It is important to remember that in order for a new infestation to become established, bed bugs must first be introduced into the previously un-infested environment. The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to avoid the activities that place you at risk for an infestation. Some activities are easier than others to avoid. For example it is much easier to avoid purchasing used items than it is to eliminate travel, having overnight guests, or sending children off to summer camp or college. On the other hand it is much easier to avoid picking items up that have been discarded curbside or purchasing used or second hand bedding or furniture. There is no question that an awareness of bed bug risk factors is the first step in avoiding an infestation.
Early detection of bed bug activity is among the most important ways that you can protect yourself from having an introduction of bed bugs turn into a nightmare that is difficult and costly to eliminate. The use of mattress and box spring encasements is one of the most economical and useful tools that can aid in the early detection of bed bugs. It is very important that the encasements have been specifically designed for bed bugs and have been scientifically tested to demonstrate their effectiveness. The most effective encasement that we have examined is the Bug Lock® encasement. By encasing mattresses, any bed bugs that may be introduced, are restricted to the exterior of the encasements where they can be readily detected through a good visual inspection. In addition, mattress and box spring encasements can also prevent the infestation of the mattress and box spring should bed bugs be introduced.
It is also very important to become familiar with the signs the bed bugs leave behind so that you know what to look for when conducting an inspection. First it is important to realize that the only time that you will see red blood stains is if a bed bug is crushed while it still has an undigested blood meal in its body (similar to squashing a mosquito while it is still full of blood). After feeding bed bugs will digest the blood meal and excrete it as a dark liquid that will appear as dark spots. The dark “spotting” of excreted blood can be found on box springs, mattresses, bed sheets, furniture or any other place that bed bugs are active. It is also important to be familiar with the shed skins that bed bugs leave behind as they go from one immature stage to the next (similar to how a snake sheds its skin).
It is wise to be on the look out for bite symptoms and to conduct inspections in the weeks and months following an event that may have exposed you to bed bugs. For example, for several months upon returning from an overnight trip it is a good idea to periodically inspect (at least once every few weeks) your bed and upholstered furniture. As mentioned above, bed bugs often go undetected for several months until their populations become larger and they eventually emerge in areas where they are more easily detected.
Travel and the purchase of used or second hand furniture and/or bedding are still among the most likely ways to introduce bed bugs. It is far easier to avoid purchasing used items than it is to eliminate travel. However there are many steps that can be taken during travel to minimize the likelihood of staying in a bed bug infested environment or bringing bed bugs home with you. (Also see section titled - Protect Yourself When Traveling )
If at any time you have reason to believe that you are experiencing a problem with bed bugs it is very important that you act swiftly and contact a pest management professional to conduct a thorough inspection and evaluate the situation. Bed bugs are extremely difficult to control especially if they are not caught during the early stages of the infestation.