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So you found a bug on your mattress, or perhaps somewhere else in your home. You’ve seen bed bugs on the news, heard horror stories from your friends or family, and the sight of a little brown bug sounds the alarms in your head. You have bed bugs! Hold on, though — before you torch […]

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Bed Bug Imposters: How to Identify Bed Bugs

So you found a bug on your mattress, or perhaps somewhere else in your home. You’ve seen bed bugs on the news, heard horror stories from your friends or family, and the sight of a little brown bug sounds the alarms in your head. You have bed bugs!

Hold on, though — before you torch the apartment and begin life anew, it’s a good idea to confirm your suspicions. Some pest control companies estimate that up to 80% of their bed bug calls are from people who don’t actually have bed bugs. Every type of pest requires a different type of treatment, so rushed efforts against the wrong species may just be a waste of time and money. You’ll want to learn how to identify bed bugs (and how to tell them apart from similar pests) so that you know whether or not to treat for bed bugs.

Common Imposter Bugs

Brown carpet beetle

A brown carpet beetle. Photo credit: gbohne (Flickr user)

Arguably the common pest most visually like a bed bug is the brown carpet beetle. These aren’t common in the US, but they are widespread in Europe. They are also called “vodka beetles” as a reference to their scientific name, Attagenus Smirnovi.

Unlike bed bugs, carpet beetles do not feed on blood. Instead, their meal of choice is – you guessed it – carpet. They are also known to dine on skin, fur, and wool, all of which contain the fibers and other nutrients they are looking for. They are only about half the size of an adult bed bug, and have thicker antennae.

Drugstore beetle

A drugstore beetle. Photo source: Kamran Iftikhar.

Another tiny lookalike beetle is the drugstore beetle, also known as the bread beetle or biscuit beetle. These are a bit larger than the brown carpet beetle, but still not as large as the average adult bed bug. They also do not bite people — drugstore beetles got their names by infesting stocking room bags of grains, bread, and other food. They may be found feeding on hair or leather in your bedroom or living room.

Cigarette Beetle

A cigarette beetle. Photo credit: CSIRO.

Similar to the drugstore beetle in appearance and stature is the cigarette beetle, also known as the cigar beetle or tobacco beetle. These little brown pests can be found feeding in cigarette packets, as well as loose tobacco or stored bales. Even if you don’t smoke, you might still find them hunting for cereal, dried fruit, or flour.

German cockroach

A German cockroach.

The bed bug look-alike you are most likely to find in the US is probably the German cockroach. While the adults look almost nothing like bed bugs, their smaller and rounder nymph form is a bit closer to the suspect. In either case, they are so common throughout the country that their appearance near a bed raises a lot of false alarms. This is why it’s so important to learn what bed bugs look like, and how to tell them apart from other common bugs.

Identifying Bed Bugs

Adult bed bug

An adult bed bug. Photo credit: Gilles San Martin.

An adult bed bug is tan or brown, but can appear more red after they’ve fed. They average about 5 mm long as an adult — a little larger than the beetles shown above, but smaller than a German roach. They are flat-bodied and are unable to jump or fly, a dead giveaway of many common imposters.

You aren’t likely to find bed bugs in your kitchen, bathroom, or garage, since they aren’t as interested in pet food, wood, or hair as many other household pests are. Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, and will prefer human hosts over any others. That means you will almost never find them outside of a bedroom or living room, unless they are in the process of travelling from one host to another.

Still not sure if the bug you spotted is a bed bug or not? Try taking a clear picture of the bug and posting it on our forum. Our resident bed bug experts or local pest control operators can help you identify the species you’re dealing with. That way, you are one step closer to starting the right treatment process.

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MM Novato Treatments

Bed bugs have been with us for a long time. They’re not exactly an old friend, but they have been with our species through thick and thin. Bed bugs have been described in writing for thousands of years, and the science surrounding them has been bizarre throughout the years. Some of the earliest references of […]

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The Future of Bed Bug Treatments

A 15th century guide on bed bug sanitation

A 15th century guide on bed bug sanitation. Credit: Wellcome Images

Bed bugs have been with us for a long time. They’re not exactly an old friend, but they have been with our species through thick and thin. Bed bugs have been described in writing for thousands of years, and the science surrounding them has been bizarre throughout the years. Some of the earliest references of bed bugs included medicinal properties for treating ailments like snake bites, ear infections, and hysteria.

