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Bed Bug Plug Active Monitor and Trap Review: Best Home Monitoring Solution?

Researchers and pest management pros agree that the best way to beat a bed bug infestation is to catch it early. One or two bed bugs can enter a home quite easily and multiply many times over in a matter of weeks. Waiting until bite marks appear isn’t enough since they don’t appear for everyone and when they do, it’s actually a few days after the feeding occurred before you see or feel a bite.

With that said, monitoring can be tricky, even for professional property managers or pest management. Bed bugs don’t like to be seen, so they tend to tuck away far out of reach until they’re ready for a meal. While you can inspect your bed and nearby areas regularly for signs of bed bugs, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find anything even if bed bugs have been active nearby. It’s worse if there were bed bugs feeding on someone that has since left the area – an unoccupied room will still have an infestation, but now there is no meal to draw them out and they might soon be tempted to travel further from the room to find another meal source.

This is where active monitors come in. In the past, these devices have incorporated some combination of heat, carbon dioxide, and unique pheromones, all of which are what bed bugs use to find a sleeping person to feed on. The problem is that many of these monitors aren’t consistently effective, and the ones that are tend to be pretty expensive and difficult to use, especially over a long period of time. They also haven’t been very easy to blend into your home in the past — the monitors professionals have been using up to now look like something serious is going on. Thankfully, we now have the Bed Bug Plug.

Unboxing and Overview

Bed Bug Plug unboxing

Unlike other bed bug monitoring systems, the Bed Bug Plug is designed to be easy to use and to blend in with a home environment. The basic kit comes in a single travel case and includes the device itself, an AC adapter plug, adhesive strips to fit the device to your mattress or bed frame, and a glue cartridge to trap bed bugs inside.

Bed Bug Plug setup

Setup couldn’t be easier: Just unpack the kit and peel the covers off of the adhesive strips so that they’re ready for use on the device’s protruding rails. Then find a soft spot on the bed or other furniture near a power outlet, even if the room is unoccupied. The adhesive strips aren’t intended for hard surfaces like walls or hardwood; instead, press the device against the bare mattress or a fabric headboard or footboard, then hold it in place for about 10 seconds so that the adhesive strips can take hold. If the room is unoccupied or doesn’t have a mattress available, lay the device flat on the edges of the bed frame or on the floor near the baseboard.

Using the Bed Bug Plug

Bed Bug Plug setup

No active monitoring solution has ever been truly set and forget, where you can just stick it somewhere and leave it alone forever, but the Bed Bug Plug comes closer than anything else. You just need to check the glue traps regularly for captured bugs and replace the traps every 3 months for a fresh one so that it stays nice and sticky. In the past, even the most high-end active monitors couldn’t stay running around the clock without manual upkeep, but the Bed Bug Plug will work 24/7 once installed.

Bed Bug Plug study

If you’re like me, you’ll be shown a simple little device like this with claims that it’ll reliably detect bed bugs and be pretty skeptical. I’ve certainly seen a lot of smaller consumer-oriented devices marketed for that but not proven to work how they need to. In the case of the Bed Bug Plug, a rigorous study was conducted by top entomologists at Rutgers University. In three different tests simulating real world monitoring conditions, the Bed Bug Plug was more effective than other top traps on the market by a huge margin. The unique heating solution built into the device and the reliable trap installed right up against it really works.

Bed Bug Plug on Headboard

However, active bed bug monitors like the Bed Bug Plug aren’t going to be the right choice all the time. If you’re already dealing with an infestation in a room that someone’s sleeping in, then you shouldn’t use an active monitor in that room. The sleeping host is a much larger and stronger lure that more effectively attracts bed bugs than any monitor can – there’s simply too much heat, carbon dioxide, and chemical odor coming off of a human body for a smaller lure to compete, even one as well-designed and proven as the Bed Bug Plug.

In the case of an occupied space, we can actually weaponize that sleeping host and use their luring effect for our treatment. By completely treating the bed first, then isolating it with passive traps like ClimbUp Interceptors, we can create a bed bug-proof bed for the occupant to safely continue sleeping in. When we apply residual sprays and powders to the area, the sleeping host will draw the bed bugs out of hiding so that they come in contact with the chemicals. We’ll also be able to inspect the passive traps on a regular basis to get a gauge of the population. If fewer and fewer bugs are caught in the ClimbUps, we know that the treatment is effective and that we’re closer to complete eradication.

