Bedbugs are small, oval-shaped creepy crawlers that live on human blood. They can leave a bite mark, which if not take care of, can become infected and even lead to other complications. Not taking steps to get rid of a bed bug infestation can affect your quality of sleep, which in turn will again lead to mental and physical health problems. It is hard to deal with an infestation though because bedbugs are so good at hiding – it is difficult to locate them and even trickier to find the best way to exterminate them. You need to educate yourself a bit more about these tiny bugs and know exactly what they can and cannot do. This helps you develop a plan of action and clear an infestation successfully.
An important thing to know about bedbugs is that they can easily travel from one surface to another. They are so good at it, especially when they a textured surface to climb, such as cardboard, paper, wood, fabric, and even home walls. However, they find it difficult to climb any slick, non-porous surfaces, such as slick metal, glass, plastic, and ceramic. It is due to this inability that using metal bed frames may help deter bed bug.
While they have problems climbing certain surfaces, they can move quite fast. In fact, they can cover 16 feet in 5 minutes only. They are more active at night because they tend to be nocturnal. Interestingly, bed bugs can adapt to your sleep cycle and become more active during the day when you sleep at this time after working the night shift. They may come out during the day when they are hungry. It is quite possible to see them roam far from their initial harborages, such as the recliner, the bed, and the soft, if you have a heavy infestation. They can even move through electrical conduits and wall voids to other apartment buildings.
Since bed bugs can move around easily, the most common way to take them home with you is by having hem on your luggage in a hotel room. They can easily climb up the side of your suitcase and go home with you. It means that you should think about their mobility when determining how to deal with them. The problem is that many people do not realize their luggage contains bed bugs – many even do not realize they have a bed bug infestation until they get bite marks and wonder what they really are. To think of a perfect solution, you first need to ensure you really have a bed bug infestation in your home.
How to Identify a Bed Bug Infestation
Most people become suspect a bed bug infestation when they have unexplained bite marks on their bodies. You may go into bed just fine but have those bite marks in the morning. These bites itch a lot and require treatment in many cases. While bed bug bites help determine if you have an infestation, it is not the most reliable way to confirm the presence of those bugs in your home. The reason is that you can have bite marks due to many other reasons, and some people may have bites but do not develop a reaction so never get to know of those marks on their bodies.
When you do not notice bite marks early and make no move to identify and eliminate bed bugs, you not only let an infestation to get started but you also give those annoying crawlers a chance to increase their population to an extent where simple treatment options just won’t work. That is the reason why you have to be proactive and look for bed bug evidence to confirm if you really have them.
If you suspect you have an infestation, you need to inspect your room thoroughly and look for bed bugs or their skin that may be there after they have molted. You should also for reddish-black spots, which is actually fecal matter on your bedding left behind by bed bugs after feeding. You can also find these spots on mattress, bedding, and box springs if you have a heavy infestation.
You also need to know exactly what those bugs look like. Adult bed bugs could be up to 5mm long – or even larger in some cases. They cannot fly, but adults may or may not have the vestiges of wings. They are reddish brown in color with a darker abdomen when properly fed. Females usually have a much less tapered abdomen than males.
It is usually hard to locate them because they can sometimes be very small, especially the nymphs that are tiny and have translucent whitish-yellow color. How bed bugs really look depends a lot on their feeding status. They are usually oval when they are still hungry, but a bed bug blows up like a balloon after feeding. They will be bright red in case they have fed a couple of hours ago, but the color becomes darker within a couple of days while they are still trying to digest their blood meal. Similarly, a hunger nymph may look yellowish, but it plumps up and becomes red after feeding.
To confirm an infestation, you need look for molted bed bug skins behind headboards, along mattress seams, along baseboards, in wall junctions, and around personal belongings. Similarly, you should look for fecal spots to confirm if you really have bed bugs in your home. For this, you should closely inspect the areas behind the headboard, on the wood frame of the box springs, along the mattress seams, in the wall junctions, along the edge of carpeting, at electrical outlets, and behind pictures on the wall.
What’s more, you should also look for bed bug aggregations under the mattress tags, in the tufts, in bed frames, behind any loose wallpaper, under the base of the air conditioner, behind chipped paint, inside the baseboard heaters, inside the curtain rods, and in your personal belongings, such as stuffed animals, books, etc.
Where Did They Come From?
