We Bedbuggers know that bed bugs can be very difficult to find, even for trained Pest Control Operators. Time and again, people with bites are told they do not have any “evidence.” Since other conditions and pests can cause similar symptoms, it is of course important that other “signs” are present–but too often, actual bed bugs are not among them. Many PCOs still will not treat without an actual bug.
So it was with interest that I read Thursday’s press release today from the National Pest Management Association, one timed as to use Halloween as an opportunity to remind people about “ghoulish” pests they should watch out for, namely bats, rats, and bed bugs. And they give several suggestions to consumers:
While these pests can provide their fair share of scares, NPMA recommends tips for homeowners to limit their trick-or-treaters to neighborhood children, and not the local pests, this Halloween:
1. Keep an eye out for tiny blood spots left behind by bed bugs. They can be found throughout the house, and are not just limited to bedrooms.
2. To keep rodents out ensure that all holes larger than a pencil are sealed and inspect the perimeter of your house for possible pathways inside.
3. Put screens over laundry or attic vents to prevent rodents and bats from entering the home.
4. An active infestation should not be controlled with do-it-yourself measures; contact a licensed pest professional.
Numbers one and four are of particular interest.
Number one implies that the only sign one might easily find are “blood spots” around the house. I think what is meant are not what we Bedbuggers call blood spots–little red stains where humans were bitten and blood came out, which are generally found on sheets–these are not found as frequently as what we’ve been calling “fecal stains,” or “fecal spots,” which are dark stains (like the classic mattress stains), or “fecal specks”, dark specks which can be anywhere from red or rust colored to black, and may be poppy-seed sized, or larger, or smaller, and harder or slightly damp. Both fecal stains/spots and fecal specks are made up of your blood, but their consistency and appearance vary. We suspect this variance may relate to local climates, humidity, etc.
Obviously, the NPMA is not going to go into that level of pooh-detail in a general warning. My point is that the warning did not warn consumers to watch out for bites, or for bed bugs themselves, but (if I am indeed interpreting them correctly) fecal spots. That sign, is often the only sign, or one of two (if coupled with bite marks and itching), that people have, for a very, very long time.
The media has traditionally warned people to look for bites and bed bugs. This is, I think, the first time I have read industry professionals telling people to look for this more subtle sign. And only this sign.
Coupled with suggestion number four, “an active infestation should not be controlled with do-it-yourself measures; contact a licensed pest professional,” the question arises as to what happens when the licensed professional cannot easily find bed bugs, as is often the case.
We hear from Bedbuggers whose PCOs treat anyway, because they now know finding an actual bug, bed bug shells, or eggs, or even really obvious fecal stains, can be very tricky.
But I think we still hear from many more Bedbuggers whose PCOs will not treat, who tell customers they “don’t have” bed bugs, or who recommend that in the absence of clear signs, they use pesticides on their own (in direct conflict with NPMA’s fourth recommendation here). That suggestion is surprisingly common–and raises the question as to why a PCO would recommend a customer starts spraying Suspend or Bedlam, if they don’t actually have bed bugs.
The press release reminds us that the pest control industry is quickly adapting, as are we customers, to a “new (to us)” pest that can be surprisingly stealthy. I recognize this press release was just a general warning to consumers to be alert for bed bugs, and I truly hope the NPMA is discussing the difficulty of finding bed bug evidence, and the broader definition of what that might consist of, with its members. Bedbuggers will tell you that even thorough, careful searches by professionals may yield nothing in terms of obvious signs, or that many PCOs that search cannot recognize or don’t want to count fecal specks as “signs.”