An apple-seed-sized bug could be the unwelcome guest that returns with you from your summer vacation. And he doesn’t come alone. Here’s what you can do to prevent bedbugs from making, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” a story you would rather forget. And if it’s too late, here’s how to get rid of them.

How to Know

As a result, the first step in preventing an infestation from ruining your summer is to know what to look for. To begin with, bedbugs are tiny, brownish insects. That’s to begin with. Now here’s the first alarming fact. Bedbugs turn from brown to red-ish after they have fed, because they feed primarily on the blood of animals – and the common variety prefers human beings.

Because bedbugs are hard to see, it is a good idea to know other signs that they are present. A musty odor sometimes accompanies their presence. Small, rusty-colored spots on bedding, mattresses, or even on the wall are traces of their excrement. Tiny stains of blood sometimes appear in bedding, and occasionally, collections of eggshells or shed skins are a clue to their hiding place.

No, not a pretty picture. And there’s more bad news. Bedbugs are smart, tough, and they reproduce quickly. Summer is their favorite season, but they get along just fine all year round.

How to Prevent Bedbugs in the First Place

Because it is easier to prevent bedbug infestations than to rid your home of them, here are some tips to take along when you travel:

  • When you check in, inspect the mattress and box springs. Look for pepper-like stains or spots, or for shed skins, especially at the top of the mattress where you lay your head, and at all the corners of the mattress.

  • Before you unpack at the hotel, first look carefully in every area of the room, including behind the headboard and inside drawers and cabinets. Don’t forget to check upholstered furniture, too.

  • Unpack only after you have completed your inspection. If you see signs, or even have doubts, ask to change rooms immediately.

What to Do

Time and effort are required, if you decide to try to rid yourself of bedbugs on your own. First, you have to contain the infestation, because they will run to someplace new when you upset their initial hiding places. Carpets, drapes, upholstered furniture – even electronic devices and electrical outlets – are places they can and will try to hide when you start on your bedding.

When you get to the next step, exterminating, sometimes more than one EPA-registered insecticide is called for, because some kinds of bedbugs have become resistant. Non-chemical exterminating is possible, but not very handy, as heat above 115 degrees Fahrenheit or cold, below freezing, will kill them too, after about four hours of it, IF you have rounded them all up.

The best advice is to call a professional, because the thoroughness required to do it yourself is frankly life-disrupting, and on your own, your chances of success are limited. We’re standing by to help with know-how, experience, and the proper tools and resources, if and when bedbugs to come home from your summer vacation – or anytime at all.