After inspecting your room in every possible way, you already know you have a bed bug infestation. However, you may also be wondering how exactly you brought these annoying crawlers home in the first place. Understand that you cannot get bed bugs out of nowhere – you have to bring into your home. It means that if you have noticed an infestation after returning from a trip, it could be because your hotel room had an infestation already. Similarly, you may have ended up infested your home by buying a piece of used furniture, which was a hideout for bed bugs.
Interestingly, bed bugs do not cling to people, but they sure can hold onto your belongings and travel far with you. That is another reason why bed bugs are limiting to a specific type of dwelling – you can find them in multi-family dwellings, single houses, hotels, apartments, hospitals, and airplanes. It is important to pay attention to the signs of their presence, inspect your properly closely to confirm you have an infestation, and then do whatever you can to exterminate them.
DIY Treatment or Hire a Pest Control
Once you have confirmed an infestation, you may be wondering how to get rid of it. You can try many DIY treatment options to exterminate bed bugs, but not everyone is confident about using those DIY treatments, which is why it sometimes makes more sense to hire a pest control company to take charge of things.
If the infestation is small and you can handle pesticides and other options to kill bed bugs, you can certainly consider doing it yourself. You may want to hire a professional though if the infestation is big. Similarly, if you have already tried some DIY techniques to get rid of bed bugs and they have returned, it is a good idea to let a pro intervene. Many people think that hiring a pro is an expensive choice, but you might end up spending more money doing it yourself when you do not follow DIY treatment procedures properly.
Before opting for a bed bug exterminator, be sure to opt for a qualified and experienced company. Not all exterminators are bed bug qualified. Ensure that they are courteous, know their job well, and communicate everything with you. They should be able to use comprehensive treatment approaches and also explain why they are going to select a particular treatment plan. They should also explain any safety issues associated with whatever treatment option they select. Finally, be very clear about cost, coverage, and guarantees to avoid dealing with any problem later.
How to Treat the Infestation Yourself
If you have identified an infestation, you do not always need to call in a pro straight away. There are simple treatment options that may help clear an infestation, especially if it is not that big. You can heat treat your infested items, try freezing bed bugs, or even take advantage of several natural remedies.
However, before you go any further, it is a good idea to take some time and determine exactly what led to a bed bug infestation in the first place. As mentioned already, it is possible for bed bugs to travel through electrical conduits and holes, so the source of the problem may be in another apartment. Before you treat your belongings, it is important to fill that hole first. Similarly, you may have brought bed bugs home through your luggage. If that is the case, you need to secure your luggage first, keep it in your garage for some time while you are treating other infested items, such as clothes, mattress, etc.
Getting Ready for Treatment: The Pre-Step
Before trying anything, keep in mind that so many factors go into determining how efficiently you manage to clear an infestation. For instance, some of the most important factors that may affect your success rate include site-specific challenges, extent of the infestation, neighbors with infestation, clutter, and willingness of all the residents to participate.
To ensure you manage to get rid of bed bugs in an efficient way, it is important to prepare for treatment as efficiently as possible. Here are a few things to do first:
- Reduce clutter as much as possible. This helps ensure that bed bugs do not have so many places to hide. Just be careful when de-cluttering your room or else you would end up spreading the bed bugs. Moreover, do not store items from the infested area to a non-infested room. Any trash from the infested area should go straight into plastic bags. Eliminate cardboard boxes and discard anything you do not need.
- Move your bed properly. It should be away from the wall. Also, search the bed thoroughly to remove any eggs, nymphs, and adult bugs. Wrap your mattresses in especially designed covers with zippers. Ensure that you have properly tucked all bedding under the mattress. Also, make sure there is nothing under the bed.
If you have hired a professional, you can still do some preparation to save a lot of time. For instance:
- Use a putty knife to get bed bugs out of cracks and crevices. You can also use hot air from blow dryer to force them out.
- Use large plastic bags to store plush toys, shoes, clothes, and pillows. Ensure that you can seal the bags as well.
- Empty your furniture items, such as bookcases, dresser drawers, etc., to make inspection easier.
- Remember to vacuum carpets along with upholstered furniture and drapery.
- Caulk cracks and crevices you find around baseboards.
- Take time to repair wallboard damage, and remember to check wall switches and electrical outlets.
Treating the Infestation Yourself
Once you have prepared the room, you can always use some DIY approaches to exterminate bed bugs. Some of these techniques are more of prevention strategies but they still help clear an infestation, especially when used properly. Here are some options to consider.
