When you think about bed bugs, the first thought that comes to mind is little vampire bugs that steal your sleep at night, right? Many people dread the thought of having bed bugs in their homes. Partly because they are a nuisance and partly because they are a pain to get rid of. And while it’s true that they rob you of peace at night, suck on your blood like leeches and scamper away before you wake up to squash them, there are ways you can defeat them. As you’ll see in this piece, it’s easier to get rid of bed bugs than you think.
But before we get into prevention and treatment, it’s important to learn everything there is about them. After all, the first step to defeating an enemy is learning their ways. As such, we shall go through their history, where they came from, their anatomy, strengths, weaknesses, myths, misconceptions and facts.
Buckle up and let’s learn what makes these tiny bugs tick and consequently rid ourselves of them.
History of Bed bugs
Experts believe that bed bugs came from the Middle East – from caves that were previously inhabited by bats and humans. Moreover, it’s possible to trace the lineage of bed bugs using their name. The term bed bug didn’t just fall from the sky; there was a meaning and a reason behind it. In Rome, they were referred to as Cimex, which means ‘bug.’ Their species name is lecturlarius, which refers to a bed or couch.
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are old. Older than our forefathers. They have been living off humans and bats for eons. Studies show that they used to feed on and paralyze bats before their taste buds became sophisticated and they made the leap to sumptuous human blood. The bed bugs lived in the caves where civilization was born.
And with sprouting civilization, the bugs multiplied.
Bed bugs have been fossilized. The oldest bed bug fossil dates back more than 3,500 years ago. These fossils have been discovered in archaeological sites over time. In those times, bed bugs were used as potions to cure common diseases and conditions – imagine that! The Greeks and Romans burnt them to weaken leeches hold. On the other hand, the Egyptians mixed their powder in drinks in the hope that it will help in curing snake bites.
And unlike many bugs at the time, bed bugs continued to thrive and spread as new villages were formed which later grew and evolved into cities. As civilization spread throughout Asia and Europe, so did the bed bugs. And by 100 AD, bed bugs had made a name for themselves in Italy.
In 600 AD, they had spread throughout China, and in the 1200s and 1400s, they had made their homes in Germany and France, respectively. The heat that was made from sleeping fires and cooking provided the bed bugs with a comfortable life in some of the wealthiest and poorest families alike.
Ancient Greece and England
The first time bed bugs were reported in England was in 1583. However, until 1670, bed bugs were still quite rare. It wasn’t long before they crossed the American borders with the aid of European settlers and explorers.
In 400 BC the bed bugs were in Ancient Greece. Heck, Aristotle felt their presence as he went about his political affairs at the time. In Pliny’s Natural History (published in 77AD in Rome), the medicinal value of these bloodsuckers included treating snake bites and ear infections. The belief in their medicinal properties was carried on to the 18th century when Guettard used them on hysteria patients.
Early colonists brought these bed bugs with them to America in the 1700s. In the early 18th century, colonialist documents site severe bed bug problems in English and Canadian colonies. And by the 1800s, they had spread throughout North America after the arrival of European settlers.
At the time, to help in keeping the bed bugs away, they made beds from Sassafras wood and flooded the joints and crevices with arsenic, sulfur and boiling water. But while the Americans were suffering, the Indian villages didn’t share in the problem.
Old School treatment
For years, humans have struggled with bed bugs. But over the years, humans have paid these little terrorists back in kind. We continually devise ways of killing and getting rid of them. In the process, many formulas have been made. While the formulas were effective at the time, their use in the 21st century would result in incarceration.
By the mid-18th century, the rich and the poor households were infested with bed bugs. For the poor, low cleanliness levels didn’t help their situation. The rich discovered that obsessive house cleaning helped in eliminating the bugs. This was mainly because they had the opportunity to find the bugs in their vulnerable stages. To date, continuous care and cleaning is by far the best weapon against bed bugs.
During the cleaning process, you should inspect the crevices and joints in your house to ensure than no bed bug is in hiding, waiting to come out at night for a quick snack. Maintaining high cleanliness standards works, but it doesn’t mean that bed bugs love dirty places; this is just a misconception (we shall look more into this later on).
Early 20th Century
By the 20th century, many Americans had suffered greatly. In fact, in America, bed bugs were among the top three most concerning pests (yes, they were on the pest wanted last). Numerous surveys that were conducted at the time revealed that 1/3 of the American residences in most of the cities were overrun by bed bugs. And in the low-income regions, most, if not all of the residences were infested. So much so that in these low income areas, bed bugs were the number one enemy of the people.
But then, as if by the hand of God, something miraculous happened – all the bed bugs disappeared (at least in the cities). And by the 1950s entomologists were having a hard time getting even five bed bugs to use in their research and lab work. So the question is, what happened?
Many would like to think of the sudden disappearance as a miracle, it wasn’t – there was a logical explanation behind it. In the 1950s, DDT was introduced into the market to help fight against cockroaches and other bugs that plagued the population. And because of it, their population dropped rapidly. Finally, bed bugs had met their match. DDT was sprayed and dusted over beds and in the joints and crevices.
However, the use of DDT was banned in 1972. The ban was effected because experts discovered that the use of DDT as a pesticide placed the human population at the risk of developing cancer and also put birds and wildlife at the risk of death. At the same time, it was discovered that simplified furniture designs and vacuum cleaning helped in eliminating bed bugs. As such, people shifted to this method.
But though the latter methods were effective, it was probably because they were used in dealing with low numbers of bed bugs. The story was different when dealing with high numbers.
Bed bugs are found everywhere in the world. The rate of infestation had reduced between the 30s and the 80s. Unfortunately, the bed bug population started rising again from the 80s after the ban of DDT. But even before this, bed bugs were prevalent in developing countries and quite rare in the developed countries and cities.
Now, in the past couple of years, the bed bug population has risen exponentially, so much so that the numbers are close to those recorded in the mid-century. And what’s even worse is that the numbers continue to rise with every passing week.
Bed bugs are hated by everyone in the world. This much we know. And the worst part is that their infestation can be a pain to get rid of. Unfortunately, the methods that were used ended up being hazardous to humans. Luckily, in the current battle of bed bugs, we’ve learnt from past mistakes – we are wiser and have technology on our side.
But one has to wonder; what led to the bed bug resurgence around the world? And while we might think that the case is different from what history has taught us, it’s not. The spread of bed bugs has continued to follow a similar pattern.
Extreme bed bug infestation began in the 90s. They first popped up in gateway cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Showing up in motels and hotels
By the mid-90s, bed bugs were seen in hotels and motels. However, their presence was limited to the low-end establishments. But with time, they made their way to the expensive hotels as well. And eventually, they crept into apartments, single-family homes, nursing homes, and hospitals.
Today, since you are reading this, it’s safe to assume that they have made a complete comeback. Their comeback has been announced in the US, Canada, Africa, Australia and some areas of Europe.
So what caused the resurgence?
Though there are different theories about what could have happened, there are a couple of theories that experts seem to agree on.
Increased travelling across borders
People often travel to different countries and continents for pleasure and business. The developed countries have become multicultural, and the residents keep moving back and forth. Naturally, this kind of movement aids in the spread of bed bugs.
Some of the countries and cities that people travel to are infested with bed bugs. As such, the bed bugs are transported from one city to the next on clothes, and luggage. Because of this, they are commonly found in airplanes, especially in cargo holds.
Change in elimination practices
In the past, hotels and motels were regularly treated with residual pesticides. Bed bugs that were introduced into these rooms were killed by the pesticides before they started multiplying. This quarterly or monthly pesticide application helped in controlling bed bugs. Today, insecticide baits are used against bed bugs instead of traditional sprays. And while these baits are great against cockroaches and ants, they are not effective against bed bugs.
Lack of community awareness
The lack of awareness assisted in transferring bed bugs from place to place. People need to be more diligent and keenly inspect their items while they travel. Additionally, they should spend enough time inspecting the places that bed bugs love to hide in.
Additionally, we should be vigilant in inspecting the second-hand furniture we buy before bringing them into our houses.
The underground economy
There are lots of temporary workers in the cities. These workers are constantly travelling between residences. And here’s the thing, many of these residences are designed for low-income earners. For instance, it is not shocking to find a three-bedroom apartment housing a dozen people in Washington DC.
In these residences, the mix of persons staying there is constantly changing as the individuals are constantly moving back home, changing jobs or moving to other cities. With such kind of traffic, these areas are bound to be heavily bed bug-infested. In all honesty, illegal aliens are constantly contacting the residential management complaining about bed bug infestation.
Increased second-hand stores and merchandise
Shabby-chic is a thing right now. Flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales, and antique stores are more popular than they ever were. Unfortunately (as we’ve pointed out above) second-hand materials have high chances of being infested with bed bugs and as such contribute to their spread.
Today, people rarely think twice before picking out a recliner seat by the roadside or at a garage sale. Consequently, bed bugs have gotten a solid avenue for growth and spreading.
And now that you have a firm understanding of the history of bed bugs, let’s dive into the next section where we get to know which type of bed bug we are dealing with.
Types of Bed bugs
Here is a horrifying fact, there are more than 90 bed bug species in the world. Fortunately, only a handful have the ‘taste buds’ for human blood. And though it is not a must that you know the type of bed bug that has infested your home, it helps professional pest eradicators know what they are dealing with and use the best treatment.
Below is an overview of the type of bed bugs that you are most likely to come across.
Common Bed Bug
As the name suggests, this is by far the most common type of bed bug. Its scientific name is Cimex lectularius. These bed bugs are popular for how quickly they adapt to the human environment. They typically live and prefer a temperate climate. And though they do not cause diseases, they are known to cause skin infections and a lot of skin irritation. This bed bug measures between 4 and 6mm in length. It is covered in tiny hairs, and its body has a flat shape.
What about the color? Well, the adult bed bug is rusty red and turns bright red when it is full of blood. However, they don’t start this way. The eggs are white or creamy. On the other hand, the larvae have a transparent and glossy yellow, which turns to a rustic red once they molt.
The antennae are short and segmented. Also, the legs are short. Overall, the common bed bug can survive without food for around 15 months, depending on the environment. A bite from a common bed bug might be harmless, but repetitive bites will leave you with skin rashes resembling eczema.
Their scientific name is cimex adjuntus. They look like common bed bugs. However, when you spot them in your home, it only means that there are bats nesting inside or close to your home. Though they can feed on humans, it’s only as a last resort when bats are unavailable. The differences between this type and the common bed bug can only be viewed under a microscope. So no, you wouldn’t know whether the bed bug in your house is a bat bug until you call in a professional for sampling.
Tropical bed bug
The scientific name is cimex hemipterus. Like the bat bugs, they are similar to common bed bugs. Moreover, they also feed on humans. Their natural habitat and conditions needed for survival resemble those of common bed bugs. However, their bites often lead to irritation and itchiness on the skin.
And in some cases, they are known to cause anxiety, insomnia and depression. There are several differences between the tropical bed bugs and common bed bugs. But the differences aren’t important to note since the two are found in different regions. Tropical bed bugs prefer tropical regions like Asia.
