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Posted on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 12:14 p.m.

Top 5 things you didn't know about getting bed bugs

By Tina Reed

It's a subject that seems to elicit collective "ewws" whenever it comes up: Bed bugs.

And while it seems like those pesky little buggers are a nuisance of years past, they're cropping up more and more in cities around the U.S. 


A bed bug is shown.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Community Health

And with no sign these small, wingless, blood-sucking insects are going away any time soon, the state of Michigan released a comprehensive online guide last week for recognizing the signs of them and getting rid of them.

Here are a few tips we gleaned from the guide, as well as from Washtenaw County heath officials:

1. They're "stealthy" little critters: According to the new state materials, bed bugs are able to go undetected so long because their saliva has desensitizing agents that prevent the host (that's you, humans) from feeling it when they bite. They leave lesions the size of a pin prick that may not become inflamed.

2. They're messy little house guests: They like to set up shop directly on the mattress along the seam and folds, as well as in the box spring or bed frame. When they come out to feed, they defecate, leaving reddish brown spots called "blood spots," and they cast skins. You may know you've got them if you find these fecal spots on the bed linens. You may also find small bloodstains on your sheets and mattresses, and highly infected homes may take on a coriander-like odor.

3. There are some things you can do yourself to control them: Vacuuming around the bed throughly - including the mattress and box-spring - and reducing excess clutter can help. Just make sure to dump the vacuum's contents into a sealed container outside and get rid of it pronto. It's also suggested scrubbing the seam of the mattress, or steam cleaning it can help as well. Other suggestions include washing bedding and night clothes in hot water and drying in high heat or freezing them for at least 24 hours. Watch out for applying flammable or toxic liquids like pesticides on the mattress. You do intend to sleep there again, right?

4. But sometimes, there's nothing you can do about bed bugs yourself: If bed bugs are found in bedding (mattresses or box-springs) or upholstered furniture, it is difficult to ensure cleaning alone will rid the item of bed bugs. Bed bugs may be inside the items and heat or steam may not be able to reach them. Unless the item is completely reconditioned - the cover taken from frame and treated - it is unlikely the product can be determined “bed bug free."

5. You can prevent getting bed bugs, sort of: Sometimes, even the most careful can run into issues with bed bugs. Among suggestions for preventing them from getting into the home in the first place is to inspect and clean all used or antique furniture. Taking apart bed frames will expose additional bug hiding places. When you travel, inspect any room where you're staying and examine your luggage for insects before you bring your belongings back home. Caulk any holes in the floors or wall. Place your bed frame legs into dishes or cups with mineral oil to coat the bottom three or four inches of the legs with petroleum jelly to prevent bugs that do get in your home from crawling into bed with you.

Here's a question readers: Have you gotten bed bugs in your home before? How did you discover them and how did you ultimately get rid of them?

Tina Reed covers health and the environment for You can reach her at, call her at 734-623-2535 or find her on Twitter @TreedinAA.



Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 10:19 p.m.

@cibachrome: it's extremely unlikely for bedbugs to come in on a pet. Bedbugs don't ride around on a host. After dark they come out of their hiding place, move onto a sleeping person or animal, bite and feed for just a few minutes, and then climb off again and go back to their hiding place. The vast majority of bedbug transfers happen when they hide in bedding or furniture that is moved to a new location.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 9:26 p.m.

Brought home bedbugs from Puerto Vallarta Mexico in mid June. Flight home was delayed one day due to engine problem. U.S. Airways put us up in an ok motel but that is where we got the bedbugs because I woke up the next morning with what I thought were mosquito bites. Believe bugs got into my daughters clothing as she ( like most teens-young adults) just throw their clothes on the floor or wherever. Took a hike from there into our luggage. Three days after being home I see 4 adult bedbugs ( size of pinkie fingernail) over one weeks time. None appeared to have eaten as they were very slim. I went and bought cans of spray containing pyrethrin. I had captured one of the litter critters for testing and sprayed him from about 4 feet away. He died within an hour. Sprayed the entire house several times over including the beds ( minus the linens-washed them on the hotest water setting). Put double sided tape on all the bed mattresses. Upon wife's insistance had Terminex come out and quote me $1100.00 to do the entire house. A month later with consistent spraying the bugs are no where to be found other than the four adults I did see when we first got home. I spent less than 100 dollars doing it myself and following advice on the internet like the double sided tape thing and washing all linen and clothing in hot water,vacumning the house many times over, spraying the suitcases many times over etc. Good luck to anyone out there who gets them.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 8:18 p.m.

I understand that they cannot survive about 113 degrees Fahrenheit. I know of someone whose home was infested after having returned from a 4-star hotel in Toronto (and the hotel accepted and assumed responsibility). They had a professional exxterminator eradicate them by somehow raising the heat within the home to 130 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours. Heat was infused into the house from the outside.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 5:36 p.m.

@ cibachrome...Generally pets don't bring them in to the home, but they can attach to a pet and be transfered around the house. Bed bugs like fluffy furnature because it is easy to hide in and people sit or lay on them. One female can lay up to 200 eggs a day. You can pick up the eggs and tranfer them to different areas, but you would notice a bed bug on your body. They look like large fleas. They can go dormant for up to 18 months and survive freezing temperatures. When you are trying to get rid of them, also look behind light sockets and light switches. They come out mainly at night, because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide when you breath out. That's when they know you are asleep. THen they inject you with a novicaine type liquid then feed off your blood. They will travel anywhere a bug can. They don't jump, but they can climb high and fall off, so it looks like jumping. Putting vaseline on the ends of your bed will keep them from crawling up the bed posts. They can't grip through the jelly. Vacuum your carpets really well, and steam clean them. I would recommend just dumping the mattresses, wood bed frames, bedding, or furnature. It is very expensive to have them cleaned, far cheaper to buy new. Hope this helps. I'm off to shower skin is crawling!


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 2:16 p.m.

Question for the experts: Can pets bring them into a house? I use flea and tick shampoo on them, but not every day. Or, is this a furniture/bedding transfer only? And what about overnight guests? Do people have them on them all the time just waiting to nest? Or, do they stay in the bedding?

peg dash fab

Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 2:10 p.m.

I try to avoid problem hotels when I travel by checking on first. And when I get to a hotel room, I always inspect under the mattress, looking for tell-tale signs like red stains (from the human blood in their excrement! ew!) or dead bugs.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.

the only problem with tea tree oil is it can lead to breast development in prepubesent boys. so be careful using it around young boys.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 12:05 p.m.

I always mist my mattress with diluted tea tree oil when I'm changing my sheets. I have read that it is an effective repellent, but it will not kill the little critters if you're already infested.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

EEK! We got bed bugs last year from one of our neighbors. they gave an infested pillow to my son and they got in his mattress, and wooden bed frame. We couldn't figure out why the kids had this weird rash. The doctor said it was either allergies or just a rash. Once I found the bugs crawling all over the bed, we had to throw out the mattresses and frames, scrub the window sills and lay down an insecticide. Home Defense from Home Depot worked amazingly well. Killed every little nasty thing. DO not use foggers. All it will do is bring the bugs out to party. Wash everything in hot hot hot water and throw out what can't be washed. these are hard to get rid of!

Tina Reed

Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

The story has been changed to fix a typo.


Mon, Jul 19, 2010 : 11:28 a.m.

This needs to be addressed at Miller Manor. So far this year, there have been three to four cases of bed bugs