Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bed Bug Video

I like to watch You Tube. Depending on my mood I can watch fascinating videos of any subject, and most recently I found myself watching videos about bed bugs. As a bed bug exterminator I was curious to observe people's bed bug do-it-yourself remedies, some of which offered some decent suggestions of how to rid your home of bed bugs, and others were simply laughable. Since YouTube video content is all user uploaded we have to remember to take some of the information we find with a grain of salt. My goal was to find a video that was accurate and informative, and I did stumble upon a short documentary-style video uploaded by Discovery Networks. Being a fan of The Discovery Channel it caught my interest. They uploaded a video named, "Bed Bugs on the Rise" that I would like to share with you below.

This video is very useful to you for several reasons. It discusses some basic information about bed bugs, and you can actually see what bed bugs look like in action as they crawl around on the Entomologist's hand. (Warning: watching this video may cause you to feel itchy!) Discovery Networks does a great job explaining why the bed bug population is increasing and where bed bugs come from. You will learn about bed bug bites, what bed bug bites look like, and the video offers some good points for preventing bed bugs and bed bug infestations, too. So sit back, enjoy, and watch and learn some key information about bed bugs in a short two and a half minute video.

-Steve Spinelli
AKA "Bed Bug Exterminator"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What do bed bugs look like?

As a licensed NYC Exterminator and NJ Exterminator, I answer this question countless times every day on service calls.  With the onslaught of media centered around bed bugs, an exterminator may as well change their title to “bed bug exterminator.”  Personally, about 90% of our NYC exterminator service calls as well as our NJ exterminator service calls are all in the name of… BED BUGS.

So you want to see pictures of bed bugs because you are searching for an answer to the question that everyone seems to be asking these days:  “What do bed bugs look like?”

Knowing that I would be starting this blog, I have recently taken some pictures of bed bugs, as well as what signs to look for that indicate a bed bug infestation, so that you can see a clear example of bed bugs to use as a reference point if you want to look for bed bugs or signs of bed bug activity in your home or building.

Bed bugs and bed bug fecal matter on a box spring

A bed bug in the center, and the larger bed bug to the left is pregnant and will drop eggs shortly.  If you compare the size of these two bed bugs to the staple in the photograph, this will give you a good frame of reference to understand the size of a bed bug.  Black markings indicate bed bug excrement along the underside of a box spring along the seaming.

Picture of a bed bug
What do bed bugs look like? This is a standard example of a bed bug on the underside of a box spring and is a close up of the image above for a better view.

Bed bug excrement on mattress seam
"How do I know if I have bed bugs?"
In looking at the above picture of a mattress seam, you will see the dark markings that are hallmark of a bed bug infestation in your mattress or bedding.  Let's take a closer look at these signs of bed bug infestations:

Bed bug casings and excrement on underside of box spring
See how the edge of this box spring looks like someone took a sharpie pen and marked it up? The black markings that look like ink are bed bug feces.  Orange-brown matter are the expelled bed bug casings (ie. bed bug skin)  Bed bugs shed their skins with each growth phase.

Bed bug casings and excrement on box spring
Black ink looking markings indicate bed bug fecal matter along the edge of the underside of this boxspring.  Lighter brown matter are the shed bed bug casings.  (ie. bed bug skins)

Bed bug cluster on the underside of a sofa cushion
 Some more bed bug pictures.  Note that bed bugs tend to cluster together.  Each cluster typically contains about 6 to 12 bugs.  Also, bed bugs do not only infest beds and may be found on the bottom of a sofa cushion as well as almost all other furnishings.

Bed bug cluster on the underside of a sofa cushion
Close up view of the above bed bug cluster found on the bottom of a sofa cushion.  What do bed bugs look like?  The above bed bug picture provides an excellent example.

Bed bug signs of an infestation
In multiple dwellings, like apartments, hotels, condos, and townhouses, a bed bug infestation may easily move from one unit to the next.  See the small hole next to this electrical outlet and note that it is roughly the same size as one of the small plug holes.  A hole this size creates ample room for bed bugs to travel from unit to unit.