Once a treatment is done, we still can’t be sure that the bed bugs are truly gone. Is the infestation eliminated, or are a few stragglers still hiding nearby? The best way to know for sure is with continued, post-treatment monitoring. Thanks to its long-term, low-maintenance function, the Bed Bug Plug is up to the task. Simply keep the device running for at least six weeks after your treatment to see if any remaining bugs are caught.

With that said, there’s nothing else available today that’s quite like the Bed Bug Plug. No other active monitoring solution is as affordable, effective, and easy to use long-term, and the fact that the Bed Bug Plug so easily hides in plain sight is just a cherry on top. For any sort of long-term bed bug monitoring in a home, the Bed Bug Plug is a no-brainer.

Bed Bug Plug Active Monitor and Trap

Bed Bug Plug is the only device of its kind designed specifically to capture and detect bed bugs before they become a nightmare for you and your family. Small, portable, lab tested and proven, the Bed Bug Plug uses no poisons or hars chemicals to attract and capture bed bugs.
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Bed Bug Plug
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MM Novato FAQ

Bed bugs have been with us for a long time. Despite only returning to epidemic levels in the last few years, the history of bed bugs and their ancestors date back to as much as 11,000 years ago. It was believed that bed bugs used to feed on bats and early humans in caves, then […]

The History of Bed Bugs, from Dinosaurs to Apartments

Bed bugs have been with us for a long time. Despite only returning to epidemic levels in the last few years, the history of bed bugs and their ancestors date back to as much as 11,000 years ago. It was believed that bed bugs used to feed on bats and early humans in caves, then followed those humans as they roamed further out into the world.

Or so was the theory until recently, when researchers found evidence that bed bugs actually lived before humans, crawling the Earth for at least 115 million years. How have bed bugs existed for so long? And what does the history of bed bugs mean when researching ways to get rid of bed bugs for good?

Bed bugs in the 20th century

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

While bed bugs have been feeding on us since ancient times, modern treatment methods didn’t begin appearing until chemical development in laboratories began in the early 1900s. Before then, traditional treatment efforts included the use bowls of oil under beds, laying out bean leaves with tiny barbs, burning decayed leaves to as a smoke-based method of home fumigation, or dusting the bedroom with plant ash.

This all changed after the Industrial Revolution. As electricity in homes became more common, bed bugs were able to more easily survive and thrive during the cold winter months. This allowed them to reproduce all year long and travel to other homes when their nests became overpopulated. As the rate of bed bug infestations increased, so too did the desire for industrious companies to develop a cure.

During World War II, the weapon of choice against bed bugs was fumigation with Zyklon B. This was somewhat effective, but Zyklon B developed an infamous reputation for its use in the death chambers of Nazi extermination camps. After the war, Zyklon B was largely replaced by DDT. DDT is an organochlorine that first gained favor in its use controlling malaria and typhus. By the end of 1945, DDT was widely available for sale to the American public.

DDT was so effective against 20th century bed bugs that it nearly wiped out the species completely. However, DDT was found to be toxic to a wide range of marine animals and was eventually linked to the thinning of eggshells. This thinning contributed to the decline of raptor birds such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. DDT was later banned in the US and those bird populations steadily recovered.

Today’s bed bugs are almost completely resistant to the effects of DDT and similar compounds. Common strains of bed bugs found in the US are also resistant to the pyrethroids that were developed after the DDT ban, forcing insecticide producers to develop new compounds. With the combination of these resistances and increased air travel, bed bugs have returned to their epidemic levels of yesteryear.

Prehistoric blood suckers

remains of bedbug relative
A partial fossil of a bed bug ancestor that dates back 5,100 years. Source: Science News

Modern bed bug infestations have spurred the need for modern bed bug research. While scientists are gradually learning more about these strange pests, their research has dug up a shockingly long timeline of the history of bed bugs. In 2017, the oldest known specimens of bed bug ancestors were found in an Oregon cave system. These fossils dated back somewhere between 5,000 and 11,000 years ago, which would place them within the first known human settlements such as Jericho and Aleppo.

