The recent and extensive media coverage about the plague of bed bugs may well have got you worried.
How do you know if you have bed bugs in your home?
Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the animal or human blood. While the adults have flat bodies the size of an apple seed, once they have fed, their bodies swell and they become a reddish color. Although they cannot fly, they can move quickly. The concern is that female can lay hundreds of eggs over a lifetime. The young bedbugs shed their skin five times before adulthood and each shedding needs a meal of blood.
However careful you are, bedbugs may enter your home through luggage, clothing or second hand beds and couches. When they flatten their bodies, they can fit into minute spaces, living in small groups in their hiding places close to their food source – you in your bed!
Bedbugs are mostly active at night and bite while you are asleep, feeding by piercing your skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak for several minutes. These bites can change into itchy welts on any part of the body and should not be confused with flea bites which occur mostly around the ankles and have a red spot in the center. To confirm whether you have bed bugs, you need to look for and identify the bugs themselves.
The signs of an infestation are:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes and even the walls
- Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide such as creases in the mattress, folds in the bed linen or curtains, carpet or upholstery close to the bed
- An offensive, musty odor from the bugs' scent glands
If you have bed bugs, what do you do about them?
If you are really not sure, you can ask a pest control company to come and check for you, using one of their specially trained dogs who will come and sniff them out with a 90% accuracy.
While pest control companies can of course fumigate your home, you might want to look at other remedies which are not based on toxic chemicals.
Bed bugs nearly always elicit a disgusted reaction from people
Some companies have introduced the heating method for eradication. Using a special heater and other equipment, they raise the temperature of the affected room or affected area to at least 120 degrees and as high as 140 degrees. That heat instantly kills the bedbugs and, after a few minutes, kills all their eggs as well. The heat is maintained for several hours to penetrate into and kill bedbugs in clothing, furniture and and every possible nook and cranny. Another plus is that the affected room can be safely used again by the next day.
Heat is a greener option because no chemicals are used. However, this method does use a lot of electrical energy.
There are other non chemical remedies too
Vacuuming / Cleaning
- vacuuming and other efforts at cleaning up your house are something you should do if you have bed bugs - but you cannot get rid of bed bugs just by cleaning up.
- steam cleaning is another way of killing bed bugs or eggs with the use of heat. Most steamers will exceed the required temperature of 120 degrees F. You may need to get a commercial steamer, because you will need to run it for a while and cover all the areas in your room where the bed bugs could be hiding, even inaccessible ones.
- this is one of the few "natural" remedies against bed bugs that is actually good for anything. It comes in a powder that you can dust around in the cracks in your bedroom and near the bed. It is made from soil that is composed of tiny fossils of single-celled algae. These have jagged edges that will cut an insect, causing them to gradually bleed to death if they crawl across it. They are too small to hurt a mammal and they are non-toxic (being basically just dirt). They will kill a number of other insects, but bed bugs are definitely on the list.
Leaving Items Outside in Heat / Cold
– where possible you can move out the contents of your affected room into extreme heat or cold depending on the time of the year to kill off the bed bugs.
– this special mattress cover encases the mattress entirely, zipping around it and sealing up the inside so that no bugs get in or out. The ones that still live inside will die off, because they've got no chance to get out and get any food. That will take at least six months or so but eventually will be eradicated.
Cleaning your house -
this generally will help out, especially the infested rooms. It will give them fewer places to hide as well as getting rid of eggs. It will also make it easier for any pest control company to do their work.
For that extra special clean up
- Seal up any holes, pipes, cracks, areas around wires, etc. around your walls as these are common entrance points, especially in apartments or duplexes - caulk is often a good way to block them up
- Vacuum everywhere
- Clean up any stuff you have laying on the floor and either wash it or seal into a plastic bag
- Scrub any surfaces. You may want to dismantle furniture to get everywhere they could be hiding - for example, the undersides of furniture or the interior of any drawers or cabinets
If you find you have a bed bug infestation, it could be take a bit of time and effort but what option do you have?
Unfortunately, bed bugs are an old scourge that has returned with a vengeance.