Mexican Chicken Bug
The alternative name for the Mexican chicken bug is Haematosiphon. This type is commonly found among poultry. They are the common culprits for deteriorating poultry health. They can be found in places where hens, turkeys, hawks, domestic fowls and eagles are kept. They too look like the common bed bug only that they feed on a different host.
Barn Swallow Bug
The Barn Swallow bug is similar to the common bed bug. However, their differences are in their appearance. Barn bugs have longer hair. This type is often found in areas where Cliff Swallow birds nest. But when the swallows migrate, they live in human houses. The bugs can go into a semi-dormant state and survive a couple of days without having food.
These are the most common types of bed bugs you will come across. You can distinguish them through their behavior and appearance. And while you are distinguishing the type of bed bug infesting your home, you can also keep an eye out for your poultry. They could be the reason you have a bed bug infestation.
Bed Bug Biology
Now, though the different types of bed bugs have obvious biological similarities, we’d like to point out that our focus in this section is on the Common Bed Bug.
Shape, size, color
The body is small, dorsoventrally flat and oval. They usually measure 5 mm in length and are about 3 mm wide. They are rustic brown and often change to a bright red once they are full of human blood. Their body is covered in hair and bristles. Being an insect, it has three body parts; the head, thorax and abdomen.
Head – the head is broad and short. It fits between lateral extensions on the pro-thorax. On the head are two compound eyes and two very short antennae. And though the compound eyes are developed, they do not have ocelli. The antennae have four joints. The Clypeus is visible and distinct. On the front of the head are mouthparts which are shaped into a pipe that they use to suck blood.
Mouthparts – the mouthparts are pointed and sharp. They form a rostrum which bends under the head and reaches to the first pair of front legs. Also, the mouthparts have been modified to pierce the human skin and suck blood. The laws of physics apply greatly in the sucking process. These parts include the labrum, mandibles, labium and maxillae.
Now, the labrum is relatively short and is created to cover the rostrum’s mid-dorsal groove. The labium is also a part of an elongated but incomplete, hollow tube. It has three joints and grooved to provide protection and covering for four-needle like stylets, two mandibles and maxillae.
On the other hand, the mandibles are sharp-pointed and flat while the maxillae are a little bit shorter and have serrated edges. The mandibles are controlled by muscles in the bug’s head. Additionally, the mandibles move independently while the maxillae do not.
Inside the maxillae are grooves that form smooth channels that run along the length of the rostrum. One of the five channels acts as the feeding channel and connects to the pharynx. The bed bugs suck blood through this channel. Of the five channels, the feeding channel is the biggest and is dorsally positioned.
The other channel is called the salivary channel which is connected to the salivary glands, and a tiny but efficient pump underneath the pharynx. The salivary channel is small and centrally positioned. This channel is useful in injecting saliva into a puncture made through the skin. All these grooves are enclosed in the beak that looks like a trough.
A bed bug’s beak is grooved in a manner that keeps its sides closer together. As a result, a protective sheath is formed for the stylets that run through it. A bed bug’s mouthparts lack the labial and maxillary palps.
When the bed bug is resting, the rostrum is bent under the thorax. And when it is feeding the bed bug directs the rostrum forward and downwards. The blade-like mandible stylets puncture the skin, and the jointed rostrum bends to allow the maxillary stylets to access the wound. The saliva then runs down through the groove and into the hole made. The saliva helps to prevent blood from clotting and consequently makes it easier to suck it up for longer. This is the same process that mosquitoes use.
The thorax can be divided into the larger pro-thorax, a tiny mesothorax and the metathorax. The prothorax has a pro-notum that is notched closer to the front. It is designed to receive the the bugs head. The Mesothorax is tiny while the metathorax is covered in stub like vestigial forewings that rise from the mesothorax.
Bed bugs don’t have hind wings. As such, they cannot fly. Each segment of the thorax has a pair of stout and short legs. Each leg has three jointed tarsi and two claws. The stink glands open up on the side of the metathorax.
The abdomen is flat and has a total of ten segments. The tenth segment is small and has the anus. In males, the abdomen is pointed and narrower than in female bed bugs. Also, the abdomen ends in a carved clasper, which acts as the sheath for the penis (aedeagus) and helps in transferring sperms to the female.
In females, the abdomen is quite broad and is rounded. It has a notch that is visible in the fourth segment. It is located close to the fourth line. The notch serves as the opening in a blind copulatory pouch famous as the organ of Berlese. Aside from this opening, the female bed bug doesn’t have any other opening into the body.
Also, the ninth and the eighth sterna in females are cleft into two. They do not have cerci. The sperms are deposited into the organ of Berlese through the penis. But unlike humans where the process is fun and all, for bed bugs, the penis bores through the organ of Berlese to get to the ovary – it’s a painful process.
Bed bug Feeding and Mating Behavior
Bed bugs lead a rather cryptic lifestyle. This means that they live a large portion of their lives hiding as a colony in cracks and crevices. In these spaces, it is dark, and they are assured of little to no disturbances. However, they usually come out at night to feed. This is usually between 12 midnight and 5 am. Between these times, they know humans are asleep and in their deepest sleep. This way, even when they bite, it’s unlikely that you will wake up and squash them like the little bugs they are.
Bed bugs can travel long distances (usually several yards) to get to a human host. They are attracted to the host by the CO2 that they produce during exhalations as well as the body heat. Unfortunately, the bed bugs can only detect the heat and the CO2 levels when they are close to the host (usually about 3 feet for the CO2 and even less for the heat).
Experts have not yet figured out how the bed bugs hiding in closets find their way to you across the room in the dead of the night.
But what they do know is that bed bugs tend to walk around very fast. As such, between the four hours, they wander over great distances and can locate their food fast. Because of this, most bed bugs love hiding closer to their food. You can find bed bugs hiding in the bed, on the mattress seams, and box springs when they aren’t feeding. But this is not always possible when the population is high. They can’t all fit in the bed joints and crevices. As such, some are forced to seek refuge in different locations farther from the host.
Now, once a bed bug gets to the host, it uses its elaborate mouthparts to puncture the skin as explained above. And in case you were wondering, they are keen on the spots that they puncture. They choose spots that they can access the capillaries. In the capillaries, the blood is flowing at minimal pressure, and as such, they can suck with minimal effort.
Unfortunately, finding a capillary is not a walk in the park. Bed bugs have to puncture the skin several times before they locate a capillary. After all, they do not have X-ray vision to help them in locating the capillaries. Once the bed bug finds a capillary they are satisfied with, they start feeding. They feed for between 5 and 10 minutes before they are full.
Once a bed bug has had enough, it leaves the host and makes its way back home to its crevice, crack, bed joint or closet (anywhere there are lots of bed bugs). When it is home, the digestion process will start, and it will excrete the waste later (usually when feeding). Bed bugs feed every 3 or 7 days. Going with this time frame, it only means that the bed bug population in your bed, for instance, is in a digesting state for the most part and doesn’t feed all the time.
From the above feeding description, it’s clear that bed bugs feed more like mosquitoes and less like ticks. Ticks tend to bury their heads in the skin and thus cannot run away when you wake up.
Also, it’s important to point out that bed bugs feed slower in comparison to other bugs. And during the cold weather, their feeding is even slower. And since feeding is connected to their growth and development (more so moving from one stage to the next), their growth is slower during winter.
Once the bed bugs have fed the next thing they can do for entertainment is mating. This process is usually initiated by the males. And the mating process as we hinted above in the biology section is unique and well, weird. Though there are bits that are similar to human mating, the process varies greatly in the pleasure, especially for the females.
Why is this? Well, bed bugs have what experts refer to as traumatic insemination. The mating process is traumatic mainly because the males don’t insert their penis into the female genitalia smoothly and lovingly. Instead, the male uses its penis to stab through the female’s wall into a special organ on the right side of their bodies called the organ of Berlese. The sperms are released into the female’s cavity. From the cavity, the sperms will travel to the ovaries for a couple of hours to fertilize the eggs.
During the stabbing process, the female sustains a wound which later turns into a scar. But the healing process takes some time. As such, to ensure the healing process is complete and to protect themselves from further abuse, the female bed bugs usually leave the bed bug aggregation/colony after mating several times.
According to studies conducted, the insemination takes a toll on the female’s body and even affects the ability of the female to produce eggs. Females that have mated only once and haven’t been stabbed severally by their male counterparts tend to produce 25% more eggs than the females that have mated severally.
Practically, what this means is that a mated female (one that has mated only once), can cause a heavy infestation even when it doesn’t have a male in the aggregation. All she needs is regular blood from the host. However, eventually, the female will run out of sperms to fertilize the eggs and will have to mate. Luckily, by the time this happens, she will have males from her offspring to mate with and continue the cycle.
The life cycle of a bed bug is similar to that of most bugs. However, there are slight differences that are unique to bed bugs. Being aware of the life cycle helps in the approximation of the number of generations of bed bugs you have in your home and consequently approximate the number of bed bugs you are dealing with.
Like all insects, the life of a bed bug starts as an egg. The eggs are often white or creamy. The eggs are about 1mm lengthwise. As such, they can be a little difficult to see. To give you some perspective on the size, the eggs are about the size of a couple of salt grains.
Overall, the nymph stage is split into five stages. In the 1st stage, the nymph is approximately 1.5 mm long. And as soon as it hatches from the eggs, they start to feed. It’s important to note that throughout the nymph stage, the bed bugs are not mature to mate. Mating only happens in the adult stage.
Once the bed bug goes through the first molt, it enters the second nymph stage. I this stage, the nymph measures about 2 mm.
The nymph is ushered into this stage through a molting process as well. In this stage, the bed bug is 2.5 mm long.
At this stage, the bed bug measures 3 mm in length.
This is the final stage for a nymph. In this stage, the bed bug can be as long as 4.5 mm.
From the 5th nymph stage, the bed bug molts into an adult. The process of growing into an adult takes on average of five weeks. And at this point, as mentioned above, the bed bug can breed. The average life span of a bed bug is between four and six months. However, some legend bed bugs live up to one year.
How fast do bed bugs breed?
On a normal day, you wouldn’t catch yourself dead, thinking of how long it takes a bed bug to breed. However, with a possible infestation in your hands, you need to know the exact number to calculate the size of bed bug aggregation you are dealing with. This knowledge will help you curb the growth of the bed bug population in your home.
Now, we have some bad news. Assuming a single bed bug finds its way into your house today, it will only take a couple of months before you have a full-blown infestation in your home. Though this process is not as fast as that of flies, it is still fast given that you are dealing with blood-sucking vampires that leave ugly and itchy hickeys all over your skin.
With that said, let’s start from the top. Say for instance you went for a business trip overseas and you stayed in a hotel while you were in the new city. And later when you are coming back home, one or a couple of bed bugs hitch a ride on your clothing or luggage without your knowledge.
The female bed bug will lay between 1 and five eggs in a day. And it takes on average 14 days for an egg to hatch and enter the 1st nymph stage. Once the bed bug is in this stage, it will start feeding immediately, growing and molting.