Until very recently, there was a single dominant theory regarding the history of bed bugs and their ancestry: ancient predecessors fed on bats in caves until early humans came to inhabit the same caves. These bat bug ancestors then evolved alongside both bats and humans, feeding on the blood of both hosts to grow and reproduce. When those humans left the caves, the bugs that fed on them went with them. This lead to the divergence of the species known today as bed bugs and bat bugs.

This theory was just shaken by a discovery made in May of 2019: early ancestors of bed bugs have actually been around for at least 115 million years. This means that the parasites predated the bats that were their supposed first hosts by more than 30 million years. Not only does this mean that bed bug ancestors were feeding on animals that have long since gone extinct, it also means that the divergence of bed bug species happened long before mankind stopped dwelling in caves.

How this affects modern research

Modern bed bug research. Credit: US Navy

So what does this turn of events mean for research into new bed bug treatment methods? The reason it’s hard to provide a simple answer for that is because modern research of bed bugs is only just beginning. We don’t know yet if DNA research and genome mapping will lead to treatment or prevention breakthroughs, as such work has only taken off as a result of this recent bed bug epidemic.

The ancient ancestor discovery that broke the cave-dwellers theory was found by accident – researchers were actually trying to learn more about the unique method of mating that bed bugs employ. The practice is called “traumatic insemination”, in which the male pierces the female’s abdomen with his aedeagus and injects his sperm through the wound into her abdominal cavity.

In fact, the genome of the common bed bug was only mapped recently, in 2016 by researchers at the University of Rochester. Those researchers anticipate that the method in which they isolate bed bug genes could make those genes effective targets for future pest control products.

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 Reviews

When you first found out you had bed bugs, one of the first thoughts you had was probably what spray you needed to buy to kill them. But there are so many insecticides to choose from when preparing for a bed bug treatment. Which one will work the best? Which is best for your needs? […]

Best Bed Bug Sprays and Powders in 2019

Using a bed bug spray

When you first found out you had bed bugs, one of the first thoughts you had was probably what spray you needed to buy to kill them. But there are so many insecticides to choose from when preparing for a bed bug treatment. Which one will work the best? Which is best for your needs? Here at Bed Bug Supply, we have years of experience helping people get rid of bed bugs on their own. Let’s go over the top professional-grade bed bug sprays and powders:

Best Contact Sprays

Bed bug sprays and powders come in two categories: contacts and residuals. A contact killer works exactly how you’d expect: it kills bed bugs on contact. This is a great solution for quickly cutting down on the population of a bed bug infestation.

Most common pesticides use outdated synthetic pyrethroids as their main active ingredients. While these are budget-friendly and work well with certain insect pests, they tend not to be effective on bed bugs that have developed a resistance to them over generations. Keep a close eye on the active ingredients when choosing the bed bug sprays for your treatment.

For Mattresses and Upholstery: STERI-FAB

While it was originally designed and marketed as a disinfectant, STERI-FAB has been used as an effective contact bed bug killer for many years. This popular spray evaporates within minutes, leaving no residues behind. The primary ingredient is isopropyl alcohol, which is non-staining and has no odor after it evaporates.

We like to use STERI-FAB to treat more sensitive areas and materials that you would be hesitant to treat with heavier bed bug sprays. This includes areas that come in contact with your skin like mattresses, sofa cushions, chairs, and other upholstered furniture.

For Bed Frames and Hard Surfaces: JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs

Hard materials such as wooden bed frames, hardwood floors, baseboards and moldings usually have tight joints, nooks, and crannies that bed bugs can tuck away in. Hit these hiding places hard with a powerful contact killer like JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs. This oil-based spray uses natural pyrethrum, a proven and potent bed bug kill.

JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs is ideal for broad application, thanks to its quick evaporating and low odor. You can use JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs to treat the bed frame, baseboards, floorboards, and wooden furniture in a bedroom, then follow up with STERI-FAB on more sensitive surfaces like the tufts and seams of the mattress.

Best Residual Sprays

Contact bed bug sprays are great for quickly cutting down on the population of an infestation, but they aren’t enough on their own. Contact killers evaporate and stop working shortly after they’re applied. For long-term management, you need residual bed bug sprays that can keep killing long after you lay them down.

