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Better to prevent bed bugs

Bed bugs continue to spread across the country, and are notoriously tough to eradicate once they take up residence. That's why the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is encouraging Minnesotans to take steps to protect their homes from the tiny, nocturnal pests.

The best strategy against bed bugs is to keep them from getting into a home in the first place. Bed bugs can enter a home inside clothing, backpacks, purses or luggage. There is a high risk of bringing the pests home on second-hand mattresses, furniture, and other items off the curb. They can also get into a home when a person visits an infested hotel or other location and returns home with the pests hiding in luggage or clothing.

To avoid bed bug infestations, MDA and its partners offer the following tips:

1.Avoid placing purses and backpacks on or under seats that are used by many people;

2.Shop for used furniture only at reputable organizations, and ask about how they prevent bed bugs;

3.Before unpacking in a hotel room, examine the corners of the bed for signs of bed bugs. Signs can include live bugs, or dark spots left by the bugs' excrement;

4.When in a hotel room, keep luggage and other personal items away from the bed and off the floor;

5.Before packing for home, check along the seams and folds of luggage for live bed bugs;

6.When returning home, unpack luggage outside or place clothes directly into a plastic bag;

7.When unpacking, wash laundry right away; and closely inspect items that can't be washed or dried.

If your home becomes infested, carefully consider your treatment options. While there are a variety of pesticides available for bed bug control, some bed bugs have developed resistance to certain products. In addition, it is possible to cause bigger problems - including human health problems - by improperly using pesticides. That is why experts say the safest and most effective option is to call in an experienced professional.

"Do-it-yourself treatments can create big problems if people use improper pesticides, or if they do not follow label directions," said MDA Pesticide Management Advisor Kevin Cavanaugh. "Pesticide labels are designed to help people use the product effectively and safely, so it's important to read and follow the label."

Heat treatment can be an effective option against bed bugs. However, these treatments should be conducted by pest management professionals because specialized equipment is required. A list of licensed structural pesticide applicators is available on MDA's website at For more details about bed bugs, visit the University of Minnesota Extension website at or the Ramsey County website at