On average, a bed bug will take about five weeks to go through the nymph stages and into an adult. And given these figures and timelines, it will take only two or three months before you have an infestation. And if you do not take quick steps to stop the growth and spread of the bed bugs, by the sixth month, sleeping in your bed would be a nightmare. You might even see bed bugs crawling freely in your house. It is because of this that experts advise on early detection and action.
You can tell if you have a bed bug infestation in your home by inspecting your mattress and when you wake up early in the morning with unexplainable red bumps on your skin.
Difference between bed bug bites and mosquito bites
We’ve seen that bed bugs and mosquitoes feed in the same way, i.e. they have similar mouthparts specialized for sucking blood. As such, it only makes sense that the resulting bites are similar as well. But if you look closely, there are some differences between the two. Below is a quick breakdown of what you should expect.
Bed bugs bite symptoms
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects. They love dark places and only come out to feed at night. In addition to looking like mosquito bites, a bed bug bite also looks like eczema and other skin irritations.
- Appearance – bed bug bites are often red and puffy. They look like pimples. At the center of the itchy spot is a red dot where the bed bug punctured the skin. If you are sensitive to bed bug bites, the pimple might be filled with fluid.
- Itch factor – bed bug bites are itchy and irritating. The itching and pain are usually worse in the morning and eases during the day.
- Location – bed bug bites appear on areas that are in contact with the surface you are sleeping on. This can be the bed or couch. Because of this, the most affected spots are the neck, face and arms. However, from time to time, you’ll come across an ambitious bed bug that will burrow underneath your clothes to get to the soft spots on the body.
- Number – bed bugs often bite in a straight line or groups of three.
Bed bug bites often become infected. Here are signs that the bed bug bite has been infected;
- The closest lymph node is swollen
Symptoms of mosquito bites
Mosquitoes are tiny flying insects that have six legs.
Contrary to popular belief, not all mosquitoes bite. Only the females feed on human blood. And this is because they need the blood for reproduction. Generally, they thrive in stagnant water like lakes, ponds, pools, and marsh. If you live in areas close to these waters, then you run the risk of getting a mosquito bite. Also, it’s worth noting that mosquitoes spread malaria.
Appearance mosquito bites are small and red. The bites are raised. Also, they vary in size from person to person. The difference is caused by an individual’s natural reaction to the insect’s saliva.
Itch factor – mosquito bites are itchy, and people often have different reactions to the bites. Some sensitive persons can even develop blistering reactions.
Location – mosquitoes often bite skin that is exposed, including the arms, legs, and hands. However, mosquitoes never bite underneath clothing as bed bugs do. As such, if you have red bite spots under your skin, you can automatically cross out mosquitoes.
Number – people often have one or two mosquito bites. And even if they are many, they will be random and spread out in the body. They are never in a line like is the case with bed bug bites.
Although it is quite rare, some people have been reported to have anaphylactic reactions to mosquito bites. These reactions are severe and often life-threatening which results in throat swelling, hives and constricted trachea. If you or a friend ever gets such a reaction, you should seek medical attention fast. You should call 911 or drive to an emergency room immediately.
Mosquitoes have to be still on the skin for a minimum of 6 seconds before they can bite you. The bites may start itching immediately and be visible. However, they will get better after a couple of days.
Bed bug bites don’t always lead to skin reactions. And in the times that they do, the reactions can be delayed by a couple of hours after the bite (at times even days). This makes the bed bug harder to treat most people do not always know they’ve been in places with bed bugs until a couple of days later.
Fleas are often found on pets like cats and dogs. However, they can also be found in other animals as well. They usually survive on their host’s blood. They suck the blood using special jaws that cut through the skin. Like bed bug and mosquito bites, some people are more sensitive to flea bites than other people.
Usually, kids are more sensitive than adults. As such, the potential to develop allergic reactions is higher. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those people that are never bitten by fleas and those that never feel them. If a flea bites you, you are advised not to scratch the spot. This is because the wound will get infected, which will make the itchiness worse.
Flea bites look like clusters of tiny dots. They look more like mosquito bites than beg bug bites. And like mosquito bites, bed bug bites are usually scattered randomly on the body. However, they usually prefer biting the ankles and legs since they are easier to reach. In terms of itchiness, a flea bite itches just as much as a bed bug does.
Kissing bugs are insects that carry a parasite which causes Chagas disease. The kissing bug usually bites a person around the eyes or mouth. Unlike most bugs, kissing bugs bite the same area several times. The bites are usually small, round and red.
Kissing bug bites that lead to Chagas disease can be serious since the disease can cause intestinal and heart problems.
Spider bites look different. The appearance will often depend on the type of spider that bites you. For common house spiders, the kinds that have very thin legs have weak fangs and cannot pierce the skin. The few that do like the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider can have severe symptoms.
Signs that you’ve been bitten by a spider include;
- Red wet
- Pain in the muscle and muscle cramps
- Difficulty breathing
Moreover, serious spider bites can also lead to infections and illnesses. If a spider bites you, you should seek medical assistance. This is most especially if you’ve been bitten by a black widow or a brown recluse.
These are insects that sting and leave itchy and painful bites. The bites usually occur on the feet and legs after stepping on their mound, and they come out guns blazing.
Symptoms of a fire ant bite
- Itchiness and raised welt spots on the skin
- A burning sensation immediately after the bite
- A small blister filled with blisters which occur a day after the bite
The symptoms of a fire ant bite can last a maximum of a week. The bite is usually itchy.
Bed bug bites Vs hives
Other people confuse hives from bed bug bites. And just so that we are on the same page, a hive is a red bump which develops on the skin as a result of an allergic reaction or other causes. And just like bed bug bites, hives are itchy.
If your skin develops bumps that change shape and grow bigger or even spread from one body part to the next frequently, then you are most likely dealing with hives. If the hives come with breathing difficulties, nausea, vomiting or dizziness, you should get medical help immediately. There are high chances you are having anaphylaxis, which is an allergic reaction that can cause death.
Complications caused by bed bug bites
These are the most common reactions people have to bed bug bites. And while you might not feel itchy when you are bitten, the reaction can get stronger with time. After several bites, your skin might be more sensitive. In the end, even a tiny bite can lead to a large and itchy mark.
Once a bed bug has bitten you, you will start noticing that the skin is unusually itchy. Repeated scratching of the itchy spot will lead to the skin breaking and infections. If you do not treat the infection it can escalate into a life-threatening condition. Rather than scratching the bed bug bite to ease the itchiness, experts recommend that you treat the bites using special lotions and salves.
While it’s very rare for people to develop allergic reactions, some individuals have had strong reactions to the bites. If you are allergic to bed bug bites, you might develop strained or slowed down breathing. Also, a bed bug allergy might cause your heart to beat faster than normal. To avoid all these complications, it’s best you hire a professional.
When is the best time to seek medical attention?
Most of the time, you can manage bed bug bites at home. However, if you start experiencing any of the below symptoms, you should consult a health care professional or check into the closest emergency unit.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the throat
- Tongue or lip swelling
- Itchy rashes on the skin
- Dizziness and fainting
- Redness spreading from the bed bug puncture wound
How health experts diagnose bed bug bites
The diagnosis of bed bug bites is often difficult as they resemble bites from other insects. For this reason, your doctor will ask you a few questions and even perform a physical exam on the skin. They also examine and assess other organs for signs of allergic reactions or infection. Luckily, they don’t have to draw blood or perform imaging. If you can bring a specimen on the insect that bit you, then it would help in the diagnosis.
Medical treatment for a bed bug bite
Usually, bed bug bites aren’t serious enough to warrant medical treatment. And even if treatment is required, it’s designed to relieve symptoms including itchiness and bed bug bites. In some rare cases of allergic reactions, or secondary skin infections, an evaluation may be necessary. Also, if you are unsure of what is causing the bumps on your skin, you should seek medical attention.
Are there medications for bed bug bites?
Taking medication for bed bug bites isn’t necessary. As we’ve pointed out above, OTC creams and antihistamine pills might come in handy for itchiness. Corticosteroid creams can also be applied to the affected areas.
If you sustain secondary bacterial skin infection, antibiotic ointment or oral antibiotics can be prescribed by health professionals.
Is follow up required for bed bug bites?
Follow-up with health care professionals may be necessary after systemic allergic reactions or in the case of secondary bacterial skin infections. If none of the above, then follow-up from professional health care specialists isn’t necessary.
Where do bed bugs hide?
According to research by the University of Kentucky, bed bug hiding places can be broken down into the below areas;
- Box Spring (34.6%)
- Couch and Chair (22.6%)
- Mattress (22.4%)
- Headboard (13.4%)
- Ceilings or Dresser (0.2%)
- Nightstand (0.2%)
- Baseboard (1.4%)
- Other (3.1%) – this was broken into a combination of locations that didn’t make the list.
Where else do bed bugs hide?
The usual areas include;
- Luggage, gym bags, backpacks and handbags
- Around clutter lying on the floor
- End tables and coffee tables
- Carpet edges and under rugs
Surprising places where bed bugs hide
Bed bugs have been found in some weird places in the past, meaning that this list is in no way exhaustive. The surprising places include;
- Behind picture frames
- Behind electrical wiring
- Door hinges
- Window moldings
- Dog beds and cat cages
- Electronic devices
- Laundry rooms
Now you are probably thinking that since this list is long, it doesn’t help you in locating bed bugs. Well, before you write it off, have this in mind – bed bugs often hide in locations that are close to where they feed. This means that they will be in spots that are close to where you lay still for long hours like a computer desk, sofa, gaming chair or bed. And finally, just so that you don’t feel defeated, here is a list that will give you a sigh of relief.
Places bed bugs never hide.
In the event you find bed bugs in any of these places, then it is a sign that your infestation is in the advanced stages and you need to act fast. But before you swing into action, be sure to read this piece to the end.
- Kitchens (unless you hang around the kitchen for prolonged periods)
- Unfinished Basements
- Any rooms that aren’t in use
Great. Now that you know where bed bugs hide, it’s time to look at how you can get them in their hiding places without helping them to spread.
How to know you have a bed bug problem?
Now, before we embark on the process of finding bed bugs, the question is, how do you know you have the problem in the first place? Well, according to experts, some signs can hint to their presence in your home.
Common signs that bed bugs leave behind
Feces and fecal stains
When bed bugs feed on your blood, they poop almost immediately. This is disgusting if you ask us. However, they are one of the most immediate signs that you have bed bugs (even before you see one physically). The fecal matter leaves dark stains behind, which look like they were left behind by a felt marker. Also, the stain will bleed into your beddings.
When you look at your mattress, pillowcases or sheets and find the bed bugs, it means you have bed bugs in your home.
Bloodstains and smears
Blood spots also appear on the mattress. The blood spots are caused by crashed bed bugs. Bed bugs are crashed when you are tossing and turning in bed as they are feeding. These stains are commonly found on pillowcases and bedsheets. Occasionally, you will find these stains on your pyjamas too. The more restless you are in your sleep, the higher the possibility of finding these bloodstains on your bedding.
