Serving Mercer, Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex County
Despite their name, bed bug infestations are not limited to mattresses and box springs. This particular lesson was learned the hard way by a Freehold homeowner. The customer had contacted Cowleys after continuing to receive numerous unexplained bites all over his arms over a period of a few days. He suspected that these bites were bed bug bites. As it turned out, he was correct. It was good that he contacted Cowleys at the first sign of trouble before the infestation had a chance to spread throughout the entire home.
I arrived at his home to perform a bed bug inspection. Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively off the blood of mammals, with a distinct preference for human blood. They also like to feed when their hosts (us!) are sleeping, napping, or at least not moving around. When not feeding, they hide nearby hidden in the nooks and crannies of not only mattresses, but also in all types of upholstered furniture. We have found bed bugs in sofas, la-z-boy recliners, and even cribs. Bed bugs are not limited to homes. We have found them in commercial facilities as well. For example, bed bugs have infested movie theater seats, patiently waiting for their next blood meal to sit down and enjoy the show.
Because mattresses are the most common bed bug “hot spot” in homes, I always start my inspections in the bedrooms. After entering, the customer’s bedroom, I slowly pulled the sheets back so as to not disrupt any evidence. I am looking not only for live bed bugs, but evidence of an infestation like eggs and small fecal or blood stains. I’m especially careful to check the mattress seams. Like most insects, they like to hide when not scavenging and feeding by squeezing into tight spaces, and the tighter the better. There was absolutely nothing! Surely, I thought, if the mattress is clean, the box spring must be the bed bug hide-out. I lifted the box spring off of the bed frame and stood it up on end. Using my high-powered LED flashlight, I inspected every crack and crevice. Again, not a single bed bug. Finally, out of an abundance of caution, I inspected the entire bedroom. There was not a single bed bug nor any evidence of bed bug activity in the room.
But I was not about to give up. The bites on the homeowner’s arms were very real, and from my experience with these insects, they appeared to be bed bug bites. I was confident that there was an infestation in this house, but this was one of those instances where the bed bug infestation was localized elsewhere, and did not yet make it to the bedroom.
Next, I observed the living room furniture, and asked the customer if he had a favorite spots where he reads, watches TV, or even takes a nap or two during the day or at night before retiring to his bed. He pointed me to his trusty recliner. It was clear that this recliner had a lot of daily use. All bed bugs care about is that their food source for their next blood meal is where they expect it to be. A regularly used recliner is a perfect spot for a bed bug to call home. As I began taking apart the chair, I immediately saw live bed bug activity — and lots of it. They were crawling in virtually every crack and crevice. This recliner was severely infested.
I quickly grabbed my high-powered vacuum, and started sucking up all the live activity as well as the eggs. Bed bugs eggs are shiny, translucent, and milky white. Also, they are coated with a sticky substance so they are glued in place and not easily disturbed. While my vacuum does a great job pulling them off, they sometimes need to be scraped off as well. Next, I applied a chemical application to all of the seams so that any bed bugs able to evade my vacuum would be killed. Finally, I reassembled the chair.
With heavily infested furniture, it’s often best to discard individual pieces, especially if the furniture has seen better days. Doing so will help rid the home of bed bugs much faster. However, this homeowner was adamant that he wanted to save this chair, perhaps out of sentimental value. So, I told him that I could do a comprehensive treatment in the living room with the recliner left in place. In two weeks, I’ll follow up, re-inspecting the bedroom and elsewhere to ensure that the infestation did not spread beyond the living room. Unfortunately, bed bugs are stealth hitchhikers and, while they don’t have much mobility themselves, they easily move from one place to the next by hitching rides onto people or their belongings. After the follow-up, I’ll give my recommendation should anything else need to be done. Of course, a good sign that a bed bug infestation is resolved is no more bites. As with all of our bed bug treatments, I’ll continue to follow-up with this homeowner until this bed bug infestation is completely resolved.