Posted: December 24, 2012
Whether you visit friends and family, or entertain sojourners in your home, it seems like we always wind up with unexpected guests.
With the increase of travel comes the potential of another unwanted guest: bedbugs. They are successful hitchhikers, finding their way around in clothing, bedding, luggage, and boxes. You or your visitors can bring them into your home without knowing it.
First, if you suspect bedbugs, make certain that is what you have. There are other biting insects, and many pantry pests are confused with bedbugs. The Penn State master gardeners can help identify a possible bedbug, or there are many helpful tools on the internet. Proper identification of the pest problem is the first and only way to a solution.
If you travel this holiday season here are a few tips:
• Use luggage racks to unpack and pack, instead of placing your luggage directly on the floor.
• Check the headboard and mattresses before sleeping.
• When you are home, unpack directly into the washing machine and inspect your luggage.
If you suspect infestation in your home:
• Wash and heat-dry all bedding and clothes lying on the floor. It is better to use a plastic bag, and only once, for this laundry to prevent bedbugs from moving through the home.
• A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating them harder. If bed bugs are in your mattress, using special bed bug covers (encasements) on your mattress and box springs makes it harder for bed bugs to get to you while you sleep. Leave the encasements on for a year. Be sure to buy a product that has been tested for bed bugs and is strong enough to last for the full year without tearing.
• Don’t pass them along to others. If you throw out a mattress or furniture that has bed bugs in it, you should slash or in some way destroy it so that no one else takes it and gets bed bugs.
• Thorough vacuuming can get rid of some of your bed bugs. Carefully vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture, bed frames, under beds, around bed legs, and all cracks and crevices around the room. Change the bag after each use so the bed bugs can’t escape. Place the used bag in a tightly sealed plastic bag and in an outside garbage bin.
The EPA has a helpful website with information on homeowner pest-management tools. Included on this site, http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/bedbugs/index.html, are certain pesticides you can apply yourself. These have been tested by the agency and shown to be effective, when used according to the labeled directions. If you decide to call a professional, make sure they are licensed to apply pesticides for bedbugs. The applicator should do a thorough inspection of your home and give you a comprehensive plan to control bedbugs. Be certain to ask for the active ingredient in the products in case of adverse reactions, especially on children, and if it is registered for use on bedbugs. Also, inquire about precautions for pets too.
For more information on bedbugs, the Penn State master gardeners in Lackawanna County have an information packet on them. Contact us at 570-963-6842 or email LackawannaMG@psu.edu and request a free copy.
Master Gardener Coordinator
Penn State Extension