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Bed Bug Inspection - BB ALERT®
The BB ALERT® products are not complicated and have been designed for use by:
PEST MANAGEMENT PROFESSIONAL?

Pest management professionals to confirm Bed Bug activity prior to treatment and to verify treatment effectiveness as well as provide on-going service contracts and contractual revenue.

HOME OWNER?
Home owners; to detect the presence of Bed Bugs.
RESPONSIBILITY?
Owners and managers in the health, hospitality and similar industries who hold responsibility for the well being of their clients.
ANXIETY?
Whether you are an anxious home -owner, an industry professional, a pest control specialist or just intrigued by the Bed Bug "plague" that is engulfing the world, we hope that you will find something of interest and value in this site.

How to Inspect for Bed Bugs

Inspecting structures for Bed Bugs is one of the most challenging tasks in the pest control industry. The naturally secretive behavior of this pest, its nocturnal activity, and its preference for living in small crevices, all work to assist it to remain undetected.

"Thoroughness is the key" is the mantra most widely used to describe the successful Bed Bug inspection process. While this is most certainly accurate, it provides the novice Bed Bug inspector with very little guidance on where to start and what to expect.

This inspection guide assumes nothing about the experience level of the inspector or the type of structure to be inspected, and tries to approach the Bed Bug inspection process from a purely logical viewpoint.

Inspection Methods

There are three primary techniques for finding pest insects.

1. Visual Inspection.
This technique is the most common, and can produce excellent success rates. However, it is not "just looking around" (which is unlikely to produce results). Visual inspection relies on knowledge of the insect's behavior and biology to "direct" the search, which essentially means training and experience. This factor is often overlooked.

2. Use of a "Flushing Agent".
A number of insect pests that normally reside in hidden locations can be forced into activity (and into revealing themselves) by use of a small amount of irritating pesticide. These "flushing agents" are often formulated as aerosols, commonly with applicators to enable their output to be directed into specific areas. Bed Bugs are one of the pests that may be revealed by this technique. While this can be a valuable supplement to visual inspection, it suffers from the same drawbacks. The product can only work if applied into the areas where the pest is likely to be hiding.

3. Insect Detectors.
These normally consist of small devices containing a sticky surface. They are placed at strategic locations and periodically checked. Any pests that contact them become trapped and their presence confirmed. While they require some judgment when selecting placement sites, they are less sensitive in this regard due to the extended period over which they work. Conversely, the results obtained are less specific with regard to the location of the pest infestation.

There have been very few systematic examinations of the efficacy of these techniques in Bed Bug inspections. However, evidence from work with other crawling insects suggests that the highest success rates are achieved in inspections that incorporate all three techniques.

Bed Bug Focus

Knowledge of the biology, preferred habitat, and behavior of Bed Bugs can provide the inspector with "focus", and help to lead the inspection to the areas most likely to be infested.

- What is in a Name?
The English common name of "Bed Bug" was not its first one. Bed Bugs were first recorded in England in the early part of the 16th. century, and were originally known as the "Wall Louse". Only much later did the "Bed Bug" name come into common use, probably with the widespread change to white bed linens (which more clearly show Bed Bug excreta). Bed Bugs like to feed on people while they are sleeping, so most Bed Bugs will try to find safe harborage as close to the host's resting area as possible, but they are certainly not confined to the bed - despite their present name.

- Gregarious by Nature.
Bed Bugs prefer to rest in narrow cracks and crevices packed in with other Bed Bugs. The term "narrow" in this context means just big enough for them to fit and, as these are "flattened" insects, that can be very narrow. In general, they seem to like horizontal cracks over vertical ones, and wood, plaster or paper over metal. Of course, when populations become large and all the best spots are already taken, then you may find them in these "less popular" places as well.