For Mattresses and Upholstery: JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus

Just as with the contact bed bug sprays we already covered, you need to be considerate of which surface types you’re using a product on. Mattresses, sofas, and other soft upholstered surfaces are more sensitive during a treatment. Not only is there a greater risk of stains or lingering odors, but these are the surfaces your skin will be coming in contact with most often.

That’s why we recommend JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus. This is a 12-week residual killer with a non-staining, water-based formula that is safe for use on these types of fabrics. Use it on sofas, chairs, mattresses, curtains, and even carpeting. As long as you allow the spray to dry before touching the surface, it will kill bed bugs for weeks while leaving you safe and comfortable.

For Bed Frames and Hard Surfaces: Bedlam Plus

Contrary to popular belief, most bed bugs in an average infestation won’t be found on the mattress. You’ll find more in the joints and corners of the bed frame, as well as nearby nightstands, baseboards, and floorboards. For these hard surfaces, we recommend Bedlam Plus, a compound formula by MGK.

Bedlam Plus combines a dual-action residual compound with a fast-acting synergist to prevent resistance. Bedlam Plus is labeled for critical areas where bed bugs hide: box springs, headboards, walls, floors, and baseboards. Once applied, Bedlam Plus will continue killing for up to 14 days.

Best For Where Bed Bug Sprays Can’t Be Applied

As much as we’d like otherwise, bed bug sprays can’t be splashed on every surface, and into every nook and cranny, of a bedroom. It simply isn’t safe to spray a liquid into spaces with electrical wiring, and it isn’t effective to spray along the edges of the carpet in hopes of reaching beneath said carpet.

That’s where residual powders come in. These are simple, effective solid compounds that can be used where sprays shouldn’t be. They tend not to kill bed bugs as quickly, but they’re essential for a bed bug treatment due to the unique hiding places they are meant to be applied in, such as inside your walls and along the edges of carpet floors.

The Standard: JT Eaton Diatomaceous Earth Powder

One of the greatest values in the bed bug treatment world is good old diatomaceous earth. It’s a naturally occurring powder made from soft sedimentary rock. Diatomaceous earth is easy to apply and can kill bed bugs over an infinite period of time as long as it’s left dry and undisturbed. There are even food-grade variants that are safe for use in grain storage.

Using a powder applicator, you can puff diatomaceous earth along cracks and crevices like baseboards, floorboards, and where the carpet meets the floors. While it’s slow to kill, it’s guaranteed once the bed bug comes in contact with the dust. The dry silica clings to their waxy shells and absorbs vital fluids, slowly dehydrating each bug until it dies.

The Faster-Killing Upgrade: CimeXa

Choosing a bed bug powder used to be easy because there used to only be one good option on the market: diatomaceous earth. Now, CimeXa is rapidly becoming the bed bug powder of choice among pest management professionals.

CimeXa is a unique engineered silica dust that kills bed bugs up to three times faster than diatomaceous earth while keeping the same treatment properties. Like diatomaceous earth, CimeXa works by clinging to bed bugs that come in contact with it, absorbing the waxy cuticle on their shells until they die of dehydration. CimeXa can be applied as a dry dust or be mixed with water and applied through a hand-pumped sprayer. Once applied and left undisturbed, it can work for up to 10 years.

The Winning Combination

With all of these great bed bug sprays and powders to choose from, how can you determine which is right for you? The easy (and hopefully obvious) answer is that you need all of the types of products we discussed: contact sprays, residual sprays, and a residual powder. There are no shortcuts in a proper bed bug treatment, and skipping a step you need will likely cost you more than you saved.

Fortunately, all of these bases are covered by our professional bed bug kits. They’re available in three flavors based on your needs: First, you have the 1-2 room kit, the best choice for small residences. If you need to treat more rooms, you’ll need more spray and powder, so we offer the 3-4 room kit for larger residences. If you’re a professional looking to treat multiple homes, our commercial kit includes enough spray and powder to treat up to eight units.

Keep in mind that these kits are intended to be used as part of our professional 4-step solution. Our 4-step solution has been proven over the years to be the best do-it-yourself method out there. As always, make sure to follow the products’ labels and MSDS for safe and effective usage.

