Each night a couple years ago, Louis Salgado fell asleep knowing he would wake up a few hours later itching all over his body.
The West Covina apartment he and his late wife shared for two decades was infested with bed bugs for the better part of 2015.
I couldnt sleep, Salgado, 64, said recently as he recalled the most uncomfortable experience of his life. It got to the point that Id be up in the middle of the night with a flashlight and Id be seeing them crawl all over the carpet and Id try to kill them, try to stomp on them tried whatever I had available.
Turns out bed bugs, those not-so-cuddly insects our parents mentioned when they tucked us in at night and that we didnt give a second thought to, are very real these days.
And, yes, they bite.
Indeed, experts say the reddish-brown bed bug that is about the size of a grain of rice has made an extraordinary comeback after a roller coaster of a century.
In the early decades of the 1900s, the bug was widespread across the U.S. But the advent of DDT during World War II changed that, killing off huge numbers in the 1940s and 50s.
We thought it was gone forever, said Dini Miller, professor of entomology at Virginia Tech University. When you think about it now, that was kind of stupid.
After lying low for decades, the dreaded insect that was mentioned in medieval European literature is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Since 2000 its numbers have multiplied.
Its just exploded, Miller said.
Today theyre everywhere.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, theyre in apartments, houses, shelters, college dormitories, cruise ships, buses and trains. They typically live within an 8-foot crawl of where people sleep.
And if you thought your car was a refuge from the blood-sucking pests, guess again. Miller said bed bugs are fond of automobiles for good reason.
The food comes and sits down on a regular basis, she said. And everybody gets something to eat.
The crazy thing is, you dont know when your blood is being slurped through the bed bugs version of a straw an elongated beak for a meal. The CDC says the bug injects an anesthetic and anticoagulant that renders its bite painless.
Itchy, bite marks do appear in a few days. They are similar to marks from a mosquito or flea bite, a slightly swollen and red area, the CDC said.
Scratching sometimes causes infection. But many people have no reaction at all.
In any event, bed bugs arent considered dangerous.
They do not transmit any diseases, said Dong-Hwan Choe, an urban entomologist and assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside.
Choe is working to develop a device that can detect bed bugs for hotel chains and other businesses.
It has to be simple. It has to be cheap, Choe said. It has to be small so that it can be placed without being noticed by the people staying in the hotel.
Disease bearing or not, the thought of being dined on is enough to make ones skin crawl.
Choe said the bugs feed mostly at nighttime, which creeps people out.
And dont think you can fool them if you work a graveyard shift and sleep during the day.
In a 2015 article titled, Your Guide to Bed Bugs, University of Kentucky entomologist Michael Potter said the pest will adjust its schedule to yours.
Sleeping with the lights on is also not likely to deter hungry bed bugs, Potter wrote.
Potter said a feeding takes three to 10 minutes. Then the bug crawls back into its hiding place to digest the meal. Its flat body enables it to hide in tiny crevices in mattresses, box springs and bed frames.
When it comes to the creep-out factor, there is at least one thing in our favor: unlike other insects, bed bugs cant fly, Choe said.
But theyre speedy. The CDC says the bugs can crawl more than 100 feet in a night.
The nations big bad bed bug blow-up can be traced to a number of factors, experts say.
For one, DDT is long gone. The EPA banned it in 1972.
Even so, the bugs were building up resistance to DDT, Miller said. And, gradually, they are building up a defense against insecticides being used today.
She said some have developed thick, protective skins.
Others produce enzymes that break down toxic ingredients and render insecticides harmless.
We like to call those the hard-drinking bugs, she said.
Still other bed bugs have mutated.
They meet, fall in love and make other genetically immune babies, Miller said.
Perhaps we have ourselves to blame, too.
With the bugs out of sight and out of mind for decades, we have been slow to rally against them.
Plus, we travel a lot these days to faraway places, experts say. And the bugs are good at hitchhiking a ride home on our luggage.
Los Angeles is the nations sixth worst metro area for bed bugs, according to Atlanta-based Orkin. In the firms 2017 ranking, L.A. followed Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York and Columbus, Ohio.