In recent years, our relationship with bed bugs has changed. Home infestations rose to universal prominence in the 19th and early 20th century, and they’re coming back again at the turn of the 21st. We are now much more interested in bed bug treatments that are against bed bugs, not using them. But what does the future of these treatment methods look like, now that bed bugs are threatening to take over our daily lives yet again?

A History of Bed Bug Treatments

For as long as people have been plagued by bed bug infestations, they have desperately experimented with ways to stop the biting. Traditional bed bug treatments include using bean leaves — which have tiny barbs that pierce the bug’s shell — as well as bowls of oil under beds, smoke from burning decayed leaves as a method of home fumigation, and plant ash applied much like diatomaceous earth is often used today.

As electricity became common in the early 20th century, bed bugs had an easier time surviving the winters, and were able to become even more prominent than before. New methods of treatment were needed to curb this growing world threat. When US military bases began reporting bed bug infestations during World War II, the weapon of choice was fumigation with Zyklon B (which is infamous for its use in Nazi extermination camps).

DDT spraying during World War II

DDT spraying during World War II. Credit: National Museum of Health and Medicine

After the war, Zyklon’s use decreased and was largely replaced as an insecticide by DDT. DDT was so effective against bed bugs that the species was nearly wiped out in many parts of the world. However, its adverse effects on many wildlife species made DDT the target of widespread criticism, and its use was mostly banned by the end of the 20th century.

Today’s Challenges

No one knows exactly why bed bugs are coming back with such prevalence. While many are quick to point the blame at the banning of DDT in 2001, experts doubt that DDT would have prevented this new epidemic. With their uncanny ability to rapidly build resistance to many pesticide chemicals, bed bugs found today are believed to be widely immune to DDT. To make matters worse, most pesticide sprays found at local grocery and hardware stores still use outdated ingredients that are no longer effective against today’s strains of bed bugs.

There are a few common theories explaining how bed bugs have been able to return so dramatically. After the end of the Cold War, airline deregulation made air travel much more affordable and available across the globe. It’s likely that bed bugs took advantage of these new travel routes to spread from where they had managed to survive the scourge of DDT. Other factors include the growing prominence of year-round climate control, making it easier for bed bugs to survive and thrive year-round.

Looking Forward

It’s almost certain, at this point, that bed bugs will be here to stay for a long time. If we want to keep our collective sanity, we’ll need to educate the world on new and effective ways to deal with bed bug infestations as they become even more common in the coming years. Fortunately, bed bug treatments can be done effectively and affordably, whether by a professional or in a do-it-yourself fashion.

Holistic treatment methods are quickly gaining preference by pest control professionals and homeowners alike. Recognizing that many techniques are not effective by themselves, but can be part of a very effective combined process, a number of common holistic procedures have started to make their way into the public spotlight. Bed Bug Supply’s own 4-step solution is built on a combination of chemical and nonchemical treatment methods, and includes defensive tools to help prevent future infestations.

Due to the spread of bed bug infestations across the country, manufacturers of insecticides and other products have begun designing and producing treatment tools aimed specifically at bed bug treatment. Even today, new products like the Cimex Eradicator, Thermalstrike Ranger, and CimeXa dust specialize exclusively in killing bed bugs. What used to be a loose portfolio of general-purpose tools is quickly evolving into a whole market aimed solely at making bed bug treatments more effective.

Modern bed bug research

Modern bed bug research. Credit: US Navy

In the coming years, we may begin to see even more unique and innovative bed bug fighting tools enter this growing market. Researchers are hard at work discovering and studying new and unusual techniques that may be viable for consumer use in the near future. Concepts on display at recent conferences include fungal spores that sprout and strangle bed bugs or antibiotics in human blood that may weaken bugs that ingest them. The war on bed bugs is just getting started, and humanity is going to go in guns blazing.

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MM Novato News

Alright, bed bugs – pack your bags and book your tickets, because we have the 10 hottest destinations for you and your whole family. These are the cities with the most bed bug infestations in 2014, according to data gathered from Orkin, Terminix, and our own customer analytics here at Bed Bug Supply. 10. Dallas, Texas The […]

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The List is In: the Top Bed Bug Cities in 2014

Bed bugs attack Chicago for second year in a row

Alright, bed bugs – pack your bags and book your tickets, because we have the 10 hottest destinations for you and your whole family. These are the cities with the most bed bug infestations in 2014, according to data gathered from Orkin, Terminix, and our own customer analytics here at Bed Bug Supply.

