Local experts say bed bugs are common

As children, most people cringed watching as vampires drank the blood of their victims on the movie screen. Some people in Washington County live with a miniature version of those theatrical monsters: bed bugs.

“(Bed bugs) are getting worse,” said Jed Lessard, owner of Ohio Valley Pest Control in Marietta. “We aren’t making any headway against the problem. The epidemic continues growing.”

According to pestworld.org, bed bugs are small nocturnal arachnids that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They hide in headboards and furniture during the day while waiting for their next feeding.

Lessard said there were a few tell-tale signs that a person could use to determine whether or not they have the pest.

“Fecal staining on fabric is an easily visible indicator,” he said.

Lessard said the staining looks like a felt tip pen has made a dot in the mattress or on other fabrics and that they come in clustered groups. Lessard said people may also find shells left by the bugs as they grow larger and molt. Not all people react to the bed bug bite, but those who do will have an itchy raised red bump as a sign of their presence. But one sure way to know if you have bed bugs is if you see them, said Lessard.

“They are small, about the size of an apple seed. They actually look like an apple seed,” he said. “They will be a bright red just after a feeding, but will turn reddish brown later.”

Lessard said there are two main forms of extermination for the blood thirsty pests, chemical treatment and heat.

Steve Joy, owner of Joy Exterminators in Marietta, said his company uses the heat treating method to get rid of the bugs.

“We bring in electric heaters, generators and fans,” he said.

Joy said the bugs die at a temperature of about 118 degrees, but he brings the temperature up to about 135 degrees. He said he does this to make sure everything in the home gets warmed up enough to kill the bugs that are hidden deep in the nooks and crannies of the house. The process can take two days depending on the size of the home treated, Joy said.

“At 135 degrees, it’s instant death for them,” he said. “We let it get that warm to make sure furniture like couches get heated all the way through.”

Joy said even though he has never seen any damage to furniture using the heat treatment, some precautions should be made to ensure other valuables remain safe.

“People need to remove candles and aerosol cans in case of explosion, even though I’ve never seen it,” he said. “People should also take any family photo albums or keepsakes out of the home, too, just in case.”

Ohio Valley Pest Control uses chemical treatments as their form of removal. Even though the treatment requires two applications spaced two weeks apart, Lessard said the price point of the treatment is more appealing.

“It can be up to half the cost of a heat treatment,” he said.

Lessard said his crew does a thorough vacuuming of the home to remove as many live bugs as they can before applying the chemicals. He said the process is repeated after two weeks to ensure all bugs are removed.

Both Lessard and Joy said that preventing bed bugs in the home takes diligence from the homeowner.

“You need to adopt a careful lifestyle,” Lessard said. “When you go to the doctor’s office, they could be in the chairs in the waiting room. Movie theaters are another bad place for them…If you think there is a chance you have been exposed to them you need to strip out of your clothes when you get home and put them in the washer. Then you need to take a shower right after.”

Joy said another place to be concerned of exposure is hotels.

“Check your bed (for signs) as soon as you get into your room,” he said. “Keep your suitcase in the bathtub and wash your clothes as soon as you get home. Don’t put them in the middle of your bedroom floor like most people do.”

Bed bug facts

•They can live several months without feeding.

•Their saliva numbs the bitten area so their food source doesn’t feel the pain and wake up.

•Infestations are three times higher in urban areas versus rural.

•They can live anywhere that humans are present.

Source: pestworld.org