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Bedbugs haunt homeowners’ nightmares like the bogeyman. These nasty little critters that feast on your blood while you sleep cause you to check under your bed any time your skin begins to tingle. But in the summer months, when outdoor activities mean exposure to mosquitoes, gnats, and fleas, how are you to tell that your red, itchy bites came from a bedbug? Read on for the tips and tools to help you with early detection of an infestation.
Recognize Bedbug Bites
Different people react differently to bedbug bites but generally speaking, they take the form of itchy, red bumps aligned in straight rows, often in groups of threes. If you’re still uncertain whether your bites are from bedbugs or a more benign insect, try this: Before you go to bed, check your body for bites and make a mental note of where they appear. In the morning, check your skin again. Bites that arrive overnight strongly suggest that you are sharing your home with a nibbling pest.
Search Your Sheets, Mattress, and More
On your hunt for more evidence, start with your mattress. Keep your eyes peeled for four signs:
• bug droppings (tiny, dark spots)
• red blood stains
• insect eggs (white ovals about 1/16″ in length)
• the bugs themselves (brown ovals up to 1/4″ long)
First, pull your bed and nightstand away from the wall, and watch to see if any bugs scurry away. You may also see excrement stains on the wall. Next, remove the top layers of bedding (your blankets or comforters), leaving just the fitted sheet on the bed. Hold a flashlight close to the sheet so that you can examine it thoroughly. If you don’t find anything on the sheet, move on to check the mattress.
Focus on the mattress seams; that’s where bedbugs like to hide. You can press a credit card against the seam to hold it back while you shine the flashlight on the darker areas. (You’ll want to flip the mattress over and check the other side as well.) Finally, check the joints of your bed frame, shining the flashlight into all the dark crevices to search out the bugs. Snap photos and bag any evidence you find.
Continue your search through the rest of your home, pulling all upholstered furniture away from walls and thoroughly checking around zippers and seams.
Invest in Tools to Help
Not seeing any bedbugs is a good sign, but it doesn’t mean you’re totally safe. Beyond conducting intermittent visual inspections, you can employ a few tools to help. A bedbug interception device is one such tool. Buy a set of them and add one to each leg of your bed frame (and perhaps to other pieces of upholstered furniture). Monitor the devices every few days. You may also want to invest in encasements for your mattress and box spring. Though pricier than a detection device, these work double duty: They protect your bed by sealing out bedbugs, and they also cover crevices, facilitating future inspections.
Call In the Pros
Whether you find signs of a bedbug infestation or are still simply itching from an unknown cause, phone a professional. A qualified pest-control expert has much more experience with the search and knows exactly what to look for—and in this case, it’s better to have a second opinion.