Bed bugs can live in your new mattress — Dateline NBC — Don t let the bed bugs bite, NBC News

Bed bugs living in new or refurbished mattress

Bed bugs are in bedrooms, hotelrooms, dormrooms — but they may also be lurking in mattresses you buy at the store


Jump to text After decades in obscurity, bedbugs have returned to the United States to take up.
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Video: Confronting mattress seller

This story originally aired Dateline NBC on April 20, 2008.

BROOKLYN — After decades in obscurity, bedbugs have returned to the United States to take up residence in a place where they can live long-term, rent-free and have all the food they need — in mattresses all over the country.

«I would say it’s spinning out of control,» says veteran entomologist Rick Cooper.

Cooper hadn’t even seen a live bedbug until 1999. Since then, treating them has become almost a full time job for his company, Cooper Pest Management in northern New Jersey. His colleague Jeff White says these small, blood-sucking pests sneak out during the night, feed, and then retreat. Sometimes the only evidence they leave behind are hideous welts running up arms and legs.

«I’ve had people just be completely, completely upset about it, I mean, literally hysterical,» says White.

The first time Dateline came face to face with a bedbug was in 1996, when we investigated the mattress business — specifically, reconditioned mattresses that are supposed to be stripped and sterilized, re-covered and sold for less than what you’d pay for a new one.

Back then, we bought nine mattresses and opened them up. What we found was shocking.

Beneath new covers, filthy old materials were contaminated with urine, fecal matter and dangerous fungi, all of which can seep out through the cover over time. We also found a dead bedbug with its eggs.

With the Orkin pest control company now reporting bedbug infestations in all 50 states, we decided to take another look at reconditioned mattresses to see if the companies that produce and sell them are doing a better job than they were 11 years ago.

Right away we found that some things have changed for the better.

In 1996, 19 states had laws in place regulating the sale of reconditioned mattresses. This year that number is up to 26. We started our investigation in New York, where state law requires them to be labeled clearly with yellow tags marked «used materials.» Not disclosing that information is also against federal law.

Saying «Have no fear, lay down,» a salesman in 1996 tried to sell us rebuilt mattresses as if they were new.

But this year was a different story.

«These are the refurbished ones right here,» said one salesperson.

In the small Mom and Pop stores in low income communities where most of these mattresses are sold, clerks readily told us the mattresses were rebuilt.

Dateline saw one full size set selling for $49.99, compared to new sets which start around two hundred dollars.

«If it has a yellow ticket it’s refurbished,» said the salesperson. «We don’t tell our customers it’s brand new if it’s not. We don’t lie to our customers.»

The yellow tags also clearly say the mattresses are sterilized. In shops and factories, we were told they were clean.

«They clean them and fumigate them,» said one salesperson.

Owner Francisco Chavez told us, «We clean, we’ve got to spray, we spray with alcohol, not just regular alcohol, special alcohol.»

Reconditioned mattresses begin their journey once they’re thrown out to sidewalks or garbage heaps. At dawn, in many American cities, men with vans come out and cart them off to factories, where we were told they sell for five dollars a piece.

We asked entomologist Rick Cooper to ride along with us as we documented what happens to them. Here in Brooklyn, we found these mattresses tossed to the curb. Right away Cooper found a bedbug, fat from a recent feeding.

«Now this has a fresh blood meal in it you can see,» said Cooper.

Cooper says adult bedbugs are easy to spot, but eggs or brand new hatchlings are nearly imperceptible.

«All those little pearly white things are eggs, they’re bedbug eggs,» he pointed out. «They’re a millimeter in size and they’re clear. Think about a period on a piece of paper, but make it translucent. And put that inside the expanse of a mattress.»

His colleague Jeff White added, «It would be very difficult to detect, you’re talking about worse than a needle in a haystack.»

As for those bedbug infested mattresses we found, we came back the next day at dawn to check on them.

Two were gone. We watched a man pick up the remaining one and load it into this white van.

