Bed bugs are small, wingless, and reddish-brown bloodsucking insects known scientifically as Cimex Lectularius. They feed exclusively on blood from mammals and birds. Humans are also on the menu for these bugs, and perhaps the most preferred hosts. While bed bugs don’t spread diseases, they leave bite marks that itch. They’re also a public health nuisance, which is why you should know how to spot and eradicate them from your home.
Bed Bug Hiding Places
Just as their name implies, bed bugs like to inhabit beds and other soft furnishings.
- Most Common Hiding Places
Often, these insects hide in dark cracks and crevices where they have easy access to people to bite at night. This can include places such as bed frames, headboards, mattresses, box springs and other objects placed within close proximity to a bed.
Bed bugs can also take shelter inside cracked walls, under peeling paint, loose wallpaper, inside seams of upholstered furniture, beneath area rugs, as well as inside wall sockets and light switches.
- Found in Both Clean and Dirty Homes
It doesn’t matter whether your home is clean or not. In fact, bed bugs can invade a spotless home and even well-maintained rooms at 5-star hotels. All these parasites need to survive is a warm host and plenty of places to hide.
These insects can easily invade your home if you’ve recently bought used furniture or visited places with high turnover of nighttime guests such as hotels and hospitals.
- Clothing and Apparels
Humans transfer bed bugs when traveling via clothing, luggage, beddings, or furniture. Furthermore, these bugs can enter your home undetected thanks to their flattened bodies that allow them to hide in tiny spaces.
How to Tell if You Have a Bed Bug Infestation
If you wake up with itchy bite marks on areas where even a mosquito wouldn’t be able to reach, bed bugs might be living and breeding in your home. Sometimes, they leave behind bloodstains on pillowcases and sheets. These bugs also emit a musty odor from their scent glands, which might be noticeable if you have a sharp sense of smell.
Immature nymphs usually shed their skin about five times before developing into adults. Therefore, traces of shed skin can appear in places where bed bugs lay their eggs. Other signs of bed bug infestation include:
- Eggs that look like tinny pale poppy seeds
- Bed bug droppings (which appear as dark brown or reddish spots)
- Clothes, walls, sheets, or mattresses with dark or rusty spots of bed bug excrement
In case you believe bed bugs have invaded your home, check carefully for any of the signs mentioned above in places where they would hide. Other places to inspect include:
- Bed linens
- Mattress seams
- Box springs
- Bed frames
- Crevices beneath sofa cushions
- Inside dresser drawers
- Nightstands or beside tables
- Behind picture frames
- Along the edges of wall-to-wall carpeting
- Cracks in wood molding, brick walls, or junctures between ceilings and walls
- Pet beds
Make sure to be thorough and check every nook and cranny of your home where bed bugs can hide. Use a flashlight when inspecting dark places and be on the lookout for crawling bugs.
Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown insects with an oval shape that’s about the size of an apple seed. They’re visible to the naked eye if you look hard enough and can appear to have flat surfaces or slightly swollen bodies after having a meal.
Bed Bug Feeding Habits
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects. Most of them feed on sleeping hosts at night but they can also come out to feed during the day when hungry enough. Despite having wings, they crawl their way to the next host. Hosts emit carbon dioxide and heat waves, which attract these bugs from their nesting places.
Bed bugs pierce hosts with two hollow tubes found inside their beaks when feeding. As one tube sucks out blood, the other one injects a numbing compound and anticoagulants. This means the host feels no irritation and blood flows out freely without clotting. Once a bed bug has had its fill, it will crawl back to its hiding place and come out to feed again depending on the availability of a host.
Are Bed Bug Bites Dangerous?
When bed bugs bite, their saliva causes an allergic reaction on the host. Humans develop a flat welt or a raised red bump that can be itchy. Bite marks can also appear in rows since bed bugs may nibble different spots while trying to find the right vein.
A skin infection can form if you scratch bed bugs bites. However, these bites are harmless and usually disappear on their own in 7 to 14 days.
You can soothe the discomfort and speed up the healing process by applying topical applications such as hydrocortisone and diphenhydramine. Antihistamines can also reduce the inflammation and itchiness while antibiotic pills may be prescribed in case an infection occurs due to scratching.
How Serious Is A Bed Bug Infestation?
Bed bugs don’t transmit any dangerous disease despite feeding off blood from different hosts. If allowed to increase in numbers, however, they can spread very quickly and you may have to constantly nurse itching bed bug bites.
While bed bugs don’t fly, they crawl easily and quickly in between rooms. An adult female can lay 5 eggs every day and up to 500 during its lifespan. In as little as a month, bed bugs can reproduce up to three generations.
