By Lyle Painter

The last few weeks have been very busy in the bug business. Besides our usual mid-summer customer concerns about hornets and ants, Painter Pest Control Services is receiving customer contacts regarding bed bug infestations. The telephone calls have come from private residential locations as well as commercial, rental properties. The bed bug does not discriminate.

After talking to people about this very unpopular little insect, the teacher in me perceived a need to educate Newberry News readers about Cimex lectularius, or for us less proficient in Latin; the bed bug.

Bed bugs are not new. Historical entomologists found citations about bed bugs as far back as 423 B.C. It is believed they arrived to North America by riding on the clothing of early European explorers.

In the late 1930s, a new pesticide was developed which functioned very effectively to control the bed bug; almost to the point of extinction. The chemical dichloro.diphenyl.trichorethane (DDT) was used in the 1940s to control a multitude of insect pests.

Following mounting evidence of DDT’s environmental and toxicological effects, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which preceded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, began regulatory actions in the late 1950s and 1960s to prohibit many of DDT’s uses. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring provoked widespread public concern over the dangers of improper pesticide use and the need for better pesticide controls.

Another chemical family known as organophosphates was manufactured to replace DDT. In 1996, all “persistent organic pollutants” (POPS) chemicals were banned by the United Nations Environment Program. Research had shown the chemicals had possible carcinogenic properties.

Removing POPS chemicals to protect humans and animals had an unplanned, increased effect on insect reproduction.

In the late 1990s, research entomologists found it was more effective to treat cockroach infestations with bait rather than chemicals. The previous cockroach chemical control was the same treatment for bed bugs. But, bed bugs do not feed on cockroach bait. Consequently, the new method of controlling cockroaches led to better cockroach control, but has not distressed the bed bug populations.

All right students, it is now time for a few questions.

  1. Q. My house is very clean. Why do I have bed bugs?
  2. A. Bed bugs are not interested in your cleaning skills; they are only interested in your blood, for food. Some of the worst infestations in the United States have been in New York City in $1,000+ a night hotels. People who travel a great deal are more likely to be carriers of bed bugs than people who do minor to no traveling. Bed bugs can unknowingly be brought into any dwelling by attaching to clothing or luggage. When traveling, I recommend not keeping your suitcase or other personal items on the carpeted motel room floor. Use the luggage rack, the room desk or other un-upholstered furniture.
  3. Q. How do I know if I have bed bugs in my house?
  4. A. The first sign of bed bugs in a dwelling is when someone gets bitten. People react differently to the bites. Usually the bites are red, raised, and itchy. Many times there are three bites in a row on your body.

If you have a bite when you awake, immediately check your bare mattress for bed bugs or for signs of bed bug activity. Look at the underside of the cording on the top and bottom of the mattress for live bed bugs. They range in size from a pinpoint (baby) to ¼ of an inch (adult). Bed bug nesting areas will have dark black spots where they have excreted the consumed blood. The black spots remind me of the look of placing a black felt pen on a napkin. Also, their dried skin may be found near the dark spots. This skin is a product of their moltings; going from baby to adult.

  1. I woke up this morning and I noticed red, raised itchy bite marks. I checked the mattress and box spring and did not see any bed bugs or signs of them. Does that mean I am imagining bed bugs?
  2. No, it does not. Bed bugs can be found in many places. Bed bugs can live behind floor moldings, outlet boxes, wall pictures, chairs, sofas, lamps, carpets, and drapes. Basically, they are any place where they can hide and reproduce.
  3. Can bed bugs transmit diseases to me or my pets?
  4. No, bed bugs do not transmit diseases to humans or animals. Besides, they very seldom bite animals; they prefer human blood. Mosquitoes are the most dangerous insect for disease transmission.