Stay tuned for more bed bug pictures from your bed bug exterminator.

-Steve Spinelli
AKA "Bed Bug Exterminator"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

17th Annual Three Hands Grand Ball

My hat is off once again to the committee who organized The 17th Annual Three Hands Grand Ball.  Titanium Laboratories was proud to attend and join our colleagues and clients for a spectacular event on Saturday, March 5th including the Manhattan Resident Managers Club, The Metropolitan Building Managers of NY and the Scandinavian American Building Managers Guild.

This was truly a spectacular event at the Hilton Hotel on 53rd St. and 6th Ave. in NYC where over 500 guests dressed to impress, and celebrate in good spirits, good company, and savor top-notch cuisine.  Finest vendors and building managers were honored by their respective organizations, and overall Titanium Laboratories enjoyed the greatest event of the year!

Red Carpet Photo

Titanium Laboratories
a proud sponsor of the 17th Annual Three Hands Grand Ball

Congratulations Robert G Taylor
Scandanavian American Building Managers Guild
Building Manager of the Year 2011
-Steve Spinelli

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NJ Flooding 2011

From: The Mold Tsunami

Recent river cresting in New Jersey swiftly left homes and businesses submerged in water.   Over the weekend, as I drove around towns such as Little Falls, Wayne, Fairfield and Pompton Lakes I was knocked over after observing the sheer area affected by NJ’s swollen rivers.  Many buildings that were not flooded still had water banked up against the foundation, which poses a serious concern for home owners and building owners alike.  After events like this one, the phones in my office typically take a sudden turn into the haphazard, with scores of good questions about household mold in particular, many of which follow the same theme.

“My house flooded and I cleaned it out right away.  Do I need to worry about mold?”
“How can I prevent mold after a flood in my building?”
The best course of action that you can take following a flood is to remove the water from your home or building immediately, specifically within 24-48 hours if possible.  If the basement flooded and you had items stored inside cardboard boxes, you will want to remove everything from the boxes, clean, disinfect, and dry everything thoroughly, and store them in new, clean, dry containers.   Clean and dry items stored inside furniture or cabinets, too.  Remove and wash all linens, bedding, clothing, and floor mats.  Carpeting affected by water intrusion should be removed.  A thorough cleaning, disinfecting, and drying process is absolutely crucial in minimizing the opportunity for mold growth on every affected surface within your home or building.  Take advantage of warm dry days by opening up doors and windows to increase air flow.  Cheap box fans are helpful too.  These are just a few tips to help you prevent mold growth after a flood. 

 “Should I have my home tested for mold after a flood?”
Of course a mold test would help give you, your family members, or any other occupants of the building peace of mind following any water event such as a flood.  But when is a mold test actually needed or appropriate? 
  1. If following cleanup, there is no visible mold growth on any surfaces but you smell a musty odor, that could be an indication that mold may be forming in areas that are unseen, such as behind sheetrock.  This would be cause for a mold test.  A mold test would also provide details as to what species of mold are growing and if at elevated levels in the indoor air environment, indicating the possibility or absence of mold growth in non-visible areas.
  2. Following cleanup, if you begin to notice mold or mildew growth on building materials in the home or building that continue to reappear after cleaning.
  3. A large area of visible mold growth, meaning more than 10 sq. ft. in any contiguous area would prompt you to call in a professional.

“I don’t see any mold but I smell a musty odor.  How do I know if I have mold growing in my home or building?”
As stated above, a musty odor is generally a clue that mold may be forming in areas that you cannot see, such as behind sheetrock.  If a musty odor persists, it’s probably a good idea to contact a certified mold inspector to help determine the cause of the moldy odor and locate the potential source, so that proper cleaning techniques may be applied before this turns into an even bigger problem.  Tackled straight away, mold cleanup is always less expensive than when it is ignored for significant periods of time and left to grow.

