PAYSLIP, Wash. -- They're tiny and feed on human blood. Bed bugs created a nightmare on the East Coast and are now migrating west.
Local pest control companies say bed bugs are becoming a huge problem in our region. They say we've only seen the tip of the iceberg and the problem most likely will get worse.
"Bedbugs are one the most difficult pests to control. A few factors, they've shown some resistance to a lot of the pesticides we use," said Erik Hodson, Whitworth Pest Solutions.
Hodson has been in the pest control business for 17 years in Pierce and King counties. He said a couple years ago they never received calls for bed bugs. That has changed dramatically with a 155% increase. Now a huge chunk of their business is getting rid of bed bugs. And they're finding bed bugs not only in cheap motels and apartments, but also at high-end hotels and people's home.
Here's why they're so pesky. Experts say even though they've been nicknamed "bed bugs," they not only invade your mattresses but can also be all around the house - anywhere they can find a crevice or crack - even in light switches and alarm clocks.
Hodson explained what he believes is causing this rapid spread of bed bugs in the West.
"Travel is a huge factor, people traveling internationally," said Hodson. "People can pick up in their luggage, bring it back home. Or even if they're staying with relatives in the Midwest, East Coast, they'll bring it back here."
Up until recently, bed bugs did not appear to spread diseases. The main annoyance was the irritating bites. But last week, scientists in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, found bedbugs that may carry so-called "superbug" germs, specifically the bacteria MSRA, in three patients. However, some researchers say more studies are needed to confirm that connection.
Hodson recommended ways to protect yourself while traveling.
"When you get into your hotel room, don't set your luggage on the floor, do not put clothes in the drawers at the hotel room. And check your bed - pull the sheets and fitted sheets back," said Hodson.
Hodson also recommended when you come back home from traveling, don't bring your luggage in the house right away. If you can, leave your luggage out in garage. And wash your clothes on a high setting to kill any bed bugs.