COLLEGE STATION – From Texas to Michigan and California to Florida, news media reports show bed bugs have become a national nuisance.
Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has information on identification and prevention in English and Spanish that can be helpful to commercial property owners, homeowners and members of the news media, agency experts said.
The Texas AgriLife Extension Bookstore can be found at https://agrilifebookstore.org/ . Search for “bed bugs” for publication L-1742.
Bed bugs have been a problem in the U.S. since the 1800s, said Roger Gold, professor and entomologist with AgriLife Research. But through most of the 1900s they were controlled by chemicals, now banned, that were once used to control other pests.
Since the 1990s, bed bugs have been able to flourish, being often spread by travelers, both nationally and internationally, particularly in large business and tourist destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.
“They have always been associated with transitory populations,” Gold said.
They are found often in hotels, housing complexes, college dormitories and large retail outlets where people might return or exchange clothing items, he said.
“They’re known to hitchhike,” he said.
A large adult bed bug, the size of an apple seed, can be mistaken for a tick, Gold said.
Bed bugs locate their human hosts by body heat and the carbon dioxide exhaled during respiration, but they are also attracted to the human body smell, he said. Their bite leaves a welt.
True to their name, bed bugs prefer to hide in beds and bedding, but they can also be found under cushions, behind picture frames, on lamp stands, behind baseboards, in back of electrical switch plates and in a variety of other locations.
The best defense is inspection, Gold said. Bed bugs often leave dried blood or rust-colored stains or tracks, especially on mattress folds and tufts. Pull back the bedding to expose the mattress and box springs, and check the mattress, especially the areas closest to the headboard and foot of the bed.
The next step would be to hire a pest-control professional, he said. But in the meantime, infested areas can be vacuumed to remove adults and eggs.
Gold said the pests have not been found to be associated with communicable diseases, and people are much more likely to encounter a mosquito than a bed bug.