Our complete bed bug kit includes all the powders and sprays needed to treat your home like a professional throughout the initial treatment as well as 2 follow up treatments.
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Professional Bed Bug Kits
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10 Worst Bed Bug Cities in 2019 – Did Your City Make the List?

Worst Bed Bug Cities in America

“Worst Bed Bug City” is an award that nobody will show up to receive. It’s not pleasant to think of your hometown as a bed bug “hot spot”. But while bed bugs are active in all 50 states, some urban and metro centers see more infestations per year than others. Let’s go through the list and discuss why these bed bug cities are the unlucky winners:

#10: Phoenix, AZ

Bed bugs in Phoenix

The capital of Arizona is the only state capital with more than a million residents, making it easily the most populous capital city in the country. Its sprawling suburbs give Phoenician bed bugs ample opportunity to find new homes to infest. On top of that, Arizona’s famously hot and dry climate leads to long summers with residential air conditioning running day and night. This mild indoor climate is ideal for temperature-sensitive pests like bed bugs.

Phoenix has been one of the top 10 bed bug cities for a few years in a row now. Public sightings of bed bugs have been reported by the local news over that time, with bed bugs spotted in hotels, airports, restaurants, schools, and even libraries.

#9: Atlanta, GA

Bed bugs in Atlanta

The 9th worst bed bug city is also the 9th largest metropolitan area in the US. As the home to the world’s busiest airport, it makes sense that Atlanta would struggle with bed bug infestations. These creepy critters have lots of commuters and travelers to hitch rides with, allowing them to easily move from one infestation to the next.

But it’s not just about population and travel. Atlanta also has a warm, humid climate, with long summers and generally mild winters. These conditions are ideal for bed bugs to thrive and reproduce, since their activity level is tied to the overall temperature of their surroundings. In places where it’s warm most of the year, bed bugs will spend less time hibernating and more time feeding and breeding.

#8: Washington, DC

Bed bugs in Washington DC

The nation’s capital is one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 20 million tourists flying in annually. While the city itself is not exceptionally populous, commuters from nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s daytime population significantly during the week. Unfortunately, many of those commuters will take home more than a paycheck.

A recurring theme of our lists of bed bug cities is weather. Like Atlanta and Phoenix above, DC is also home to a toasty, humid climate. With warm springs, hot summers, and mild falls, bed bugs have a long season every year to feed and reproduce without any temperature fluctuations interrupting them.

#7: Baltimore, MD

Bed bugs in Baltimore

Continuing the trend of bed bug cities in subtropical climate zones is Baltimore. This independent city features warm springs and autumns most years, while only three months out of the year have daily average highs below 50°F.

But Baltimore offers more perks to its native bed bugs than just sunny days and air conditioning. It’s a large metro area on its own, and is within commuting distance of Washington, DC, a major travel hub and fellow bed bug cities finalist. Add on the city’s thriving tourism and shipping industries, and you have a recipe that allows bed bugs to travel into Baltimore and stay put.

#6: New York, NY

Bed bugs in New York City

The five boroughs of NYC used to be one of the five worst bed bug cities, but The Big Apple seems to have turned things around in recent years. While there are still hundreds of thousands of infestations treated every year, New York has slipped down the ranks of bed bug cities.

The decline in infestations may be due to government efforts by the city and state. The City of New York offers a bed bug hotline to report infestations, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development conducts urgent inspections after reports are received. Under the NYC Bed Bug Disclosure Act, landlords are required by law to notify prospective tenants about any bed bug infestations that have occurred on their property within the last year.

#5: Cincinnati, OH

Bed bugs in Cincinnati

For various reasons, the state of Ohio has faced some of the worst of this bed bug epidemic over the years. Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati have all been frequent flyers on our lists of bed bug cities, and this year is no different. For 2019, the third-largest city in Ohio is the fifth worst of the big bed bug cities.

Cincinnati has three major sports teams, a huge university, a modern streetcar system, and a nearby airport that acts as a major travel and shipping hub. There’s a lot in the city to attract visitors and residents, and a lot of opportunities for those newcomers to bring bed bugs with them. While winters are colder in Ohio than in the subtropic states, summers in Cincinnati are long and warm enough to give bed bugs plenty of time to mature and reproduce.

