Bed bugs have reached an epidemic level in the United States. Because of this, we treat thousands of infestations each year. We sat down with one of our resident bed bug experts to learn more about how Dodson Pest Control handles these instances.

Tell us a little about how Dodson addresses a bed bug issue.

Dodson Expert: Bed bugs have a gradual metamorphosis. When their young hatch out of the egg, they look identical to the adult. So, they are one of the easier insects for us to identify when we are going into a house. They have unique growth stages, which basically equate to newborn, preschool, high school and adults.

We help a customer understand the bed bugs and the fact that they find their hosts through carbon dioxide emissions. Bed bugs are not specific to humans as far as hosts. They will take any blood available. Bed bugs key in on body heat or something that mimics your body temperature (98.6°F). This can include pets, lamps, bed tables and even TVs, which put off an amount of heat that most people don’t think about. They see a widescreen TV as being just like a human. They will go to clock radios and telephones.

Often, we have to rule out the other parasitic insects that we deal with because of fleas. The first question that we ask homeowners is, “Did you feel the bite?” The bed bug is the only parasite that we deal with that you do not feel the bite. Bed bugs have a natural anesthesia in their saliva that they put on your skin and it is similar to the topical anesthetic that dentists put on your gums. If you saw an insect and felt the bite, then it is not bed bugs. We will also ask if the homeowner has animals, and if they have an outdoor animal that they allow inside.

If we can incorporate a canine service into a bed bug inspection, we are 99 percent effective with detection. They find the bed bugs in the cracks and crevices of the bed frame, recliners and couches in a home.

Can you tell us about some of the treatment methods?

One treatment method is diatomaceous earth, dry oyster shells and dry seashells. Applying diatomaceous earth is like applying crushed glass. It would be similar to if you cracked a drink bottle and stabbed someone with it. It tears apart the abdomen of the bed bugs, which is basically the consistency of cellophane. This is applied to the cracks, crevices, walls, bed frame, headboards, behind mirrors and anywhere where they would hide until you go to sleep at night.  

How long does it take until the treatment starts to remedy the situation? Is it a long process?

No, they have a pretty short lifecycle. The reality is that if we have done a thorough inspection, we will be talking a matter of 7 to 10 days.

Interviewer: Can the homeowner stay in their home the whole time?

It is best that the homeowner leave the home for a several hours. Motels tend to take those rooms out of service because they are normally never occupied in the first place. The rooms can be out of service for 4 to 5 days. The products we use are very safe to the occupants but there is a lot of activity during treatment.

Why should you just call a professional and not just do it yourself?

The biggest reason is that the customer doesn’t know the characteristics of the bedbug. They don’t know the areas that they reside. They don’t know the consumer products. The customers that use over-the-counter products don’t know the difference between repellant materials. They don’t know what the resistance is. We rotate the products so that resistance doesn’t occur.

Can you address some old wives tales about bed bug treatments?

The cedar closet stuff for bed bugs doesn’t work.

What about thyme?

We have access to products that have citrus and thyme and other clover products. However, I do not endorse them because they do not work.

Are the treatments safe for kids?

During our inspection process, we will immediately take into account if there are children present because we do not want to use silica gel and other products around children.  

What do you do when children are present in the home?

Then we are basically using a dual action approach. We will take that diatomaceous earth, otherwise known as a triple action, out of the mix.

What about heat? If you Google “how to kill bed bugs”, they say to hold a hairdryer over the mattress.

Good question. Bed bugs can withstand heats approaching 113°F to 115°F. The heat boxes and the heat blocks systems intended to exceed that go to about 120°F to 130°F. If I put your hairdryer in front of you in high heat, what are you going to do? You’re going to get out of the way. Because homes are so well insulated, bed bugs can get out of the 120°F-130°F heat. They have survived by being able to overcome whatever you throw at them. We find that we just relocate them until we take the heat out after half a day. Then the home falls to normal temperatures of 65°F to 70°F and they will reinfest in a short time frame. You have to have consistent 120°F to 130°F heat. With houses today that have high-value insulation, it is hard to maintain those temperatures throughout the entire home.

What is the lifecycle of a bed bug?

The full life cycle of bedbugs is a little over 300 days. From egg to full grown adult is 21 to 30 days. The female produces 200 eggs in her lifetime. So, if you have one male and one female in 21 days you can have 200 full grown adults. That is how they have become the epidemic that they are today.

Can you talk about bed bug bites?

The big thing we have to stress is, even the best dermatologist cannot determine if you have a mosquito bite, a bedbug bite or a flea bite. You can’t be 100 percent sure it is a bed bug bite unless you see the bed bug. Everyone reacts differently. First, we have to rule out fleas.

In your experience, what are the most common questions or thoughts that you get from customers?

People will say, “You need to get rid of these because they are vectors of communicable diseases.” There is no historical information to support the idea that bed bugs carry communicable diseases. We like to help ease customer’s minds. They like to assume that parasitic insects are dangerous. The bed bug does not carry communicable diseases.

You find a lot of bed bugs are caused by travel?

Right. We also do a lot of work with EMS and fire stations. These employees go into a lot of homes that are infested with bed bugs. Because they will pick up a person on a gurney and put them into an ambulance, hospitals can get infested. One of the most successful ways for bed bugs to get from house A to house B is through public schools.

Is it always “bed bug season”? Does it get worse at a certain time?

It is always bed bug season. There is no seasonality to them, unlike other parasitic insects.

What are some misconceptions about bed bugs?

The primary misconception is that they are primarily nocturnal. They are not primarily nocturnal. They will take a blood meal when they can get it. The only reason they are considered nocturnal is that is the only time the pet or human or host is still. If you sit in your recliner all night long they will find you and because you can’t feel them, you won’t necessarily know that one or two of them are biting you.

If you suspect you may have bed bugs, contact your local Dodson Pest Control office today.