugs is best achieved by following a three-step integrated pest management (IPM) approach of prevention, sanitation and the application of chemicals to targeted sites only as needed.

Prevention means inspecting clothing and travelers, looking for bugs and their tell-tale fecal spots. Inspect secondhand beds, bedding and furniture. Caulk cracks and crevices in your home or building exterior, and repair or screen openings to exclude birds, bats and rodents that can serve as alternate hosts for bed bugs.

Sanitation measures include frequently vacuuming your mattresses and premises, laundering bedding and clothing in hot water, and cleaning and sanitizing your home.

After the mattress is vacuumed or scrubbed, it can be enclosed in a zippered mattress cover. Any remaining bedbugs will be trapped inside the cover. Leave the cover in place for a year or more, since bed bugs can live a long time without a blood meal.

Steam and hot water can kill bedbug eggs, nymphs and adults. So, if you have been traveling, you might want to unpack directly into the washing machine. You also might want to vacuum out other travel items and then immediately dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag. Place the vacuum cleaner bag in a sealable plastic bag, seal tightly and discard in an outdoor container.

Repair cracks in plaster and glue down loosened wallpaper to eliminate bedbug hiding sites.

The last step in the IPM approach is to apply chemicals to targeted sites. Residual insecticides are applied as spot treatments to cracks and crevices where bedbugs are hiding. Avoid using highly repellent formulations because this causes bedbugs to scatter to many places. Repeat the insecticide application if bedbugs are present two weeks after the initial treatment.

No insecticides are labeled for use on bedding or linens. These items should be dry-cleaned or laundered in hot water and dried using the hot setting.

Make your home less hospitable for bedbugs and other pests by preventing entry and controlling their sources of food, water and places to hide.

For more information on keeping your home a healthy and safe place to live, visit www.uwex.edu/healthyhome/tool.

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