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Insects and other arthropods

Bed bugs: Controlling their spread

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On average, a bed bug progresses at a speed of 126 cm per minute.
Photo: Public Health Image Library (Piotr Naskrecki)

Bed bugs usually take advantage of human travel to infest new places. In some cases, rats also spread them. Bed bugs do not fly; however, they can travel over great distances. For example, they can go from the first to the fifth floor of a building or from one end of a hallway to another. They also climb walls and ceilings.

Treatment

Getting rid of bedbugs is not an easy task. The best way to do so is to call a professional exterminator who specializes in parasite management. The exterminator will inspect and treat your home quickly and efficiently, suggesting immediate action to maximize the treatment and minimize the quantity of insecticide used. However, two or three treatments may be needed – bed bugs are rarely eliminated on the first visit.

Here are some measures to take in order to ensure that treatment is effective:

  • Eggs and first-stage larvae are very tiny. They can be hidden in the seams and folds of a mattress. Check these places carefully. To avoid using pesticides on a bed, use a steam-cleaning machine to dislodge larvae and kill eggs.
  • Get a zippered mattress cover (such as an anti-mite cover), which will protect your mattress against possible re-infestation.
  • Move the bed away from the surrounding walls and furniture.
  • Vacuum your home at least twice a week. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag hermetically and dispose of it quickly. If your vacuum cleaner does not have a bag, empty its contents into an airtight plastic bag and throw it in the trash.
  • If several rooms or apartments are infested, try to figure out which cracks and crevices the bedbugs are using to travel through.
  • Reduce the number of decorative objects (pictures, paintings, small boxes) which provide more places where bedbugs can hide. Reduce clutter.
  • Wash all bedding and clothing in hot water and dry in the clothes dryer (using hottest cycle) for at least 30 minutes. Afterwards, place bedding and clothing in hermetically sealed bags until all bed bugs have been eliminated.
  • Frequently, contaminated items and furniture, such as the mattress and bed frame, must be disposed of. If you throw these items away, make sure you wrap them up carefully in airtight plastic bags. This will help keep bedbugs from spreading to another place in transit. Make the item unusable (for example, rip the fabric of the mattress) so that other people won’t use it.
  • Avoid trying to solve the problem by using insecticides yourself. Using these products improperly may send the bed bugs elsewhere in the building and increase the insects’ resistance to the products. Insecticides also increase the risks to occupants’ health. They should only be used by a professional exterminator.

What you need to know

If there are bats in the house, the bat bug (C. pilosellus) may also be found. C. pilosellus is a parasite that feeds exclusively on bats. However, it is possible for bat bugs to leave their hosts and seek out humans to feed on. Like bed bugs, they do not transmit diseases. Bed bugs and bat bugs are difficult to tell apart by just looking at them. The life cycle of the two species is also very similar. Bat bug infestations are usually less serious than bed bug infestation, but it is best to call an exterminator to get rid of them. The exterminator will first find and remove the bats, and if necessary, will treat the area where they were living with an insecticide. Finally, he will eliminate bat bugs in other areas that may have been infested.

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