Despite their small size, bed bugs can cause big problems for almost everyone. Notorious for their pervasive nature, these blood sucking parasites are extremely difficult to get rid of yet can easily infest their current environment in the blink of an eye. Residents of Atlanta, Georgia can attest to this all too well as the city has seen a dramatic resurgence in recent years with bed bugs being reported everywhere from nursing homes, dorm rooms and schools to hospitals, residences, offices and more.
A common misconception with this insect is that its presence is indicative of lack of hygiene or unsanitary living conditions. This is simply not the case as bed bugs can infest even the cleanest of homes and due to their excellent hitchhiking abilities, can also quickly spread this infestation to nearby environments.
Although Atlanta is known to welcome throngs of visitors to the city each year, the increase in bed bugs is most definitely an unwelcomed activity. Ironically enough, the nature in which bed bugs can invade and spread, may be attributed to the frequent travelers that come and go every year. Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the country, giving bed bugs the perfect opportunity to travel to and fro, unknown to the very travelers that are carrying them.
Truly Nolen of West Atlanta, GA holds a magnifying glass up to the major issue of these small, nuisance causing insects and takes a look at the historical aspect of bed bug prevention.
Hey Bed Bugs! Why Atlanta?
While there is more than one contributing factor to the prevalence of bed bugs in Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Public Health Environmental program identifies several probable causes for the increase of bed bugs in the city including:
- Worldwide increase in bed bug activity
- Frequent introductions of bed bugs during international travel
- Changes in pest management practices and resistance to pesticides
- Lack of public awareness, which can lead to the increase in the spread of bed bugs
So, why Atlanta? Although bed bugs are found in all 50 states, the population density in Atlanta is enough to provide easy avenues for bed bugs to transfer from household to household as the Metro Atlanta Chamber cites more than 5.3 million people residing in the city with nearly 150,000 businesses. In addition to the regular population, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau gives astounding numbers as the city boasts over 42 million visitors annually. Bed bugs can easily transition from suitcases and hotel rooms as either through the bug itself or their eggs, latching on to an unsuspecting victim only to be re-introduced to someone else.
Bed Bugs – Atlanta’s Unwelcomed Visitors
Bed bugs were always considered to be a common public health pest throughout the world. Though not dangerous, a bed bug infestation is time consuming and stressful on anyone who is affected. First brought to the United States by early colonists, bed bugs were busy wreaking havoc for many years until new pest control methods were adopted and people became more aware of preventative measures and best practices in the form of washing machines and vacuum usage.
Conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, the 2015 Bugs Without Borders survey found that “bed bug infestations in the United States continue at high rates, with 99.6 percent of respondents having treated for bed bugs in the past year. That number – which has been consistent for the past few years – is significantly higher than 15 years ago, when only 25 percent of pest professionals reported treating for bed bugs.”
Major Milestones in Eradication
Developed in the 1940’s shortly after World War 2, DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) was one of the first chemicals used as pesticide. It was used as an effective pest control method for farms and homes and was largely responsible for the drastic decline in bed bug infestations. In 1972 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deemed its effects harmful on the environment, as well as posed health risks to humans and discontinued its usage.
Back then, DDT and Malathion were used on a wide-scale to combat bed bug infestations, however, since that time innovations and advances in pest control methods have introduced new products to the market. The EPA has over 300 registered products that are safe for consumer usage, with some for specific use by pest control professionals to aid in the eradication of bed bugs. Although new products have been introduced, regulatory agencies have also limited the availability of stronger insecticides.
Back to Basics- Bed Bugs 101
Bed bugs do not fall into the category of dangerous, disease transmitting pests, however, they are considered to be a public health pest that can have physical, emotional and financial repercussions.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency outlines the negative impact that a bed bug infestation can have, including:
- Allergic reactions to their bites, which can be severe. Effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction).
- Secondary infections of the skin from the bite reaction, such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis.
- Mental health impacts on people living in infested homes. Reported effects include anxiety, insomnia and systemic reactions.
Bed Bug Identification
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are oval in shape, with flattened, wingless bodies. Typically a reddish brown or brown, they also appear to be a dull red color once they are engorged after feeding on warm-blooded animals or humans. At first glance, they can often be mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches and can range between 1/4” and 3/8” long.
Bed Bug Habitat
Due to their flattened bodies, bed bugs are able to fit into small cracks and crevices and can go unnoticed for extended periods of time. Unlike ants, bed bugs do not colonize or live in nests, instead choosing to stay close to where people sleep at night as they are drawn to warmth. This means that bed frames, mattresses and headboards are the perfect places for bed bugs to inhabit.
Bed Bug Habits
Bed bugs can enter a home, office or school in many different ways including:
- Renting or buying used furniture
- Transported in luggage from an infested area
- Direct human contact with areas already infested ( example: other homes or hotels)
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
The immediate bite from a bed bug is painless, so victims will often be aware that they have been bitten several hours or even days after. The most obvious signs of a bed bug infestation are bite marks on exposed areas of the body. In addition to bite marks, there are other tell tale signs that bed bugs may be lurking nearby such as a musty odor, rust colored spots on mattresses or sheets and bed bug exoskeletons left behind.
Bed Bug Treatment
Since bed bugs typically bite their victims at night, this gives them time to gorge for up to 10 minutes at a time, the result of which are raised welts accompanied by severe itching. In rare cases, bed bug bites can cause serious reactions, but generally speaking their bites are not considered a serious threat. If you have been bitten, it is best to avoid scratching the area if possible. Antiseptic lotions are also helpful to help with the itching.
Bed Bug Prevention
Truly Nolen of West Atlanta can provide homeowners and commercial property owners with a free inspection to determine if bed bugs are a threat to your immediate environment. If there is a potential bed bug infestation brewing, it is important that professional help be sought out right away as this eliminates the threat of the infestation growing and spreading to other areas.
At Truly Nolen, our pest professionals are up to taking on the challenge of eliminating this difficult pest with effective methods and consistent follow up to ensure proper removal. Until our team of pest experts can come out to inspect and treat your home, here are some tips to help keep bed bugs from becoming an unwanted guest:
- Wash sheets, mattress covers and bedding in hot soapy water on a regular basis.
- When traveling, inspect your hotel room with a flashlight thoroughly before unpacking. This includes inside dressers, headboards, hotel bed sheets and chairs.
- Upon returning to your home, carefully inspect your suitcase before bringing it into the house. Suitcases should be cleaned and vacuumed, and all clothes (clean and dirty) should be washed in hot water, and dried immediately.
- Most important, upon first signs of an infestation, contact your Truly Nolen West Atlanta pest expert to schedule an immediate inspection. The suspected area should be left alone until your pest professional arrives for further analysis.
Bed bugs are a challenging pest and for many homeowners, the emotional headache and financial impact can take its toll. Contact your West Atlanta Truly Nolen pest specialist today at (404) 939-7277 to schedule your inspection and let our experts provide the best in bed bug control to help keep your family safe and happy.