In Sept. 2 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
Many people today know bedbugs only from the old saying - Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite but the old hitchhiking nemeses are back leaving itchy, red welts in their path.
Once the curse of many homeowners, bedbugs were thought to have disappeared due to widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and 1950s.
The recent bedbug resurgence in America has prompted the public to call their local exterminator at the first sign of infestation.
"Every county I work has had some," said Larry Wallace, owner of A+ Wallace's Termite and Pest Control in Columbia. "They've been here for the last 2 years but you're hearing more about it because it's affecting more people."
He said about one out of 20 calls he receives are eventually confirmed cases of bedbugs.
Last Thursday, parents whose children attend Salem Elementary School received a letter from Principal Terry Grider notifying them of a few cases reported at the school.
"I know that we have found specimens in a school," said Patty Meece, Russell County School nurse. "We just wanted to make people aware that there are bedbugs in Russell County."
Guidelines implemented at the school to control the spread of bedbugs mean that students will not take school materials home or bring items such as backpacks, purses, or lunch boxes from home to school until after the Labor Day holiday.
During the next two weeks, Salem Elementary School will be treated with pesticides to get rid of the unwelcomed visitors.
The vast majority of people today have never seen bed bugs so identifying them is a challenge.
Adult bedbugs are about 1/4 inch long and reddish brown, with oval, flattened bodies. They tend to hide during the day and crawl out at night to silently bite people as they sleep.
Symptoms of bedbug bites vary from person to person but many develop itchy, red welts that sometimes are mistaken for mosquito or flea bites. Unlike flea bites that occur mainly around the ankles, bed bugs feed on any skin exposed while sleeping such as the face, neck, shoulders, back, arms, and legs.
"If you suspect bedbugs, get a professional exterminator to positively identify them and get rid of them," said Shirley Roberson, Lake Cumberland Health Department health educator.
Wallace agrees and suggests that residents use a piece of clear tape to catch a sample bug so that it may be identified. He said not to squash the bug because that will prevent positive identification.
He warns that bedbugs can live longer than a year without a food source.
"Some people buy those bedbug mattress covers and leave them on for a couple of months thinking the bugs have suffocated and died," said Wallace. "They take the covers off too early and have a bedbug problem again."
Roberson said the health department is educating folks on where the bugs may be found and how to protect themselves.
"People should be careful about rental or second hand furniture. Discarded beds and couches might be infested and should be left alone," said Roberson. "Also, be careful not to set down luggage in a hotel room before checking the room for signs of bedbugs."
She said travelers should get in the habit of checking their bed for signs of bed bugs, such as black spots especially on seams of the mattress and box springs and along the head of the bed.
Initial home infestations tend to be around beds but the bugs eventually may become scattered throughout a room.
Wallace said residents should not use over-the-counter pesticides to try to solve the problem themselves because this only spreads them all over the house making it more difficult to eradicate the infestation.
Many people are calling Wallace to request preventative treatment of their homes but he says treatment of the infested homes is more important to stop the spread of bedbugs.
Taking precautions to avoid bedbugs in the first place is the best defense against infestation.
"If people would just educate themselves about bedbugs," said Wallace. "We'd have less cases."