Where does Houston rank for bed bug outbreak severity?

Houston, we have a problem. Two national pest control services, Terminex and Orkin, conducted studies showing an overall increase in bed bug infestation in the United States. They ranked cities according to the seriousness of the infestation. In 2010, Houston was not even on the Terminex list, but by June 2012 made it to number 12.

In 2011, Orkin ranked Houston 11th. This was a slightly better showing than the previous year where Orkin ranked it 10th.

The problem has grown so rapidly over the last few years that a national “Bed Bug” convention was held in Chicago in 2010 dedicated to methods of bed bug control. According to an article published in the New York Times September 21, 2001, the convention was attended by more than 360 people including “entomologists; pest control workers; government, military and university officials; and, especially, inventors of anti-bedbug contraptions…” The convention was at capacity with approximately two hundred more people waiting to get in.

Bed bugs are small, wingless little blood suckers. They are from one-eighth to three-sixteenths long. While they are not invisible, it is easy for them to hide in mattress seams, baseboards and in any clutter. They crawl easily and can hide in fabric in general like luggage, towels and clothing. They also like wood and paper.

One reason they are so prevalent is that they are quite hardy and have a life span of up to 18 months. Also, they survive in temperatures anywhere from one degree to 122 degrees.

Bed bugs are hard to get rid of. They don’t take to bait like ants or cockroaches do because they only feed on human or animal blood.

The tiny little critters come out at night and bite you on your bare arms and legs while you are sleeping. They stick two little tubes into your body. One injects saliva which acts as an anesthetic so you don’t feel the actual bite. The other tube sucks out your blood. The bug then goes and hides and does not need another meal for five to 10 days.

While waiting for their next meal, the bed bugs mate and the female lays eggs. She lays one to 12 eggs every day and, depending on the temperature, they hatch within six to 17 days.

There are some common bed bug myths that need to be dispelled. The truth is:

ï‚· Bed bugs do not transmit disease. The area where they bite you turns red, swells and itches as an allergic reaction to the bug’s injected saliva.

ï‚· Bed bug infestation has nothing to do with socio-economic status. Rich people get bed bugs just as often as poor people.

ï‚· Cleanliness has nothing to do with bed bugs. The bugs are just as happy in a clean home as in a dirty one.

ï‚· Bed bugs are more often found in homes than in motels or hotels.

According to the National Pest Management Association, do-it-yourself remedies are ineffective. Professional pest control services must be called to successfully get rid of the almost transparent, nocturnal bed bugs.