The early detection of bed bugs is very difficult. In many cases bed bugs will go undetected during an inspection particularly during the early stages of an infestation when only a few bugs or eggs are present.
Even the most qualified inspector will be challenged when the entire infestation consists of two eggs that were laid on a piece of luggage and hitch hiked a ride back to your house after a recent.
Insect sticky traps/glue boards are often placed out in an effort to catch bed bugs and while these traps will capture some, they are not reliable monitoring devices since any bugs caught on them were by chance. For this reason, the use of glue board type traps is not recommended as a method for concluding that an area is free of bed bugs. Several devices have been specifically developed for the monitoring and/or detection of bed bugs. Devices that are currently available include bed bug interception devices that are placed under the legs of beds and sofas and traps that emit carbon dioxide.
As mentioned previously, the use of mattress and box spring encasements that have been specifically designed and tested for bed bugs is another tool that can be used to help detect the presence of bed bugs. The reason that encasements are so helpful is because your mattress and box spring have many hiding places for bed bugs making inspection time consuming and difficult. Without an encasement, evidence of bed bugs is often buried deep inside your mattress and box spring, and can be almost impossible to find. However by encasing the mattress and box spring the bug’s access is restricted to the smooth exterior of the encasement where signs of bed bugs, such as spotting and shed skins or the bugs themselves are readily detected during an inspection. Early detection of bed bugs is often complicated when the bugs are occupying areas inside the box spring or under folds on the mattress where they are easily missed. However by encasing the mattress and box spring the bug’s access is restricted to the smooth exterior of the encasement where they are much more readily detected during an inspection. An additional benefit is realized as the encasements prevent the subsequent infestation of the mattress and box spring.
Canine scent detection, the use of bed bug sniffing dogs, is another method that can be employed to detect bed bugs. The advantage of using dogs that are specially trained to detect bed bugs is that they detect the infestation through their sense of smell rather than relying on visual detection. Canine scent detection also has its limitations and dogs, just like humans, can miss a low level infestation if the scent is not available to them. The take home message is that regardless of the methods used, low level infestations can go undetected and thus just because an inspection fails to reveal an infestation does not mean that they are not there.