So we followed the van. He picked up more mattresses. That’s the one with bedbugs up on the top.

By 11:00 a.m., there were nine mattresses stacked in the van and more inside — 22 in all.

He delivered them to a company we knew all too well. In fact, in 1996 the company was called Quisqueya mattress and had sold us several contaminated rebuilt mattresses.

Eleven years later, it’s now called Brooklyn Sleep Products, and, it appears, business is booming. There’s a fleet of delivery trucks and a huge factory and salesroom.

We watched as the bedbugs on that mattress hitched a ride in. What would Brooklyn Sleep Products do to make sure the bugs didn’t come back out on a newly rebuilt mattress?

We went in with hidden cameras, and found men making rebuilt mattresses and spraying them here and there with a common household cleaner.

The owner told our undercover shopper his workers use disinfectants to prevent bedbugs, but he said there are no guarantees.

«If you don’t spray, [there] can be bedbugs,» said one worker who was spraying. «We’ve got to do it.»

We asked him, «Do these have bedbugs?»

The worker answered «I can’t say you yes or no. Because it’s possible maybe the bedbug don’t die with the, some bedbugs don’t die.»

Rick Cooper agreed. He says sprays like the ones used here kill bedbugs only on direct contact — and they don’t kill bedbug eggs.

Brooklyn Sleep Products also makes new mattresses. We saw stacks of them leaning up against newly rebuilt and old mattresses. It’s a bad idea, says Rick Cooper.

«If one mattress is in contact with another, and there are bugs on it. Then there’s a very strong likelihood that they’re going to move to the adjacent one.»

There were mattresses everywhere. How would we possibly determine if some had bedbugs? This seemed like an undertaking that might require dogged determination.

Nudey is one of a handful of dogs Pepe Peruyero has trained to detect bedbugs.

«She’s got a really, really good nose,» he says. «Eight pounds. You know no one would ever suspect that this is a detection dog.»

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A former DEA agent and police dog handler, Pepe runs J&K K-9 Academy in northern Florida where he’s trained dozens of dogs to find drugs and pests.

His star student is Gidget, a beagle mix rescued from a shelter.

«Gidget is our machine,» says Pepe. «Gidget is like the old gunny sergeant in the military. She just absolutely loves to work.»

Rick Cooper sometimes turns to Pepe’s dogs for help finding bugs, so we flew him, his daughter who works with him, and the dogs to New York to see if they could find live bedbugs in mattresses.

«Find your bees,» Pepe told his dog. It’s the dog’s signal to start sniffing.

Pepe says it’s easy to see when the dogs have detected the scent of a live bedbug.

«All of a sudden that head snaps. The tail may start to wag a little bit stronger and then of course the alert, the physical alert, of— of scratching,» he said. «Scratching right at the at the point where the odor is coming out of.»

Sometimes, to indicate a bedbug, they just sit down. If the dogs are to be believed, plenty of these old mattresses were infested with bedbugs.

What about the newly rebuilt mattresses? We took the dogs to stores and factories and with some help from them, chose dozens of mattresses to buy and open up.

Would we discover bedbugs? And what else would we find?

When trainer Pepe Peruyero and his detection dogs hit the Big Apple and started touring the bedding factories and stores of Brooklyn, he was struck by one thing right away.

«I could not believe how many mattresses are moved in just one of those stores on a daily basis. It was amazing.»

The factories we visited in Florida, California and New York were bustling. Rebuilt bedding is a high-profit business not many people even realize exists.

«They might pay a collector $5 per product,» says bedding industry consultant Gordon Demant. «They might sell that product to the consumer for $50. And all they’ve done in many instances is to put a new cover on it.»

Refurbished mattresses are bought in bulk by lower-end hotels, shelters, and some school dorms. Demant says though they fill a real need in low income neighborhoods, unsuspecting consumers don’t realize the risks.

«They believe that they’re getting a product which is maybe of lower quality, but not a product which could subject them to significant health problems.»

