Bed Bugs: How to Know, What to Do
Hitting them with a shoe just doesn’t seem to get the message across.
Everybody seems to have an understanding that beg bugs are a problem in apartments and hotels and other high-density places…but everyone is pretty much wrong on that regard. Bed bugs don’t particularly care where they settle in — they’re just as comfortable in a one-family rental home as they are in a towering condo.
In the rental industry, bed bugs represent a particularly annoying problem, because there’s a lot of back-and-forth between tenants and landlords about who is responsible for the infestation — and for cleaning it up. One court case recently ruled in favor of the tenant — a whopping $800,000!
Bed bugs go into action whenever it’s warm inside — that can mean during the summer when it’s naturally warm or during the winter when the heaters are on every day. They love to take up residence in small crevices — electrical outlets, heating ducts, the gaps in between slats in your wooden furniture, and so on.
It’s often almost impossible to see a bed bug — you have to look for signs. Signs like:
- Small blood stains on your bedding. If you have lighter-colored pillow cases and sheets, you may see small blood-like stains. In fact, that’s not just blood, it’s bed bug dribble. And because bed bugs are quick, they might make it some distance before they leak a little of your blood — so you might also see these stains on nearby carpeting, walls, or furniture.
- Fecal spotting, in hard-to-reach places. Unlike blood spatter, bed bug leftovers tend to be black or dark rust-colored. You’ll usually see them clustered near areas that the bed bugs inhabit when they’re not feeding. Check along your mattress seams, the edges of your box springs, and corners of your rooms.
- Bed bugs themselves, when grouped. While a single bed bug is barely visible (especially when it hasn’t eaten recently), bed bugs by nature tend to breed quickly and also to hang out together until a lack of space drives them apart. By prying back baseboards, opening dresser drawers, and otherwise exposing out-of-the-way but still warm areas to the light, you can often catch a cluster of bed bugs scuttling about.
- Bed bug shells Bed bugs molt about 5 times as they grow up, and they grow up pretty quickly. Finding a few discarded chitinous exoskeletons along your box springs, inside books kept near the bed, inside your telephone, or simply scattered along your carpet is a decent sign of an infestation.
- A line of bites across your skin. The most common sign of a bed bug problem. Because bed bugs have a natural anesthetic in their saliva, you won’t feel the bites — and at first, you might think that it’s a mosquito or other bug bite. But if you see an Orion’s Belt of bug bites — known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” by bed bug specialists — you know it’s bed bugs.
What To Do About It
If you’re a responsible property manager and a tenant comes you to complaining of bed bugs, and you’ve gone through the signs above and established that you have a real problem, there’s really only one appropriate solution: call an exterminator that specializes in bed bugs. If one apartment is infested, you should simply assume that all adjacent units are infested. And don’t expect your tenants to know — one recent study showed that only half of tenants with bed bug infestations were aware of the problem.