"Good night, sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite."
The popular nursery rhyme is decades old, but the threat of bedbug bite is very real today.
The resurgence of the hardy pests is bugging homeowners, apartment dwellers and pest control professionals. Popular retail chain stores – including Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie and Hollister in New York City -- are now experiencing bedbug infestations.
Bedbugs are tiny, but they can result in a big headache. Treatment of the infestation is difficult and costly. If you can't prevent infestation entirely, early detection is the key.
Bedbugs are tiny, reddish brown in color, and oval in shape. They do not have wings.
Click HERE for resources to identify and avoid bedbugs.
Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite
Q: How can I tell if you've been bitten by a bedbug?
A: Bedbug bites tend to be on any part of the body, whereas mosquito bites tend to be on feet and ankles, Raupp said. Bedbugs also tend to leave straight rows of bites. Other insects could leave bites that occur more randomly on the body.
Q: How will I know I have bedbugs?
A: Bedbugs aren't just for bedrooms anymore, Raupp said. The creatures have been found in offices, clothing stores and movie theaters. The first thing you should do is inspect your mattress. If you've got red or brown spots along the ticking of the mattress, that's a good indicator of the presence of bedbugs, he said.
A: If I see spots, what should I do?
Q: Raupp stressed that people who suspect they have bedbugs shouldn't even try to tackle the problem on their own. The only way to know for sure that you do have bedbugs is to capture one of the bugs -- or get its shed skin -- and take it to an expert for verification. There are also specially trained dogs that can be use to sniff for the presence of bedbugs.
You can also use mattress and box spring encasement to force bugs out of mattresses so they become more visible. There are also small bait devices that can be put onto the floor under the feet of the bed. They will lure bedbugs out.
Q: I don't have bedbugs at home. How can I avoid bringing them home if I travel?
A: Raupp says the first thing he does when he gets to a hotel is put his luggage on a luggage stand, not on the floor. Then, he says, he removes all sheets and the mattress pad from the bed, and checks the mattress for the telltale dark dots. He checks behind the headboard and around the bedframe with a flashlight. Even if he doesn't see anything suspicious, he doesn't put any of his belongings on the floor. He keeps his clothes in his suitcase, and zips it up at night. Hard-sided luggage makes it harded for bedbugs to hop inside.
Even if you don't see any bedbugs, don't let down your guard. Once you get home from your trip, wash your clothes in hot water and dry them on the hot cycle.
If you think this sounds like overkill, consider the alternative, Raupp said.
Bedbugs can live for one year without food. If you live in an apartment and you get them, all the surrounding apartments have to be treated.
The cost for treating just one room can start at $500, but you have to treat other rooms as well, and a single visit won't do the job, Raupp said.
Anyone affected by bedbugs will have to vacuum, remove clutter, and toss out furniture, Raupp added.
Here are some other tips and resources to help you detect and fight the problem:
What are bedbugs? What should you do if you have an infestation in your home? How can you avoid bringing bedbugs into your home? What should you do if you are bitten? Click HERE to get answers from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Want to find out of a hotel or apartment has had an infestation? Click HERE to check out the Bedbug Registry. It's a searchable national database.
Click HERE to go to bedbugger.com for the latest news about bedbug infestation, prevention and eradication, as well as about public health policy regarding combating the pests.
The federal government has taken notice of the growing bedbug plague. A bill that would establish grant money to help states conduct inspections and, according to McClatchy Newspapers, mandate that public houses submit bedbug inspection plans to the federal government.
In New York, a new law requires that New York City landlords disclose the previous year's bedbug history of their premises to prospective tenants.
To see New York City's bedbug fact sheet and other resources, including how to choose and work with a pest control company, click HERE.