The Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA) has dedicated the week of June 7 to June 13 as Bed Bug Awareness Week. With summer travel plans approaching or under way, it’s the perfect time to brush up on bed bug detection and prevention tips.

So what are bed bugs? As you probably know and as the name suggests, bed bugs are commonly found in beds and in other pieces of furniture such as sofas and chairs. Because they’re so small (about the size of a pencil eraser) and flat, they’re good at hiding in the cracks and crevices of bed frames, mattresses, box springs, headboards, and nearby furniture. They’re most active at night, coming out of their hiding spots to find a food source…your blood. They will bite you while sleeping, piercing the skin and feeding for up to 10 minutes. The effects can produce itching and small red bumps or welts, similar to mosquito bites.

Because not everyone will have a reaction to bed bug bites, it important to check for signs of bed bugs periodically. Dark spots on sheets or mattresses, especially under the trim of the mattress edge, are usually a good indication of an infestation. They can also leave behind an unusual odor or skin casts (bed bug exoskeletons).

The most common bed bug infestation occurs after traveling. If staying in a hotel or rented home while vacationing this summer, be sure to check bedrooms for signs of bed bugs. If you suspect an infestation, ask for other accommodations. Bed bugs travel easily in your luggage and clothes, so it’s a best practice to avoid putting your suitcase on the bed or unpacking your clothes into dressers…even if no bed bug infestation is found.

Sometimes you can take all the precautions possible and still bring bed bugs back home with you. If you suspect an infestation, call an exterminator that specializes in bed bug control. They will be able to identify any areas infested and provide you with a treatment plan, to eliminate current bed bugs and prevent future infestations.