A Look at Bed Bug Inspection Tools

Every expert will agree that early detection of a bed bug introduction is beneficial. Uncovering a problem early makes for a swifter and less harrowing treatment experience. There are a large variety of inspection tools available in the marketplace today with new ones constantly being introduced. A variety of tools and methods can be useful depending upon your risk level for a bed bug infestation.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the options currently available:

Visual Inspections – Probably the most common method for monitoring bed bugs is a simple visual inspection when bedding is changed. Using a flashlight, magnifying glass and credit card a person closely inspects the bedding, mattress, headboard and areas surrounding the bed for bed bugs, their eggs or markings. While it can be effective and should always be employed, one should realize that a visual inspection by a layperson will probably not uncover an early introduction of bed bugs. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. While adults are visible to the eye, they typically hide away in small, dark cracks and crevices coming out typically at night for a blood meal when a host is available. Bed bug eggs and nymphs are even smaller, only about 2mm in size and often opaque in color so they can be very difficult to detect.

Mattress Encasements – Mattress encasements can help to make a visual inspection easier. Just as the name suggests, encasements cover a mattress and/or box spring completely. Ideally this eliminates bedding as a hiding place for bed bugs if the encasement stays fully intact. Common problems encountered with encasements are when small rips and tears result during installation or daily use. Once a rip or tear takes place bed bugs now have a new and often overlooked harborage site (inside of the encasement).  As bed bugs can last upwards of 6-9 months or more without a blood meal, the use of encasements as a control method is limited to those few covers that remain intact over constant use.

Active Mattress Liners – These liners are installed like a fitted sheet and are treated with an active ingredient that first causes bed bugs to stop feeding, stop laying eggs within minutes of contact. While often overlooked as an inspection tool, active liners will alert you to the presence of bed bugs when dead bed bug(s) turn up on the liner in its vicinity. In addition, bed bugs that contact the impregnated fabric usually release fecal contents easily detected on the light background (e.g., similar to a black marker smudge).  These liners continue to work if ripped or torn as they don’t trap bed bug inside but rather kill them as a result of contacting the treated material.

Bed Bug Interceptors – There are a variety of interceptors on the market today for use to detect bed bugs. When using a passive monitor (one without a bed bug lure), the placement is critically important to its effectiveness. These traps work when bed bugs enter and fall inside of the trap and are unable to escape. Seeing a bed bug upon inspection of the interceptor will alert you to a potential problem. Some professionals question the usefulness of detecting a bed bug problem in a room when the unit is typically placed on the floor and not where bed bugs are typically found – on the bed seeking a blood meal from the host. Other downsides include that some businesses and households may not want a trap under their bed legs or in an open area that children, pets or guests may discover.

Bed Bug Sniffing Dogs – Many pest professionals and independent bed bug detection companies employ dogs trained to detect the scent of bed bugs. Studies have proven that they are quite effective, reportedly close to 90% effective as compared to 30% for human visual inspections. They are, however, a much larger expense than many of the other inspection tools available. Bed bug sniffing dogs may be an unrealistic option for a single-family homeowner but a very reliant tool for very large and high-risk areas like hotels, nursing homes and colleges.


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