Bed bugs are an efficient species, capable of survival in the worst possible conditions. They are perfectly suited for life in our homes, thriving on meals of human blood. Ridding our homes of these bugs is essential to our own ability to thrive.
Human homes are filled with perfect places for bed bugs to hide. They are exceedingly good at hiding because their body shape allows them to get into the tiniest spaces, spaces we might never have noticed existed.
In order to eradicate a bed bug infestation, you should know something about these parasites. You’ll need to know what they look like and know something of their habits in order to be able to best direct your efforts toward getting rid of every living bug. If any viable bugs are left behind, a new infestation could be evident within weeks.
Unfortunately for homeowners, bed bugs are very efficient at survival for a number of reasons.
Adult bed bugs are oval in shape, brown in color, and relatively flat. The largest are only about a quarter of an inch long. They cannot fly, they don’t have wings. They don’t jump very well, either. What they do quite efficiently and quickly, is crawl.
Their eggs are tiny and white. When hatched, they are called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny versions of their parents, but are clear and very difficult to see. They molt five times before being considered fully grown, and each time they turn darker brown.
Bed bugs are built for hiding. They can usually be found in dark, warm, cozy spots within about five feet of a place where people rest. They love bedrooms, of course. That’s where a nightly meal is almost guaranteed. You’ll find bed bugs on mattresses along the seams and tags, along bed rails, especially along corners, and on headboards. They’ll also be in cracks in walls, on furniture, in clothing, and all over any clutter that may be around the room. They especially like upholstery because it has creases and seams, perfect hiding spaces for these bugs.
Efficient at Life
Bedbugs are prolific. One male and one female bed bug can have up to 500 offspring in their lifetime, with three generations living per year. Each of their offspring then have their own babies, up to 500 a pair, and on and on it goes. The quicker you attack an infestation, the more likely your success.
Bed bugs can live 550 days without food, so simply depriving them of their meals by placing barriers on your bed will not do the trick. Barriers have their place, but they won’t do it alone.
Efficient Adaptations and Defenses
Warm-blooded animals and humans are the bed bugs’ hosts. The release of carbon dioxide upon exhalation can be detected by these parasites. They are also capable of sensing warmth and moisture, both of which can be found on warm-blooded animals, including humans.
The bed bug will crawl to the resting human, pierce their skin, inject salivary fluid into the host to prevent their blood from clotting, and drink. Some people are sensitive to this fluid and will develop reactions on their skin in the form of rashes.
These bugs can also detect chemicals and will scatter when they are nearby and a chemical is being applied. They’ve also evolved to where they’ve developed a resistance to up to 98% of the insecticides on the market today.
Bed bugs are uniquely suited to their environment and you have to get them out of there. How do you do it?
Professional Pest Control Service
The first and possibly best option is to call in the professionals. They have been trained to fight bed bug infestations and they have the equipment to do the job well. If a do-it-yourselfer doesn’t do a thorough job, they risk spreading the infestation.
Dogs are used to detect bed bugs by more and more pest control services nationwide. Dogs are specially trained by several different training centers across the country. When a company wants to buy a trained dog, they send their operator to the center to be trained along with the dog to find bed bugs.
True bugs, bed bugs included, give off a strong odor that dogs are able to detect. Once trained to identify and locate that odor, they will then alert their handlers to areas in which bed bugs can be found. This helps in the eradication efforts because the plan off attack would depend on the location of the bugs and in which direction they might attempt to scatter.
Professionals have other detection devices at their disposal, as well, and with a thorough inspection, can tell offer you a treatment plan that should eradicate the problem, but will often be guaranteed if they need to return. Be sure the service is bonded and well insured, as well as certified in bed bug eradication.
It is possible to get rid of the infestation yourself. You have to approach it seriously, devote time, effort and money to it, and be thoroughly educated on the bugs before you even begin. It is usually a lot cheaper than professional pest control services would cost you, and you have more control over what chemicals are used where.
Once bed bugs have been detected and their nests located, a plan of attack will be created. This plan will include you even if you’ve chosen to hire a service. You’ll need to do some preparation work before they arrive to do their part.
The best preparation to get rid of bed bugs for good generally consists of three tasks:
Clutter provides a perfect environment for a bed bug. There are millions of places a bed bug can hide in clutter under a bed or in a closet. The first thing that must be done is a thorough de-cluttering of every room in which bed bugs are present.
Infested items should be grouped in different stacks. All items that can be damp wiped clean can be saved, as well as all washables or dry clean only items. Everything else is suspect and serious consideration should be given as to whether it’s worth keeping.
Anything being tossed should be put in plastic bags and tightly sealed for the trash collectors or dumped directly into a lit burn barrel, giving the bugs no chance to escape.