10. Dallas, Texas

The thriving commercial district in Dallas attracts professionals from around the world year-round, making the coming and going of hitchhiking bed bugs all the easier. Dallas has slipped from the 9th position in our list last year, but that’s not much comfort to the many Texans dealing with the threat.

9. Atlanta, Georgia

More than 200,000 passengers come in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson every day, and some are bound to leave behind bed bugs from wherever they flew in from. 90-degree summer days and a strong urban density makes it easy for traveling bugs to find a new home… and a new meal. Atlanta was #10 in last year’s list, but has switched places with Dallas due to a climbing rate of infestation on the East Coast.

8. Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio cities are frequent guests to our top bed bug cities lists, and this year is no different. Starting off the series is Cincinnati at number 8, which is a fair drop down from its 5th position last year. Cincinnati is home to one of the most chemically resistant strains of bed bugs, the infamous Cincinnati strain, which is now found all over the country.

7. Los Angeles, California

The West Coast’s largest city is no stranger to our top 10 list, but it’s slipped quite a bit from its previous rank at #3. Hot and dry desert climates combined with a dense and sprawling urban population makes it easy for bed bugs to drink their fill.

6. Detroit, Michigan

Detroit topped our list in 2012 and has been slipping since, possibly due to other cities seeing the same increase of infestations in more recent years. Detroit’s neighbors, Columbus and Chicago, mean that the bed bug concentration in the Great Lakes region is especially high.

5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia has been a roller coaster entry in our lists – The City of Brotherly Love was #5 in 2012 but fell off the list completely a year later, only to reappear again in this 5th seat.

4. Dayton, Ohio

The second Ohio city on this year’s list is the only one to have never made it on our list before. Its close proximity to the Cincinnati metro area means that Dayton shares many commuters and travellers, who may bring bed bugs home from their work or public transit method.

3. New York, New York

“Bed bugs” is now considered a taboo word in the Big Apple, rarely uttered in public. After years of dealing with infestations at home and in public places, New Yorkers are smart to take preventative steps so that they don’t help the city retake its previous rank at #2.

2. Columbus, Ohio

The capital and largest city in Ohio is also home to the highest rate of the state’s bed bug infestations, with some professionals reporting daily cases. Reports have more than doubled in the last two years, which is why Columbus graduated to the #2 position from its previous home at #4 in 2012.

1. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is king again, but this is a crown its 3 million residents could do without. The top bed bug city for the second year in a row, and a top-5 city for even longer than that, Chicago is home to more bed bug infestations than anywhere else in the Midwest due to its extremely busy airport and vibrant commercial environment.

It’s important to note that bed bug infestations can happen anywhere, even in suburbs or rural areas. They happen to be more prevalent in cities due to the higher amounts of apartment complexes and public transit use. Whether your town is on this list or not, you should be prepared and take preventative measures all the same.

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MM Novato Reviews

An undisputed truth of bed bug treatments is that steam is one of the most effective ways to kill the little critters on contact. The nearly universal adoption of high-pressure steamers by pest control professionals has led to an explosion in the number of professional-grade steamers available to the public. Dry vapor steamers range from […]

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Polti Cimex Eradicator Review: Bed Bug Killer of the Future

An undisputed truth of bed bug treatments is that steam is one of the most effective ways to kill the little critters on contact. The nearly universal adoption of high-pressure steamers by pest control professionals has led to an explosion in the number of professional-grade steamers available to the public. Dry vapor steamers range from $300 to over $4,000 and can have any of a wide variety of features. However, they all share a limiting factor in that the heat they rely on to kill bed bugs only comes from one source: the boiler. Italian manufacturer Polti aims to change that with their all-new Cimex Eradicator.

Cimex Eradicator Bed Bug Steamer

Unlike conventional steamers, the Eradicator features a second heating element inside of the gun itself. This chamber rapidly expands and heats the steam that was fed from the boiler before pushing it out of the barrel, resulting in an exceptionally hot and dry steam. With a maximum tip temperature of 356 degrees Fahrenheit, this is easily the hottest steamer we have ever tested. There is also significantly less water vapor emitted by the Eradicator than by any other steamer we’ve seen, which means more heat penetration ability and less cleanup after the job is done.

The features sound good in theory, but is the new Eradicator state of the art or just a flash in the pan? Read on as we find out.

