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What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bug bites

Bed bugs have become a major problem throughout the United States, and newspapers and television reports continue to acknowledge that their presence is being more and more common with each year. Many homeowners have started to panic about these intruders, but you may be asking yourself: What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are tiny pests that can live inside of any sort of fabric-covered material. They are most commonly found in mattresses, hence their name, but they can also take up residence in chairs, couches, curtains, your closet and even your car. While you’re sleeping they feed on your blood, resulting in painful bites. Here is a brief history of the bed bug problem in America, as well as some facts about these pests and the most successful ways to control them.

Bed Bugs Are Not A New Problem

With all of the recent media coverage, you may think that bed bugs have only recently become a problem in the United States. This is both true and false, prior to World War II bed bugs were found in almost all American homes. They were such a large problem that many homeowners would leave various forms of bait near their bedside to distract the pests from feeding on the blood of their family members.

Around this time an extremely strong chemical agent called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane was discovered to be very effective in removing bed bugs. This chemical has no taste or color, and if an odor can be detected it is very mild. Homeowners spread this chemical all over their house, and within no time bed bugs were no longer an issue. DDT successfully controlled these pests for many years, and by the time it was banned for its harmful side effects, bed bugs were hardly present on American soil.

Over the last couple of decades these pests found their way back. There are many reasons for this, the most noted being the increasing popularity of international travel. Bed bugs have not yet been controlled in many underdeveloped countries, and they sneak into the luggage of Americans who travel there. Because of their prolific breeding patterns, it takes almost no time for a full-scale infestation to form from these initial pests.

These Pests Are Hard To Control

The natural questions after ‘what are bed bugs?’ is ‘how do you control them?’. Since DDT has been long banned, this is a question that even stumped pest control experts for some time. Regular chemical treatments that are effective on pests like cockroaches, flies and ants have no effect on these pests, and leaving the house and waiting for the infestation to die out takes far too long to be practical. After much research, bed bug experts have discovered that thermal treatments are the best way to battle this pest.

Thermal treatments involve exposing the pest to a drastic temperature for an extended period of time. The most common type of thermal treatment involves using heat. During these treatments experts bring industrial-grade heaters into your home and raise the temperature to higher than 100 degrees. This can cause problems for certain types of electronics as well as items that are made of thin plastics, so your expert will give you a list of items that need to be removed prior to the treatment.

Though far less common, cooling treatments are also occasionally performed. These work in a similar fashion: Reducing the temperature to a level that is fatal to the pests. These treatments are not as effective, and the house may need to remain at this low temperature for much longer than heat treatments in order to work as desired.

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