Use Bed Bug Traps
A simple way to limit an infestation and keep bed bugs out of your home is to use bed bug traps. You can try different ways to make these traps, but the idea is to place them in all the right places. They should be under bedposts and other key areas where you suspect the presence of bed bugs. Here is how to make an effective trap quickly:
- Take an old coffee cup and fill it up with one and a half liters of water. Now, add two tablespoons of yeast and ten tablespoons of sugar to it. Once done, leave it in the center of an upturned dog bowl.
The trap works because it emits carbon dioxide, which attracts bed bugs. They climb up the bowl and fall inside the mixture. To make this trap work, you need to place it in areas where you suspect the presence of bed bugs. Alternatively, you can also use commercially designed interceptor cups. An interceptor cup usually has a larger outer container and a smaller inner container. Bed bugs can enter the cup but they cannot escape once they are inside the smaller container.
These cups and traps do not always prove effective though, especially in an occupied room where your body may release more carbon dioxide than those cups. Another way to trap bed bugs is to use a mattress encasement system. This helps keep bed bugs from coming out of the mattress to feed. These bugs can starve and live up to a year or so, but they eventually die. Therefore, using these mattress encasement systems may actually help.
Also known as DE, diatomaceous earth is a chalk-like substance that can be turned into a fine powder and used to prevent bed bugs. It contains sodium, silica, iron, and magnesium and kills bed bugs when they touch it. DE is not a pesticide, so you do not need to worry about any serious side effects. Once you have steamed and cleaned your home, you can use diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs.
To ensure it works, you need to apply it in areas where you have seen bed bugs or where you suspect an infestation. You may have to apply it in drawers, along molding, behind appliances, in cracks and crevices, and along door jams and windowsills. You can also use the applicator and inject diatomaceous earth behind electrical outlets and switches. It is also a good idea to cover your mattresses and furniture with DE for protection.
While diatomaceous earth is effective, it only works when bed bugs actually make contact with it. The problem is that bed bugs have so many hiding spots that you may not already know about, so chances are they will survive. Moreover, it is important to practice some care when you are using DE and have someone in your home with respiratory issues.
Up to 90% of bed bugs are usually near or on mattresses and box springs. This is why it makes great sense to inspect your mattresses first to confirm an infestation. If you find bed bugs on your mattress, the best idea is to replace it. While discarding an infested mattress, you should cut it in various places to ensure it is unusable. You should also wrap it in plastic and use pain or something to label it as “Bed Bug Infested”.
Alternatively, you can decide to treat it. Here are a few things to remember when treating the mattress:
- First, vacuum the area around your bed and then vacuum the box spring, mattress, and bed frame.
- Empty the vacuum bag into a sealed plastic bag only and discard it immediately.
- Launder your bedding in hot water and then put in a dryer – use high heat setting for the best results.
- Scrub the seam of your mattress and use a stiff brush to get rid of any bed bug eggs.
- Use a commercial steam cleaner, whenever possible, to kill bed bugs and their egg.
Whether you have treated your mattress or not, it always makes great sense to wrap your mattress in a bed bug mattress cover. You can use a mattress encasement system, which is usually a polyurethane-lined fabric cover for your box spring and mattress. The system works like a trap – it keeps bed bugs from coming out of the mattress to feed. Any bed bugs will eventually starve to death.
When buying a cover, you need to ensure that it is waterproof, breathable, and comfortable to sleep on. It should also be tagged as “bite proof”. Keep in mind that some bed bug covers contain pesticides to facilitate the process of killing bed bugs, but ensure that you do not go for any harsh chemicals. Finally, ensure that the cover’s zippers work flawlessly and do not let bed bugs escape the encasement in any way.
Washing your clothes and infested items is not enough; you have to heat treat your belongings to kill bed bugs in all their life stages. Heat treatment is a great choice because it is effective and it is non-toxic too. The only consideration is that you have to expose your infested items to high heat for enough duration to kill bed bugs or else those pesky crawlers will return to haunt you.
The thermal death point – the temperature at which bed bugs cannot survive – depends on the overall temperature and exposure time. Research shows that exposing bed bug infested items to 113F for 90 minutes or more may help kill bed bugs. However, you can reduce the time to 20 minutes if you expose bed bugs to 118F. The best thing is to expose your belongings to 118F for 90 minutes to kill bed bugs, nymphs, and eggs too. While heat treatment proves effective, some items cannot withstand high heat and require other ways of de-infestation. Here are some options to consider:
- Hot Box: You can place certain items like blankets, shoes, luggage, and bags of clothing into a hot box to kill bed bugs. The walls of hot boxes can attain a high temperature in a short time and that heat can easily penetrate into small crevices that you may have not inspected already. You need to ensure that the temperature stays between 117F and 122F. It is important to heat the box in a proper way or else it may cause fires.
