Just thinking about bed bugs can be enough to make you have goose bumps. Whether you find a single bug in your suitcase or you discover a fully-fledged infestation on your mattress, bed bugs can be a real pain to completely eliminate. But bed bugs prevention is a lot easier than eliminating an existing infestation.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all consider bed bugs a public health pest.
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are oval, wingless insects that are rusty brown in colour and around 4 to 5 mm long when fully grown. Bed bugs can be hard to find and identify. This is due to their small size and their habit of staying hidden. It helps to know what they look like, since the various life stages have different forms.
They are blood feeding insects that prefer to bite humans. But they will also feed on any other warm blooded animal. As their name suggests, bed bugs generally feed at night when you are in bed. Their bites are irritating and very itchy.
The good news is that there are better preventive ways. Getting good, solid information is the first step in both prevention and control of bed bugs. While there is no chemical quick fix, there are effective strategies.
Bed Bugs Prevention and Control
You could pick up a bed bug while travelling and bring it home. Someone could even bring the bugs to you when they come to visit. Here’s how to how to prevent bed bugs from colonizing your house.
1. Learn How to Identify Bed Bugs
Knowing what to look for is the first step in prevention and controlling bed bugs. There are many bugs that look like bed bugs such as fleas and ticks. Therefore, an accurate identification is a critical first step. Bed bugs are oval, flat, brown and wingless insects about a ¼-inch long.
They can be found in box springs, mattresses, bed frames, wall outlets, floor cracks and behind clocks and pictures. The critters occasionally leave behind casings and deposit fecal or blood spots. These looks like dark red or brown smears, on bed sheets, pillowcases and mattresses. You can compare your insect to the pictures on here.
2. Look for Signs of Bed Bugs
A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home. When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring. Also they can be in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.
Always look for
- Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
- Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
- Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
- Live bed bugs.
3. Prevent Bed Bugs from Entering Your Home
You can pick up bed bugs from hotels, planes, trains, and even cabs. They’ll climb into your bags or luggage. When you get home, resist the urge to unpack your luggage on your bed. In fact, don’t even bring your luggage into the house until you have a chance to inspect it and clean it. Clean your luggage and also look for fecal stains. If any eggs were laid on your luggage, they could be easily dislodged.
You can immediately wash and dry your items that are washable. Wash them in the hottest water and dry the clothes on the hottest setting for 30 minutes. This is to be sure to kill bed bugs and their eggs. If the items can’t be washed right away, you can put them in the dryer for 30 minutes before tossing them in the hamper.
Inspect any hard items such as toiletries, books, eyeglass cases, etc.—before bringing them back into the house. Do the same with backpacks, computer bags, and purses. Even if you think they’re clear, you’re better off not storing them in your bedroom. It’s just too easy for an undiscovered bed bug to find you.
You can store them in the basement on the shelf. If by chance, a bed bug is overlooked, it is unlikely they will get through the door and to a bedroom from the basement or garage.
In addition, repair or apply silicone caulk to cracks on the outside and inside of your home. Remember, any opening that can fit a business card is the perfect hiding place for a bed bug. Check window and screens to make sure there are no torn or damaged areas.
4. Protect Your Bed at Home
If you’ve ever dealt with bed bugs, you know that an ounce of prevention is……. Purchasing mattress and box spring encasements and bed bug interceptors are easy ways to protect yourself against any future bed bug-related hassle.
Bed bug-proof encasements won’t stop the critters from getting into your home. But they will make it easier to eliminate them if an infestation develops. After covering your mattress and box spring with encasements, any bed bugs that may be hiding on them will be trapped and eventually die of starvation.
You can also replace your mattress and box spring every 2-3 years. Once bed bugs have gotten into your bed, it’s extremely difficult to tell how many are in there, figure out exactly where they are, and get them out.
You can also use bed bug interceptors. These are special platforms or cups that you place under each foot of the bed frame. This help to prevent bed bugs from climbing up and onto your bed.