However, like bed bug bites, blood stains alone aren’t enough to point to a bed bug infestation.
Bed bug skin
As nymphs (baby bed bugs) grow and develop into adults, they molt five times. Every molt ushers the bed bug into a new nymph stage and finally into the adult stage. The shed skins are often of different sizes depending on the stage the bed bug is in. The molts are commonly found in their hiding places rather than the open.
Empty eggshells are a symptom that you have a growing bed bug population in your home. The eggs are tiny (about one mm in length) but still visible. But even then, using a magnifying glass will make it even easier to spot them.
The eggs look like dry casings. However, they are a little less shiny and appear flattened. Like the molts, the eggs are also found in areas where bed bugs hide, especially on wood or fabric.
Now, while the above symptoms of bed bug presence don’t necessarily prove you have an active infestation in your home, it is worth taking a deeper look. Bed bugs will not go away on their own.
Signs that you have an active bed bug infestation
Bed bug eggs
Bed bug eggs are shiny and translucent –almost pearly white. They are often found in dark locations like crevices, furniture joints, and cracks. Bed bug eggs are surrounded by a sticky film, which helps them stick to the surface when they are first laid. This film gives them a shiny appearance.
Bed bugs that have just hatched are called nymphs. They are a little lighter in color and smaller in comparison to adults. They are almost transparent until they taste human blood in which case they turn red. And as earlier pointed out, they progress to the next stage with every meal they have. What this also means is that they are stuck in one stage until they can feed. Therefore, the growth process can be as short as five days or as long as a couple of months.
Adult bed bugs
Adult bed bugs are rusty brown and flat. As they feed, they become larger and rounder. Their color also changes to a bright red. In the initial stages of infestation, you will come across them in the seams, tufts and piping of the mattress and the box springs or crevices in the bed frame or headboard. As the bed bug population grows, the bed bugs spread out from the beds to closets.
Bed bugs have a musty smell. Some people say the smell is like that of almonds, over-ripe raspberries or coriander. However, we think it’s pungent and sickening and is more of a rotting raspberry smell. The smell becomes more obvious as the infestation grows or when the bed bugs are agitated in any way. Though smelling them out is not a reliable way to determine if you have a bed bug infestation, their distinct scent makes it easier for bed bug-sniffing dogs to pinpoint their hiding spots when there is no visual evidence of their presence.
Now, once you’ve ascertained that you have a bed bug problem in your home, regardless of the extent or size, it’s time to do your inspection.
How to find bed bugs in your home easily
Start with the bed
This is by far the most likely place you can locate bed bugs. They prefer to hide in areas that are close to their food. Below is how you can find bed bugs.
- Pull back your bedding carefully and check for bed bug signs, including fecal and blood stains on your mattress or bedding
- Check your mattress thoroughly and pay close attention to the seams, air holes and edges. If it’s possible, turn your mattress to its side and inspect the underside as well. And though bed bugs usually hide closer to the head area, you should make a point of inspecting the foot area as well.
- Follow the same process for your box spring. You might have to remove or cut the gauze protector underneath the box spring for a closer inspection. Send more time inspecting the box spring since they are perfect bed bug habitats. If need be, use a magnifying glass and a flashlight to see things better. Look at the corners, wooden joints, staples and screw holes. Between the wooden slates, you might find bed bug eggs waiting to hatch.
- Turn your attention to the bed frame or the headboard. Be keen on inspecting the grooves, joints and corners as well. You can also pull the bed away from the wall and inspect the backside as well.
Finding bed bugs on upholstered furniture
Upholstered furniture includes recliners, love seats, sofas, chaise lounges, easy chairs and ottomans. Below is how you can find signs of bed bugs in these items.
- Carefully remove the pillows and cushions and inspect them one after the other. Pay attention to the piping, tufts and seams. You should also check the zippers.
- Look around the seams of your chair and couch. Also, don’t forget to lift the skirting and check underneath it (be focused on the pleats on the seams and the fabric which attaches to the furniture.
- Pull the furniture from the wall and check the back side as well
- If it’s possible, lay the chair on its back and inspect under it – just like you did with your box spring
For end tables and desks, and coffee tables in the house, you can follow the below process.
- Remove everything and put it in a garbage bag with a cover to prevent the bed bugs from spreading in case they are hiding there.
- Pull the drawers out one after the other and thoroughly inspect them on the outside and inside. Remember to check the underside as well, including the frame, and headboard. Pay attention to the joints, screw heads and grooves.
- Check inside, under and behind the furniture. And like always, inspect the joints, corners and all crevices (you probably guessed and completed that last bit in your head).
If you get this far and do not come across a single sign of a bed bug, then the good news is that your home is bed bug-free.
How to find bed bugs without spreading them all over the house.
The key here is to make plans ahead of time. You should prepare yourself and the items you handle or debugging. You should also tread lightly and avoid scattering items all over the house.
Contain potentially infested items
Contain the items for later ‘debugging’ as you progress. This way, even if the item was laden with beg bugs, you will not spread it to other areas in the house. In light of this you should;
- Not fling the bedding on the floor. Instead, put it in a plastic bag and tie it tight
- Bad clothes as you take them out of the dresser
- Put other items in bags as well to be safe
Once you are done with the inspection, you can take the items to the dryer for a thorough inspection.
Keep an eye out for the hitchhikers
You don’t just want to let these little, annoying buggers hitch a ride on you as you look for them. If you know, you will be getting very close to these hideout spots, here is what you should do to prevent them from spreading.
- Add clothes that you know are bed bug-free sealed in a plastic bag
- During the inspection, strip your clothes off. As such, you should ensure the blinds are shut
- Place the clothes you were wearing in a different plastic bag and seal it
- Once the inspection is done, get dressed in the clothes you put in the first plastic bag
- Take the potentially infested clothes to the dryer. Tumble the clothes on high heat for about 30 minutes. This should be enough to kill the eggs or any bed bugs that might have hitched a ride on your clothes during the inspection.
- Handle the plastic bag used tightly and throw it in the trash
Following the below steps will reduce the chances of spreading the bed bugs.
Since you don’t want the inspection to aid bed bugs in spreading, you should tread lightly. Be gentle when you are moving the items around. Bear in mind that if the items are infested, the bed bugs will scatter for their dear buggy lives, especially if you upset their hideout vigorously. Inspect one area at a time.
Also, when you notice a bed bug, even a single one, the inspection process is done. Stop looking and call in pest control services.
How to find bed bugs in your hotel room without taking them back home with you.
Knowing how to inspect your hotel room is key to preventing the spread of bed bugs to your home. But what do you do when you find them? Easy, make sure you don’t carry them home with you. Below are steps that can help you with this.
Safeguard your items in the hotel’s bathroom
Yes, the bathtub. Place everything you have travelled with inside the bathtub once you walk into the hotel room. Bathtubs are the last place they can hide in. As such, it is the safest place for your items. This is an important step to take, especially if you haven’t determined if it’s safe.
If you find bed bugs or any signs that they are around, take a picture and take it to the front desk and request for a different room.
Contain your clothes for later debugging
Once the room passes the initial inspection, proceed to the bathroom and contain your clothes. This is essential since some bed bugs might have decided to hitch a ride when you were inspecting the area. The best place to isolate clothing is in the bathroom. It’s also the easiest place to spot any bed bug that falls off the clothing. This way, you get to kill the bed bug before they inspect the new room.
Below is the containment process you should follow
- Remove your clothes
- Put the clothes into a plastic bag, seal it and tie it tight for later inspection
- Check the bathroom floor for runaways and then contain or kill them
- Wear clean clothing from your suitcase (that you had placed in the bathtub
If you have sealable bags, it’s better since it will be easier and more effective to contain the bed bugs.
Bed bug control; do’s and don’ts
Once you’ve determined you have a bed bug problem, it’s time to deal with the problem yourself. But before you do so, you must be aware of the do’s and don’ts. Don’t ignore this section. Why? Well, many things that might seem logical to you will only make things worse. And while we are it, we should point out two things that you should never do when dealing with bed bugs.
Never use a bed bug fogger or bomber – this is the worst thing you can do even if it is labelled ‘for use on bed bugs.’ Below are the top three reasons why they don’t work and five ways why using them will make the process of getting rid of bed bugs even harder for you.
Bed bug fogger
These are thought of as being the fastest fix for the nasty suckers in a home. But this could not be more wrong. Below are the reasons why they don’t work and how they can make things worse for you.
Three reasons why bed bug bombers or foggers don’t work
1. They can get to the bed bugs and kill them
Many people think that the foggers are designed to work lie fumigation gas, which penetrates all crevices and cracks in a home to kill bed bugs. But unfortunately, that is not how they work. Instead, they have aerosol propellants that disperse its contents in the air in a fine mist which settles on the surface fast. They indeed get the pesticide on a wider surface area, but that is only on the exposed surface. The pesticide never gets to the hidden areas where bed bugs are hiding. And since need bugs are always in hiding when they are not feeding, the foggers aren’t effective.
2. The ingredients included in the foggers kill on contact
Even though the pesticide is spread over a large surface, experts have determined that they are less effective for a couple of reasons. At the top of the list is that the foggers lose their killing potency as they dry. As such, even when they come in contact with the little buggers, the pesticide won’t be very effective. And since we have already determined that the pesticide cannot get to the hiding places, this adds salt to the injury.
3. Many foggers have low pesticide concentration
And what about the few bed bugs that the chemical gets in touch with? In some studies, it has been determined that foggers will kill bed bugs under specific conditions. However, they don’t have high levels of pesticides to kill.
So in a nutshell, foggers are contact killers and don’t reach hidden surfaces. And even when they come in contact with the bed bugs, the pesticide concentration is too low that it will not kill the bugs.
If you don’t believe this, here is some research to back up the claims we are making (https://www.pctonline.com/article/pct1012-ineffective-foggers-bed-bugs/).
Five ways in which using foggers make it difficult to kill bed bugs
Foggers spread the infestation deeper and wider
Typically the bed bugs remain close to their source of food. For this reason, when the infestation is starting, they will be concentrated in areas where you sleep. However, spraying bed bug fogger can alter this.
Foggers can cause bed bugs to run away as they avoid contact. Because of this, the infestation may spread even wider. But that’s not all. The bed bugs also move deeper into the cracks and crevices in your bed, furniture, wall and other hiding spots.
This is bad news for a couple of reasons.
First, rooms that were initially not infested will be infested after the bed bug migration. And second, the beg bugs will move deeper into the cracks making them even more difficult to find.
Foggers create pesticide resistance
The chemicals used to make the foggers are known to increase pesticide resistance in the bugs. Through the low-level chemical exposure, the bed bugs develop some level of immunity to the said pesticide and chemicals. It’s just like how humans get flu shots to avoid getting the flu.
To make things even worse, the resistance continues to grow with every time you spray the pesticide around the house. Most people often use fogger with the best result in mind. However, when it doesn’t work, they use it again. And unknown to them, the bed bugs only get stronger and harder to kill. If you’ve used a bed bug fogger in the past, you should not use it again.