- Steam: You can also use steam to kill bed bugs in all their life stages. The only problem is that unlike intense heat produced in hot boxes, it cannot penetrate deep into materials to kill hidden bed bugs. Still, it is a good option to clean bed frames, box springs, curtains, sheets, and pillows. Professionals can also be hired for better results because they use a professional steamer with a large steamer head that is capable of producing heat as high as 180F.
- Dryers: Putting your infested items in a dryer and exposing them to high heat can also help kill bed bugs. The washer alone can kill bed bugs but that will not be 100% effective. A loosely filled dryer set at 117F can kill bed bugs in half an hour. Using a dryer with a removal shelf is the best choice, especially if you have items like handbags, leather shoes, books, or anything that cannot be tumbled.
When using heat treatment to clean your clothes and other belongings, you need to proceed in a systemic way. Here is how to proceed:
- Sort your clothes first. You can make things easier if you pre-sort your clothes. Sort them and place them in plastic bags. Again, you should ensure that you are not including any items that would be damaged by high heat. Also, separate your dry-clean-only clothes from all those items that can be placed in a dryer. Seal all the bags properly.
- Empty your bags carefully. Take your sealed bags to the laundry room and be sure to empty them directly into the dryer. Grab a bag, fold its opening into the center, and wrap the bag around the opening. Be sure to put all these bags into another clean plastic bag and seal it.
- Use the highest temperature setting. To wash and dry your clothes properly, you should select the highest temperature setting. You can get satisfactory results by exposing a 7.7lb load to 40C for no less than 30 minutes. Ensure that the temperature reaches 40C first and then you start counting 30 minutes.
- Store cleaned clothes carefully. Get new plastic bags and immediately put your cleaned clothes in them. Seal them properly and never put them on any surface you have not already inspected for an infestation.
In addition, you can also use professional services and consider heat treatment for homes and buildings. The procedure involves raising room temperatures to 117F or higher to kill bed bugs. This will kill bed bugs hidden inside the walls and other hard-to-reach places. Only professionals can help perform this treatment.
Fumigation – the Last Resort
Fumigation is another effective way to kill bed bugs. It is important to understand that it is not poison and occurs when an inorganic gas is pumped into a sealed, enclosed space stuffed with your infested items. The idea is to replace the oxygen in the area to suffocate bed bugs. When used properly, fumigation can help eliminate bed bugs from bedding, furniture, and other household items to an entire room and even building with all its contents still in place. It may take several hours to complete the treatment, usually depending on the size of the container or structure that you want fumigated.
Why Opt for Fumigation?
There are many reasons why you may want to consider going for fumigation to clear a bed bug infestation. For instance:
- Fumigation is a scientifically proven way to kill bed bugs in all stages of life.
- Gas fumigant can penetrate into cracks and crevices as well as other hiding places, including inside your sensitive electronics.
- Bed bugs have not yet developed resistance to fumigants and cannot survive.
- Fumigation is a safe choice because high quality fumigants dissipate completely, leaving no surface reside, film, or odor.
Can You Do It Yourself?
When applied properly, fumigation can prove quite effective against bed bugs as well as their eggs. While you can certainly handle the treatment all by yourself, it is better to let a professional take charge of things. You can find several fumigation kits online and use them to exterminate bed bugs. Professionals can always handle things better, but you can do it yourself so long as you follow the instructions for packing, securing, and sealing all your belongings. You also need to know exactly how much to use to kill bed bugs without causing any harm to yourself. Moreover, you should pay attention to proper respiratory protection and ensure that fumigant formulations do not touch your skin.
How the Whole Thing Works?
As mentioned already, you can find kits and use them to release gas in a specific area and kill bed bugs quickly. However, it is better to let a professional perform the treatment because they have the experience and equipment to handle everything in a safe way. Here is what they do:
They first ask you to evacuate the building or your home to ensure no harm comes to you.
- They insert special monitors into wall voids to ensure adequate exposure throughout the building.
- They use a pesticidal gas and infuse it into the building.
- The gas is vented to the atmosphere after some time and the tarps are also removed after a defined interval.
- You can move into your house or building once the gas concentration falls below detectable levels.
Preventing a Bed Bug Infestation
You may have already gathered the fact that identifying and clearing an infestation can consume a lot of your time and money. It is therefore better to take steps to ensure that you do not let bed bugs enter your home in the first place. Prevention is always better than looking for ways to kill bed bugs. There certainly are effective options available to clear an infestation, but there is always a chance of re-infestation. Therefore, it is better to keep the following points in mind to prevent infestation.
