It only takes one pregnant female bed bug to sneak into your handbag or onto your clothing. And if they make it into your home, you're going to have a big problem.
Lori Smith says the bed bug problem in her Baytown apartment began with a neighboring unit last year.
"They came over through the wall sockets, the phone plates," she said.
To make matters worse, Smith says the bites are getting infected.
"They're on our arms, legs, anywhere," she said.
Smith is not alone. Dr. Paul Nester with the Agri-life Extension Program says the problem is not going away, especially here in Houston because we're an international city.
"People just don't know what to look for when they get to a hotel room. A lot of times, they'll just pick up the bed bugs and take them back to their house and they get spread into schools and other areas because of that," Nester said.
Nester says bed bugs are easy to spot, and you must be proactive.
"Look at the folds of the mattress. Look under the tag of the mattress, because they're going to be hiding under those type of areas," Nester said.
If you find bed bugs in your home or apartment, a professional exterminator may fumigate or use a heat treatment that will kill them off at a cost of more than $1,000. But if you can, tackle the job yourself for less.
"A bed bug kit that includes a product that you can use to spray around baseboards. You can use it to spray on mattresses and box springs. There's also an aerosol that you can use to treat cracks and crevices or furniture," said Keith McCoy with Solutions Self Chem.
That kit will run between $80 to $150 but you need to get inside every crevice they can hide in.
As for Smith and her infestation, the apartment complex told us the unit had been treated last year, and residents must cooperate with extermination and may even have to pay for it. That's true with every renter in our area because most complexes require renters to sign similar agreements.
Tips to avoid bed bugs when traveling:
- Put your suitcase in the tub when you first walk into the hotel room. Don't put it on the bed or floor.
- Check for bed bugs under the sheets, looking in the crevice of the mattress, and folds of the sheets.
- Look for bed bugs on the floor near walls.
- Not only look for bed bugs, but blood stains or small black droppings in the areas mentioned above.
- Try to avoid using dresser drawers for your clothes if possible.
- Once all areas are inspected and no evidence of bed bugs are found, it should be safe to bring your luggage into the room to open it.