Bed bugs are becoming a big problem

HOUSTON The night time blood suckers have become such a nuisance, a locally run consumer complaint center says bed bugs are the number one issue they are dealing with.

Bed bugs can be a huge problem in apartment complexes where lots of people move in and out a regular basis. They are not what you want to find in your home. Mike, who asked us to conceal his identity, says he has been dealing with bed bugs in his apartment since January.

"I thought it was a tick when I first saw it only it was running around me," he told us.

Mike tells us his apartment complex has sprayed and sprayed and sprayed again to get rid of the beds bugs, but the insects keep coming back.

"They have come out here three or four times to spray for the bed bugs," Mike said. "I still have bed bugs."

The trouble in controlling bed bugs in the complex is no surprise to professional exterminators who say it can take weeks to get rid of the nocturnal blood sucking bugs.

"A customer has bed bugs and they expect them to be gone in two or three days, chemically speaking, that is going to be difficult," said entomologist Steve Martin.

Entomologists say bed bugs were once unheard of, but that started changing a couple of years ago.

"My first 17 years in the industry I got two cases the entire 17 years," Martin revealed. "When you go from two cases in 17 years to now one a week, that increase is astronomical."

Exterminators say if you move into an apartment, it's best to buy a mattress and box spring cover to keep the pests from ever getting into them. If you still find bed bugs, make sure you notify your apartment complex in writing and find out what measures the company is taking because bed bugs can even live in walls.

"You want to inspect the wall plate to make sure there are no skins or fecal matter behind that wall plate," Martin advised.

As for the complex where Mike lives, consumer attorneys say the repeated sprayings show the company is trying to deal with the infestation.

"The landlord in this case may have made the diligent effort to repair and the tenant should continue to work with the landlord," said Rick McElvaney with the University of Houston.

If you are in an apartment and the landlord will not do anything to fight bed bugs, you may be able to terminate the lease or have a court order for the complex to spray for the bugs. Tenants have to give written notice of problems like this, so keep that in mind.

So how do you get bed bugs?

Traveling can open you up to an infestation but you can do a few things to stop them:
- If you stay in a hotel, the bugs can get into your clothes and even your luggage, so be sure to wash your clothes in very hot water or have it laundered.
- Put your suit case in a trash bag and leave it in the hot sun for several hours and that can kill the bugs too.

Another thing that makes them hard to kill, they can live for months without sucking your blood and after the bugs are sprayed, it can take a week or more for all the bed bugs to die. Homeowners are less likely to get them, but not immune from them.

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