Fogger impedes the effectiveness of other bed bug treatments
The ingredients contained in foggers are designed to act as a repellant and not to kill. And while this sounds great on paper, it is not when you get down to work. Repelling bed bugs is never a good idea.
What repellants do is prevent you from getting bitten. This then gives the illusion of the bed bugs being dead and gone. But on the contrary, they are alive and kicking. And even worse, bed bugs can survive up to 18 months without having a meal if the environment is right. In addition to this, the other killing options that depend on contact become ineffective.
Using a fogger helps the bed bugs to increase
For the reasons we’ve mentioned above, foggers will prolong a bed bug problem. This is bad news since the bed bugs will continue to nest in your home and sooner or later will come out in large numbers to feast.
It makes the professional treatment methods harder and costly to deal with.
If you use a fogger to try and solve the problem, you will be disappointed. And when you call in a professional, you will get more bad news. Some professionals will not want to work on your home if you have used fogger in the past. This is because they know how hard it will be for them. And even if they agree to take up the project, the process will need more treatment, which translates into more money. If until this point you have been using a fogger, stop and call in a professional.
Now at this point, several questions might be going through your mind;
What is the product labelled specifically for bed bugs? Well, every information we’ve listed above applies to all release foggers even the ones labelled and marketed as great for bed bugs.
If they are that bad, then why are they on store shelves? That is a great question and one that we don’t have a factual answer to. However, we can speculate. We suspect it has everything to do with corporate lobbying. But that’s our opinion.
We can assure you this – the bodies in charge of this industry like the Centers for Disease Control and the National Pesticide Information Center and Environmental Protection Agency have warnings about foggers and their ineffectiveness against bed bugs.
Ways bed bugs are dangerous
If everything you have read about foggers so far isn’t enough to make you stay away from the foggers, then you should consider the dangers and health risk involved.
They get you sick
When you spray the fogger, it will spread the pesticide to every surface and item in your home. As such, you will be exposed to the chemicals when you touch any surface in the room. There are lots of diseases and injuries that are associated with bed bug foggers (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5741a3.htm).
They can cause house fires and explosions
Yes, bug foggers can cause explosions when handled in the wrong way. As such, you should handle them with great care.
Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get back to the do’s and don’ts of bed bug control.
Do not sleep in a different room to try and avoid bed bug bites
This is not a good idea. Why? Well, the beg bugs will only follow you to the next room. They will be attracted by the carbon dioxide you exhale and your body heat. If the bed bugs are hungry enough, they will get to you. And therefore, sleeping on the sofa is also out of the question.
Do declutter your space often and as much as you can
Clutter in the house will provide the bed bugs with a lot of dark spaces to hide in. Do not store things under the bed or leave a lot of things lying on the floor. The neater the space is, the easier it will be to spot bed bugs and kill them.
Don’t ‘run away’ to your friend’s house
Bed bugs are hitchhikers, and you can easily carry them to your friends’ house. If you are thinking of running away for some time to starve them, it’s a bad idea – not unless you can go away for more than 18 months. So going away for the weekend won’t cut it.
Do come up with an educated battle plan
The truth of the matter is that you will have to face the problem and fight. Being successful against bed bugs will require a strategic pest management approach, which, in most cases will involve several steps. Whether you decide to turn to an exterminator for help or do it on your own, you will need a solid strategy (find the perfect bed bug elimination strategy after this section).
Don’t throw the bed out (or any furniture)
Many people usually think that throwing out items that are infested by bed bugs will do the trick. Well, it doesn’t. If anything, it will spread the infestation to the whole area. The goal of getting rid of the bed bugs should be to kill and not to chase away.
To save yourself cash and time, you have to take the steps we outlined and be cautious with the steps you take. If you do end up disposing of any furniture, you do it right. Seal it in a way the bed bug won’t escape and spread to the rest of the house or neighborhood.
Do protect the bed using a mattress encasement
When you encase your mattress as well as the box springs, you will trap the bed bugs and prevent them from terrorizing you at night. Additionally, it makes it easier to spot the bed bugs when they come out to feed.
And even if you don’t have a bed bug infestation, a mattress encasement is something worth investing in. It will prevent bed bugs from making the mattress their home. If you come into contact with the bed bug, it will be easier to spot and kill. You can read up on the process of choosing mattress encasements, how they are intended to work and the best ways of taking care of them.
Don’t turn it into a DIY unless it’s the only option you have
If you are working with a tight budget and you cannot afford to hire a professional, you should ensure you understand integrated pest management techniques and learn how to come up with an action plan that will work.
Do seek professional help from a licensed exterminator
If you have the money, this is the best route to take. And when choosing an exterminator, you should pick one that has experience getting rid of bed bugs. This will save you a lot of time and money eventually (even if it doesn’t look like it at the start).
Don’t use bed bug repellents to stop the bed bug bites
This can prove to be very dangerous. There are several ways that you can use to reduce the bites you sustain in a night.
Do remove bed bug by vacuuming
Vacuuming is by far, one of the most effective methods of getting rid of bed bugs. Vacuum the floors and all the nooks and crannies in the furniture often. Pay close attention to the spaces where the bed bugs like to hide in as we’ve mentioned above.
Don’t try to perform heat treatments alone
Yes, heat treatment is effective against adult bed bugs, eggs and nymphs. However, this isn’t the best DIY project. Seriously, embarking on this project without a professional could lead to serious injuries and even death. There have been lots of house fires in the past caused by people trying to kill the bed bugs with heat. The treatment requires specialized equipment which should only be operated by a professional.
And while we are still in the spirit of being cautious;
Don’t scratch the bed bug bites
This might seem obvious, but it is not. Actually, for most people, it’s easier said than done. But remember this, scratching will only make the situation worse and could cause infections. You might find some bed bug treatments which will help to ease your itchiness.
Best bed bug control action plan
As we’ve hinted above, you must have an action plan. And though the plans are not simple, you shouldn’t worry – following one is easier than you think.
Remember: you will be tempted to go for quick fixes. But do everything in your power to resist the urge.
Step 1: Detect bed bugs and diagnose
The very first step you should take is to ensure that you have bed bugs. You don’t want to go through the process only to find that you didn’t have a bed bug problem in the first place. Or to plan for a smaller infestation than it is.
Bites are the first signs that you’ll notice. But then again, bed bug bites are similar to other insect bites as well. So you might need more proof to determine that you have a bed bug infestation. If you have not found any live bed bug, wear your detective hat and seek out the bed bugs using the steps we outlined. Once you find a bed bug, it’s time to move to step two of the action plan.
Step 2: Contain
Containing the bed bugs is very important. You do this by isolating and containing the infested items for later debugging. This helps to prevent the spread of bed bugs in the house. If you follow our instructions on how to find bed bugs without spreading them to other parts of the house, you will have contained most of the items. If you didn’t get it right, you should review that portion of the blog.
Next is containing the bed bugs that are in your bed. You can add a mattress encasement to prevent the bed bugs from biting you. If you get the right encasement, bed bugs will not bite you.
Step 3: Eliminate
Bed bugs like hiding. They are nocturnal and only come out to feed. You will only see them during the day if they are super hungry. Because of this, it is your job to get rid of any possible hiding spots. Do not leave any clutter on the floor.
If the bed bugs don’t have a place to hide, it will make it easier for you to move to step 4.
Step 4: Remove
Divide and conquer. Well, not exactly, but this step is very close to it. As you plan to take radical and effective measures, you should take any help or action that will reduce the number of bed bugs that you have to deal with. As such, before going into the final battle first reduce the number of bed bugs in your house. You can do this by using a strong vacuum cleaner. Since bed bugs don’t have sticky feet, they don’t hold on tight to surfaces. It is therefore easy to suck them in a vacuum cleaner.
Vacuum frequently and thoroughly. Always throw the vacuum bag away when you are done. Be on the lookout for eggs and molts when you vacuum your house.
Step 5: Protect
When you take the step to encase the mattress, pillows, and box springs, you are not only containing the bugs but also protecting yourself. Moreover, you will prevent any chance of re-infestation later. And once you get rid of the bugs, you can use an interception device.
Step 6: Kill
At this time, you are ready to strike. Rain hellfire on those little buggers. But before you do so, have a plan. While we shall cover that in a later section, we feel the need to echo that you should stay away from bed bug foggers. They are not effective and could end up doing more harm than good.
Step 7: Monitor
Once you’ve done your damage, it is time to sit back and watch how well your plan and treatment has worked. Monitoring is an active process. And the interceptors that we have mentioned in the fifth step comes in handy. While they will not trap the bed bugs, they will make it easier for you to know if some bed bugs survived the fight and are still hiding in the headboard and frame. Bed bug movement will let you know if our efforts were successful or not.
The moment you go for a long time before spotting a bed bug, molt or eggs, then you know you were victorious.
Step 8: Prevent
Congratulations on your war against bed bugs. If you want, you can do a little dance of joy or even brag about your success on Facebook. After all, it is a big deal. Many people have fallen at the hands of bed bugs.
Once you are done celebrating and you are now enjoying peaceful nights with uninterrupted sleep, you should shift focus to preventing a re-infection. And your best protection right now is the mattress encasing. Also, you should avoid buggy situations and being extra careful when you go to hotels.
Bed Bug Exterminators
Having an action plan doesn’t mean that you should handle the extermination like a DIY project. For best results, you should hire a bed bug expert. In this section, we shall learn why you need to have a pro, how you can pick the best one in the market, and what to expect from working with them. It’s more of a mini-guide for choosing an exterminator.
Why should you hire an exterminator to cure your house of a bed bug infestation?
We don’t dispute the fact that you can get rid of bed bugs on your own. However, a lot of things have to align for you to be successful not to mention you’ll have to take time off your work. Because of this, we don’t recommend doing it solo unless it’s the only option you have. Hiring professionals in the industry who have been successful in the past and have testimonials to back up their claims is a great thing.
This is mostly because bed bugs can be difficult to deal with (so far this much is clear). As such, getting a professional involved will help make the process easier and result guaranteed. Professionals have access to techniques and tools that are effective. Since it is in their line of work, they invest in these tools for the benefit of their clients (in this case, you are the client).
And then there is the fact that turning it into a DIY could end up with you spending a fortune. DIY projects are laden with costly mistakes. Moreover, some treatment methods like the heat treatment require specialized tools which are super expensive.
How you should choose a professional
If you end up deciding that a professional is the best way to go, you should pause for some time to vet the professionals at your disposal to ensure you are picking the right one. Believe it or not, choosing the right exterminator is just as important as choosing the treatment method. If you choose the wrong one, there are high chances the results will be substandard, and you might end up redoing the process.
Remember that there are many people out there who call themselves exterminators aren’t professionally trained in getting rid of bed bugs. And, unfortunately, bed bugs aren’t as simple as other insects. Though they recently came back, they have a long history of terrorizing homeowners. Because of this, it’s imperative that you choose a pro who knows what he is doing.
