Bed Bug FAQs

Bed bugs are invading every state in America (see our April 9, 2007 blog post). Spring heralds warm, rainy weather and an increase in bed bug activity across the country. Since knowledge is always the first line of defense, we endeavor to answer the questions most often asked our bed bug experts. Be warned, though, you’ll need professional help to get rid of the little buggers.

What are bed bugs?
They are wingless insects of the family cimicidae in the order Hemiptera. Hemipteran insects have a mouthpart called a proboscis that is used for sucking fluids, in this case blood.

What do they look like?
Bed bugs are big enough to be seen with the naked eye. Adults are about the size of an apple seed with flat, oval, reddish-brown bodies. Nymphs (young) are a translucent yellow and slightly smaller.

Do only “dirty” people get bed bugs?
Bed bugs are not associated with unsanitary conditions. They do not feed on crumbs, dirt or debris. They feed on blood. They are insects of convenience and may invade any environment that houses warm-blooded hosts (people), including hostels, motels, hotels, homes, hospitals, nursing homes, cruise ships, trains, etc.

What do they eat?
Bed bugs feed on human and animal blood. They are active at night and bite any areas of exposed skin, often feeding for 3 to 10 minutes at a time. One bed bug can suck up to six times its weight in blood.

Where do they live?
They hide in tiny crevices or cracks around beds. They may hide in the folds of sheets and blankets, in mattresses, behind wallpaper or molding, and in cracks in floorboards or furniture.

Do they bite?
All bed bugs bite; it’s how they feed. Not all people react to bed bug bites, but those who do experience localized swelling and itching. When a bed bug inserts its proboscis into the skin of a host, its saliva contains an anticoagulant to promote blood flow. Most people react to the salivary proteins which cause an allergic reaction, much like our reaction to mosquito bites. Bites produce a round, raised, reddish welt that may itch intensely for days. Areas may become inflamed or infected when scratched. Those frequently bitten may develop a sensitivity “syndrome” that can include nervousness, jumpiness and sleeplessness.

Do bed bugs carry diseases?
Bed bugs are a nuisance pest like fleas or lice. They are not believed to transmit diseases to humans, though known pathogens are capable of living inside a bed bug or on its mouthparts. In rare cases, bed bug saliva may cause anaphylactic shock.

How long do they live?
Bed bugs live 6 to 12 months. Females lay from 200 to 500 eggs at a time which are covered with a glue and hatch in about 10 days. One female can produce three to four generations per year. There are five progressively larger nymphal stages, each requiring a single blood meal before molting to the next stage. Bed bugs can go without feeding for as long as a year.

How do I know if I have them?
Bed bugs leave fecal smears on bedding and mattresses. Look for rusty or tarry spots of dried blood along mattress seams, boxsprings, behind headboards or on furniture. You may see cast skins, the hollowed out shells left behind as they shed a nymphal stage. Tiny pea-shaped, pearly-white egg clusters may be visible but are often buried in cracks or crevices and are generally difficult to see. Bed bugs give off a musty, sweet odor often likened to raspberries or coriander that is noticeable to some. Bed bugs can be confused with other insects. To be 100% certain you have bed bugs, you’ll need to have an inspection done by a reputable professional pest control company.

How do they spread?
Easily. Bed bugs can be carried from one site to another on clothing, cardboard boxes, used furniture, luggage, bedding, mattresses, etc. They move readily through wall voids, ducts and elevator shafts making it difficult to contain an outbreak.

What do I do if I think I have bed bugs?
Call the bed bugs experts at Stern Environmental Group immediately. Applying chemicals yourself or disturbing the area will only cause bed bugs to spread or migrate, making your life even more miserable. Click the post title for more information on bed bugs and how to get rid of them.

Sources: University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources and The Bed Bug Resource.

Bed Bugs Invading All 50 States!

Just reading this article made my skin creep and crawl. Written by Meredith May for the San Francisco Chronicle, we found it posted on yesterday, April 8, 2007, and thought it was important enough to share with you. (Click the post title for the source site.) The story may have been written on the West Coast, but the problem is just as dire right here in our own backyard.

by Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle

Walter has stopped hugging his friends. He is throwing out his clothes and furniture, and he rarely comes out of his Tenderloin hotel room anymore.

He’s not suicidal, but darn near. He has bedbugs.

Nearly eradicated in the United States 50 years ago, resistant strains of “super” bedbugs are infesting mattresses at an alarming rate. In what’s being touted as the biggest mystery in entomology, all 50 states are reporting outbreaks of the blood-sucking nocturnal critters.

Pest control companies nationwide reported a 71 percent increase in bedbug calls between 2000 and 2005. Left alone, a few bedbugs can create a colony of thousands within weeks.

“We never treated bedbugs until 2002. Now we have a dedicated bedbug crew working on this every day,” said Luis Agurto, president of Pestec in San Francisco.

