“Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” is a common -- if not totally gross -- thing many parents tell their children at night. But chances are, you never gave those creepy crawlers a second thought until you moved to New York City.
Regretfully, bed bug infestation is a relatively common experience for people living in NYC. According to pest control company Orkin's annual Top 50 Bed Bugs List, the number of confirmed bed bugs increased during 2015, making New York City the fourth-worst urban region in the nation for these pests. Acme Exterminating explains common misconceptions of the creepy crawlers, and explains the steps you should take when you think your home is infested.
But let’s back up a little bit. If you don’t already know, bed bugs are parasitic insects that have a particular penchant for human blood. While they have not been known to transmit diseases, they are literal ankle biters and will turn your mattress into a colony. And it’s not something a New Yorker should take lightly: Bed bugs can be picked up everywhere from the R train to a swanky hotel.
Despite common misconceptions, bed bugs do not target messy or dirty apartments (though that certainly makes it easier for the insects to go unnoticed). Everyone is at risk, and the chances of picking up a bed bug are infinitely greater in metropolitan areas, where people move often and quickly. Increased travel and foot traffic brings a spike during the summer months.
More than anything, bed bugs will screw with your head. After my own traumatic bed bug experience, I slipped into what can only be described as post-traumatic infestation disorder. I had nightmares about them, thought every piece of fuzz on my comforter was a nag, and scoured my sheets obsessively before bed.
Whether you think you have an infestation or want to protect yourself against the enemy, this step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know (and hopefully never have to use) about dealing with bed bugs.
So you think you have bed bugs...
One of the most obvious indicators of a bed bug infestation may be the physical marks left by feasting critters -- hives, bumps, an eczema-like rash -- though reactions to bed bug bites (or more specifically, their anesthetic numbing saliva) can vary greatly. And as much as 30% of the population may have absolutely no physical reaction to bed bug bites.
Seeing an actual bug isn’t very likely, unless you wake at the crack of dawn. These insects are largely nocturnal, and tend to feast during the night. If you do find a bug in your bed, note that adult bed bugs are often reddish-brown, roughly the size of an apple seed, and relatively flat (unless they’ve recently gorged themselves on your blood). Nymphs (the young ones), on the other hand, are practically translucent unless they’ve just fed. In that case, they may look like bright red pinpricks of blood on your sheets.
You’ll have better luck looking for shed shells and exoskeletons, and dark brown or black stains (like an ink blot) on your bedding. Start by examining your mattress seams, the cracks and crevices around your bed frame (they love the little slots where IKEA bed slats sit), and even behind outlet covers.
For more detailed information, read our full guide to identifying bed bugs.
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