How can one do that?
This is our advice to you – do your homework and listen to your gut. Keep an eye out for red flags and bail any time you feel things are amiss. You will have to ask many questions without fear and verify the answers that the exterminator gives you. It also means you have to compare three qualified exterminators in your region before you choose.
Ensure you only consider reputable exterminators
The best exterminators are those who have a proven track record and licensing, allowing them to operate in your region. If a company is too cheap to invest in licensing, they are not worth your time, trust, and money – there’s too much on the line.
Don’t choose the cheapest quote available
While comparing quotes from exterminators, you will notice that they have different price points for the same amount of work. At this point, you might be tempted to go with the cheapest option. However, this might not be the best option (it might not be the worst either). Cheap exterminators often use cheap bed bug treatments and aren’t thorough. They are notorious for not using the right equipment during the extermination process.
However, if the cheap exterminator can give reasons why their quote is that low and prove that they will not use substandard products, equipment and method (generally cut costs), you can reconsider picking them for the project.
The price of the project should always match the quality of service offered. If these two don’t match, you should carry on with your search.
Once you pick an exterminator, it’s time to probe for their experience in handling bed bug extermination
At this stage, you should ask questions in the lines of, ‘how long have you been exterminating bed bugs?’, ‘what techniques do you use?’ ‘how long before you start noticing results?’
You should also find out about their success rate and whether they offer any guarantees. It’s also important to know how the inspection is done. If everything sounds good to you, you should ask them to provide you with their preferred contact number along with testimonials. If they are not willing to do the latter or for some reason have a mountain of excuses, continue with your search.
What you should expect from a good exterminator
We shall split this section into different parts based on the stage of interaction with the exterminator.
Before making an appointment:
Expect the bed bug exterminator to demonstrate their expertise and success in treatment.
You can tell they are not experienced based on the replies they give you when you ask about bed bugs and how they intend to handle the infestation.
Expect them to be caring, courteous and communicative.
Since you’ll ask loads of question, they should be courteous and at the very least, provide you with all the information you need without being snappy. They should also communicate throughout the vetting process. If they take too long to provide a quotation, it’s a sign they will be even worse once you give them your money. No exterminator is ever too busy to chase down a potential lead.
Also, a good exterminator will communicate what you should expect when they visit your home and what you should do and not do when they arrive at your home.
Before you agree on the treatment:
The exterminator should conduct a thorough and careful bed bug inspection
The number one rule of bed bug control is accuracy in diagnosing the problem at hand. However, this requires the expert to be keen on detecting the bed bug signs. If the exterminator wants to start on a remedy before they conduct an inspection, you should send them packing immediately.
You shouldn’t waste your time with them since it only means they are not professionals and will probably be learning the ropes with your project.
Think it’s too harsh? Think about this. How will they know which spots need to be treated and how big the infestation is without inspecting the house? Without an inspection, you could end up paying a fortune for a small infestation or get inadequate treatment.
The inspection should be thorough and cover the entire house just to be sure.
Provide you with proof of bed bugs in your home
After inspection, they should provide you with proof. If there is no proof, then they shouldn’t start on anything. Some of the exterminators are cons, and you should tread carefully. Also, it is illegal for an exterminator to embark on treatment without providing you with proof of how vast the infestation is.
Signs of infestation include;
- Fecal stains
- Dry and empty bug shells
- Cast skins
In addition to this, they should provide live bed bug eggs
- Live bed bug nymphs
- Adult bed bugs
- Fresh fecal matter
This last group shows that you have an active bed bug infestation that needs immediate action.
Successful bed bug treatment hinges on several tools and methods working together. The approach taken should be the most efficient and with the least risk. A good exterminator will have a primary extermination method and a couple of backup techniques to get rid of the hardy bed bugs that survive the initial attack.
Backups are important since no treatment is 100% effective. Since the plan of action includes a single technique or tool, you should not bite. Turn them down politely and move on to the next professional.
To explain the treatment plan
A good bed bug exterminator should explain the treatment options available and recommend the best plan based on your situation. In addition to good communication, the exterminator should also outline the plan in an easy to understand language. They should also explain how it works in great details.
The exterminator should explain how many treatments they think it will take to completely rid the house of the infestation. They should also point out how far apart the treatments will be. Moreover, they should share the names of the chemicals they intend to use. If it is possible, request for an MSDS. The Material Safety Data Sheet is a document for all products used for the bed bug treatment process.
Expect clarification on the cost, warranties ad coverage in a written document
Before you accept any treatment, the exterminator should be honest and upfront with the cost of treatment. The exterminator should explain what the cost quotes covers and how many treatments they expect to conduct along with any other information they foresee to affect the cost. And everything that they explain should be in writing for future reference just in case they don’t deliver what they promised.
The contract should specify the following;
- Which rooms are included in the treatment?
- How many follow-ups will happen?
- What treatment technique will be used?
- Any extra tools that will be used and who will cover the costs
Make sure it’s clear whether the price in the quotation covers the initial treatment or even the follow-up treatments. If it does, how many of these follow-up treatments does it cover? Bear in mind that total eradication of bed bug infestation takes more than one treatment (but it never goes past three treatments). If the quotation includes only one treatment, respectfully decline and proceed to the next one.
If there’s a warranty, the exterminator should specify the time frame within which it is valid and also how many treatments it covers since it cannot be infinite. It’s also good practice to outline actions that may void the warranty provided.
Never take the exterminators word to be the gospel truth. If they have the intention of providing the said service, then they should not be afraid to write it down.
How can you work with the exterminator to get optimal results?
Once you’ve gone through the entire process of choosing the best exterminator, it is important to learn how you can work with them to provide the best service and results. Below are some pro tips to ensure that you the best results in the shortest time possible.
Be upfront and honest with them with everything you’ve done in the past to try and control the situation – this way they will know the best type of treatment, judging from the chemical resistance the bed bugs might have acquired over time. You shouldn’t keep secrets when it comes to this.
Follow the instructions to the letter before and during the inspection as well as after the first treatment. If the exterminator does give the instructions, ask it of them. Remember, the rules are not set in stone. As such, different bed bug exterminators have different preferences and follow different protocols. Do not assume you know what you should do because you read something online.
Don’t try to help the situation by adding treatments on your own – unless this is pre-approved by a professional, it’s a no-no. This is because people often end up messing with the effectiveness of the professional treatment. If you sprinkle a little bit of this and that, you may alter the chemical composition of the initial treatment and end up with treatment that doesn’t work.
How to prepare for bed bug treatment
Before the exterminator arrives at your home, you need to prepare it first. This will ensure that the treatment process progresses faster. Below are some tips on how to prepare for the extermination process:
- Remove all bedding from the mattress and gather the linen and clothing from all over the house. This includes textile materials that can be washed in a machine including mattress covers, pillows and everything in between. Any fabric that you have in storage should be removed for washing with hot water and stuffed in a dryer.
- After being washed, the items should be placed in plastic bags and sealed to prevent bed bugs from gaining entry and re-infesting them.
- Empty the closets in every room where bed bugs were found during the inspection or where the linen mentioned above were removed. The exterminator will need to access all these spaces.
- Unplug all electronic devices in every room. This will ensure the room is more accessible. You should also vacuum the floors, the cracks and crevices in the rooms. If you can steam clean the upholstered furniture, carpets and rugs, it’s even better.
- Move all objects away from the walls. This includes the bed or sofa. Pull them away from the walls to provide the exterminator with room to work freely. You can also vacuum along these edges.
- Empty the wooden desks, bookshelves, night stands and dressers. If possible, you should remove the drawers as well. The bed bugs seek refuge between the boards of your furniture. The furniture includes television stands, coffee tables, photo frame, bed frames and box springs.
- Once the treatment is done, leave the house for at least 3 hours.
- Before you sit on the mattresses, you should wait for them to dry first. The chemicals used to kill the bed bugs might irritate your skin if you lay or sit on the furniture too soon. You might also notice some odor caused by the chemicals.
Professional bed bug treatment options
As hinted above, there are lots of bed bug treatment options that professionals can use. However, some are more effective than others. In light of this, we’ve only listed those that are popular and have the best results in a short time.
The treatments include;
- Standard insecticide treatment
- Entotherm heat treatment
- Steam treatment
Entotherm heat treatment option
This process is environmentally friendly. It has been adopted in the bed bug control industry around the world, and is regarded as the most effective type of bed bug treatment. Also, it doesn’t include chemicals. Instead, it takes advantage of the fact that the little buggers cannot survive in environments with high heat.
Portable heaters that are either propane-fired or electric are used to steadily increase the heat in the air to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is strategically monitored using temperature sensors and some infrared thermometers.
The high temperature is retained for about 3 hours or even more depending on the bed bug infestation in your home. The clutter around the heat-treated room also affects the length of time exterminators hold the temperature. After the treatment, the professional will need to ensure that the bed bugs are eradicated.
This is a low-risk option for you and is doable in a single day. However, you should not be tempted to do it on your own. Though it is environmentally friendly, it deals with heat and things could go wrong if the equipment is handled by an amateur.
Standard bed bug treatment
Convenient treatment with insecticides is among the primary and most used approach in getting rid of bed bugs. Several formulas include dust, aerosols, and liquids. The type chosen depends on the situation and materials infested.
Dust insecticides usually last longer in comparison to liquid insecticides and can easily be applied into spaces where liquids cannot reach or should not be applied. On the other hand, aerosols are also convenient. They are used together with tools with pointed tips to help in delivering the gas directly into tiny bed bug hiding places.
Treatment starts at the focal points of the infestation. Usually, this is the bed. The treatment then proceeds to other infested items close to the bed, including junction and floor walls, baseboards, headboards, carpet edges, switches, and electrical outlets and other spaces in the floors and walls. The intention is to treat all the possible hiding spots.
Steam treatment solutions
High temperatures are lethal to many insects provided they don’t have the opportunity to run to cooler spaces. Bed bugs move slowly, and as such, the temperatures from steam units are enough to kill adult bed bugs and eggs.
Steaming also provides a way to treat box springs, upholstered furniture and mattresses on which you cannot use insecticides for obvious health and safety reasons. Steam treatment is chemical-free but is effective. The heat forces the bed bugs out of hiding, which makes them easier to kill even with insecticides.
Bed bug fumigation
The fumigation process uses chemicals in a gaseous state. The chemicals penetrate deep into the spaces and kill the bed bugs, nymphs and eggs. The entire home or building is usually enclosed in a tent. Every tenant, pet, plants and foods are removed in the preparation phase. The gas is then injected into the wood and other spaces to eliminate the bed bugs.
Low temperatures and freezing
Freezing is a great option for the homeowners who have items they don’t want to be treated with insecticides. And the best part is that if you own a freezer, you can perform the process with it. Simply seal all the infested items in a plastic bag and throw them inside your freezer for a whole week. The cold will kill the bacteria with time. The nymphs and adult bed bugs will die after a short while. However, if you are dealing with bed bug eggs, studies show that they are a little more tolerant to cold temperature and as such should be frozen for a month.