#4: Detroit, MI

Bed bugs in Detroit

While the city itself has seen major population decline over the last several years, Detroit’s metro area is second only to Chicago’s in the American Midwest. With its busy airport and riverport, as well as the busiest crossing between the US and Canada, Detroit welcomes visitors for business and pleasure every day. That means bed bugs have ample opportunity to get around town to their next infestation.

While their rank as one of the worst bed bug cities may seem bleak, it’s actually a nice improvement for a city that once topped our list. Due to active efforts by both government agencies and pest management professionals, reports of infestations are down by about 15% this year compared to 2017 and 2018.

#3: Chicago, IL

Bed bugs in Chicago

The third most populous city in the country is also the third most popular city for bed bugs. The metro area that’s affectionately referred to as “Chicagoland” is an absolutely enormous array of cities and suburbs that is home to 10 million people. This gives bed bugs plenty of options to hitchhike from one of Chicago’s airports or public venues to one of so many nearby residences.

As an international hub for finance, industry, and transportation, Chicago has heaps of planes, trains, and cars moving in and out all day, every day. Bed bugs love hiding in clothes, luggage, and personal belongings to travel from their birthplace to a new home, where they can settle down and start a new infestation of their own.

#2: Philadelphia, PA

Bed bugs in Philadelphia

Continuing the trend of bed bug cities in the Northeast and Midwest is Philadelphia, the second top travel destination for American bed bugs. Sitting at the center of the densely populated Boston-Washington corridor, Philadelphia welcomes travelers from Boston, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, and DC, along with other visitors from around the world.

Much like neighboring Baltimore, Philadelphia features a humid subtropical climate. This means hot and muggy summers with short winters, a favorite arrangement for bed bugs looking to start a family.

#1: Columbus, OH

Bed bugs in Columbus

Back to defend its title, Columbus has retaken the rank of one of the worst bed bug cities in America. But with less population, less travel, and colder winters than many other cities on the list, how does Columbus keep coming up as number 1?

Like with other cities, the popularity of Columbus is definitely a factor. As one of the fastest-growing cities in North America, Columbus features both a bustling urban populace and a rapidly expanding metro area made up of suburban communities. This means that both urban pedestrians and local commuters face a risk of crossing paths with bed bugs in the city’s many public places.

While not as warm year-round as the southern bed bug cities on this list, Ohio’s capital still has long, hot, and muggy summers thanks to its humid continental climate. The average daily high is over 60 degrees Fahrenheit for more than half of the year, and the cold and dry winter period tends to come on gradually rather than snap in overnight. This works out favorably for bed bugs that have grown accustomed to the same temperatures that humans are comfortable in.

Did your city make the list? Do your part by reducing the risk of infestation! Early prevention is key, so check out our guide on how to prevent bed bugs, both at home and on the go.

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MM Novato Treatments

The most common way that people get bed bugs is by bringing them home from somewhere else. That’s why it’s natural for bed bugs to incite panic on first sight. When you spot a bed bug, you have no way of knowing how many countless more might be hiding nearby. How can you tell if […]

What To Do If You Found Just ONE Bed Bug

Seeing one bed bug

The most common way that people get bed bugs is by bringing them home from somewhere else. That’s why it’s natural for bed bugs to incite panic on first sight. When you spot a bed bug, you have no way of knowing how many countless more might be hiding nearby. How can you tell if the bed bug is a lone traveler or a sign of an infestation?

Bed bugs are masters of both hitchhiking and hiding. It’s hard to say for sure whether the bed bug you found is all alone or not. Yet that’s an important question to answer because it determines your next steps. Should you be working on prevention or eradication?

First Thing First: Make Sure It’s a Bed Bug

It may seem like an obvious thing: you found a reddish/brownish crawling bug that looks like the bed bugs you’ve seen online or on TV. Yet many supposed bed bug sightings are actually false alarms. Since different pests spread differently, and are treated differently, it’s important to be sure of exactly what you’re dealing with.

Adult bed bug

Bed bugs have a distinct body shape, shell pattern, and color. They are especially distinguished as an adult, which is when you’re most likely to see them crawling around in the open. Unlike beetles and most other indoor pests, bed bugs have mostly flat bodies rather than rounded or bulbous abdomens. They have a reddish-brown hue and thick bands that make their shell appear vaguely striped. Most importantly, their abdomen ends in a point, similar to the narrow tip of an apple seed.