For the Orkin survey, the L.A. area was defined as Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
Miller noted Terminix puts out an annual ranking, too. In its most recent report, Detroit was No. 1 on the list. L.A. was No. 4.
You have to take all of this with a grain of salt, Miller said. But, its one of the few indicators that we have.
During the fiscal year ending June 30, Los Angeles County received nearly 1,500 bed-bug complaints about 19.5 percent fewer than the previous year according to data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which does not track Long Beach, Pasadena or Vernon because those cities have their own health departments.
Sixty-two of those complaints originated from communities within the San Gabriel Valley, the data showed.
Between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, the Pasadena Environmental Health Division received 25 bed-bug complaints, according to city data. It received 26 complaints during the same period the previous year.
Not including Pasadena, residents in El Monte filed the most bed-bug complaints 15 with the county during the year ending June 30, according to the county data.
Choe, the expert from UC Riverside, said densely populated cities such as El Monte are more prone to infestations than sparsely populated ones.
They tend to have more frequent problems with bed bugs because they have more units and more people living close together, Choe said.
Some apartment units are treated repeatedly.
That may seem over the top. But its in line with the industry experience.
Salgado, who moved to La Puente earlier this year, said his West Covina apartment was only treated once and once was enough.
They spray your mattress, we had to throw couches away, everything was infested, he said. It was a big ordeal.
According to a national survey, two to three treatments is typical when insecticide is sprayed.
Survey results were detailed in Bed Bugs Across America, a 2015 report by University of Kentucky entomology professors Potter and Kenneth Haynes, and Jim Fredericks, vice president of technical services for the National Pest Management Association.
More expensive heat treatments are more likely to knock out an infestation in one visit, the report stated.
Because heat treatment can take most of the day, said Glen Ramsey, Orkin technical services manager, conventional treatment is more common.
Heat treatment takes longer than conventional treatment, as the affected areas need to be warmed up to 125 degrees, held for one hour and then cooled back down, Ramsey said.
The report said treatment costs averaged $1,225 for single-family homes and $3,128 for multifamily buildings in 2015, though some apartment managers spent as much as $50,000.
That places Plymouth West at the high end of the range. Davis said LOMCO spent $400,000 for treatments there from 2013 to 2016.
Before an exterminator ever steps foot in the door, extensive preparations are made.
Residents strip beds of sheets and blankets, empty dressers and closets, and wash and bag clothes.
The key is to put them through the dryer for an hour at high temperature, Long Beach resident Gary Shelton said.
Shelton had to leave his apartment for several hours. He returned the same day. Other renters spent a night in a motel.
Underscoring the difficulty involved in eradicating bed bugs, Sheltons unit was sprayed three times. Even then exterminators didnt get everything.
They said they couldnt get the bed bugs out of the bed frame, Shelton said.
So he threw it out and bought a new one.
Life is getting back to normal now. Its been anything but since that fateful day in late November.
A friend was over and noticed a live bug in the middle of the bed spread, Shelton said.
He was stunned. I wasnt getting bites that I was aware of, he said. But he promptly called the apartment manager.
After seeing one, he started seeing a lot more bugs.
Once you see them, youll see them in your mind, Shelton said. Youll see them everywhere.
BEDBUG (NOT SO FUN) FACTS
Size: 1 mm to 7 mm, roughly the size of Lincolns head on a penny
Color: Reddish brown, similar in coloration to an apple seed
Food: Human blood
Home: Within 8 feet of sleeping quarters. Known to live in apartments, houses, hotels, shelters, cruise ships, buses, trains and dormitories
Travel: Cant fly or jump, but can crawl fast up to 100 feet per day
Bite: Similar to mosquito, flea bites; does not carry disease
Evidence of presence: Bedbugs in folds of mattresses and sheets, rusty-colored blood spots; a sweet, musty odor
Treatment: insecticide, heat; significant preparation required of home occupants in advance; professional treatment recommended
No-nos: Do not spray bed sheets, blankets or clothes; do not apply bleach or alcohol. Applications of rubbing alcohol have sparked fires.
Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Your Guide to Bed Bugs, by Michael Potter; news reports
- Bed bugs at Radio-Canada - The Ticker Times - February 19th, 2020
- Baby girl dies from gas poisoning after neighbours spray flat with severely toxic substances to get rid of b - The Sun - February 18th, 2020
- 'Our little epidemic:' Bedbug infestations on the increase, say pest experts - Hickory Daily Record - February 13th, 2020
- Inuit say airport hotel is inhospitable, unsuitable for housing the sick - CTV News - January 10th, 2020
- We caught bedbugs from traveling and then the nightmare began - The Points Guy - December 23rd, 2019
- Press Release: Experts Warns By Pest Encounters During This Thanks Giving Season with Fast Pest Control Australia - PRWire - December 8th, 2019
- Protecting your home and family: The top 10 myths of bed bugs - Richland Source - November 24th, 2019
- Can Bed Bugs Stand the Heat? - PCT - PCT Magazine - November 24th, 2019
- East Islip home has massive hive with 120,000 bees - Newsday - November 20th, 2019
- How Much Do Bed Bug Exterminators Cost? (A Simple Guide ... - November 8th, 2019
- Can Bed Bugs Live In Wood Furniture and How to Remove Them ... - October 14th, 2019
- The 10 Best Bed Bug Exterminators Near Me (with Free ... - October 14th, 2019
- How to Deal with Bed Bugs at Your Rental Property - October 13th, 2019
- Bed bugs | UMN Extension - October 13th, 2019
- Bedbugs: Bite Treatment, Signs, Pictures & Identification - October 6th, 2019
- Apartment Bed Bugs | RPA Tenant Rights Blog - October 4th, 2019
- Preparing Your House for Bedbug Treatments | NC State ... - October 2nd, 2019
- The 10 Best Exterminators Near Me (with Free Estimates) - September 24th, 2019
- What to Do Before And After The Exterminator Comes for Bedbugs - September 10th, 2019
- Will an Exterminator Get Rid of Bed Bugs? How to Get Rid ... - September 10th, 2019
- Bed Bug Exterminator NYC | Extermination Treatment ... - May 23rd, 2019
- Bed Bugs Toronto - Pestend Affordable Pest Exterminator - May 13th, 2019
- Bed Bugs Treatment - May 12th, 2019
- Bed bug - Wikipedia - May 2nd, 2019
- Buffalo Bed Bug PCP | Professional Pest Control Buffalo ... - April 30th, 2019
- Bedbug Exterminator | Bed Bug Control | Bed Bug Infestation - April 20th, 2019
- Exterminator Bug Services |authorSTREAM - April 14th, 2019
- Milwaukee Bed Bug Exterminator | Pest Control Service | A ... - March 14th, 2019
- 6 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs [Incl. Recipes] - March 12th, 2019
- #1 Bed Bug Exterminator & Pest Control in Houston Texas ... - March 6th, 2019
- How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs (COMPLETE GUIDE) - February 16th, 2019
- Metro Detroit & Atlanta Bed Bugs - Metro Detroit Exterminator - February 10th, 2019
- How to Check for Bed Bugs: Discover where they hide and ... - February 10th, 2019
- Chicago IL Exterminator, Pest Control, Termite Inspections - February 9th, 2019
- How much does it cost to get rid of bed bugs in Toronto? - February 2nd, 2019
- Are Bed Bugs in the Walls? | Bed Bug Exterminator NYC | 24 ... - February 2nd, 2019
- Can Dogs Carry Bed Bugs? | Bed Bug Exterminator NYC | 24/7 ... - January 31st, 2019
- Affordable Bed Bug Exterminators: Pest Control Bed Bugs - January 24th, 2019
- Bed Bugs - January 24th, 2019
- What Do Bed Bugs Look Like (53 PICTURES OF BED BUGS) - January 24th, 2019
- Bed Bugs Guide - How to Kill Bed Bugs - January 10th, 2019
