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Keep from getting ‘bugged’ this summer

Staff Writer

’Tis the season of weddings, family vacations, reunions and weekend getaways. No matter where your travels take you this summer, take the proper precautions to avoid being pestered by unsavory critters.

Bed bugs

If you are planning to take any trips that involve staying in a hotel or at someone else’s home, be sure not to pick up any hitchhikers along the way — specifically bed bugs.

Bed bugs travel from home to home through the furniture, especially mattresses, and they can sneak into your clothes and suitcases if left on the bed, floor or on a piece of infested furniture.

When checking into your hotel room, or upon arriving at a host’s home, look for signs of the pests along mattress seams, behind the headboard, under the bed frame and box spring, along room baseboards and in or under other upholstered furniture. Also be sure to check luggage racks before using them.

Signs to look for, outside of seeing the bugs themselves, include small black droppings, blood stains or shed skins on the bottom of sheets, rusty or reddish stains on sheets or mattress caused by a bug getting crushed, and red, itchy rashes from bites. Keep in mind that bite sensitivity can range from severe to no reaction and bites may resemble those of other insects.

Bed bug eggs are tiny and white and are often “glued” to surfaces. The bugs themselves are a flattened oval shape with six legs. Nymphs are light in color and adults are a rusty red, growing to about 3/8 inch in size. They do not jump or fly, but they do run quite fast and tend to congregate together.

Never lay your clothes or luggage on the floor or bed when packing or unpacking, as the bugs can quickly move in and end up riding home with you. Avoid storing clothes in the dresser and transport all items back home in sealed plastic bags until able to wash or treat.

Unpack clothes directly into a washing machine and be sure to wash and dry clothes on the hottest settings. Putting clothes in the dryer is an important step, as washing alone may not take care of the critters completely.

Bed bugs are mostly active and feed during the night, and adults can survive for months without feeding. While it appears the bugs’ food of choice is humans, luckily, the bugs have not been known to transmit human disease. If you spot a bed bug, or signs of the bugs, let hotel staff or your host know immediately.

If bugs do end up hitchhiking home with you, check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for tips on how to get rid of bed bugs and for further information about the insects.

Ticks and mosquitoes

Both tick and mosquito bites are not only annoying, but can come with serious health consequences.

To avoid tick bites, reduce the amount of time spent in potentially infested habitats, such as tall grass and shrubs, and when hiking stay in the center of trails, away from adjacent vegetation. Reducing leaf litter, tall grass and brush around the house may help decrease tick presence around your property.

Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and high boots, tucked in at the waist and ankles, when working outside or hiking, and wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easier to spot.

Check your entire body after being outside. If you do end up having a tick, do not rip it off of your body, as the head may get stuck and create an infection. Be sure to look up proper tick-removal techniques.

To reduce your chances of mosquito bites, start by reducing the pests’ habitat options. Eliminate standing water, or empty and change water in bird baths, pet bowls and other areas frequently.

Keep mosquitoes from getting inside by covering any gaps in walls, doors and windows. Make sure screens do not have any large holes in them that would allow insects to fly in. When camping or sleeping in open areas, the use of netting over sleeping areas can be very effective.

As with ticks, cover up with long sleeves and pants, particularly around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

The use of bug repellent can be effective in deterring biting insects, as well.

No matter where your travels take you this summer, even if it is just into your backyard, be prepared to guard against pests — no one likes getting bugged.

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on July 10, 2014.