Agurto’s arsenal includes a vacuum, steam heat to cook the bedbug eggs and targeted spraying of insecticides. It takes three, eight-hour visits and about $500 to $750 to exterminate one room. A whole house would cost closer to $5,000.

The bulk of Agurto’s clients live in low-income hotels and shelters in the Tenderloin, but he’s been called to five-star hotels and suburban homes in Walnut Creek.

Bedbugs have been found in moving vans, public transit seat cushions, airplanes, college dorms and even a Bay Area meditation retreat. They spread by hitching a ride on your clothes or in your luggage and crawling off to infest your home or apartment building.

Nearly 300 bedbug infestations were reported to San Francisco health officials in 2006, more than double the number in 2004. Most of the cases involved travelers discovering bedbugs in upscale hotels.

The size and shape of a lentil, bedbugs lay eggs during the day and hide in your bed, clothing and light sockets. At night, they suck your blood, leaving itchy bumps on your skin and little bloody excretions on your sheets. They don’t pass diseases, but they are incredibly difficult to exterminate, even following their blood hosts who move to new apartments trying to get away.

The bedbug resurgence has sparked Web sites like, where people share extermination tips, bite mark photos and counsel each other through the stigma. There are bedbug symposiums, cover stories in American Entomologist magazine and dozens of videos depicting infestations on YouTube. California just issued its first state bedbug guidelines, and New York lawmakers want to ban the sale of reconditioned mattresses after 4,600 bedbug cases were reported in 2006.

“The Laundromat near my building is packed, the tenants are in there, washing everything they own and giving each other knowing glances,” said Walter, who has been battling bedbugs for five weeks and fears he will be kicked out of his Tenderloin studio and made a pariah if he reveals himself.

Lady Bug, a beagle professionally trained to sniff out bedbugs, makes regular rounds with Agurto’s Pestec crew in San Francisco. On Friday, the dog inspected Tina Blade’s room at the Empress Hotel in the Tenderloin, smelling the bed frame, baseboards and carpet.

To Blade’s relief, Lady Bug deemed the room all clear. Blade is not among the dozen people who have had bedbug infestations in the 90-room Empress, but she has been bitten at other single-room occupancy hotels in the neighborhood.

“I’d always heard that nursery rhyme, ‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite,’ but I never knew it was real until I moved to San Francisco,” she said.

Empress manager Roberta Goodman is proactive about bedbugs. She conducts tenant meetings, keeps Pestec on call and has Lady Bug in every month to make sure the bugs are staying at bay.
“I can keep our community educated, but I can’t control the guests who are coming in and out; that’s why we do monthly checks,” she said.

Bedbugs were nearly eradicated after World War II, when exterminators and homeowners used DDT to get rid of the pests.

Experts say bedbugs are making a comeback because of increased global travel and a shift toward less-toxic pest control. As people are backing away from harsh chemicals and indoor spraying, the bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to the pesticides.

“We don’t use as harsh chemicals as we used to, we don’t spray mattresses with insecticide before selling them anymore, and the bugs are getting increasingly resistant to the few chemicals we have left,” said public health biologist Laura Krueger, who wrote the new bedbug guidelines for the California Department of Health Services.

Nearly all exterminators use pyrethroids, which are a synthetic version of pyrethrum, the substance found in chrysanthemum flowers. But last fall, at the University of Kentucky, some of the nation’s best bedbug researchers delivered some sobering news — while they could kill bedbugs born in the lab with pyrethroids, four groups of adult bedbugs brought in from the outside were unaffected.

Because bedbugs are such a new phenomenon, people don’t know what to do about them and are often unwittingly making their problem worse, said Nobugsonme, a New York woman who runs the Web site to help sufferers cope.

A victim herself who wanted to remain anonymous, Nobugsonme said in a phone interview with The Chronicle that a series of pest control visits is the only way to get rid of the bugs. Moving the mattress, sleeping in the living room, using a bug fogger or moving in with a friend will only relocate the bugs, she said.

“People who throw away all their possessions and battle this for months and spend thousands on pest control only to relocate and have the bugs reappear are really traumatized,” she said. “They are getting only a few hours of sleep at night, they feel itchy all the time, some go to therapy over it.”

Thirty percent of people don’t have skin reactions to bedbug bites, and may not notice an infestation until it has gotten out of control.

Pest control researchers are experimenting with alternatives such as steaming or freezing the bugs to death, and some New Jersey exterminators are gassing them with the termite killer Vikane.

UC Berkeley urban entomologist Vernard Lewis is trying to get grant money to build a baited bedbug trap.

Bedbugs give off a distinctive odor, described as rotting coconuts, and that’s probably how the males and females find each other, he said.

“If we can mimic that funk, that stink, I think we could make baits and monitor them,” Lewis said.

Until the experts figure it out, bedbug sufferers will have to help each other fight back and raise awareness.

When Atlanta filmmaker Kyle Tekiela made a short bedbug film noir and put it on YouTube, he was shocked by how many people contacted him begging for help with bedbug problems.

