Bed bugs invade

More unwanted guests have made their way into Auglaize County homes.

“We’re getting three to five calls a week asking about more information on bed bugs,” Auglaize County Health Department Environmental Health Director Curt Anderson said.

Anderson said he didn’t have a tally for the total number or calls or reports they had received about the pests, but the number of calls received from throughout the county have been high for the past three or four months.

In addition to the calls, Anderson said they’ve also had county residents bring the insects in to be identified.

It’s the most bed bug complaints the county has ever seen, Anderson said.

“It’s a natural progression, as they continue to spike over the past two years,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen the same thing throughout Ohio.”

To date, he said there have been no Auglaize County

businesses with reported bed bugs, although he said some business owners have expressed concerns about how to keep people with possible bed bugs out of their establishments.

“About all the complaints we have had have been residential, some apartment complexes,” Anderson said.

Reports began coming in about bed bugs in Wapakoneta Village, an apartment complex located behind Lowe’s, a few weeks ago, but Anderson said it has been approximately 10 days since anyone has called about problems there.

There are no requirements for reporting bed bug infestations because they pose no health risks, Anderson said. However, two bills being considered by state legislators would address the growing problem by looking at how they can be treated.

Anderson said treatment for bed bugs can take several weeks.

“Most companies give you a list of things you need to do before they will treat — everything has to be off the floor, laundry done carefully,” Anderson said.

Clothing from the infected room should be placed in plastic bags that can be sealed or plastic containers with tight lids. The clothing may contain bed bugs and eggs and must be washed in hot water and dried at the highest dryer setting for at least 30 minutes to kill bedbugs. Once the clothing is cleaned, it should be stored in sealed bags or plastic containers until the bed bug problem is eliminated.

Bedding should be handled in the same manner and should be changed two or three times a week, since bed bugs may lay eggs there. Wool items, plush toys, shoes and other non-washable items can be placed in a hot dryer for 30 minutes.

Vacuum the floor, mattress and baseboards using a brush attachment and paying special attention to mattress seams. Use the crevice tool on the bed frame and baseboards, then sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch on the floor prior to vacuuming and thoroughly sweeping the floor. When finished, immediately dump the contents of the dust cup into a plastic bag or remove the disposable filter bag and take it outside to an outdoor trash can.

Once the bed is clean, immediately cover the mattress with a zippered mattress cover. It is recommended such a cover stay on the mattress for a year (as bed bugs can live for a year without feeding), so use a durable woven polyester cover labeled as “allergen rated.”

The Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force recommends making beds an island to keep bugs out — buy climb up inceptors (special cups that act as traps), get mattresses and box springs off the floor, pull beds away from the wall, remove bed skirts and make sure bedding doesn’t touch the floor, and don’t place anything on the bed which may have bed bugs, be especially careful when returning from a trip.

The Task Force also suggests cleaning up clutter, which serves as a hiding place for bed bugs.

Professional help is necessary if bed bugs are found, as they cannot be removed without assistance from a licensed exterminator. Bed bugs are becoming resistant to common pesticides and most pesticides will only kill bed bugs if they are sprayed directly. No over-the-counter pesticides are effective against bed bugs. Bug bombs and foggers can make the problem worse by causing the bed bugs to scatter to other areas of the house.

Landlords are required to take care of pest control in buildings with two or more apartments and apartments above, below or next to one with bed bugs must be treated as well.

“Three to four weeks after the first treatment, depending on how bad the infestation is, they may need to come back for a residual treatment,” Anderson said.

The best ways to prevent bed bugs from getting into a residence is to be careful about hotels, used furniture, and those let into homes and where they have been.

“Bed bugs are hitchhikers,” Anderson said. “If someone is in a home with them they can pick them up and bring them in with them.”

Anderson recommended inspecting used furniture, lifting it up and looking under pieces or cushions. Be wary not only of bed bugs, but of rust-colored spots left behind.

“When staying at a hotel — a common way bed bugs are spread — inspect the room first, check between the mattress and the frame, behind pictures on the wall, the bottom of dresser drawers, and keep clothes off the floor,” Anderson said.

The flat, oval, reddish brown bugs are about the size of an apple seed or smaller and feed off blood, hiding during the day and looking for people to bite at night, according to information from the Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force.

Bed bug bites surface as itchy red welts that look similar to mosquito bites, but those bites which surface at night are only one sign that a home is infested with bed bugs and 30 percent of people bitten by the bugs don’t develop itchy welts at all.

For those looking for evidence of bed bugs in their homes, the Task Force recommends carefully inspecting mattresses and box springs with a flashlight, not only looking for live bugs but the spots of manure they leave behind. It is recommended that careful attention be paid to seams, quilting on the mattress, inside the frame of box springs, on the bed frame, and behind the headboard.

If any evidence of bed bugs is found on the bed, check baseboards, behind electrical outlet plates, cracks in the walls, loose wallpaper, and the edge of carpeting.