Bed bugs have five immature nymph life stages and a final sexually mature adult stage. They shed their skins through ecdysis at each stage, discarding their outer exoskeleton. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color, and become browner as they moult and reach maturity. Bed bugs may be mistaken for other insects, such as booklice, small cockroaches, or carpet beetles; however, when warm and active, their movements are more ant-like, and like most other true bugs, they emit a characteristic disagreeable odor when crushed.
It should also be noted that pest management professionals are subject to state regulation, licensing and regulation, while bed bug dog teams are typically unregulated. In Illinois, for example, bed bug detection dogs are regarded as inspection tools, not devices that facilitate the application of pesticides. A few private organizations certify dogs and their handlers as bed bug detectors, holding them to certain standards before awarding certification. But at present, these organizations, like dogs and handlers, are not subject to regulations that govern those who apply pesticides to control bed bugs. Nevertheless, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends that bed bug detection teams be independently certified and adhere to the minimum standards found in the NPMA’s Best Management Practices for Bed Bugs (see RESOURCES for more info).
Check the mattress throughly, paying close attention to seams and tufts along the edges. Flip the mattress over and inspect the bottom carefully as well. Pay particular attention to any rips in the fabric. View the fabric on the bottom of the box spring and shine a flash light to verify that bed bugs have not penetrated the interior of the box spring.
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Some bed bug species are parasites of bats or birds, and may bite people if the wild hosts are no longer available. Although similar in overall appearance, the species of bed bugs that normally feed on bats, swallows, chimney swifts, pigeons or other wild hosts can be differentiated from those that prefer humans. Entomologists and knowledgeable pest managers can make this determination. If bat bugs or bird bugs are present, roosting and nesting sites should be the primary focus, and the animals should be removed and excluded from the building.