LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Bed Bugs. They are creepy and icky and nasty and crawly -- all those bad things.
The vampires of the insect world are also (hold for it) on the rise.
Exterminator Robert Gallo knows what the bugs like to munch on.
"What they feed on is us, they like human blood," says Gallo.
As Andrea Fujii reports, experts say the bugs like to literally be within an arms reach of their food supply.
Their favorite spots, beds of course. They love to hide in mattresses.
They are notorious hitchhikers, anyone can carry them into their homes.
Dozens of the little pests have overtaken the bed of Matt Harper's housemate.
"No one likes waking up with rashes and bites," Harper said.
So to get rid of the infestation, an exterminator was called to East LA. Even his assistant dog, Toby, sniffed out the problem.
Gallo says Toby is kept quite busy. Gallo is from Round The Clock Pest Control. And said he's been working overtime on bed bugs.
He showed some cellphone video indicating how bad the problem is in some places.
"We're getting an increase of average of about 25-35 percent increase every year." Gallo said.
The Los Angeles area is ranked fourth worst in the country for bed bug infestations.
Dr. Dong Hwan Choe is an assistant professor of entomology at UC Riverside.
His most recent study, from 2014, said that 40 percent of homeowners and tenants in California have dealt with bed bugs.
"The bed bug infestation has been rising consistently over the last couple years and it seems like we are reaching to plateau," said Dr. Choe.
A plateau means it could get worse before it gets better. So why has it been so bad in Southern California?
"More people, more bedbugs," he says.
And since the bugs easily travel and migrate they are very often found in multi unit dwellings.
Bed bugs can attach to clothes, vacuum cleaners, and then can be spread through communal laundry areas.
Dr. Choe said the best way to get rid of the bugs is call in a professional.
Gallo first vacuums up the bugs and then brings in heaters. He believes heaters are more effective than chemicals.
Heated to about 140 degrees, the bed bugs dry up and die.
Harper's house has been infested before and he's hoping not to see a third occurrence.
"Definitely a little bit of a frustration, but also grateful it was only in one room," Harper said.
Gallo says there is no silver bullet.
"This is a bug that's here to stay, it's not going anywhere, we just have to adapt to how this bug lives," he said.
Experts say travelers are often the source of bed bugs.
They recommend throwing all your clothes and shoes in a dryer upon returning home. They also say to leave your suitcase outside in the sun, inside a plastic bag.
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