Unboxing and First Impressions

Cimex Eradicator Box

When you’ve unboxed as many steamers as we have, you get used to a certain convention of what will be included. A steamer is usually accompanied with extension tubes, an array of brushes and heads, a couple of microfiber towelettes, and a thin user manual.

Cimex Eradicator Unboxing

You can imagine our surprise then when the Eradicator arrived with none of that. In place of the usual assortment of accessories, we instead pulled out a specialized treatment guide, large multilingual user manual, demonstration DVD, high-quality protective gloves, two steam concentration tubes, a brass cleaning brush, and two bottles of HPMed, Polti’s proprietary cleaning solution. Polti has made every effort to make the Eradicator a unique, specialized, and forward-thinking tool, and the unboxing experience reflects that.

Cimex Eradicator Body

The steamer itself is definitely something special. The rounded edges, solid white body, and tactile buttons and dials make the Eradicator feel more like modern hospital equipment than a sanitation tool. Despite the use of plastic instead of metal, the body and parts all feel very solid and substantial.

Using the Eradicator

Cimex Eradicator Controls

The Eradicator certainly looks high-tech, but how does it handle? To begin our testing, we popped open the patented safety cap and filled the 2-liter tank to capacity. After plugging in the 10-foot cord and pushing on the generous boiler power switch, we waited about 12 minutes for the boiler to do its thing and bring the pressure up. This is about a standard heat-up time, but it felt long because we have been spoiled by the Il Capo’s wicked fast boiler. Fortunately, the generous 2-liter capacity can keep you steaming for up to 2 hours without needing to refill.

Steaming with the Cimex Eradicator

Once the tank was at a boil and the pressure gauge was redlined, it was time to get steaming. Just seconds after we switched on the steam gun (with a separate power button, which is unusual) and pulled the trigger, a torrent of incredibly hot and incredibly dry steam came billowing out of the oversized barrel. From this moment, we knew that the Eradicator was definitely something different – instead of a slow build-up and a narrow jet of wet steam, this gun was blasting out a wide spray of dry vapor from the start. Due to the wide dispersal of the vapor, the risk of blowing bed bugs around instead of killing them in their place is virtually eliminated.

Steaming with the Cimex Eradicator

Our temperature testing wasn’t exactly scientific: we each volunteered to put our hand in front of the jet to see how hot it felt. We definitely don’t recommend trying that at home, because the Eradicator’s steam is extremely hot. The secondary heating element in the gun is no joke, and we believe the manufacturer’s claim of 356-degree max tip temperature. This extreme temperature is the Eradicator’s claim to fame: while it only takes 180 degrees to kill bed bugs on contact, this extra temperature ensures that even bed bugs hiding deep in cracks, crevices, and soft materials like mattresses and upholstered furniture can’t escape the Eradicator’s steam output.

Cimex Eradicator HPMed Bottles

Ridiculous steam output isn’t the only trick up the Eradicator’s sleeve. Polti included two bottles of HPMed, a unique cleaning solution that fits on the bottom of the steam gun and mixes its fluid into the steam. This solution will help remove bed bug fecal stains, blood spots, and that characteristic odor left behind by an infestation. Naturally, this solution isn’t required, and the gun ships with an empty bottle attached for those that don’t want to bother with it.

Also in the box are two steam concentration tubes that are used to narrow the dispersal of steam to a more concentrated central point. However, we felt that the steamer performed better without those attached, so we recommend that you only use those when you absolutely need to focus steam on a tight space.

Wrapping Up

Polti Cimex Eradicator

The Polti Cimex Eradicator is the first steamer on the market made for just one purpose: killing bed bugs. While other steamers have earned their place in many a pest control truck, the Eradicator’s specialization might take over as the tool of choice for fast contact killing. It’s insanely hot, insanely powerful, and still insanely easy to use. There are a lot of bed bugs out there, so the Eradicator has a lot of work to do, and it’s now available in the US for the first time.

Polti Cimex Eradicator Commercial Bed Bug Steamer

Cimex Eradicator is the technological and ecological solution for the elimination of bed bugs. The laboratory and field tests show that the flow of overheated steam, generated by Cimex Eradicator, is able to eliminate 100% of the eggs and more than 90% of the mobile insects in a single treatment.
Our Price: $1,495.00
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MM Novato Treatments

You already know that bed bugs are everywhere these days. They’re popping up in hotels, trains, planes, cruise ships, and even courtrooms. But how do you know if they’ve made their way into your home? If you were unlucky enough to bring home even a single pregnant bed bug, you could be dealing with an infestation […]

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How to Check for Bed Bugs in Your Home

You already know that bed bugs are everywhere these days. They’re popping up in hotels, trains, planes, cruise ships, and even courtrooms. But how do you know if they’ve made their way into your home? If you were unlucky enough to bring home even a single pregnant bed bug, you could be dealing with an infestation in a matter of days or weeks. The sooner you can confirm a bed bug problem, the sooner you can start treating it. Join me as I walk you through how to check for bed bugs in the right places.

