Bed bugs

Asked February 5, 2018, 9:15 AM EST

Recognizing that your focus is mostly on gardening and outdoor bugs, I'm hoping that someone could nonetheless help with this issue: We are helping a refugee family in Riverdale (PG County), MD. Unfortunately, their apartment has bedbugs, and we are dealing with the maintenance office there to try to resolve that problem. My question has to do with my own home (in Montgomery County). I hired a pest company to come to my home with a dog to determine if WE somehow brought home any bedbugs from Riverdale. The dog walked through the house, including closets (with clothes and suitcases), the cars, and all the rooms. It found ONE SINGLE LIVE BEDBUG on the tag behind the bed. Obviously, I'm concerned about any bedbugs, but I wonder if you can make sense of the fact that the dog found only one. Reportedly, their scent can detect even baby bedbugs and those that have not yet hatched. Could you help me sort out what this could mean for my house? Much thanks.

Montgomery County Maryland bedbugs

8 Responses

Thanks for your inquiry. The eXtension faculty includes expertise in household pests as well as garden pests. We are sorry to hear about your refugee family's problem with bed bugs. Bed bugs can be an especially tough issue to deal with for low-income families unless landlords provide the treatment costs. I do have some suggestions for DIY bed bug control on this page https://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/bed-bugs/

Regarding your canine inspection, it is possible that there was only one bed bug, although I would not count on it. Low level infestations can be difficult to detect. I would recommend placing bed bug interceptors https://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/bed-bugs/ent-3012/ under your bedposts as a means both of trapping and monitoring for the presence of these insects.
Despite the sales pitches, dogs are not perfect bed bug detectors. They most commonly give false positives, though it sounds in your case like you were able to confirm the "hit" by finding the actual bed bug. Likewise dogs may miss some bed bugs (false negatives). The interceptor cups along with regular removing of sheets and looking on the bed are actually more effective (and cheaper) than a dog inspection.

Thank you for your thorough, thoughtful, and prompt response. I greatly appreciate the helpfulness of the information you provided. I am particularly grateful to learn about some concrete, actionable steps that I can take. And I am so glad to have an independent expert to consult with! Much thanks.

A follow-up question: The posts to the bed are made of metal. Does that matter in terms of the effectiveness of the 'interceptor?' Thanks again!

No. Climbup interceptors come in two sizes, one for normal bed posts, and supersize for large bed posts. Bed post material does not matter. See https://www.amazon.com/Climbup-Interceptor-Bed-Bug-Trap/dp/B0033SC0LI

Thank you! A (hopefully last) question: We ordered a zippered bed bug-proof mattress cover. I'm told the best time to put it on is after pesticide treatment, However, since we don't know if we have a problem at this point in time, do you think it's OK to cover the mattress now?

The reason for putting on after treatment is to ensure no bed bugs on the outside of the encasement during treatment. If you are not being bothered with bed bug bites now, that's what I would recommend. But if you are getting bites and need relief put it on now. YOu'll just want to inspect and vacuum it thoroughly after your treatment is done, so that you don't start a new infestation on top of your then bug-free bed.

I understand. Again, thank you for helping me navigate this. I am grateful for your expertise and advice.

I understand. Again, thank you for helping me navigate this. I am grateful for your expertise and advice.