- Incomplete Metamorphosis.
Bed Bugs develop from eggs through a series of molts in what is referred to scientifically as incomplete metamorphosis. This just means that the newly hatched nymph Bed Bug looks very similar to the adult (only smaller), and grows a little more like the adult each time it sheds its skin. For the Bed Bug nymph, development means shedding their skin five times to reach the adult stage. For the Bed Bug inspector, it means there must be five cast Bed Bug nymph skins somewhere for each adult Bed Bug. Cast skins from insect metamorphosis look like translucent shells in the size and shape of the nymph, and are so light they will easily drift in slight air currents. Although the nymph Bed Bugs may shed their skin within the protection of the harborage, the cast skin will often end up somewhere more visible, sometimes in quite obvious piles behind furniture or caught in spider webs.

- A Matter of Size.
Relative to their size, Bed Bugs take a considerable quantity of blood at each feed. This causes their abdomen to distend, and this increase in size would prevent them from returning to the safety of their resting harborage. They therefore excrete the excess water from their meal before returning to their daytime hiding places, and the excreta leaves black sticky marks on surfaces where the Bed Bug has been. These can build up over time into distinct patches, which are very clear signs of past Bed Bug activity. Unfortunately, these marks will also outlive the Bed Bugs, and do not guarantee that Bed Bugs are still active.

- The Dark Side.
Bed Bugs avoid light, and are normally only found outside their daytime resting areas when it is dark. For the Bed Bug inspector this means that if you can see it easily - then it is unlikely to be a preferred harborage for Bed Bugs. Look for the places where the light does not penetrate. The back sides, the undersides, the insides. The dark sides.

Performing the Inspection

Bed Bugs have been found infesting a very wide variety of locations, from homes and apartments to hotels, student housing, correctional facilities, ships, aircraft, and even buses - almost anywhere that they can secure a meal from their host. Rather than attempting to detail all the locations for Bed Bug inspection (which would be a very tedious list), we will only consider the common features. The detail of the inspection described is expected to be very high - suitable to finding an object the size of a contact lens that has deliberately hidden itself.

In almost all infestations, the area to be inspected includes a bed (or a similar human resting site). While Bed Bugs are commonly found infesting other areas, the bed is the place where they feed, and therefore the secure harborages close to the bed are the most likely to be occupied. The inspection should include all areas of the bed, the linens, mattress, bed frame, head board, and any attached furnishings.

After the bed, the next most likely Bed Bug resting areas are any walls immediately adjacent. Here inspection should focus on crevices formed by structural elements such as door and window frames, baseboards or cornice, and wall hangings or pictures. Bed Bugs have been found living in large numbers behind loose wallpaper, so check also for structural defects or loose paneling. If the area is carpeted, inspect the carpet edges and their junction with the wall. If there are window treatments, check the supports and any seams in the material. Bed Bugs are regularly found behind electrical outlet covers and switch plates but, unless you are knowledgeable in these matters, you should seek the assistance of an electrician when inspecting these.

Continue the inspection with any other furnishings present. It is advisable to turn soft furnishings over to inspect their undersides. The non-visible areas of soft furnishings are very commonly finished with a coarse weave material, which is held only loosely in place and may provide access for Bed Bugs into the dark and protected interior. For solid furnishings you should attempt to access the interior by opening doors or removing draws. In cases where the area is occupied, this will require removal of the contents - which must also be inspected.

Lastly, you should attempt to inspect any electrical or electronic devices present. This is particularly difficult, as items such as telephones, televisions, clock-radios, computers and audio equipment are usually designed to permit air circulation for cooling, and have very many potential access points for Bed Bugs. Disassembly of these items is not a safe course of action.

Continuous Inspection

The most obvious feature of an inspection for Bed Bugs is the level of manpower that is required. Detailed inspection at this level is very time consuming, and the cost to perform it becomes prohibitive unless a Bed Bug problem has been confirmed. Due to their secretive behavior, this is often after the Bed Bug population has grown to significant numbers, and the remedial work required to solve the problem is proportionately larger.

One solution to this dilemma is the use of insect detectors for continuous monitoring. The BB ALERT® Passive is designed specifically for this use. They are placed in an area close to a potential Bed Bug feeding site and routinely inspected. The inspection of the BB ALERT® Passive requires a minimum of time and expertise, and will provide continuous monitoring for up to a year. If Bed Bugs are detected, then remedial action can be promptly implemented to eliminate the problem while the infestation remains contained.

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