Everything able to be laundered, from curtains, to linens, to clothing, should be bagged according to wash load types with one wash load to a bag. Wash everything and then dry them all in the dryer. The dryer is hot enough on normal settings that if at least 15 minutes of drying time is used, the bugs and eggs not killed in the washer will be killed before the dryer cycle is done.
Everything that can be wiped with a damp cloth should be cleaned thoroughly. Pressure is what kills the bugs, and as they can detect chemicals and run, it’s best to use plain water.
A vacuum with a disposable bag would be good to have on hand. Bed bugs can’t hold on to surfaces when they’re faced with the suction from a vacuum, so vacuum away. Go over everything and in everything, every crack and crevice, every crease and seam. Use only brushless attachments because these bugs will infest a vacuum, given the chance. Brushes make for great hiding places.
Everything else in the room should now be sponged down. That includes headboards, shelves, dressers and the drawers inside while all the clothes are in the wash, walls, baseboards, windowsills, electronics, and anything else that may be in the room should be wiped down with clear water so the bugs don’t get advance notice of the sponge’s arrival.
Now, for the Treatment Phase!
Professionals have a variety of treatment options that may not be available to the average consumer.
In some areas of the country some of the equipment can be rented, but if you go this route, you have to know how to use it without spreading the infestation to other rooms or homes.
Cryonite is the brand name of a treatment for bed bugs that involves a direct application of “dry ice”, or frozen carbon dioxide. A delivery unit is attached to a carbon dioxide bottle and delivered directly into anything a bug may have infected, including right into wall outlets and computers. As the ice/snow that comes out goes directly into gas, there is no water stage to ruin electronics. It is non toxic and safe for most anything. The wands can deliver the dry ice directly into the smallest of cracks or crevices.
Cryonite has a mixed success rate, however. Some tout it to be highly effective, others have found a return of the bugs soon after its application.
Bugs do well with warmth, but they can’t stand very high temperatures. Pest control heaters can heat your entire home to a temperature intolerable to insects, and all eggs, nymphs and adults are killed. This can only be done in single family dwellings because the bugs will simply escape into the rooms next door when the heat increases.
This appears to be a highly effective treatment, though very expensive and damaging to many things we have in our homes, which must be removed prior to treatment. They must be thoroughly cleaned before re-introduction into the home or the problem will simply begin again. This is generally a job for professionals.
Years ago, DDT was the preferred insecticide for most any insect. It was powerful and after years of use, nearly eradicated the bed bug population in America. When DDT was found to be dangerous to humans and pets, it was banned. In the ensuing years, bed bugs have returned to our homes and are increasing in number each year, currently reaching near epidemic proportions.
There are other insecticides that enjoy varying degrees of success. These can be obtained by consumers and professionals alike, though professionals may have access to stronger insecticides and to better delivery equipment.
Insecticides run the gamut from benign, safe for all humans and pets, organic compounds, to highly poisonous chemicals. Careful research must be done before the do-it-yourselfer chooses insecticide treatments from the options available.
There are direct kill insecticides which kill the insect on contact. There are chemicals that kill over a period of time, such as the ten day treatment options. These generally don’t kill all life stages of the insect, usually killing only the adults and nymphs, lingering or being frequently reapplied to kill bugs that hatch afterward.
There are also barrier insecticides which are placed in the path of the insects. When they walk over these preparations, they are killed by the contact with their underbellies.
Once all of the cleaning and treatment is complete, there is still more to do. This is a crucial step in the effort to make sure that there is no re-infestation. Post treatment options are available for purchase on the Internet and in many stores. There are encasement and barrier protections. These can both be used if desired.
Encasement of the mattress and pillows is essential to protect the mattress and pillows and to help keep the bugs from reclaiming their habitats. Once the bugs on the mattress and pillows are killed, new bugs won’t be able to move in. Any bugs left on the mattress and pillows will be unable to reach you.
Be careful to read reviews and buy a good quality cover. Cheap ones simply don’t do the job.
Bed bugs can’t fly or jump; they must crawl up the legs or covers that touch the floor. Keep the covers off the floor and buy barriers for the legs. There is a tape that can be applied to the legs that is too slippery for bugs to climb. There is also a disk of glue that is put on the bed’s legs. It will trap any bugs that are on their way up the bed.
There are other glue traps and other barriers on the market that will keep bed bugs from finding a way to you. Without regular blood meals, they cannot reproduce efficiently, and periodic application of insecticides will eventually kill any remaining bugs.
It is possible to beat a bed bug invasion for good if you know what you’re doing and you’re willing to put in the time, money, and effort to get it done.