When a colony of bed bugs has established itself in a dwelling, eradication is a long, hard road away. It can be done, but only with hard work, diligence, and time.
Bed bugs have a lot going for them. Like any species on our planet, they are hard wired for survival. And like any species that is thriving on our planet, they’ve continually adapted to changing conditions in order to become more efficient at survival.
There are five different reasons why bed bugs can be difficult to eradicate:
- Body Size and Shape
- Reproductive Ability
- Living Without Food
- Super Senses
- Resistance to Insecticides
Body Size and Shape
Bed bugs hide in small places. They huddle in cracks and creases. They gather along seams and in folds, they even hide behind loose wallpaper. They move from room to room by slipping under the walls. They are uniquely suited for getting around unseen and hiding wherever they want to be.
Bed bugs are tiny parasites. Adults are usually about the size of an apple seed. They’re flat bugs, with very little of their mass devoted to their height. There are very few places a bed bug can’t go.
Their body shape is perfect for survival. If you can’t find them, you can’t kill them, and they know it. Tools for delivering pesticides would be too fragile if they were made small enough to get to where a bed bug can hide, so the pesticides must be delivered with force in order to permeate the areas in which these bugs hide.
Pesticides can make people sick, so many are reluctant to use the most powerful ones and shoot them fairly indiscriminately around their homes. Even when they do choose this avenue, a lot of the bugs will just go farther into the walls and furniture until it’s safe to come out again. Their size makes them formidable adversaries.
One of the bed bugs’ best weapons in their quest for survival as a species is their incredible rate of reproduction. If conditions are right, meaning there is food available (human blood) and it isn’t too hot or too cold, bed bugs can produce 3 or 4 generations in a year. Each lady bug can lay 500 eggs in her lifetime. Doing the math on that would take a while, and a good calculator. Each of those 500 eggs will hatch and each female bug that emerges will lay 500 more eggs in the next year. It’s difficult to fight against an army of that size.
To completely eliminate an infestation, every single viable bed bug must be found and destroyed, and while you’re working on that, they’re having more babies. It only takes a few individual bed bugs to create a large infestation.
Living without Food
If you’re thinking of leaving a dwelling empty for a few months and starving them out, that won’t work either. Bed bugs eat blood, but if there’s no host around, they’ll just wait you out. Adult bed bugs can live up to 550 days without feeding. That’s more than 18 months! Even their nymphs can go months without a blood meal.
They won’t reproduce as fast until a meal finally arrives, but once a dwelling is inhabited again they’ll again be prolific in their reproduction, creating a brand new infestation.
Bed bugs won’t just sit around and wait for you to come at them with chemicals. If you’re going around with a sponge and a cleaning agent, they can detect that chemical from far off. They’ll scatter until the chemical has dissipated, then return to their feeding ground.
Bed bugs can be squashed, so if you’re going around the room wiping everything down to kill as many as you can, it’s best to use plain water to do so.
They’re also aware of some pesticides so if a room is being treated, they’ll scramble away and return when the pesticide has evaporated.
Resistance to Pesticides
The numbers vary by scientist, but it is generally accepted that bed bugs are becoming resistant to pesticides. Some say they have developed a resistance to up to 98% of the pesticides in use today.
The older pesticides like DDT were stronger and their use is believed to have helped to nearly eradicate the pesticide problem in developed countries. Now that DDT is banned, however, the pests are back and finding the newer pesticides easier to handle.
It takes generation after generation for a species to evolve it’s traits to become better at survival. Unfortunately, bugs don’t need a long time to produce a long line of generations. Once exposed to a pesticide, they seem to be able to evolve in a way that will allow them to become resistant to it over a few short years.
The final factor in the bed bugs’ favor is that humans like stuff. We fill our homes with way more stuff these days than we ever did before. A lot of our stuff is nice and warm, like our electronics. Our wardrobes are larger than ever. All of this stuff gives the bed bugs plenty more places to hide.
Even vacuuming every spot, wiping down every surface, laundering every article of clothing, spraying chemicals into every possible crack and crevice, covering our mattresses and pillows with bed bug proof covers, and putting bed bug barriers on the legs of the furniture to keep them from their food does not always do the job right away.
Even when everything is done right, some bugs, nymphs, or just eggs will likely be missed and with no further treatment, the bugs will be back in force within a very short time.
You can win the battle against these bugs but it takes a lot of hard work and often a few months of time to get it done right. Educate yourself on the ways of the bed bug and be prepared to do battle. Consider hiring a professional pest control service to come in and do it for you. They’re professionals and their work is guaranteed. Never give an inch and you’ll soon be master of your castle once again.