“Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Who knew this old bedtime saying would need to be taken literally in 2010 right here in Southeast Texas?

Unfortunately, human bed bugs are becoming more prominent in Texas especially in hotels and apartments where residents come and go frequently, unwittingly transporting bedbugs in boxes or suitcases where they are prone to hang out.

Now that we are at the height of vacation season, we really need to pay attention to the telltale signs of bed bugs. Bed bugs are wingless, rust-colored creatures, about the size of an apple seed. These disgusting little creatures are rarely seen in action by their victims. They are akin to vampires, sleeping all day and coming out at night to feed on the blood of humans. The first signs of a bed bug infestation are bites. Unfortunately, by this time you already have a serious problem. Other signs of bedbugs are small black or brown spots on bed linens, tiny eggs, which look like grains of sand, and a distinctive musty odor.

Experts say bed bugs have been practically dormant for decades. Global travel and the banning of DDT are often blamed for the sudden epidemic.

Gene Allbritton owner of Tri-City Exterminators said, “Ten years ago we rarely saw them except occasionally in jails or a motel, now I get one or two calls a month for bedbugs.” Allbritton added that initial treatment costs begin at $250 and he highly recommends a maintenance program since these nasty little critters can live for about 45 days without a meal.

Allbritton had a few tips for summer travelers wanting to avoid these critters. Never put suitcases on the floor, ask hotels beforehand about infestation problems and policies, examine the bedding closely, and avoid large crowds when possible, since these fellows can hop from one human to another.

There are some things you can do to try to resolve a bedbug issue, on your own. The first step is to locate all of their hiding places. When you begin searching your home, look through all cracks and crevices, baseboards, moldings and behind wall hangings. Wash infested areas, bedding and dry-clean affected clothing. Use hot water and a dryer on the hottest setting whenever possible. Vacuum mattresses, seal them in plastic and leave them outside in the hot sun for as long as possible. Steam clean all carpets. Spray cracks and crevices with an insecticide designed to control bedbugs. Follow the label directions carefully.

Make sure you do not treat bedding with insecticide.

If these methods don’t work, it may be necessary to hire a professional. A qualified exterminator can use stronger insecticides to kill the bedbugs. Repeat visits may be necessary to ensure that all bed bugs are eliminated.
Maintenance programs are usually once or twice a month depending on the infestation. Getting rid of bed bugs is no easy task and most likely you will need to enlist the help of a professional exterminator.

If you find out that you do have bedbugs don’t flip out. Bed bugs do not carry or transmit diseases and they don’t discriminate.

“I’ve treated exceptionally clean and affluent homes as well as carnival trailers for bed bugs. Actually, they tend to prefer cleaner locations just like we do,” says Allbritton.

So, the next time you feel a little prick or itch on your skin, think twice. You might have some unwanted guests.