Chance are if you have red and brown bugs in your home you are likely experiencing an infestation of the unfortunate bed bug variety. Bed bugs are a nuisance -- not a hazard -- as they don't carry diseases like cockroaches and ticks do. Nevertheless, disease-carrying or not, it is disturbing and overwhelming confronting a horde of invading tiny brown-and-red bloodsuckers. Numerous government agencies offer advice and solutions.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control writes that bed bugs are "flattened, oval-shaped wingless insects." The government agency notes that bed bugs are often mistaken for cockroaches or ticks due to a similar appearance. They also describe adults as brown or tan and youngsters (called "nymphs") as bright red after a blood meal. Bed bugs are 1/4-inch long and 1/8-inch wide.
Infestation Areas, How to Avoid an Infestation
Bed bugs don't get their name by accident: they commonly invade and multiply on mattresses. But they don't just hang out bedding, they also reside in linens, curtains, carpeting, along the baseboard, cracks in wallpaper, clothing and every nook and cranny in a home. To avoid infestation, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services recommends washing clothing in warm water immediately upon returning home from a trip. They also recommend treating luggage, furniture or bedding introduced into a home for the first time.
A non-chemical approach to killing bed bugs is offered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services: place an infested article (pillow, clothing, etc.) inside a black trash bag. Place the trash bag in the sun and "cook" the bedbugs. Place small items in the freezer to kill the insects. The New Jersey DHSS recommends washing and drying clothing on "hot" cycles to further rid the home of bed bugs. The University of California Statewide IPM Program suggests that removal of mattresses, steam cleaning a home and vacuuming along infestation areas as ways to eradicate a bed bug infestation. Unfortunately, these solutions are often just a temporary solution for the problem; professional assistance and insecticide is thus required.
The University of California Statewide IPM Program notes that serious bed bug infestations require insecticide treatment. There is a downside to pesticides: to help the environment, UC's Statewide IPM Program suggests using non-toxic chemicals in lieu of toxic chemicals that often end up in polluting waterways. Government agencies suggest that there is no do-it-yourself solution to a serious bed bug. Rather, they say that you should hire a professional exterminator.