“Sleep tight – don’t let the bed bugs bite.” We’ve all used that rhyme in jest, but the truth is bed bugs are very much a real threat.

“Sleep tight – don’t let the bed bugs bite.” We’ve all used that rhyme in jest, but the truth is bed bugs are very much a real threat. In fact the prevalence of bed bugs is on the rise in all 50 states. The National Pest Management Association has partnered with other related organizations to host the National Bed Bug Symposium (I know, seems like a joke, but it’s a real event).
A news release on the event points out industry research that reveals “pest management companies have reported a 71 percent increase in bed bug calls since 2001 and annual sales from this pest have increased by more than 30 percent in 2008 over the year prior.”
Even the government is getting involved: the EPA had a National Bed Bug Summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss these pests as issues for homeowners, hotels, college dorms and apartment complexes.  
Federal legislation was proposed earlier this year – Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bit Act of 2009 – to help manage the bed bug outbreak, which experts attribute to the use of more targeted pest-specific control methods and more international travel. The act called for assisting states in inspecting lodging facilities for bed bugs as well as providing education and treating facilities with bed bugs. The bill appears to have been abandoned in Congress, but it’s certainly an interesting idea.
So, what to do about bed bugs? Here’s how to recognize the nasty little creatures: They resemble a tick and are rusty brown in color or red after they’ve feasted on a blood meal (ew!). They will travel in suitcases, boxes or shoes to be near a food supply. They only come out at night so tend to hide in baseboards, switch plates, picture frames or wall paper, according to the National Pest Management Association. Bed bugs find humans especially tasty and while they don’t transmit diseases, their bites can leave red, itchy welts.
Keeping your bedding clean is one of the best ways to combat bed bugs. Wash sheets and bedding on hot water. Wash your pillow if you can or put them in the dryer on high once a week. Also washable mattress and pillow covers are a good idea.
If you’ve been on a trip and stayed in a hotel, vacuum your suitcases when you get home. Also check the hotel sheets for blood spots.
Check out this article from HowStuffWorks.com for additional tips on cleaning bedding.

OK, anyone else feel a sudden urge to wash the sheets?