Bed bugs on the Rise in Kittitas County

September 16, 2017 | Natalie Hyland

Bed bug cases in Kittitas County, Washington have been increasing over the past five years.

Micah Flory of Prosite Pest Control said the company used to treat only about one case of bed bugs a year in Kittitas County. Now it is receiving three to four calls each week on average.

By the time most people notice the bugs, the infestations can be massive. Flory said only about 20 percent of people bitten by bed bugs react to them, making it common for the bugs to go unnoticed until they’ve already borne the next generation.

With bed bugs on the rise in Kittitas County over the past five years, Flory demonstrated the treatment methods the company uses to get rid of the bugs at a local home last month.

What’s a bed bug?

Bed bugs are tiny insects that feed on blood like fleas and mosquitoes, but unlike fleas and mosquitoes, bed bugs can’t jump and have to crawl everywhere they go. They’re excellent hitchhikers and spread by attaching to clothes, shoes and skin.

There are six stages of life for a bed bug, from egg to adult and they feed on blood between each stage. Female bed bugs are usually larger than males and require only one mating cycle to reproduce for their entire lifespans. They lay two to five eggs per day and can live for up to a year, about 200-500 eggs in one bug’s lifetime.

Bed bugs thrive in room-temperature conditions and seek out cracks and crevices where they aren’t likely to be disturbed. From egg to sexual maturity is around 90 days for bed bugs, but they aren’t full adults until about 120 days at room temperature.

What to look for

Some of the signs you may be looking at a bed bug problem, aside from the bugs themselves, are red, welt-like bites on your skin, cast skins, egg and fecal deposits and blood spotting on your sheets or in bed.

When bed bugs feed, they gorge themselves like a tick and may pop if squished or rolled over in your sleep. According to Prosite, “85 percent of infestation is found in or around sleeping areas.”

Sleeping areas include not only beds, but also couches, chairs and any other places people are likely to spend hours sitting and relaxing. Bed bugs are specifically attracted to human body temperatures and the carbon dioxide they emit.

The most likely places to find signs of bed bugs are around the bed — on the frame itself, the headboard or in the mattress and box spring. Away from the bed, bed bugs can be found in and around carpet edges, wall hangings, baseboards and upholstered furniture.

Although they can be seen with the naked eye later in their lives, during the earliest stages of their lives, bed bugs are lighter in color and usually harder to spot, making them harder to detect.

When buying used furniture, Flory advises people to ask if the furniture has been certified bed bug free by a pest control professional. If the seller can’t guarantee the furniture is free of bed bugs, call a professional to check. Most companies will inspect furniture for free, including Prosite.

GETTING RID OF THEM

Flory urges homeowners to call a pest control specialist as soon as they see signs of infestation. Pest control companies often offer free initial inspections.

The treatment process starts with vacuuming up all the visible bugs and eggs. Prosite helps comb through clothing, furniture and other personal belongings to make sure they get everything as clean as possible. This may involve taking clothes to be laundered and ridding the house of potentially infested furniture.

The next step is heat. By cranking the heat to a sweltering 135 degrees, Flory and his team kill all live bugs and eggs. Flory said that although bed bugs die at 122 degrees, they raise the heat higher to make sure “it penetrates deep into the walls and provides lethal temperature to critical areas.”

While the heat is on, the Prosite team also does a crack and crevice spray to kill any remaining pests that may be avoiding the heat. This also ensures that any bugs brought back into the home will die as soon as they try to hide.

The total treatment can be completed within one day with one treatment in about 8-10 hours. With traditional chemical treatments, the process can take as many as six treatments over the course of six weeks.

Following the treatment, someone from Prosite returns multiple times over the course of three weeks to monitor conditions and make sure the infestation has been completely eliminated.

BE VIGILANT

Flory said the best ways to keep bed bugs away after treatment are to be vigilant and look for signs of returning bugs frequently.

“We do the best we possibly can to prepare for the treatment and educate our clients to not reinfest themselves.” Flory said.

Depending on the case, if bugs reappear Prosite treats them on a case-by-case basis. It might involve spot treatment to repeating the full treatment.

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