How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs [Guide]
Bed bug infestations are very common. Approximately one in five households in the United States has had a bed bug infestation in their home, or know someone else that has one. Bed bugs are three times more common in urban areas versus rural.
This increased risk is mostly due to factors such as larger populations, more mobility, and apartment living, all of which aids in the rapid spread of bed bugs.
When it comes to a bed bug infestation, it’s essential to be prepared. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about how to get rid of bed bugs the right way.
What are Bed Bugs?
So what are bed bugs, exactly? They are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans.
Interestingly, bed bugs are only interested in consuming blood from live hosts and will not ingest spilled or cold blood.
Bed bugs typically infest an area quickly as they are moved from place to place by infested objects, such as on pets within a home.
They cannot fly, jump, and cannot easily climb polished or metal surfaces. But, they can crawl and move quickly from one area to the next. A bed bug can travel as far as 30 meters to feed.
They are quite small, with the adults being the size of an apple seed, approximately one millimeter long. These insects have wide, oval flat bodies. The mature bugs are translucent in color but can swell and turn a more reddish brown color after feeding.
These nasty pests are attracted to the carbon monoxide produced by humans and animals.
They typically feed at night as we sleep. And, their saliva has mild traces of an anesthetic in it so its victims don’t wake up after a bite.
Bed bugs prefer areas where they can hide and easily feed, such as beds and couches. As a result, many people will not be aware they have a bed bug infestation for quite some time.
How Do You Get Bed Bugs?
There is a common misconception that bed bugs are only in dirty, unkempt homes. However, a bed bug infestation can occur in any home.
Bed bugs are found in all 50 states across the United States. And, they are hitchhiking bugs, so they are usually carried into a space by someone.
Some of the most common places to find bedbugs are:
- Hotels and motels
- Public transportation (subways, buses, trains, planes, cruises, cabs)
- Office buildings
- All levels of schools (daycare, elementary, middle school, high school, university, college)
- Police stations and fire stations
- Shared laundry facilities
- Movie theaters
So, how does a bed bug move from these public locations to inside your home?
Usually, you’re the one that brought them in! A bed bug will attach itself to your clothing or items, and you will unknowingly carry it right into your own home.
To minimize the risk of this, we recommend you be aware of the situations when your likelihood of an infestation increases.
- Always inspect hotel and motel rooms for any signs of bed bugs. Even five-star hotels that appear clean can have an infestation.
- Look for signs of bed bugs any time you use public transportation.
- Often, traveling is when people pick up bed bugs. After coming back from a trip, leave luggage outside for a few days for bugs to crawl out. Additionally, wash all of the clothes from your trip in very hot water and immediately. If you’re hosting guests who had to travel to you, wash their bedding as soon as they leave in boiling hot water for at least 30 minutes.
- If you ever purchase second-hand items, such as furniture or clothing, carefully inspect the items for signs of an infestation.
- You may think hospitals are sparkling clean. However, in 2012 the National Pest Management Association reported that more than one-third of pest management companies in the United States dealt with bed bug infestations at hospitals.
How to Find Bed Bugs
As bed bugs come out at night while we sleep, it can be challenging to spot an infestation. However, there are some telltale signs anyone can keep an eye out for if they want bedbug control:
- Waking up itchy and with small red spots on your body.
- Small blood stains or blood smears on your pillowcase or bed sheets
- They leave small excrement that can stain sheets, mattresses, pajamas, and walls. These stains look like dark, rusty spots or like small coffee grounds.
- They can leave an unpleasant odor given off from the bugs’ scent glands.
- Traces of bedbug egg shells, skin casings, or unhatched eggs scattered around. The eggs are usually found attached to mattress seams or headboard areas. Bed bug eggs look white or translucent in color and are similar in size to one uncooked grain of rice. They will be sticky to the touch and usually are found in clusters together.
- Bites on your body (legs, arms, neck, shoulders, hands, feet, and face) or your pet’s body.
Common Places to Find Bed Bugs
These bugs can enter your home via a variety of ways, but will find their way to places, and bed bugs hide in these places and feed easily.
Usually, you’ll need to inspect your bedding, headboard, and mattress for signs of an infestation. Other typical hiding areas include curtains, sofas, electrical outlets, cracks and crevices around the house, and under loose wallpaper.
Lastly, check your pet’s sleeping area as well as your vacuum cleaner bag for bed bugs.
How to Treat Bed Bugs
Once you know you have a bed bug problem, it’s time to address it immediately.