5. Cover Power Outlets
Cover your power outlets because bed bugs use them to evade your home. They climb into the outlet holes and hide there until it is safe to move elsewhere. In cases of severe infestations, bed bugs can travel through walls via electrical outlets. This effectively spreads the infestation to other areas of your home. You can use their droppings, which look like dark colored dots around sockets to identify their presence.
While this may not be one of our tips on prevention and control of bed bugs, it is key to spotting the problem early. It helps in preventing a full-on infestation. Sadly, the cleanest home can still be infested. Bed bugs live where humans live and sleep; whether it’s an immaculate a five-star hotel room or dirty dorm room.
Vacuuming quickly captures and prevent bed bugs. Vacuum crevices around baseboards, electronic items (such as TVs and stereos) and any other likely hiding places, such as beds, couches, bedframes, and dressers. If using a canister vacuum, immediately empty the contents into a plastic bag, seal and throw away. Clean the vacuum thoroughly. If using a vacuum with a bag, immediately remove the bag and seal in plastic for disposal. Check the vacuum for any remaining bugs and kill them to avoid spreading the bed bugs further.
7. Reduce Clutter
A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating them harder. Remove drawers from desks and dressers since bed bugs like to hide in these areas. Turn furniture over to inspect and clean all hiding spots. All furniture should be pulled away from the walls. Stand up the box spring and shine a flashlight through the gauze fabric and look for bed bugs.
If torn fabric is a possible hiding place, so remove the fabric to prepare for spraying. Also, remove all personal items such as soft toys, blankets, electronics, etc. These includes anything that does not stay in the room permanently. But be mindful that items from the infested area can transfer bed bugs to other areas. It is best to bag them in plastic with Nuvan Strips.
8. Be Careful of Second-Hand or Discarded Furniture.
Even if you’re decorating a new apartment or home on a budget, you’ll want to think twice about any used furniture you plan on purchasing or grabbing off the streets. Also, do not pick up any furniture that has been discarded on the curb.
In particular, used bed frames and mattresses have the greatest chance of harboring bed bugs and their eggs. If you plan to place used furniture in your home, it’s crucial that you carefully inspect the items for signs of a bed bug infestation.
You can also treat your newly-picked used furniture with insecticide sprays that kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact.
9. Kill Bed Bugs with Heat
Raising the indoor temperature with the thermostat or space heaters won’t do the job. Special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment. Black plastic bags in the sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items, if the contents become hot enough. Bed bugs die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F). To kill bed bugs with heat, the room or container must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding.
10. Use Essential Oils to Repel Bed Bugs.
There are several scent options for keeping away the bed bugs, so you just need to pick the one you like. Add 6-10 drops of pure essential oil to a small spray bottle filled with ¼ cup of water. Spray your scented water in your house and on items you take with you in public, such as your outerwear, handbags, totes, backpacks, and luggage.
Essential oils that repel bed bugs include the following: cinnamon, lemongrass, clove, peppermint, lavender, thyme, tea tree, and eucalyptus. You can make a repellant for your body if you mix the oil in a carrier oil, such as jojoba or grapeseed oil.
11. Monitor Your Pet and Its Bed for Potential Critters.
Although bed bugs don’t live on pets themselves, they can feed on pets just as much as they do on people. They can also find warm crevices to lay eggs and feed on your pets bed. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, bed bugs can hitchhike into your home on your pet’s fur, bedding or clothing.
As a pet owner, you should regularly inspect your pet’s bed and wash it on high heat.
12. Get Professional Bed Bug Treatment
If you are already dealing with an infestation, don’t fight the problem alone. Treating bed bugs is a complex process, and usually cannot be handled by home remedies alone. A professional bed bug treatment will safely, effectively, and most importantly, permanently eliminate bed bugs from your home or business.
If you’re dealing with a severe bed bug infestation, contact your local pest professionals to get rid of bed bugs once and for all.
It’s important to remember that professionals are trained to use the products and tools required for bed bug treatments. Many of the techniques that are used to eliminate these household pests can be dangerous if not performed by a trained and certified professional.
Unfortunate instances of death and property damage have occurred when homeowners tried to take bed bug extermination into their own hands. Make sure to contact a bed bug pest control company to avoid any of these scary accidents.