Where to Look for Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Hiding Places

Photo credit: Tim Collins

Before you start flipping over every piece of furniture in your home, you’ll need to know where these critters are going to be hiding. Bed bugs feed exclusively on human blood – they’re not interested in being anywhere that doesn’t give them easy access to a sleeping body to chomp on. This means that you’re most likely to find bed bugs near any beds or couches that your family regularly sleeps on, and you’ll almost never find a bed bug in your kitchen or bathroom.

Most infestations are contained to a single bedroom, with bed bugs only venturing to other rooms if their host leaves or their population grows too large for one spot. If someone in your home is experiencing what they think might be bed bug bites, start your search in their bedroom. If someone has recently returned from a trip, start with their luggage and then move on to wherever they usually sleep.

Bed bugs don’t like to hang out in open spaces. They’re not equipped to defend against predators, and are too slow to avoid being stepped on or sat on. To stay safe between meals, bed bugs like to squeeze into tight cracks and crevices, where they are free to rest, reproduce, or digest their meal.

Common hiding places include the seams and folds of the mattress and box spring, the joints and corners of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard, and the cracks and spaces along baseboards, floorboards, and the edge of the carpet. It’s also common to find bed bugs tucked away in nearby furniture like nightstands and dressers.

Common Signs of Bed Bugs

Even though you now know where bed bugs might be hiding, you’re still not likely to find many of them running around. Bed bugs can fit in any space a credit card can fit, making it very easy for them to get out of sight and out of reach. On the other hand, you are likely to find some signs that bed bugs have been actively feeding and reproducing in the area:

Signs of bed bugs

Fecal droppings are thin and dark streaks that bed bugs leave behind after digesting their blood meal. These droppings consist of heavily digested blood, and should smear red when dabbed with a wet cloth.

Blood spots are dark and red and can be found where bed bugs have been crushed by a moving person or other activity that would open their stomach, releasing the freshly-consumed blood meal.

Shed skins are left behind when a bed bug molts, a sure sign that they are progressing through the five instar phases to maturity. Like other insects, bed bugs have an exoskeleton that needs to be replaced by a larger shell as they grow. If you find these golden shells, you’ll know that bed bugs have been reproducing nearby.

Bed bug eggs are milky white and about the size of a grain of rice. These are usually deposited two to five at a time, and will be dropped every day while a female is pregnant.

Bed bugs themselves are dark reddish brown, and will grow to about the size of an apple seed (roughly five millimeters). They have six legs, short antennae, and no functioning wings. Their big, segmented abdomen have tiny hairs that give the illusion of dark bands.

How to Inspect a Room for Bed Bugs

Inspecting for Bed Bugs

To begin your search, gather up a few tools to make the job a little easier. You’ll want a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a stiff card like a bank card to help scrape material out of tight cracks and crevices. If you need help moving your mattress or other furniture, enlist the help of a sturdy friend or neighbor.

Start by checking every seam and fold on the bed or couch, along with the joints and cracks along its frame and underside. Move slowly and carefully; if you rush this job, you might miss important signs. Once you’re done with the main sleeping area, expand from there to nearby furniture and flooring. Keep moving further and further away until you’ve covered the whole room.

What to Do Next

ClimbUp Insect InterceptorsIf you find any signs that confirm bed bug activity, you’ll want to start treating right away. As described in our proven 4-step solution, you can start by treating and isolating the bed, then move on to nearby furniture and other cracks and crevices, hitting every potential hiding place with steam and contact and residual chemicals. As long as you follow the right steps with the right tools, you can be bed bug free in a matter of weeks!

If you are still not sure if you have bed bugs, use some bed bug monitors, like ClimbUp Interceptors or SenSci Volcanos to trap any bed bugs that might try to climb up the legs of a bed or couch. With these traps in place, a sleeping person can act as the “bait”, luring bed bugs out of their hiding places and into these pitfall traps. In the mornings, you can confirm bed bug activity by finding the critters in the traps.

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