After feeding, a bed bug can lay anywhere from one to seven eggs per day. In her entire lifetime, the average bed bug will produce between 200-250 eggs. And, with favorable conditions, the bed bug will live for an estimated 300 days.
At this rate, a couple of bed bugs can spread to an infestation quite quickly. The first step is to wash all clothing, bed sheets, and curtains in very high heat water. These pests at any life stage (including eggs), will die at a temperature of 56°C (132°F).
Use a stiff brush to thoroughly scrub your entire mattress.
Bed bug eggs attach very firmly to their foundation, so you need to make sure you scrub very hard.
Some people will choose to seal up their mattress in a plastic lining for the span of one year. As bed bugs can live up to a year without feeding, the plastic lining will catch any remaining bugs. After one year, you can take off the plastic, remove any dead bugs, and give your mattress and box springs one more scrub.
Once you have done this, you should vacuum the mattress, entire bedroom, and bedroom curtains.
When you’re done cleaning, place the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and throw it out far away from your home. If your mattress is too deeply infested, you may have to get rid of your entire bed.
If you need to vacuum other infested rooms in the house, throw out the vacuum bag after each room. This ensures you aren’t spreading the bed bugs from one impacted place to a clean area.
Keep your rooms clutter-free, giving items such as books, clothes, and toys a good shake. However, do not move these items into a clean room.
Additionally, you will have to remove drawers from dressers and give them a full scrub down.
Next, seal up any open areas in the room. You can caulk cracks in furniture and baseboards, glue down loose wallpaper, and tape up open electrical outlets.
Related: How to get rid of Fleas
There are also pesticides you can purchase. Make sure to conduct research and purchase pesticides that are safe for your home, the home’s inhabitants, including children and pets, and made of safe ingredients.
Many experts will use diatomaceous earth as an insecticide. Diatomaceous earth is an abrasive powder that helps kill tiny pests.
Ultimately, the best bed bug treatment to kill bed bugs is to hire a pest control company. These bugs, also known as cimex lectularius, are very resistant, living up to a year without feeding.
So, even if you miss a few, you can have a full-blown infestation in your hands just a short while later.
A professional can identify all impacted areas, do a thorough clean up, and offer tips to prevent bed bug infestations. If you try to rid your home of bed bugs and find they come back, hire a professional pest control expert immediately.
Unfortunately, bedbugs are becoming more and more resistant to household pesticides and only a professional can have the heavy-duty products (beyond bug bombs) that are sometimes required.
Related: How to Get Rid of Wasp Nests
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
A bed bug bite almost always causes some discomfort and itching. Bed bug bites typically occur on exposed skin during sleeping, such as the arms, legs, neck, hands, shoulders, and face.
The bed bug bite may look different on each person depending on their body’s reaction.
Typically, the bedbug bites symptoms show up as painful and itchy small red bumps. Some of the bumps will have a clear or dark center. Swelling, blisters, or hives may surround the bite.
The bites also may appear in a zigzag pattern or a line across the body. Lastly, bites from this particular pest can cause raised or flat patches that appear inflamed.
Avoid scratching the bed bug bite, as it can cause it to become infected or cause scarring.
Identifying the Bite
Bed bugs are hard to identify as they look similar to tick, flea and mosquito bites. You can have a medical professional examine the bite to determine if it’s from a bed bug.
When it comes to treating the bite, the first step is to clean the area.
Then, you can purchase an anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, or antihistamine cream at your local drug store. If you prefer a natural solution, you can buy a calamine lotion or use various essential oils.
Most bites will heal after a week but if it persists or seems to worsen, seek medical attention.
The Consequences of a Bed Bug Infestation
If left alone, a bed bug infestation will continue to grow. The good news is they don’t cause or spread diseases. However, they do pose other risks.
- In one instance, a 60-year old man had to be hospitalized from blood loss due to a bed bug infestation. This is because they can ingest almost seven times their weight in blood.
- Some people are also prone to having more severe reactions to bed bug bites, such as allergic reactions.
- If you live in a multi-dwelling area, your infestation might spread to other homes. In some states, if it’s proven you’re the source of the problem, you may be liable to pay for all of the pest control services for everyone.
- The issue will only become more and more expensive to deal with later as it multiplies.
Bed bugs can happen to anyone. As our world becomes more connected, and we take shared cars, stay in Airbnbs, and have strangers deliver food to us, the risk of spreading them rises.
The most valuable tool you have is to be prepared. You should know how to recognize the signs of a bed bug infestation, understand how to get rid of bed bugs, and how to treat bed bug bites.