- Always inspect your hotel room before you decide to even sit on your bed. Bed bugs can infest your luggage and travel wherever you go. They will eventually enter your home and make you deal with a big trouble. Be sure to inspect the mattress, box spring and other visible parts of the headboard along with the edges. Do not shy away from pulling back the sheets to take a closer look.
- After you return home, leave your luggage in the garage and only take it in once you have closely inspected it for the presence of bed bugs. Be sure to heat treat your luggage if you notice any signs of bed bugs or discard anything you do not need. Use no-pest strips to disinfect your suitcase and then take it inside your house.
Here are some other quick tips to help prevent a bed bug infestation:
- Be sure to check your mattress at night for any possible signs of bed bugs. Wrapping your mattress in a bed bug cover is also a good prevention strategy.
- Use bed bug traps in your home even when you think you do not have an infestation. These traps keep bed bugs away and you can check them to confirm if you really have a growing population of bed bugs in your home.
- Spread dichotomous earth around your house and be sure to replace it with new one after regular intervals to prevent and kill bed bugs.
- Do not buy used stuff from the street because it may be infested with bed bugs.
- Be sure to inspect all those places where your pets sleep and look for any possible signs of bed bugs.
- Notice any coriander-like odor when going to a new place; the smell may indicate a heavily infested area.
- Dilute tea tree oil and spray it around your home; this prevents an infestation and even helps clear one.
What Should You Do When You Have a Reoccurrence?
While there certainly are methods to kill bed bugs, there are always chances that you will notice them come back to haunt you. This usually happens when you try DIY techniques to kill bed bugs. Sometimes, you hire a professional who uses pesticides but bed bugs return because many of them have developed resistance to commonly used pesticides.
You are going to have a re-infestation mainly due to the following factors:
- You failed to eliminate them completely during treatment. It means that you have used heat treatment but you did not expose your clothes to high heat for long enough. This leaves bed bug eggs unharmed and you eventually deal with an infestation again. Similarly, it is important to use dust/spray treatments at least a couple of times or bed bugs may live.
- You failed to handle ‘untreated’ items properly. Some items cannot be heat-treated and have to be discarded. Not discarding them properly may also cause a re-infestation. Ensure that you discard infested items after putting them in sealed plastic bags.
- You failed to identify the source of problem. It means that you get bed bugs in your apartment because your neighbors have it and they have done nothing to resolve the issue. No matter what you do, you will eventually get bed bugs in your apartment too.
If you have already tried ways to kills bed bugs and are dealing with a re-infestation, it may be time to call in a professional for help. They use specialized equipment and work after identifying the source of problem.
Your Rights as a Tenant
In case you move into a new rental unit and notice a bed bug infestation, do not panic. First, you need to confirm that you really have bed bugs in your apartment. Check the mattress and area around your bed to look for the signs of bed bugs. Once you have confirmed an infestation, immediately inform your landlord or property manager. It is important to cooperate with your landlord to help resolve the issue, but depending on where you are in the U.S., you may not have to worry about spending any money since your landlord is usually responsible for the costs for treatment.
In most states, it is a landlord’s responsibility to ensure that their rental unit is free of any bed bugs. It means that they will have to bear the treatment costs if you experience any problem in this regard. The problem is that not all landlords are going to understand your situation. They may refuse to take any action, and that is when you can consider seeking advice from the Landlord and Tenant Board or from a legal clinic. File your application with the board and they will check if the unit or building is really not maintained adequately. If that is the case, they can order several remedies, including an abatement of rent or a rent freeze until the problem is resolved.
Keep in mind that your tenant rights may change depending on where you live. Some states do not talk specifically about bed bug, while others, like New York and Florida have clearly stated that it is a landlord’s duty to exterminate bed bugs. Still, it is important to check the lease before you sign the dotted line.
The Final Word
Bed bugs do not carry disease, but they can be extremely annoying and cause health problems by interfering with your sleep quality. You can bring bed bugs home by not paying attention to the presence of bed bugs when staying at hotels. However, you can kill them using heat, dichotomous earth, pesticides, steam, vacuum, fumigation, and many other methods. How effective these methods prove depends on how correctly you use them. Otherwise, you will be dealing with a re-infestation. It is better to let a professional work on your behalf to clear an infestation because they are more likely to get better results with all the experience they have. Nevertheless, it is always better to take preventive measures when traveling, as it is easy to prevent an infestation than clearing one.