(ARA) - The conflict between humans and insect pests has raged for centuries, but few battles boast the sheer make-your-skin-crawl ick factor as the war between people and bed bugs. And the battle, once played out largely in hotels with high international traffic, has moved to the home front.
Nine out of 10 pest management professionals have treated single-family homes, apartments and condos for bed bug infestations in the past year, according to the 2011 Bugs Without Borders Survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky. Infestations are occurring in homes, hotels, hospitals, day care centers, college dorms, schools, movie theaters, department stores and even public transportation in every state.
Don't think you're safe from the little blood-suckers just because you travel little or stay at only the best hotels, professionals say. Bed bug infestations have little to do with cleanliness or quality. Bed bugs are notoriously hardy and just a few of the hitch-hiking pests - which you can pick up virtually anywhere these days - are all it takes to ultimately establish an infestation in your home or apartment.
"NPMA advises consumers against the 'this can't happen to me' attitude, because bed bugs are equal opportunity pests," Missy Henriksen, NPMA vice president of public affairs, said in a report of the survey results.
Bed bugs (formally Cimex lectularius) draw their name from their tendency to hide in mattresses and box springs. When the lights go off, the bugs come out, and bite and drink from any unsuspecting human who happens to be unlucky enough to be occupying the bed with them. While they're not yet known to transmit disease, bed bugs can leave you with itchy welts - not to mention severe mental distress.
The good news is that home and apartment owners are not without defenses in the battle against bed bugs. While the tenacious bugs have resiliency on their side, humans have modern technology and awareness in their favor.
Products like ActiveGuard Mattress Liners, produced by Allergy Technologies LLC, can help you take a proactive position in the fight against bed bugs. The mattress cover slips over the mattress and/or box spring like a fitted sheet, and uses proprietary technology to kill bed bugs and dust mites upon contact. The product not only kills new bed bug infestations, it continues to provide protection beyond the typical bed bug life cycle. ActiveGuard can be used as part of a comprehensive bed bug control program or as a pro-active standalone tool for prevention against bed bugs establishing in bedding.
You can also take steps to help reduce your risk of bringing bed bugs home with you. NPMA offers some advice:
* Upon check-in at your hotel, examine bed linens for tell-tale blood spots.
* Conduct a visual inspection using a small flashlight. Pay special attention to the mattress, box spring, headboard and other areas within the vicinity of the bed
* Store suitcases in plastic trash bags during hotel stays.
* Vacuum suitcases immediately after you return from a vacation.
* Thoroughly inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home, especially mattresses and box springs. In fact, you may want to have items inspected by a pest control professional who is more versed in what to look for.
* Regularly inspect pet bedding for signs of infestation.
* Before trying on an item, inspect it for blood spots left by feeding bed bugs. Look at inside seams for any signs of sticky white eggs, fecal droppings, shed skins (casts) and live bugs.
* In the dressing room, hang your clothes on hooks rather than laying them across cushioned seats or on the carpeted floor.
* On the ride home, keep new purchases tied and sealed in the store bag, and shake articles outside before bringing them into the house. Launder clothes immediately in hot water or steam/dry clean delicate items; 30 minutes at the hottest possible setting will kill bed bugs and their eggs.
If bed bugs manage to move in despite your precautions, it's not likely you'll be able to get rid of them yourself. Just 25 percent of consumers try to treat bed bugs themselves before calling a pro, down from 38 percent a year ago, according to the NPMA survey. To learn more, visit www.allthingsbedbugs.org.