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Bed Basics

Debugging Common Bed Bugs Myths

At Mattress Firm, we know a thing or two about sweet dreams, but our friends at Orkin Pest Control are the experts on real-life nightmares – bed bugs. Mattress Firm teamed up with entomologists from Orkin to bring you a three-part series on bed bugs. The following post is brought to you by Entomologist and Technical Director of Orkin's Midwest Region, John Kane.

While it may feel like ignorance is bliss when it comes to these creepy crawleys, the best way to protect yourself is education. Learn more about these pests, where you can find them and how to prevent them.

There are a lot of things that can keep you up at night – including bed bugs. These apple-seed sized insects spread quickly, hide in hard-to-spot locations and are difficult to eradicate. They've been on the rise over the last two decades, largely thanks to overpopulated urban areas, increased travel and resistance to numerous pesticides.

What's spreading even more rapidly than bed bugs, however, is misinformation about these pests. Together with our friends at Mattress Firm, we want to debug the three biggest myths about bed bugs.

Myth 1: Bed bugs can't be seen.


While small, bed bugs can be spotted – although they're often misidentified. In fact, in a line-up of pests, only 28% of leisure travelers could correctly identify which insect was the bed bug.

Next time you're on the lookout, know that these pests have small, flat, oval-shaped bodies and measure between 4 to 5 mm when full grown. More distinctive than their shape, though, is their tell-tale evidence. Bed bugs may leave clusters of dark brown excrement and pale yellow skins that nymphs (the name for adolescent bed bugs) shed as they grow. While bites can also be a sign of bed bugs, don't jump to any conclusions; bites may also signal an unrelated allergic reaction or the presence of another insect.

Myth 2: Bed bugs only live in mattresses.


Don't believe the name. These pests like all crevices, not just those on your mattress. They can live in the crevices of chairs, nightstands, picture frames, sofas, airplanes and movie theatres. Bed bugs tend to live within five feet of their host and can be found anywhere humans – or any species with blood – spend significant time.

If you're looking for bed bugs, it's always a good idea to start with the mattress. After all, this is where humans spend about one third of their time. During your inspection, be sure to search the box spring, bed frame and headboard. It's also helpful to check nightstands and picture frames.

Myth 3: Bed bugs prefer to live in dirty places.


Bed bugs don't discriminate; they enjoy five-star hotels just as much as they do studio apartments or seedy motel rooms. Any location is vulnerable to bed bugs, so long as there is food (blood from a sleeping or still person) and shelter (tights crevices) nearby. And, because bed bugs can travel by hitching a ride on clothing or suitcases, they can easily move from one destination to the next.

Although bed bugs do not discriminate based on cleanliness, there are a few preventative steps you can take. Bed bugs begin to die when exposed to 113 degrees Fahrenheit or above (the hotter, the faster they die), so wash and dry all clothes on high after traveling. Moreover, use a protective cover to encase your Mattress Firm mattress and boxspring, just in case a pest decides to travel back home with you. Frequent vacuuming, including on and around secondhand furniture, is also recommended.

Mattress Firm and Orkin want you to learn more about these blood-sucking pests and start laying your bed bug misconceptions to rest.

Stay tuned for Part Two of our three-part series.

 


John Kane is a high-level problem solver with more than 12 years of experience in the pest control industry. He has a Master’s Degree in Entomology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he also worked on several research studies, taught graduate-level courses, and co-wrote the 10th edition of an integrative biology textbook. John is an expert in sensitive environments like hospitals, food facilities, and museums, as his love of biology drives him to find precise solutions to tough situations.

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