Brown carpet beetle

If you found a dark round bug crawling on your bed or elsewhere in your home, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that it’s a bed bug. The pest might actually be one of many common indoor pests, such as carpet beetles, cigarette beetles, or flour beetles. If it’s smaller than a bed bug, it might actually be a mite or a tick. If the legs are much larger than a bed bug’s, it’s more likely a roach or a spider.

Bed Bug Sightings in Public

Bed Bugs on NYC Subway

Bed bugs are expert travelers. They can hitchhike from place to place by hiding on coats, backpacks, luggage, and more. This is the main way that infestations spread: a pregnant bed bug hitches a ride from one home to another through a public setting. This often occurs on planes, trains, buses, waiting rooms, and other public places with a lot of foot traffic.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand why you might spot a bed bug in public, and why that’s not necessarily reason for panic. When seen in public, bed bugs are most likely in the process of traveling between infestations. Bed bugs feed on sleeping humans, and as such need a consistent sleeping host nearby in order to thrive in one place. Since bed bugs won’t have a reliable food source in public, nests there are unlikely.

Spotting a Bed Bug at Home

Bed bugs on mattress seam

Seeing a bed bug near where you sleep is a bigger concern. Whether it’s a juvenile or an adult, appearing well-fed or not, you can’t be sure if the bug has recently fed on someone in your home. To make matters worse, the number of bed bugs you see out in the open offers no indication of how many bugs are actually in the area. For every bug you see out and about, there could be dozens more hiding out of sight.

Once you’ve identified at least one bed bug in your home, you’ll probably wonder if it came alone recently or was born there as part of a nest. Bed bugs feed and reproduce every 5-10 days. This means that the “window” from lone traveler to early infestation is only that narrow. If you’ve been on the go in the last 5-10 days, such as on a business trip or holiday, there’s a chance that this is the only bed bug in the home. If not, you’re most likely dealing with an established infestation.

“It Depends”

While we prefer to offer concrete facts and advice, this article in particular has a lot of “if”s and “maybe”s in it. That’s the reality of gauging bed bug infestations: you can’t know if it’s an infestation until you find the infestation (or don’t). The only way to know for sure is with a thorough investigation, so let’s talk about how that would go:

Start by stripping the bed of its sheets, covers, and pillows. Then thoroughly inspect the mattress, box spring, headboard, footboard, frame, sheets, covers, pillows, and anything else that was on the bed. Once you’ve checked out all of the seams and folds of the bed, move on to nearby furniture, then the other cracks and crevices throughout the room. Make sure to search slowly and carefully so that you don’t miss any signs of bed bugs. Use a flashlight and a stiff card (like a bank card) to help scrape stuff out of tight spaces. Remember that bed bugs have flat bodies and they can fit in tight spaces – pretty much anywhere a credit card can fit.

Inspecting a mattress for bed bugs

Of course, no visual inspection is 100% reliable. Even if you don’t find any other signs of bed bug activity in the room, you should play it safe with some basic prevention steps. The main method of preventing infestations is to isolate the bed to make sure bed bugs can’t reach its occupants while they’re asleep.

Move the bed away from the walls and any nightstands or other furniture. Tuck in or remove any hanging skirts or sheets, and remove any storage under the bed that is touching any part of the frame. The only thing your bed should be touching is the floor via its legs. If you don’t have a bed frame with legs, you should purchase one to sleep in, at least until you are bed bug free.

SafeRest encasement installation

To complete the isolation, wrap the mattress and box spring in bed bug proof encasementsand place ClimbUp Interceptors under each leg of the bed. The encasements ensure that no bed bugs that evaded your search can escape or feed, and they make future inspections much easier by providing a single smooth surface. The traps will prevent bed bugs from climbing up your bed legs, stopping them from reaching you in your bed. As bed bugs attempt to get to you, they will climb up the edge of the interceptor and fall into the perimeter pitfall where they can’t escape. With the ClimbUps in place, you can monitor the population of bed bugs in the room over the next several weeks (and even longer to avoid future infestations).

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