We bought our first batch in New York — 11 mattresses and box springs — from two different stores, for about $40 each.

We brought them to Cooper Pest Management where bedbug experts Rick Cooper and Jeff White offered to help us examine them.

The first mattress looked clean and fresh and as good as new on the outside.

What we found on the inside gave new meaning to the term dirt cheap.

«Oh my gosh, look at this,» said Dateline correspondent Victoria Corderi, seeing cigarette burns, dust and huge unsightly stains.

«This is exactly like what I saw ten years ago. It’s unbelievable.»

Some of the mattresses looked ok inside. Others looked disgusting.

The fifth mattress we opened was filled with layers of old mattress covers, foam and even two long stuffed cardboard tubes.

Of more concern to Rick and Jeff was how the tops of old mattresses were layered one over the other under the cover, each one a possible carrier of bedbugs.

We asked Rick Cooper, «So it’s like layer after layer of opportunity from different beds?»

Cooper said, «Right. Any one of these layers that has bugs associated with it is going to be a route of introduction of bugs into the mattress itself.»

Jeff pointed out, «There’s black stains all along the piping of that old one.»

These dark marks — called fecal spotting – are signs that bedbugs had been there, digested a blood meal and excreted it right out.

All along the border of the mattress was clear evidence, says Jeff, that the mattress layer had once had a significant infestation. Then there was more proof.

«I have a bedbug,» said Jeff.

There was a dead bedbug amid the filth.

«So the fact that it’s disgusting is not enough,» said our correspondent. «The fact that it could also have bedbugs?»

«That’s what would bother me,» said Jeff.

As we went through the other mattresses, we found more of the tell-tale stains and plenty of grime but no more bedbugs, dead or alive.

We returned to Brooklyn Sleep Products and bought ten more mattresses — twins and full-sized — for an average of $40 each.

«Find your bees,» Jeff instructed Gidget, the bedbug sniffing beagle, who worked on one end while Rick and Jeff worked on the other.

«I got a bug,» Jeff exclaimed.

We found a live bedbug and an unhatched egg.

Rick, pointing at the mattress, said «This spot right here and this spot right here, these two sort of reddish spots are eye spots. That tells us that we have a growing embryo inside this egg.»

There was a little hatchling, translucent and small enough to squeeze through the stitch holes in the mattress seams. It came from a growing family.

«Probably, there was more there if we had looked harder,» said Rick.

When we brought Gidget around to that end of the mattress, she agreed.

«That’s a good girl!»

In our investigation in 1996, Dr. Philip Tierno, Director of Clinical Microbiology at New York University, had tested our mattresses and was shocked at the levels of fungi and bacteria he found, pointing out «We had eclubziella growing.»

So this year we sent him new samples from the factories we visited in Florida, California and New York.

«Ten years ago, we found similar fungi,» said Dr. Tierno. «In one of these cases, the fungi here were far in excess of what we found 10 years ago.»

All of the samples were contaminated — including those from mattresses made in California, which has strict laws and enforcement. The testing revealed traces of urine, fecal matter, at least seven different fungi, most of which are potentially harmful to children, the elderly, anyone with a compromised immune system.

We asked Dr. Tierno, «Did you think maybe in the ensuing years that something would be done, that maybe these reconditioned mattresses might be in better shape?»

«No,» he said. «I considered that in 10 years they would be eliminated from society.»

The dirtiest mattresses we found came from the Brooklyn Sleep Products factory — the factory that sold us the mattress containing live bedbugs.

Eleven years ago, we asked owner Francisco Chavez how he cleaned the reconditioned mattresses.

We went back again recently with the results of our latest investigation.

He wasn’t surprised, and he showed us boxes of Sterifab, the disinfectant he uses. We showed him our video of the so-called sterilized mattresses we bought from him.

We asked him, «There was urine, fecal matter, fungi, bacteria . What do you think about this?»

«That says used material,» Chavez said. «We clean, we sterilize it.»