Bed bug extermination cost
A professional exterminator will charge you anything between $250 and $900 or every room they treat. The reason why there is such a big variation in price is that the severity of bed bug infestation also varies as does the size of the rooms. Lighter infestations are less expensive in comparison to homes that are full of bed bugs. Also, the price varies from company to company, and proximity. Because of this, we advise homeowners to hire a company that is based on their location to reduce the costs.
What is included in the cost?
A trained pest control expert will first conduct an initial inspection. The person will inspect the house from top to bottom checking every nook and cranny for evidence of bed bug infestation. In the process, they will locate every bed bug colony in your office or home and come up with a plan of action.
However, the inspection phase is usually free. The cost includes the initial treatment and any follow-ups, and warranty. You also pay for cleanup and disposal of the infested items that you no longer want or need in your home.
Trained dog inspections
Some pest control specialists have dogs as part of their staff. These dogs have been trained to sniff out the bed bug eggs and locate them in their hiding. They can do this because bed bugs have a distinct smell. Also, they’ve undergone intensive training and know what they are looking for.
However, for trained dog inspections, you will have to pay a little extra. After all, it costs money to train dogs to sniff bed bugs and also, you can be assured that all bed bugs have been destroyed. Dogs are better than humans when it comes to conducting inspections.
DIY bed bug treatment cost
If you don’t have the money to hire a professional, you can always go the DIY route. However, when you choose to go down that path, you should be warned. Exterminating bed bugs is serious business. As such, you should first read up on the proper use of the products you choose to use and get the right tools for the job. Now, the cost of extermination varies depending on the treatment option chosen, the level of infestation, and how thorough you choose to be in the rooms. Since there are too many variables to consider, it can be difficult to give a specific figure to expect.
But what we are sure of is that the DIY solution will cost about 35% or 50% less in comparison to hiring a professional. But the effectiveness of the method a different story.
When you choose to go the DIY way, you should be careful not to fall into scams or use treatment options that will end up making things harder for you as explained in the bed bug fogger section.
Does home insurance cover bed bug treatment?
Bed bug treatment is an expensive undertaking not to mention a huge inconvenience for most homeowners. Though a bed bug infestation may feel like an accidental damage, it’s not covered by the renter’s insurance or any other home insurance for that matter. Below is everything you ought to know about bed bugs, home insurance and what is covered.
Bed bugs and insurance
The renter’s insurance policy like most home insurance and condo policies cover property damage as a result of insured damages. The policies are subject to exclusions as outlined in the insurance policy documentation. However, in the list of things covered, bed bug infestations losses and treatments are not included in the policies.
Reasons why bed bugs and renters insurance don’t mix
Insurance is designed to cover accidental and sudden damage from insured damages
Let’s think about this logically. Say you wake up one morning with bed bug bites all over your arms and back. And it suddenly hits you that you have a bed bug infestation. To you, this might be sudden since it’s the first time that you noticed the bites or even gotten the bite. And since you did not (obviously), plan for it, it may come off as accidental. But for insurance purposes, bed bugs don’t cut it.
As you already know by now, it takes time for a bed bug infestation to grow. At the very least, you need a female bed bug to lay eggs and about one and a half months for a bed bug infestation to be present in your home. Unfortunately, this isn’t sudden. And despite it never being your intention or fault, it doesn’t qualify for a claim on the renter’s insurance policy.
The exclusion on the policy
Renters insurance doesn’t cover damage from vermin, bugs, rodents and any other type of infestation. This is excluded from the policy. Preventing your home from infestation, the damage that follows and dealing with it is considered as home maintenance. And unfortunately basic home maintenance isn’t covered under the renter’s policy.
Would an all-risk insurance policy or an open perils insurance cover a bed bug infestation?
Renters insurance covers your personal property and contents as detailed in the policy limits that you choose during the policy purchase. You could have named perils policy or an all risk policy. In the named peril policy only the risk that are mentioned in the policy are covered. And since bed bugs aren’t named, they are not covered.
In open perils or all-risk policies, all risks are covered except those on the excluded list. This might sound broad, all-encompassing and probably even make you hopeful that it will cover bed bug infestation. But it doesn’t. It just so happens that bed bug infestation is in the exclusion list.
In the two cases above, you can’t file a claim for;
- Property damage caused by bed bugs
- Bed bug treatment and extermination
- Replacement of some personal items damaged during the extermination process
- Additional living expenses that you will incur during the extermination period and your home is uninhabitable
Will landlord insurance cover the bed bugs?
Standard commercial insurance policies have exclusions for infestations and vermin as well. Because of this, your landlord insurance will not cover your infestation either. But there is a possibility that the student or landlord housing association bought a specialized bed bug insurance policy. It is worth asking about it as it might save you a lot. There are always new products being made in the insurance industry, so you should keep checking what is available.
Can you hold your landlord liable for damages caused by bed bugs?
If the bed bug infestation is in your rental, it might be difficult to hold anyone responsible for the problem at hand. And in some US states, the law might protect you. Also, if you have made the landlord aware of the problem repeatedly and they’ve failed to act upon it, you might have some recourse. However, you should prove that;
- They knew about the infestation and it was their responsibility to fix the problem
- They neglected the situation
- The bed bug infestation grew to a point it impacted your ability to live on the premise and it resulted in you making huge losses
Bed bug home treatment options
If you don’t have money to embark on an immediate treatment option, you can as well try out some home remedies.
We’ve hinted on this several times in this piece mainly because it works wonders. Yes, sucking those buggers using a strong vacuum cleaner with a powerful hose attachment is a good temporary solution, especially if you have a light infestation. You should vacuum at least once every few days to reduce the number of bed bugs in your home. As you do this, ensure you are thorough, especially on the beddings, mattress, and your soft furniture like cushy chairs and sofas.
Start the vacuuming process on elevated surfaces as you work downwards. Pay close attention to the floors, carpet edges, and cracks in the floorboards and in the walls. Also, check the electrical appliance, including fans, stereo, and laptops for possible signs of infestation.
Once you are done, throw the vacuum bag in the garbage disposal. Make sure it is far from the house to reduce the chances of the bed bugs crawling back into your home.
For the areas that you cannot reach with a vacuum, you can always steam clean. The heat will kill all the eggs and bed bugs. They will die when you expose them to temperatures higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit. While you kill the bugs, you should not get carried away. Remain within the manufacturer recommended temperatures to avoid damaging your furniture.
Washing all beddings and clothes
Before throwing your clothing and fabrics in the dryer, you should first check if they can tolerate hot water and drying. If they can wash everything that is infested. The combination of hot water and the heat from the dryer will kill the colony.
Silica gel is the tiny packets of lightweight beads that you find in shoeboxes and food products. The silica gel helps to keep the boxed contents dry. You can use it to kill bed bugs. How? Simple. Grind the beads up and spread the powders around the areas they hide. If you have pets and kids, you might want to stay away from this remedy because direct exposure to silica and its inhalation can prove to be harmful. Instead, you should go for baking soda as it has a similar desiccating effect.
You can pour it in a tiny spray bottle and spray it all over the surfaces that you suspect are infested. The alcohol will kill the bed bugs; it comes into contact with.
Scented dryer sheets
The dryer sheets can help in repelling the bed bugs and even encourage them to seek other spaces to inhabit. But this is a temporary solution because eventually, the bed bugs will find a more hospitable hiding spot to call home.
If you are in a rush to go to sleep and you don’t have the time or patience to wait for the above solutions to work their magic, then you can blow a hair dryer over the infested areas. The heat from the dryer will kill the bed bugs and will allow you to sleep without being turned into dinner by the nasty buggers.
Use a stiff brush
You can run a stiff brush over and along the mattress seams. This will help in dislodging the bed bug eggs and adult bed bugs that cling onto the mattress and resist the vacuum cleaner suction.
You can wrap this tape on the floor and along the circumference of the bedpost. This way, even when the bugs come out of hiding and try to climb up the bed to feed, they will get stuck. If you choose this method, you should be careful not to drop the blankets on the floor since the bed bugs will use it to get to you.
From your DIY exploits, you already know that baking soda absorbs moisture in refrigerators, right? But did you know that it can also suck moisture from bed bugs as well? To have this powder work for you, you can spread it out in every place you find the bugs hiding, including the tiny cracks and crevices in your house. Remember to vacuum and reapply the baking soda every few days.
This is a miracle-working product against bugs, including bed bugs and fleas. It is made from natural sedimentary rock that has been crushed into a fine powder. To use it, sprinkle it over the floor and areas where bed bugs hide. The powder takes about ten days to work its magic.
Even though it is effective we don’t recommend using it on your mattress. This is because you can inhale the microscopic shards and develop respiratory problems over time.
Bed Bug Herbal Remedy
Tea tree oil is an essential oil with a fresh smell. It has antimicrobial properties. Because of this, it is a good cleaning agent. It kills fungi and bacteria, and neutralizes the bacteria that it comes in contact with.
Tea tree oil works by suffocating the bed bugs. The oil will seep into the bed bug’s system and block vessels. It is most effective in undiluted form. But unfortunately, the undiluted version isn’t safe for humans to handle. With the diluted tea tree oil, you can kill bed bugs and uplift the smell in your home. To create the solution, add 20 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle full of water and shake vigorously.
Though we love the smell of lavender, it makes bed bugs nauseous and often leads to death. You can keep bed bugs away by washing your clothes, linen, and fabric with lavender soap. You can also consider spraying lavender essential oil on surfaces around the home. If you can, you can spread lavender leaves around the house as well.
These leaves have the same effect as lavender essential oils and leaves. You can use similar strategies as you did with lavender essential oil. Don’t forget to clean up the old leaves regularly and add fresh ones until the infestation has died down.
Black walnut tea
This type of tea acts as an insect repellant. To use it, you can take sample tea bags and place them strategically around the house, paying attention to areas that are infested with bed bugs. Place them around the house, and in every crevice, you can find or think of.
This is a tall plant that is found in wetlands. Like black walnut tea, it is effective as an insect repellant. The herbal version can be bought in a packet. You can mix it into a solution and spray it in your home.
Bean leaves work like natural flypaper. It is effective in trapping insects, including bed bugs. In 1943, researchers discovered that the bean leaves had microscopic hairs. These hairs entangle around the bed bug legs and trap them. You can place the leaves on the floor or any surface you suspect to be infested. It will trap the bed bugs with ease.
The leaves of this plant have insect repellent properties. You can crush the leaves and spread them on any surface you please, on the other hand; you can opt to boil the leaves, strain the resulting solution and add it to bathwater. After you bathe with the water, you will have a protective hedge around you and bed bugs cannot stand the thought of biting you.
You can use this technique when you are going to bed, and on clothes and closets that are infested.
You have seen in movies people burning sage believing that it will help to chase away evil spirits right? But do you know people also burn thyme to scare bed bugs away? Well, it happens. The process takes quite a bit of time and should be repeated a couple of times before the bed bugs finally disappear. However, tying thyme on a stick and burning it close to infested areas will send the bugs packing.
