The Mattress Menace: Identifying Bed Bugs and Taking Action Against Infestations

Many of us cringe when we hear the mention of bedbugs. We look around, scratch our arms, and feel like something is crawling on us, near us, or around us. This is only a natural response as we have all been conditioned to believe that bed bugs are creepy crawlers – the bug vampires 🧛 of our beds. But garlic and a wooden stake won’t work here to keep them at bay.  

Here’s a question for you:

What are the most dangerous of the following 4 insects?️ 🕷

  1. Mosquitos
  2. Ticks
  3. Fleas
  4. Bed Bugs

Keep reading for the answer!

Equal Opportunity Infestors

Even the mention of bed bugs on TV, through word-of-mouth, or from a secondhand experience from a friend is enough to send us looking all around our bed for this creepy crawler. We pull off the sheets, look under the mattress, and even wash the bedding JUST IN CASE. But it is important to note the mattress is NOT the only place a bed bug likes to chill out. 

The search for bed bugs should not start in the bedroom, because the minute you have them, it’s probably safe to say they will be everywhere. They like to hide in sofas, bed frames, carpets, closets…I can go on and on. Just think of any place they can avoid light and have access to their food source – YOU. 😱

One thing to remember is that bed bugs are Equal Opportunity Infestors. They will hitch a ride with anyone, whether you live in a million-dollar house or an apartment with 3 roommates. In each scenario, the people living in that household will likely keep it a secret because of the stigma that comes with having a bedbug infestation.  

Imagine the reaction when someone hears that your pet has caused a flea infestation, versus the reaction when they hear you’ve caused a bed bug infestation…😖

We can usually blame fido 🐶 for the fleas, but not the bed bugs, and this only adds fuel to the fire when it comes to the stigma and secrecy.

These ugly, dirty critters often hide in areas that are dark and out of the way of humans. In fact, they do everything they can to avoid humans in waking daylight hours, and only like us when we are sleeping in a dark room (Talk about nightmare fuel!).  

Even if you take the time to hunt them down, you’re probably not going to find one. You’re more likely to find their feces, at which point you would need a magnifying glass and plenty of light. Once you do see the problem of an infestation, you’re seeing the results of a colony. In this case, you’ll begin seeing black mold-like residue around your furniture, mattress, and rugs. Like I said: ugly and dirty. But they are smart, and they’ll stay hidden from view until you take a very close look.

How Do Bed Bug Infestations Start?

Now, this is the million-dollar question. This starts not at your home but at a hotel, an Airbnb, or even in a movie theater. Before you settle in, take a moment to look around your temporary lodging, look in those cracks and crevices. Check the mattress, and pull off the sheet. Look behind the furniture. Look for dark, moldy, caked-on residue. It is usually found on the mattress stitching – that thick ream that holds the fabric together, or on the bed frame behind the mattress. Look everywhere the sun does not shine.

Pro tip: As a frequent traveler, ALWAYS place your luggage on the metal luggage rack provided in hotel rooms!

Never place your luggage or clothes on the bed, sofa, tables, and/or floor. These are ALL areas where bed bugs can hitch a ride back home with you. They can NOT, however, climb up the metal legs of a luggage rack.

When you repack your luggage, always place your clothes in a plastic bag, seal that bag and when you get home put those clothes directly in the laundry. This is an added precaution, just in case. If you can get luggage with a smooth metal finish, this can also prevent the little critters from getting a foothold into your suitcase.

Taking Action Against the Menace

You may be wondering why we are taking the time to speak to bed bugs. Well, usually the first thing that happens when someone finds out they have an infestation is: they throw everything, including the mattress, out. It gets placed outside and ends up with the trash. 

Now the problem here is what we discussed earlier in this blog – Stigmatization around the infestation. The last thing you want is for your neighbors to know you have bed bugs. This is not something that is going to end up on Instagram or Facebook with a smiling or laughing emoji with a thumbs up!

In fact, most people will drag that mattress to the curb in the dead of night, in a hoodie covering their face, so no one knows what just happened. Remember, when you place something street side it doesn’t mean that it is always going to be taken away by the garbage truck. It may end up in someone else’s home! Sometimes your neighbors see value in a mattress placed curbside or are in need of that bed frame, nightstand, etc.  you placed out on the corner, which can restart the entire buggy process.

Then what happens?

A waste hauler, city worker, or building manager needs to remove the blight, place it into a truck and send it to the recycler where unbeknownst it is recycled. Now, the bed bugs are being sorted into different piles where they can hitch onto a new host – that poor worker deconstructing the mattress.

The best thing one can do is own the fact that they have an infestation!

Remove the Stigma  

If you choose to throw anything away – Bag anything that may be contaminated. Write on the bag – BED BUG INFESTED! This will ensure that that material, furniture, and/or mattress is handled, albeit with a little fear, but with the understanding that it needs to be landfilled in a manner that protects the workers that may come into contact with it. No one will take it home thinking they got a good find – instead, they will probably walk on the other side of the street.

If you want to get rid of bed bugs, call in a pest exterminator before you decide to place your entire home’s worth of furniture out on the street.

Let’s remove ourselves from the stigmatization of bed bugs. They are not the “poor person’s” bug or the “dirty person’s” problem. As mentioned before, these infestors do not discriminate. These creepy crawlers continue to infest because they live in dark areas of one’s home. They hide well and are often shrouded in a veil of secrecy when they are discovered. Instead of keeping the secret and adding to the stigma, shout out “I have bed bugs!” and write it on the furniture with sharpies or paint. Let people know this furniture is contaminated. Share how you found them, and how you called in an expert to help you eradicate them. Share how you learned to avoid them in the future – This is how we eradicate bed bugs. We shine the proverbial light upon them.  

By the way, the answer to the earlier question is NOT bed bugs! In fact, all of the other options –  mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can cause MUCH worse damage.

  • Mosquitoes are active no matter the time of day, and they can FLY!   
  • Fleas and ticks are also active both night and day, and they CAN JUMP! 

These other insects can find you hanging out by a river or lake, sitting outside on a summer afternoon, petting Fido, at someone’s house with a pet, or worse – while on a long hike in the woods. In that scenario, you could get jumped by a flea, attacked by a tick, and bitten by a mosquito, all in the same day!

They can also pass on terrible diseases like Lyme Disease, Malaria, Yellow Fever, or West Nile virus!

Bed bugs on the other hand CANNOT JUMP OR FLY! They crawl at a snail’s pace and need you to be sitting or lying in one place for hours on end before they make their move. As tiny, ugly, and scary as these pesky little critters are, they can only cause inconvenience and irritation – this inconvenience may be a stigma in your social life, but IT IS NOT life-threatening.  

So, let’s respect the little guys and how they can continue to live in our shadows. Let’s be transparent when it comes to our encounters with them. Talking about infestations can go a long way in preventing future outbreaks!

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