I prefer my articles to not only be informative but at the same time entertaining. I will be the first to admit that an article on bed bugs may cover the first part of being educational but may not be the most entertaining topic to cover.

I will say that having factual information on bed bugs is important for everyone. You can say that bed bugs can be equal opportunity employers. Anyone at some point can have problems with bed bug issues.

The column this week will provide background on bed bugs and tips on how to reduce the chance of having a problem with them in your home. I will sharing information from a UGA publication by Pam Turner and Jacquelyn Ogden, UGA staff and Melanie Badding, Armstrong State University.

Identification of bed bugs can be tough because they can be confused with immature cockroaches and carpet beetles. Keep in mind that bed bugs go through three life cycle stages. The egg stage will be the size of pinheads and white in color. The nymph state will have the bed bugs the size of a poppy seed. They will be transparent or yellowish in color, but will become darker with each of five molts. The adult stage can have bed bugs the size of an apple seed. They will have a flat and oval shaped body plus brown in color.

After feeding, the adult bed bug will be reddish/brown in color with an elongated and balloon-shaped body. If you see what you believe are bed bugs, you do need to have them correctly identified. If you bring samples to me, I normally will have a good idea of the identification, but I will also send the samples to the lab for a 100% identification for a $5 charge. There are a few signs that can lean towards bed bugs being in your home. The first is seeing and identification of live bed bugs.

You may also see dark spots on your fabric and sheets that is from bed bug excrement. You may find shed skin of immature bed bugs or bed bug eggs.

How can bed bugs get into your home? Luggage is one way when traveling. Bed bugs will hide in your luggage and you then bring them back to your home. A tip is to not put luggage on hotel beds or on the hotel room floor. You should place your luggage on a luggage rack away from the wall. If you have traveling house guests, your visitors may bring bed bugs into your home by way of their personal belongings. It is suggested to inspect the room of your guests when they leave. It should be noted that movie theaters or other places when people sit for a long time can be known to have bed bugs. Also, secondhand items including clothing and furniture can be a home for bed bugs. Be sure to check used items for bed bugs and clean those items before bringing into your dwelling.

Keep in mind that bed bugs can hide in tiny holes, cracks and along seams. I will add that we do have before purchasing and after purchasing recommendations for secondhand items that we can share with you by request.

Where do bed bugs hide in a home? During the day, bed bugs normally crowd together in small spaces. They can hide behind headboards, in box springs, seams of mattresses, along the baseboard and corners of a room and inside or behind furniture such as couches, chairs or nightstands. Bed bugs can even hide in screw holes, in electric sockets and behind switch covers.

What can you do to keep bed bugs from infesting your house? For starters, reduce the amount of clutter in your house. Clutter reduction will reduce hiding spaces for bed bugs. You should vacuum your home often and also use protective covers on your bed frames and mattress. The protective covers again will reduce hiding places for bed bugs. Be sure to check and clean secondhand items before bringing into your house. You should also wash clothes immediately after returning home from a trip. Another tip is during warm weather, you can place suspected items in a car parked in the sunshine with windows rolled up.

What can you do if your have found bed bugs in your home? First, consult a pest management professional because of the difficulty of controlling bed bugs. Look for professionals that will use integrated pest management steps and have experience with bed bug control. You will need to prepare your home for treatment. This means to reduce clutter, clean all items in the infested area, launder items that can be laundered then dry laundry on the highest setting to kill the bed bugs. Store laundry in sealed plastic bags.

It is also suggested to encase the mattress and box springs in a cover made to keep bed bugs inside. Please note to never treat bedding with insecticides. You should also wash pet bedding.

For more information, call 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.

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