“Students from all over the country sent me videos of their dorm rooms,” Tekiela said. “This one guy did a 360 where the ceiling meets the walls and there was a three-inch band of bedbugs all the way around.”

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If you even THINK you might have bed bugs, call Stern Environmental Group TODAY. The faster you call us, the quicker we can get the problem under control. We are the bed bug E
XPERTS and CAN and WILL get rid of your bed bugs — GUARANTEED! For more information about bed bugs, visit the bed bug page on our website. You’ll sleep well tonight when you get “Stern” with your pests.

Make Sure You’re Bed Bug Free for the Tourist Season

The weather is warming up and the tourist season is about to start. Bed bugs are a growing problem for people working in the hospitality trade. The reputation — and income — of a hotel, motel, hostel or recreational facility can be ruined overnight by the pesky little critters. And it just takes one, riding on the coattails of an infected guest, to contaminate an entire facility.

If you’re concerned that your facility might be housing bed bugs, call the professionals at Stern Environmental Group today. We are experts at getting rid of these unwanted guests. We know how to get the nasty buggers out of your facility and guarantee that we’ll get rid of your bed bug problem. We’ve helped many businessmen — and residents — solve their bed bug problem. We provide bed bug extermination services in most of New Jersey, all of New York City, most of Long Island, and parts of Connecticut.

Visit the Stern Environmental Group website and check out our bed bug page for information on what to look for to determine if you might have bed bugs. Don’t let bed bugs jeopardize your business. If you think you might have a problem, call the Stern Environmental Group today. We promise prompt, fast action and guaranteed extermination. You’ll sleep well tonight when you get “Stern” with your pests.

Nocturnal ‘Gardeners’ Can Destroy Lawn

While I appreciate the gardening help, I do wish they’d be a little more careful. Aerating your lawn is a healthy thing to do every few years. It loosens compacted soil and gives plant and tree roots more room to breathe and absorb nutrients. As kids we used to help Dad aerate the lawn by sticking long-bladed garden forks into the ground, wiggling them around a bit and moving up a step to do it again … and again … and again … and again … and, well, you get the picture. It was like a game of Mother May I that never went anywhere.

The finer points of lawn aeration seem to be lost on the neighborhood raccoon crew that has decided to help me out. Every morning I wake up to find another swath of dirt stretching across my backyard. Sometimes the sod is expertly peeled back to expose the tasty grubs the animals are looking for and is easily replaced. More often, chunks of sod are torn apart and overturned with dirt making an impossible jigsaw puzzle of my lawn. No amount of grub control insecticide seems to deter them. A grub or two always seems to survive, renewing the raccoons’ hopes for a tasty feast. My yard retains its 5-star rating in the raccoon Michelin Guide!

Raccoons, opossums, skunks, woodchucks and other wild animals can become real pests when they try to muscle in on your lawn or garden. When you spend hours sweating in the yard and hundreds of dollars on Weed ‘n’ Feed, Turf Builder, mulch, plants, bulbs and seeds, you tend to get a little possessive about your turf and a wee bit cranky when nighttime bandits steal in and tear it up for a midnight snack. Time to call in the pros.

If nuisance wildlife has made a home in your yard or home, call the professionals at Stern Environmental Group. Don’t let the destruction, disease and midnight snack attacks they bring with them make your life miserable. Our expert technicians can rout out these dangerous unwanted guests and stop their destruction of your home, returning your yard to the peaceful oasis you always wanted.

Stern Environmental Group offers a full range of effective pest management and pest control services. Visit our website for complete information, and click the post title for more information about our wildlife control services. You’ll sleep better tonight when you get “Stern” with your pests.

Bugs Got You a Little Embarrassed? Stern Protects Your Privacy

There’s no need to be embarrassed. So you have a bit of a bug problem. It happens to the best of us. Insects and other pests are notorious in their ability to adapt and take advantage of their environment. When their adaptability makes them at home in your home or business, it’s annoying, irritating — and, yes, embarrassing. What will the neighbors — or your customers — think if they spy the little buggers creeping around your home or business?

Despite the facts, bugs are associated with filth and dirt. But bugs are equal opportunity invaders. They’ll get down and cozy in a clean house just as quickly as in a dirty one. Unfortunately, the common misconception can make a homeowner uncomfortable and ruin a businessman.

At Stern Environmental Group, we understand your concerns and protect your privacy. Our Privacy Policy is simply and straightforward: “We do not share any information about you with anyone.” If you contact us, we will only use your e-mail address for our own marketing purposes. We do NOT sell or share your address or any information we receive from you with any other parties. (Please note that in extenuating circumstances we may be required by law or legal process to disclose your personal information, but will only do so when required by law.) To read our Privacy Policy, click the post title.

If you have a pest problem, you can trust the experienced professionals at Stern Environmental Group to handle it quickly, effectively and discreetly. Visit our website for more information about our complete pest control and pest management services. You’ll sleep well tonight when you get “Stern” with your pests.

Serving Up News on Bugs that Bug You!