If the conditions are right, they can reach 2 million bugs in a span of one year. It’s therefore imperative to begin eradicating these bugs immediately if signs of infestation have been found. If you wait too long, these bugs will multiply and spread throughout your home such that exterminating them for good will become quite difficult and costly.
Bed Bug Treatment Control
Since bed bugs are sneaky and hard to find, it’s not easy to eradicate them. The best solution is to enlist the services of a professional pest control company. Experienced exterminators know where to look for bed bugs and how to eliminate them.
However, if the services of a professional pest control expert are too costly to afford, you can try some home remedies to get rid of bed bugs at a minimal cost. If you’re up to the task and have the time, read on to learn how to go about DIY bed bug control.
- Find Out Which Rooms Are Infested
A bed bug infestation usually starts in one room and spreads rapidly if it goes undetected. The only way to tell which rooms have been infested is doing an assessment of your entire house. Bed bugs like to stay close to their food, so you’ll find them mostly in bedrooms and living rooms used as sleeping quarters.
Once you’ve found signs of infestation in specific rooms, you can proceed to prepare the treatment site using the following tips:
- Reduce the clutter around beds to create space for carrying out inspections. However, avoid moving items that can be cleaned onsite to another room as this might transfer bed bugs.
- Remove drapes/curtains and strip all beddings from the bed then place them in sealed bags for transport to the laundry room. Make sure also to empty wardrobes, chests, closets and bedside units. Place clothing and other personal belongings in sealed plastic bags for inspection and possibly, later washing.
- Pull all furniture at least 18 inches away from the wall so that bed bugs will not have an easy escape route.
- Turn over furniture, dismantle bed frames and detach drawers from desks, dressers or bedside tables to expose hiding areas for bed bugs.
- Unhook picture frames from the wall for inspection and cleaning.
- If there’s a fish tank in the room being treated, consider moving it to another part of the house or have the tank covered since fish are very sensitive to pesticides.
- People and pets must leave the area during inspection. You should also give treatments enough time to take effect before re-entering the room.
Best Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
There are different ways to treat your home for bed bugs. Some of the effective DIY bed bug removal methods include:
- Launder Garments, Linen and Beddings that Are Prone to Infestation
Since you cannot treat beddings and linen with insecticides, the best bed bug removal method is to wash them in hot water. Temperatures of at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) will kill bed bugs at all stages of their life cycle.
If you can afford it, consider having your carpets steam cleaned too. This will kill any bed bug eggs laid inside carpet fibers.
For washables, place them in the washing machine and dry clean on high heat for 30 minutes. Repeating the wash load twice may be wise if clothing seems to show signs of heavy bed bug infestation.
- Expose Non-Washables to Temperatures that Kill Bed Bugs
Infested non-washable items can be vacuumed, double bagged, and exposed to temperatures that are lethal to bed bugs. On a good hot day with temperatures reaching 95 degrees Fahrenheit, you can place the bagged items in direct sunlight for several hours to kill as many resilient bed bugs as possible.
Bed bugs also succumb to cold temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Therefore, an alternative option is to place bagged non-washables in a chest freezer for about 8 to 10 hours. Just make sure that these temperatures will not cause damage to the infested items being decontaminated.
- Vacuum Infested Objects and Areas
You can use a vacuum cleaner to physically remove bed bugs and their eggs from infested areas. With the help of different attachments, vacuum over every crevice, crack or place that would make a good hiding place for bed bugs.
Places to target include:
- Bed frames
- Box springs
- Mattress seams
- Edges of the carpet
- Items stored underneath a bed.
You should also scrub mattresses with a stiff brush to dislodge any bed bug eggs before vacuuming. In addition, lace vacuum cleaner bags with non-toxic bed bug powder such as Diatomaceous Earth (DE) then dispose the dirt bags when you’re done with vacuuming.
After vacuuming mattresses and box springs, cover them with bug proof encasements. A good insect proof cover will trap all bed bugs in the mattress as well as box springs and prevent new ones from reentering.
- Steam Clean Infested Areas and Objects
To destroy eggs or kill bed bugs on the spot, use steam as a weapon. Visit your nearest hardware store or supermarket to pick up a handheld steam blower. It’s also possible to convert a simple electric kettle into a steam machine by attaching a special flexible tube that comes with a throttle.
Spray the steam on all corners and crevices that provide harborage to bed bugs. The steam might be able to kill bed bugs in those hard to reach places where a vacuum cleaner attachment can’t fit.
- Starve Them to Death
Bed bugs can survive without food for up to 300 days. If any of them are trapped inside the mattress, starve them to death by keeping the bug proof cover on for about a year. Good quality encasements should have tough fabrics that prevent trapped bed bugs from biting hosts.