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(Cimex lectularius)

Bed Bugs are a small, flat, reddish coloured insect of about 6mm length. During the day they hide in crevices in furniture, bed frames, skirting boards etc., and at night they come out to feed. Unfortunately, they feed on human blood, and they will also bite pet animals.

The signs of bed bugs are bites on the body (some people can get a severe allergic reaction), little black dots on wallpaper near the bed (bed bug excrement), and cast skins which look like little empty Bed Bugs. The skins are cast because Bed Bugs outgrow their skin about 5 times before becoming mature adults and with each moult the old skin is left behind.

Bed bugs are becoming increasingly common and they are easily transferred from one house to another in furniture, bedding or luggage. They need a little warmth to breed, so they will not develop in very cold rooms or outhouses. However, they can live for up to a year without food, so even furniture that has been in a cold room for several months can come alive when the heating is turned up. Bed bugs only come out to feed during the hours of darkness, and spend the rest of the time in hiding. Simply spraying around the bed with a can of insecticide will not remove the infestation.

Are they really bed bugs?

There are some very similar insects which affect birds' nests and which sometimes enter houses (martin bugs). Positive identification is needed before any treatment is carried out.

What can be done to control them?

Certainly call a professional to deal with bed bug infestations. An inspection of the house to locate all the hiding places is essential. The most likely rooms to be affected will be bedrooms, but other rooms may be affected, particularly if pets or children sleep in them. The most suitable treatment will usually be to spray the walls, furniture and skirting boards in affected rooms.

After that?

Regular changing and washing of bed linen will help a little in the control of bed bugs, although they generally hide in the frame of the bed and not in the sheets. Dry cleaning of linen is the preferred measure rather than domestic washing machines. If you do choose to clean bedding at home wash your linens at the hottest temperature you feel comfortable with and in line with the manufacturer's guidelines. If you are afraid that will ruin your linens, wash them in the hottest temperature possible and dry them in a hot dryer (140┬░F) for 20 minutes. This includes all linens, sheets, pillows, pillowcases, bed skirts and blankets. Regular vacuum cleaning, particularly of the mattress, and along the edges of skirting boards, door frames and the sides and back of the bed will also help, but again will not eradicate the infestation. Be wary of buying second-hand beds or mattresses as these can be harbouring infestations of bed bugs.

For any treatment to be effective there are certain actions you the householder needs to take before and after any treatment provided, all responsible pest control companies will advise you what you must do.

SDK (Environmental) Ltd trading as Dial A Pest, Acorn House, Aspen Way TQ4 7QR.
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