But bed bugs also are showing up in lodging establishments all over the Big Horn Basin, said Dave Jamison of Stroupe Pest Control in Cody.
Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease.
“They have been reported everywhere,” Jamison said Wednesday during a meeting hosted by the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service. Forty-plus people attended the meeting, many of whom are in the hotel/motel trade.
A map provided by Johnston showed the bugs’ invasion across the United States.
They can be found across the globe, said Johnston’s PowerPoint presentation, “Bed Bugs, We Prefer Humans.”
Bed bugs have a piercing/sucking beak on their underside. They prefer to drink in the dark while their oblivious human hosts slumber, Johnston said.
They’re about one-quarter inch long. In an illustration showing a bed bug beside a penny, the parasite was about the size of Abe Lincoln’s head. Bed bugs are flat, brown and have six legs, not to be confused with a spider with eight legs.
They were first documented in America during colonial times. It is suspected there were bed bug stowaways aboard the Mayflower, Johnston said.
One report claims the number of bed bug reports in hotels has increased 80 percent over the last decade. She attributes the surge to widespread travel, Johnston said.
Bed bugs frequently are found in places with high occupant turnover, such as hotels and motels, but that prevalence is not a reflection on the establishment’s cleanliness, Johnston said. And the pests can be found anywhere there are people, whether in public facilities or residences.
There has been no documentation that bed bugs carry or transmit disease, Johnston said.
The little nasties are often transported to new locations via luggage, used beds or bedding, second-hand furniture or clothing, Johnston said.
Who hasn’t seen a curbside couch up for grabs?
Leave it, Johnston said.
Bed bugs swell after feeding, so Johnston encouraged her audience to wear rubber gloves before handling the arthropods because they may burst and disgorge their liquid dinner.
Use a cotton swab to grab the thing, then stick it in a bottle of rubbing alcohol.
“Believe me,” Johnston said, “when they get dunked in alcohol, they don’t come back.”
Bed bugs hide during the day. They hole up in cracks, behind base boards, under mattresses, in box springs, in furniture — wherever they can find a hiding place.
They can hitchhike on clothing and suitcases or creep through electrical outlets, Johnston said.
Bed bugs will congregate along mattress seams or in box springs, Johnston said.
“It’s good to look around that seam and see if you see any evidence,” Jamison said.
Telltale signs of an infestation are rusty red spots resembling drops shaken from a fountain pen.
Those dots are bed bug feces from partially-digested blood, Johnston said.
Humans are their favorite hosts, but bed bugs also feed on rodents, birds, dogs or cats, Johnston said.
Once satiated with blood, females will lay four to six eggs per day. They can remain dormant up to one year; once they feed, they can start laying eggs, Johnston said.
Bed bugs can withstand temperatures as low as 45 degrees, remaining in a sort of hibernation mode, Johnston said.
Heat can kill the bugs, but the room must be sealed to prevent their escape, and the temperature must remain at 100 to 102 degrees for several hours, Jamison said.
Pyrethrum products — an insecticide from dried flowers — can be purchased over the counter and used in residential settings. But some bed bugs have developed a resistance to pyrethrum, Jamison said.
In the home scenario, persistence is essential to eliminate them.
Vacuum mattresses, box springs and other hiding places. Then spray with a pyrethrum product such as Bedlam. Repeat daily, Jamison said.
“Go through that process every day until you do not see evidence,” Jamison said.
Pyrethrum is a non-residual product. Stronger chemicals can be applied in hotel or other settings. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires user certification for those industrial-strength chemicals, Jamison said.
Any pesticide use requires the EPA’s stamp of approval.
“We cannot use them if they are not registered with the EPA,” Jamison said.
Jamison said adjacent rooms and those above and below must be treated too. And because products such as Phantom are residual, the rooms must remain closed to human occupation for a couple days, Jamison said.
It behooves hotel owners to have a bed bug maintenance program in place prior to the distasteful six-legged guests’ arrival, he said.
“Detect the problem as early as possible,” Jamison said.