Here are what could be considered alarming facts about bed bugs: • the number of bed bugs is increasing in Missouri as well as all over the United States, according to Mark Lesher, environmental scientist for EPA region 7; • nearly half of all bed bug infestations happen during the summer months, according to pestworld.org; • this growing bed bug problem has made its way into Livingston County, according to Max and Kathy Smith of Chuck's Pest Control, in Chillicothe. Chuck’s Pest Control has received about 20 calls this summer about bed bug infestations in Chillicothe and surrounding areas when they used to get no calls concerning this problem. According to "Your Guide to Bed Bugs," provided by Pest Control Technology, bed bug infestations were common in the United States before World War II. However, due to improvements in hygiene as well as the wide-spread use of the chemical DDT, during the 1940s and 1950s, bed bugs became almost obsolete. Although other regions, such as, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe still had a bed bug problem and still have that problem today. Recently, bed bugs have made a significant comeback in the United States due to immigration and international travel. According to Kathy Smth, these pests can travel with a person from bed to couch, from couch to chair, from one house to another and even from one country to another. "It's not something people talk about," said Max Smith. Because of people being ashamed of having a bed bug problem, they go on about their lives as normal which includes sending their children to other peoples' homes for sleepovers and visiting friends and family in their homes; and people carry bed bugs along with them when they do these things. That's another reason why it's spreading in our area. However, Max said bed bugs is nothing to be ashamed of. “Anyone can get bed bugs no matter how clean their house may be,” he said. Most of the time, one doesn't know they have a bed bug problem until they get bit, because bed bugs only come out at night. During the day, these bugs will get down into cracks and crevices, which make it next to impossible to see them without thorough examination. Because these bugs are called "bed bugs" a lot of people think they are only found in beds; however, according to Max, these bugs are oftentimes found behind base boards, picture frames and behind plug-in covers. The bed bugs that don't hide in the bed usually stay relatively close to the bed because they cannot survive without food, and unfortunately humans are their food. Therefore, they will travel several feet in order to get their nightly meal. According to Max, bed bugs are two thirds the size of a tick and have nearly the same physical characteristics as a tick. Each bed bug case varies, according to Max. He's found only three or four bed bugs in a home before and he's also seen several 100 in a home before, depending on how long the bed bugs have been there. The females lay eggs rapidly, according to Max, so the longer a person waits to get help, the more there are going to be. Each person reacts differently to bed bug bites as well. Max said he knew a couple with a bed bug problem and the wife would get bit several times a night, while the husband didn't react to the bites at all. "I've seen arms, forearms and legs completely covered in bites... They will even bite your face," Max said. However, one good thing about bed bugs is they are not known to carry any diseases, so the itching is the worst part of getting bit. The most common calls Chuck's Pest Control gets are calls concerning little ants and spiders. According to Kathy, Chuck's Pest Control tends to about 100 to 150 clients a week. She said a lot of pest control businesses will refuse to help people with bed bugs so the Chuck's Pest Control team has been traveling farther than usual lately in order to reach these individuals. Kathy admits that Chuck's Pest Control would rather not have to treat bed bugs at all, but "we're here to help," Kathy said. Kathy and Max just hope people become more aware of this growing bed bug problem and try to prevent getting such an infestation as much as possible. When talking about bed bug prevention, Lesher said travelers should inspect their luggage and clothing before returning home because these "hitch-hikers" could have made their way back home with you. Max has even treated suitcases for a couple of families that were leaving for vacation with plans to stay at several different hotels along their route. Lesher also advises that people should check their homes regularly for bed bugs because they are "excellent at hiding." Max said the best precautions you can take in preventing bed bugs is to schedule routine spray treatments and monitor what goes in and out of your house. Second-hand furniture can carry bed bugs so it should be checked thoroughly before bringing it into a household, Max said. Lesher's advice for those who have found bed bugs in their home already is not to panic. He said bed bugs often give people that "creepy crawly" feeling but they are no real threat to peoples' physical health. Lesher said there are a few things people can try before calling an exterminator; however, Max said the best way to address the bed bug problem is to let a professional handle the situation. While a person could purchase a mattress encasement to trap bed bugs inside a mattress, it would do nothing to contain bed bugs that may be in other places of a person’s house. Lesher advises to make sure the exterminator that is hired, offers follow-up visits because it sometimes takes more than one visit to completely get rid of bed bugs. The process of getting rid of bed bugs is a complex one. Max and his team require residents to clean out their closets and run everything they can in their home through the washer and dryer. Things that are not able to be washed and dried need to go into black trash bags and left outside in the heat. Then, a team of usually two people will then spray the entire house with a product specifically for bed bugs. It takes at least two people, Max said, because they have to flip over all the furniture, split open the underside and spray inside of it. Some companies offer a heating treatment in which Lesher believes is the most effective way to get rid of bed bugs in extreme cases. In this treatment, forced air propane heaters are used and the house is sealed off with plastic. The entire home is heated at 122 degrees for 4 to 6 hours. This treatment, however, can be very costly. The Smiths encourage anyone with questions about bed bugs or any other pest problem to contact them. Kathy said Chuck's Pest Control will help in any way they can in defending peoples' homes against this increasing bed bug infestation.