When Dateline objected that it doesn’t say there could be bedbugs, Chavez replied «Go to the city if you have a complaint.»

We did go see what New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs had to say. Director Jonathan Mintz blames the state for ignoring the issue.

«They haven’t passed the rules telling dealers how they have to sanitize their mattresses.»

He says 10 years ago the state passed a law requiring sterilization of reconditioned bedding but then never bothered to pass regulations on how to do that.

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«The retailers are out there using their own best judgment rather than following state rules,» Mintz said.

Still, his department came out against a recent proposed ban on rebuilt mattresses, saying it penalized the poor.

«For a lot of people used mattresses are the right economic choice for them. And you have to be very careful before you take that product away from them.»

Dateline asked whether just because a family is poor they had to settle for a mattress full of fecal matter, bacteria and fungi.

«Nobody would ever knowingly buy a contaminated mattress,» said Mintz. «That’s not a rational choice.»

We asked him, «How much contamination is enough or how many bedbugs do you need to do something?»

«That’s the right question. And the state needs to answer it,» said Mintz.

The New York Department of State declined our request for an interview but did e-mail us a statement saying «It takes information about improper activity on the part of licensees very seriously . and that the department has no outstanding complaints but now plans a full investigation given our findings . And is reviewing the statute and the need for stronger regulations.»

This time around, every reconditioned mattress we tested was contaminated, but only one had live bedbugs.

Dateline asked Jeff White, «Are we overstating the problem here? We only found one live bedbug and some eggs.»

White replied, «If I have a chance of buying a mattress and there is a 5% chance that it’s infested with bedbugs, that’s too high for me.»

His colleague Rick Cooper agrees.

«I don’t so much care whether it’s five percent, 10 percent, or 30 percent infestation rate,» says Cooper. «There’s not supposed to be live bugs inside of the mattress when you buy it.»

In the end, Rick Cooper says that with bedbugs creeping slowly to a bed near you, buying a reconditioned mattress can be anything but a good deal.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

Do you or other family members have red bites over your body? Are you worried about bedbugs? Checking your mattress carefully is the only way to find out whether or not you have an infestation, and if you do, you should act fast. There are many key things to watch out for regarding diagnosing and removing, for example, pay particular attention to the seams as this is where eggs are often laid. In this article will look at how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress, and shall give you top tips which will allow you to eliminate them for good.

Spotting Signs Of Bed Bugs & Symptoms

The most obvious sign that you have bedbugs is if you wake up feeling itchy and have bites that weren’t there when you went to sleep. This is particularly likely if you have purchased a used bed or other furniture around the time the bites started. There are however many other signs that you can look out for, such as blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases caused by the bug’s excrement. Eggs, egg shells, or skins may also be visible.

Effective Bed Bug Removal

If you suspect you have a problem with bedbug infestation the first thing to do is to remove all the bedding and check it carefully. Also, remove any dust cover which you have over the bottom of the box springs. You should examine the wood framing as this is an area that many people overlook and is a common breeding ground. If bedbugs are left there, then they will re-affect the mattress, and your efforts would have been in vain.

It’s also important to check the rest of your room, especially the area around the bed. This should include inside books and the edge of the carpet. Check your wardrobe, cupboards, and closet as bedbugs can attach themselves to clothing. In fact, check every possible area within your room at least once; this will give you peace of mind, and obviously will increase the chances of locating hidden breeding areas or those choosing to hide.

Bed Bugs In Mattress

Once you have determined that you have bedbugs, there are a number of options available to you. You may want to call in a professional pest control exterminator who can fumigate the room. If you decide to clean your mattress yourself, then the best way to do so is to use a stiff brush such as a scrubbing brush or nail brush. Pay particular attention to the seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs as this is an area they tend to occupy the most. You can then vacuum all the surfaces; if it has a leftover odor from the bedbug scent glands then you can wash it, using some hot water and essential oils. Make sure you do this on a sunny day so that it can be put outside to dry quicker. The sun will also help to remove any odors present. If it doesn’t dry properly there will be scope for further more bacteria to grow, plus will make way for mold and fungi.