- Alpha Bed Bug Exterminator NYC - Manhattan | Treatment ... - January 4th, 2019
- Bed bug control & treatment - Expert exterminator for bed ... - January 4th, 2019
- Bed Bugs | Pest Control and Bug Exterminator Blog - November 21st, 2018
- Bed Bugs: How to Identify Bedbugs and How to Get ... - WebMD - October 3rd, 2018
- Bed Bug Exterminator NYC Testimonial - Watch Now - Bed Bug Exterminator NYC - September 27th, 2018
- Bed Bugs Exterminator Crew | Call 888-329-7794 - September 8th, 2018
- 2018 Average Bed Bug Exterminator Cost (with Price Factors) - July 6th, 2018
- Bed bug control techniques - Wikipedia - May 19th, 2018
- Heat Pro | Denver, Co Bed Bug Exterminator, Heat Treatment ... - May 2nd, 2018
- Pest Control | Bed Bug Exterminator Iowa City, Cedar ... - April 1st, 2018
- Bed Bug Facts & Pest Information: How Do You Get Bed Bugs? - March 22nd, 2018
- Bed Bug Extermination Cost: Inspection and Treatment Costs - March 18th, 2018
- Pest Control Exterminators Bed Bugs Roaches Termites - December 30th, 2017
- Bed Bug Exterminator Indianapolis - The Bed Bug Co. - December 27th, 2017
- The Best Bed Bugs Exterminator in Queens, NY - November 25th, 2017
- Bed bugs, drug paraphernalia greet 6th graders at Estes Park YMCA - The Denver Channel - September 2nd, 2017
- Guaranteed Bed Bug Exterminator in Brooklyn, NYC ... - September 2nd, 2017
- College students told to continue living in apartment with bedbugs - WRAL.com - September 1st, 2017
- Royster deals with found bed bug - Chanute Tribune - September 1st, 2017
- One couple's bedbug saga: exactly what a nightmare would be - San Francisco Chronicle - September 1st, 2017
- Increase in bed bug problems - The News Center - August 28th, 2017
- The most bed bug-infested cities in the US named - Inquirer.net - August 28th, 2017
- New California law aims to stop spread of bedbugs - San Francisco ... - San Francisco Chronicle - August 27th, 2017
- Cleveland Tops Terminix's Newest 'Top 20 Bed Bug Cities' List - PCT Magazine - August 26th, 2017
- Confirmed case of bed bugs at Parma Senior High School - News 5 ... - News 5 Cleveland - August 25th, 2017
- Cleveland tenants fight bed bug infestation, city ranked in top 15 for bed bug issues - News 5 Cleveland - August 24th, 2017
- An Invention Eliminates Bed Bug Bites even the Insects Migrate among Apartments - Digital Journal - August 23rd, 2017
- Reader takes issue with local exterminator - Circleville Herald - August 23rd, 2017
- Put Your Foot Down With Toronto Roach Removal - TG Daily (blog) - August 21st, 2017
- EZ Bed Bug Exterminator in Cincinnati Vows to End Bugs with New Service - Digital Journal - August 12th, 2017
- Aurora man says new mattress was delivered with bed bugs - The Denver Channel - August 12th, 2017
- EZ Bed Bug Exterminator in Cincinnati Vows to End Bugs with New Service - Press Release Rocket (press release) - August 12th, 2017
- Bed bugs that proliferate - The Sherbrooke Times - August 9th, 2017
- Bed Bugs Exterminator & Bed Bugs ... - - RTC Pest Control - August 9th, 2017
- 'Boy, they itch like crazy': Bedbugs bother Whitehorse visitors and residents - CBC.ca - August 7th, 2017
- Bed bugs pose particularly difficult problem in Central Illinois - Illinois News Network - July 31st, 2017
- Bedbugs make an unwelcome comeback in Southern California - Press-Enterprise - July 31st, 2017
- Apartment bed bug infestation persists after treatments - FOX31 Denver - July 31st, 2017
- Bed Bugs Be Gone: Rutgers Gets Nod for Fighting Pests - New ... - TAPinto.net - July 13th, 2017