If bedbugs make your skin crawl, then brace yourself: experts predict the tenacious bloodsucking pests will enjoy a warm-weather resurgence in the coming months.
"It may be a bit of a scary summer when it comes to bedbugs," said Jeffrey White, chief entomologist for bedbugcentral.com.
The Lawrenceville, N.J. company has studied the recent epidemic and says warm weather creates ideal conditions for bedbugs, which are about the size of an apple seed and feed on human blood.
And it's not as though they've disappeared over the winter, either.
Exterminators have found that many tenants are in disbelief.
"'My house is clean' -- that's the first thing they say," said Rodney Henry, a pest control expert. "You could be the cleanest person anywhere and you could still have them."
Several key factors have contributed to the bedbug boom in recent years.
The pesticide DDT, which practically eliminated the bugs years ago, is now illegal. Worldwide travel to far-flung places is at an all-time high. And more people know what to look for, so they're noticing the little black dots of bedbug west, the tiny blood stains, and the bugs themselves.
Bedbugs are not known to transmit disease or post major health risks -- except for the psychological effect.
"When you're sleeping in your bed at night, trying to get a good night's sleep, and they're coming out of your box spring, and out of your walls to feed on you while you try to sleep, it can be a very disturbing experience," said White.
There are many methods of fighting back, varying in cost.
One cheaper option -- devices called "climb-ups" that you sprinkle with baby powder and place under the legs of your bed and sofa. Bugs climb in but can't get out.
Pricier remedies include cryonite cold spray or steam treatments that blast bugs with temperatures as high as 275 degrees.
Experts advise trying to spot the little creatures before a full-blown infestation. Getting a handle on a small breakout is far easier to handle.
More advice: keep your home and office free of clutter.
And as an extra precaution, when you get home from work or the movies, wash your clothes and put them in a hot dryer.