By: Vashti Kelly, Programs Manager
As the days get longer and the temperatures begin to rise migrant farmworkers are spending longer hours working out in the fields planting and harvesting all the produce Americans associate with summer. So, the last thing anyone, let alone farmworkers, want to deal with are bed bugs after a long day of arduous work. Do not be deceived by their name, they can live and infest any area with tightly enclosed spaces. These tiny annoyances tend to peak in the hotter months, since they begin to dehydrate.
What are bed bugs?
Simply put bed bugs are parasitic insects, usually no larger than an apple seed and reddish-brown in color, that feed exclusively on blood. However, if they have not reached adult stage they are smaller in size and are a translucent whitish-yellow in color.
Where to look for evidence of bed bugs:
- Along mattress seams and box springs
- Behind head board on the bed
- Along the baseboards or edge of carpet
- Stuck in personal belongings (purses, bags, suitcases, etc.)
- Behind pictures on the wall and curtains
The reason this poses such a problem for migrant farmworkers has to do with the communal living nature of migrant farmworker housing. These are facilities that may have been left uninhabited for part of the year leaving bed bugs free to incubate. And, because of the dormitory style of migrant housing and the close quarters, what would have typically been a small infestation can quickly become a full-blown outbreak with a number of hosts traveling to and from.
Once bed bugs are present, they are an uncomfortable, costly, and difficult pest to rid from your home.
Prevention is key, so here are a few tips to help:
- If you suspect that you may have been an area where bed bugs were present be sure to separate those belongings and run them through a hot dryer cycle as this will kill bugs at all stages of development.
- Use a steamer on upholstered furniture and the bed.
- Vacuum the mattress, upholstered furniture, carpets, baseboards, floors, and cracks.
- Unpack your luggage outside of your house or load clothes directly into the washing machine.
- Wash all the clothes from your luggage immediately, including unworn clothes.
- Vacuum out luggage and bags, with special attention paid to seams, crevices, and compartments/pockets.
- Inspect for live bed bugs, skin sheddings, or brownish-red stains signifying their presence.
- Lift the mattress and check underneath (in the dark as they do not come out in daylight).
However, if you truly have an infestation of bed bugs please note that it is best to call a professional exterminator to come handle the problem. Many people have claimed to cure the bed bug problem but truth be told, they may have just relocated to a new location. And, even with a professional it may take more than one or two applications. So, if possible purchase an encasement for your box spring and one for your mattress, and interceptor traps which are intended to keep bed bugs from crawling up beds and furniture legs, and finally remain vigilant.