Forget black mattress stains, bed bugs, shells, and eggs: NMPA press release tells consumers to look for “blood spots”

by nobugsonme on October 28, 2007 · 9 comments

in bed bug bites, bed bug treatment, bed bugs, misdiagnoses, other causes of itching, pest control services, signs and symptoms of bed bugs

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.”

1 hopelessnomo October 28, 2007 at 4:55 pm

This is very interesting, Nobugs.

I’m reminded of the story shared by a person in the forums about a very famous PCO advising that only about 5% of people “see” their bugs and that seeing one is not a good sign.

I’m mostly depressed by the prevalent situation: PCOs expect an infestation to be large enough that bugs are actually found by the inspecting techs. But, as we all know, techs are neither detectives nor particularly well trained in inspections. To further complicate this, the PCO firms themselves, for reasons not all having to do with the ethical imperative to treat for identified pests, put little value in inspections. We’ve even heard of “we don’t do inspections” policies!

This whole situation is [insert your favorite curse word].

I have a personal fantasy I indulge every time I get pissed by a piece of bedbug news: the advent of alternative treatments that can be purchased or contracted for by consumers with little fuss. Transactions that wholly sidestep PCOs.

Yes, there are some wonderful PCOs but they’re outnumbered by some really very bad ones. The mind-boggling discrepancy between the industry ideal, a treatment that proceeds from pest identification through the implementation of IPM protocols to eradication, and actual industry practice is not doing anyone any favors as more and more people are getting bedbugs.

One thing’s for sure, the NPMA have this marketing stuff down. Halloween!?

2 nobugsonme October 29, 2007 at 12:08 am

Thanks Nomo.

I am always floored by the footage on news clips: the PCO showing the news crew the underside of a mattress teeming with bed bugs.

So very many cases experienced by Bedbuggers are not like this. There’s no smoking gun; there’s no gun at all. People drag on for months and months and even longer without finding any definitive signs, except “black specks.”

PCOs need to learn from our experience. Some of them do know. But we have not seen a drastic change yet in terms of what people without obvious signs are being told, except that many of them are now being treated anyway, presumably by PCOs who have now seen that bed bugs are not always that obvious.

3 parakeets October 29, 2007 at 11:59 am

I support monitoring bedbugs by looking for blood spots. That’s how I’m monitoring my waning (joy!!!!!) infestation. I think it’s too hard to describe fecal spots and cast skins to a lay person, and even after months of infestation I still need a jeweler’s loupe to identify what’s lint and specks and what’s bedbugs. The blood spots are a easier sign, and you don’t have to wait until the infestation is so heavy that you can actually see bedbugs. If you have bedbugs, they bite. If they bite, there is often blood evidence. If there were a show “CSI Bedbugs” (I’d watch every freakin’ episode) detectives would look for the blood spatter evidence first.

4 November 9, 2007 at 6:18 pm

the NPMA is actually not talking about blood spots as in ‘blood from a wound’, they are referring to blodd spots as in fecal specks. i spoke with them directly about it.

5 nomorebugs November 9, 2007 at 7:53 pm

I was infested wtih bed bugs for 5 weeks before I realize what those bites I was getting were. I only two bloodspots on the sheets in all that time.

6 Dawn November 10, 2007 at 2:36 pm

blood spots as in ‘fecal specks’ or blood spots as in ‘red blood’ from a wound?

7 ramona May 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Is it possible to see bloodstains on a mattress when it has not been slept it?

I just put a mattress encasement last night. I slept on the couch. This morning there was a tiny little red blood mark on the mattress encasement.

How is that possible?

8 hopelessnomo May 28, 2008 at 11:17 am

Ramona, you should post your question in the forums where a professional may see it and give you an opinion. Blue button above right.

9 Sammyann September 23, 2008 at 7:23 am

Is there anywhere in Australia to buy a product to kill bedbugs…I cant afford professional pest control and Im covered in itchy bites…I can see the bugs, its the 2nd bed Ive bought and they’re back!

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