Using a bed bug mattress cover is a cheap and effective solution too. Encasing the mattress and forcing them to starve may be timely but is known to work when done correctly. Stopping the bugs from biting you and further breeding is very easily done with one of these covers.

Another option to consider is throwing your mattress away if you feel that it is too infested. However be wary of this option, because it is better to attempt getting rid of the bugs first. If you buy a new mattress, it could become re-infested if you don’t properly clean the rest of the room.

Once you have cleaned your mattress, it’s essential to clean the rest of the room thoroughly. Wash all bedding, soft toys and curtains at a high temperature. Vacuum the rest of the room, moving all furniture underneath. It is also a good idea to check that there are no cracks in the plaster as bedbugs can also hide in the wall.

Bedbugs and Blankets? Bloodsuckers’ Habitat, Prevention, Signs of Infestation, and How to Get Rid

As far as domestic catastrophes go, bed bugs are one of the worst to encounter. Don’t underestimate the insect due to its size. It may be as small as an apple seed but it’s capable of some severe damage.

These little guys bite and they are serious about it. And do you know what the “best” part is? They attack while you are snoozing in your bed (hence the term bed bug). And they don’t just appear from nowhere, suck your blood and go about their day. No, it’s far more disturbing and disgusting than that.

Bedbugs can literally live in your bed.

Calm down, stop looking at your bed with such betrayal in your eyes. Yes, the sad reality is that the little bloodsuckers are capable of making a home out of your mattress, beddings and even your cashmere blankets.

Before you decide to pack your bags and evacuate your house, you need to be sure that you are actually dealing with bed bugs and it’s not just your imagination biting you.

If you haven’t considered it, think about using a bed bug mattress encasement in case your bed or mattress are infested.

Moving forward, in this article, we will cover the ways to prevent bed bugs from attacking your bedwear and, well… from bugging you.

What are the insects’ habits and behaviour?

Bed bugs are like ninjas – they’re really good at hiding and attack during the night. They conceal themselves in cracks, crevices, bedding, electrical switches, picture frames and wallpaper. In short – everywhere in your home.

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Like we said earlier, they mainly go out for a meal in the night, however, they’re more than happy to make an exception during the day if an opportunity is presented. Bed bugs only need around 10 minutes to feed and after that, they go back into hiding for about a week. During that time they like to play house, meaning they mate and make lots of babies.

Then the whole cycle repeats itself until your home becomes a 5-star bed bug hotel.

Where do bed bugs live?

Curious about what are the favourite places that these bloodsuckers inhabit? For your convenience, we have prepared a list of the most common areas where you can spot the bed bug familia.

Brace yourself for some unpleasant surprise

In stuffed animals;

In electrical devices;

Behind pictures and mirrors;

In your pet’s cage.

But can bed bugs hide in my blanket and mattress?

Bedbugs favourite places to chill are mainly crevices and cracks in your bedroom. Pillows, blankets, mattresses, you name it and they’re already living there. When it comes specifically to blankets, the bloodsuckers have a special purpose for those – they lay their eggs there.

And you know what eggs means, right? A full-on pest infestation! Yes, “Ewww!” is a perfectly reasonable response.

If you feel something chewing on you while you sleep, remove your entire bedding and inspect for any signs of a bed bug attack. There will probably be multiple blood stains on there, which are hard to clean.

Take a closer look at your blanket. If you see any dark-brown spots, sorry to gross you out but those are stains from dried out faecal matter. And if one of those spots starts to move on its own, we are not talking about poop anymore – that’ll be one of the bed bugs.

To make sure you are completely informed on the matter, we have gathered a list of signs for you to look out when suspecting a rising bed bug problem.