When handling fire, remember to be careful. You cannot afford to burn down your house as you try to get rid of bed bugs.
These are used more for prevention than cure. If you place crushed eaves at the entry points, it will prevent bed bugs from entering into your home. Also, people love using these leaves because they are mattress and closet friendly.
You shouldn’t be alarmed by this description. Beauveria Bassiana is a parasitic fungus that feeds on tiny insects. It attacks bed bugs ruthlessly and even renders them immobile and infertile.
Unlike some natural solutions which only repel insects, lemongrass goes a step further and kills them. The acid levels in lemongrass kill the bugs along with their eggs. Also, bed bugs cannot stand lemongrass smell. It repels them from your house.
Cloves behave in the same way that lemongrass does. If you aren’t careful and aren’t a fan of lemongrass smell, you can go for cloves and clove oil instead. Heck, you can even add drops of clove oil in your pillow and mattress to keep the critters away.
The extract is gotten from Chrysanthemums. People also call it mum. The plant has a bright-colored flower. The plant will kill bed bugs by attacking their nervous system.
When you mix it with other natural products like oregano and ginger, cayenne pepper transforms into a bed bug killer. Below is a simple process to follow in making the solution.
- Mix a teaspoon of ground pepper, oregano oil, and cayenne pepper
- Stain the ingredients and add them to a bottle that’s full of water
- Spray the solution to the surfaces in your home to your satisfaction
Bed bug myths and misconception
For an insect that has been plaguing homes for eons, you expect there to be myths and misconceptions surrounding it. In this section, we seek to lay down the facts as they are.
Bed bugs only live in dirty places
For the longest time, bed bugs have been associated with poor and dirty people. But this is not the case. Bed bugs do not plague a home because of uncleanliness. If history has taught us anything is that even the rich and clean people suffer at the hands of these bugs. It is only a coincidence that the bugs are found in dirty spaces.
If you sleep at a fancy hotel, you won’t have to worry about bed bugs
The assumption follows the logic explained in the first point that all hotels, regardless of how fancy, beautiful or tidy they are, they are vulnerable to bed bug attacks. Many people in the past have gone on record to state that they have acquired the bed bugs from the so-called clean and high-end hotels. Because of this, you should inspect every hotel you check into for bed bugs. Don’t assume the outward beauty means it’s free of bed bug infestation.
It’s impossible or easy to rid your home of bed bugs
None of these statements are true. A single bed bug is easy to kill. After all, they have soft bodies and can be crushed easily. However, putting an end to an infestation is not as easy. But luckily, it is not impossible either. You can rid your home of bed bugs using professional treatment methods as we’ve outlined or you can use some home remedies. Remember, home remedies are only a temporary fix.
It can wait
There is nothing worse than convincing yourself that a bed bug infestation can wait a little longer. It cannot. The moment you spot a bed bug, you should perform a full house inspection to determine how heavy the infestation is. If it’s not advanced, then you are in luck. You will not spend a lot putting an end to the infestation.
Remember, the longer you wait, the worse the infestation gets. Even a month is too long. And you can go from a single bed bug to having a house full of bed bugs.
OTC Foggers will solve the problem
Well, you cannot be more wrong. You shouldn’t waste your money on these products. Research shows that these products make the situation worse, and the infestation even harder to quell. Read through the bed bug fogger section to get a better understanding of what we mean.
If we still used DDT, we wouldn’t have a bed bug problem
Again, this isn’t true. While the banning of DDT made it easier for the bed bugs to spread in the 1950s, by now the bed bugs would have developed a strong immunity against it, and it would be ineffective
As a landlady or landlord, I only need to deal with the infestation of a single apartment unit
Bed bugs move around slowly, but they can travel long distances. They can move from one apartment to another if the need arises. How easy the move will depend on the apartment structure and the control measures you take during the treatment process. Also, bed bugs are notorious for hitchhiking on your clothes.
Bed bugs are only in cities
Bed bugs are not urban pests. They can be found anywhere humans live. They don’t stay outside. They need shelter, warmth and a host to feed on.
Cats and dogs are safe
Bed bugs aren’t extremely picky on the hosts they feed on. They aren’t a problem for humans. They also feed on warm-blooded animals, including rodents, birds, cats, and dogs. When feeding on pets, they choose areas with less fur. However, they generally prefer feeding on humans since we are not as hairy as the pets.
They can fly and jump
Bed bugs do not fly. They can crawl relatively fast. And they also know how to hide. They hide in mattresses, furniture and other places. Also, they aren’t confined to bed spaces as their name implies. They can also hide in closets and any other space that provides ideal conditions.
Bed Bug FAQ
Do bed bugs spread diseases?
Other bugs that suck blood are known to spread diseases to individuals that they bite. The most famous insect that spread disease is the mosquito. They spread malaria. As such, it is not unreasonable to think that bed bugs spread diseases as well.
According to research, bed bugs carry disease-causing pathogens (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00403-016-1661-8). However, they cannot transfer diseases to humans. No studies show that bed bugs transmit diseases. It’s not clear how this is possible, but somehow the bed bug systems neutralize the disease-causing pathogens.
Can bed bugs bite through clothing?
Fortunately, bed bugs cannot bite through clothing. They do not have mouth parts that allow them to do that. Instead, their mouthparts are only strong enough to pierce through human skin. The only reason you find bed bug bites underneath the skin is that the bed bugs are tiny and can walk under the clothes to softer spots on the skin.
Do bed bugs hibernate during winter?
Bed bugs are not prominent during the cold seasons as they are in summer. According to studies, bed bugs are more active in August and are least active in February. Bed bugs move around more when it is warm. This makes people think that they hibernate in winter.
Do bed bugs come out during the day?
Bed bugs are predominantly nocturnal. This means they come out to feed at night. Their preferred feeding time is between 12 am, and 5 am. This is when you are in your deep sleep. However, when bed bugs are starved, they will come out to feed even during the day. When this happens, they will bite you even when you are not sleeping.
If a bed bug bites you, will you wake up with a mark?
Yes, you will. And like mosquito bites, bed bug bites are quite noticeable. For many people, the bite manifests as a tiny red bump. It is often itchy and irritating. Because of this, people think that if a bed bug bites you, you will know it.
From time to time, bed bugs bite, and no marks are left. According to a study done by the Medical and Veterinary Entomology, different people react differently to bed bug piercing. According to the study, 2 in 10 people won’t react to the bites. So yes, a bed bug can bite you without knowing. And what’s worse, it might take several days before a bite reaction manifests itself.
Do bed bug bites hurt?
Some people think bed bugs cause pain when they bite. Bites from spiders and horse flies can hurt. So it doesn’t make sense why bed bugs do not hurt. Bed bugs have a special way of preventing their bites from causing a sting. The bed bug saliva has a natural anesthetic. The anesthetic causes the bite to be painless.
A bed bug bite can start hurting several days or weeks later in case you develop an allergic reaction. And as previously mentioned, people react differently to the bites. Some may develop painful welts and others small itchy spots.
Does insect repellant always work on bed bugs?
Insect repellent spray is a great tool to keep mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers away. Because of this, they also assume that they are effective against bed bugs as well. Common chemicals like permethrin and picaridin are effective in repelling other bugs, but do very little in repelling bed bugs.
Some studies show that DEET has some effect on bed bugs. DEET with 10% concentration repelled about 94% of bed bugs for a whopping 9 hours. But DEET will not remain effective forever. At some point when the bed bugs are hungry enough, they will bite you despite the repellant spray. DEET doesn’t kill bed bugs.
Are bed bug infestations rare?
Bed bugs were rare between the 1940s and 1980s. However, things have since changed. Over the years, the bed bug population in the world has been increasing steadily. Today, it can be considered as an epidemic in most parts of the world.
And as previously discusses, bed bugs affect anyone and can be found anywhere. They can infest your home through a neighboring house or can be delivered into your home by a friend. And once they form a colony, they can be difficult to kill.
How long after treatments do bed bugs die?
The length of time depends on the effectiveness of the treatment used. In the case of heat treatments, it’s a matter of hours. However, if you are dealing with pesticides, it might take several hours or days for all bed bugs to die. At times you might need to have a follow-up treatment to kill all bed bugs.
Bed bug treatment tips
When you do get a bite, here are some treatment tips that will help you get relief and avoid getting complications. Bed bug bites can be super irritating, and scratching can cause infections. In many cases, a bed bug bite can be treated using OTC products. Here are some tricks that will prove to be quite handy.
Tip 1: Do not scratch
Whatever you do, you shouldn’t scratch the bite. Yes, this is easier said than done, but you must adhere to it. Do all it takes to resist the urge to scratch. To help make it easier, you can cover the bites with bandaids or wear socks on your hands when you sleep. You can also use the remedies we shall describe below to stop them from itching.
Remember that scratching only makes the itch worse. It can cause infection and inflammation on the bites, meaning that you’d need to seek treatment.
Tip 2: Keep it clean
Wash the affected area thoroughly and frequently. And while you are at it, you should use no drying soap. Bear in mind that some soap can worsen the irritation and cause allergic reactions. As such, you should pay keen attention to the soap you pick from the store shelves.
You should also keep your hands clean at all times. This will help in preventing an infection just in case you cannot resist the urge to scratch the bite. Some people have also discovered that taking a shower, either cold or hot, helps in relieving the itchiness. You might have to try either of the two to find out what works for you. If one doesn’t work try the other.
Tips 3: Keep your skin moist
When your skin is dry, it easily gets itchy. Therefore, you should ensure that it is moisturized at all times. To do this, you should drink lots of water throughout the day. Part of the many numerous health benefits include keeping the skin soft and supple. Even if you don’t do it now, you should get in the habit of carrying some water in a bottle.
Tip 4: Combat the skin
The best way to treat a bed bug bite is through an anti-itch cream. Anti-itch creams provide relief to itchiness and reduce bed bug rash symptoms like swelling and redness. Other people prefer using antihistamine based cream, while others like hydrocortisone-based cream. You can use any of the above, and if you are suffering, you can throw in a mild pain killer.
Use OTC allergy medication according to the need. The allergy medicines combat allergic reactions that cause itchiness from the inside while creams fight the itchiness from the outside. Different medication works better than others for different people. Therefore, you should only use medication that works best for you.
Other people also say that OTC painkillers like Tylenol and aspirin can work wonders, especially if the bites are super painful. Other painkillers like Aleve and Advil will also help with the inflammation.
However, you should not administer Aspirin to persons under 20 years. Also always remember to read the instructions first.
Tip 5: Fight off infection
Bed bug bites themselves aren’t dangerous, even if they are annoyingly itchy and irritating. The health risk often comes in when there is an infection, which is often caused by scratching and not observing cleanliness.
If you see any signs of infection, you should follow these steps;
- Wash the area frequently
- Use antiseptic soap or follow up with alcohol or antiseptic spray
- Start using an antibiotic cream to soothe the infection
- If the infection symptoms get worse, see a doctor
And there you have it- a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about bed bugs. Try all the above treatments and solutions provided in this piece to get rid of beg bugs in your property.