“Will bleach kill mold growth? / Will bleach prevent mold growth?”
There is a lot of conflicting information circulating about bleach and whether bleach is effective in cleaning up mold.  So, does bleach kill mold?  Yes.. sometimes.  And no .. sometimes.  There are many variables that should be considered but mainly the object that is being cleaned and the species of mold that is growing on that object.  Objects that are non-porous, like hard plastic items or glazed ceramic sinks, can usually be disinfected with a solution of bleach and water and in most cases that will prevent mold growth.  However, in situations where you are cleaning porous objects such as wood, then it is very likely that the bleach will not penetrate the mold spore roots therefore this method may not be an effective course of action.  Also, certain mold species are resistant to bleach – although the bleach may partially destroy the organism, the fungi is still able to flourish.  
From Clorox’s website:  "Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in household bleach, helps to whiten, brighten and remove dirt and stains from surfaces and fabrics. EPA-registered, sodium hypochlorite-based bleach is effective in killing 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and some types of mold."  Also found in the Cleaning & Laundry Advisor for Allergies, note that they specify using bleach to tackle mold on hard surfaces:  “Mold and mildew can be found on hard surfaces around the house. Spray the Clorox® Clean-Up® Cleaner with Bleach 4 to 6 inches from the surface until thoroughly wet, let stand for 5 minutes, and rinse or wipe clean to kill mildew. Use it to clean and disinfect bathtubs, counters, showers, sinks, refrigerators, glazed ceramic tile, and fiberglass.”
 “I am concerned about toxic mold / black mold / stachybotrys due to a flood in my home or building.”
The fact is that ALL molds have the ability to contribute towards health concerns in individuals, depending on the individual’s sensitivity to mold, age, and various health conditions.  So, what is “Toxic Mold” and how does it relate to “Toxic Black Mold”, “Black Mold”, and “Stachybotrys”?  Of the many thousands of species of mold in our environment, some have the ability to release mycotoxins throughout the indoor air environment.  Hence, the term, “Toxic Mold”. 

The terms “Black Mold”, “Toxic Black Mold”, and “Stachybotrys” all refer to a species of mold referred to as “Stachybotrys chartarum”.  Stachybotrys chartarum is black in color, slimy, and is also a notorious species of mold that has the ability to release mycotoxins into the air.  This would account for all of the different names for one single species of mold that we all know can create many ugly health related symptoms in individuals.
The above, however, does not necessarily mean that if you find mold in your home or building that happens to be black in color, that it is Stachybotrys chartarum.  The only way to definitively confirm the fungal species is through lab testing.  Whether you learn the mold in question affecting your property is confirmed to be Stachybotrys chartarum, or any other variety of mold, it still needs to be cleaned.  The methods of cleaning will be determined depending on the concentration of mold spores, the affected area, and the species of mold. 

“Can I clean up mold myself or do I really need to hire a professional?”
In this economy and the cost of living you may want to try and cut costs by cleaning mold yourself.  There are many resources around the web with guidelines for the do-it-yourselfer and in many cases you can tackle the project if you follow instructions carefully.  Do-it-yourself-mold-cleanup comes with one caveat.  Following removal of moldy building materials, and prior to rebuilding, it is critical to treat the underlying building materials with mold inhibiting products.  These products are only available to licensed professionals and therefore you may find yourself in a situation where that part of the project would need to be hired out to a professional.

I was saddened to see so many people affected by such an unfortunate incident.  My hope is that they find something positive in the rebuilding and renewal of their homes and their lives.

Pictures of the flood in NJ March 2011

Wow.  This house just sold and is now flooded.
Cumberland County Courthouse Flood 2011
Route 46 was closed due to flooding
by Willowbrook Mall in Wayne NJ
Lots of people used boats and rafts to escape their flooded neighborhoods.
The irony.
A pool Supplies sign in the background of this flood picture!

-Steve Spinelli