Signs of Infestation,

If you wake with the urge to scratch your body with sandpaper because of some mysterious red bumps that weren’t there when you went to bed, then bed bugs are most likely the culprits.

Check out the other signs for an infestation:

Blood spots on your bed sheets and pillows;

Dark-brown marks in your bed. That’ll be the bugs poop;

Shed skin and eggshells;

A repulsive and musty odour from the bugs’ scent glands.

If you have seen any of the described signs, you need to go further with your investigation.

Remove all bedding and scan for the presence of actual bugs.

After that remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box and carefully examine the seams in the wood framing. If you can, peel of the attached fabric to see the condition of the mattress beneath it.

Check around the bed’s perimeter: in the bookcase, around the carpet, and even in the electrical outlets!

Also, go into your closet, because bed bugs can be found on clothing items, too.

If you have second thoughts, even after thoroughly examining every nook and cranny in your bedroom, Jordan Foster who is one of the London-based professional bed bug exterminators at Fantastic, says that calling a pest control company to inspect the area for you is simply a must. However, if out of budget or still not willing to book a professional, here’s the dash of the experts’ tips for prevention and remedy:

How can I prevent bed bugs from infesting my blankets?

Use a Bed Bug Monitor,
Yup, such a device exists. Monitors are made to slip under the feet of your bed and block the access to it, by trapping the bedbugs inside. Overall, it’s a very useful tool in monitoring your home for bed bugs. The gadget is really easy to install: carefully lift each leg of your bedpost and put the device under it. You’ll need to regularly check the contraption for bed bug activity so you can act quickly if you spot any.

Be Careful With Laundry Facilities,
If you wash your bedding and clothes in shared laundromats, you need to be extra careful with them. Bed bugs like to hitchhike from home to home through laundromats. Transport the items to the laundry facility in a plastic bag that can be sealed, and when you’re done with washing and drying them, directly bag them again. Don’t iron or fold them there.

Wash Your Blankets Regularly,
Wash your blankets with your other bedding once a week or every other one. You can clean and dry bedding feather bed protectors and blanket protectors at a higher temperature as well. This way you kill any type of living organism that may be lingering in your bed.

Use Mattress Covers,

Use mattress covers to protect yourself from a bed bug infestation. This type of casing is made for non-vinyl mattresses and box springs. The idea is that the mattress cover doesn’t let bed bugs hide in the actual mattress.

The Complete Guide on How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs.

The casings are typically made from quality fabric, which is very durable and resistant to tears. Mattress covers don’t form folds, so bed bugs can’t find shelter there.

Bedbug Treatments:

To save your home from bed bugs you have to start with cleaning up the areas which the insects inhabit. Here are the steps you need to undertake:

Gather all your bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing and wash them on a high setting. After they are clean, put them in the dryer, again on the highest setting possible. Anything that you can’t clean in the washing machine, like shoes and stuffed toys, need to go in the dryer on a high temperature for 30-40 minutes.

Scrub your mattress with a hard bristle brush to reveal the bed bugs and their eggs before the vacuuming process.

Vacuum the area around your bed as frequent as you can. Remember always to empty the dust bag outside of your home.

Encase your mattress in a cover made from a thicker fabric, so any existing bed bugs can’t get out. Over time they will die out of starvation.

Glue down any peeling or ripped wallpaper and repair cracks in plaster to get rid of any potential bed bug hiding places

Remove clutter around your bed area.

And if everything else fails, just get rid of the infested mattress. Make sure to take care of the bedbug problem before you decide to purchase a new mattress because they’ll just attack that one, too.

Read our thorough guide:

Bedbugs and blankets – final remarks,

As you can see, the war against bed bugs is tedious and time-consuming. On top of that, it’s hard on the budget and stomach-churning. No matter if the creatures have infested only your blanket or have taken over the whole house, a professional exterminator is a must with problems like these. Spare yourself the itchy bites and headaches and just call an expert.

Professional pest control technicians work with special equipment that can end your bed bugs problems ones and for all.

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