Bed bugs: How to Get Rid of Them
When you get a bed bug infestation, it can seem like the end of the world. You read horror stories about them all the time and wonder, how do you get rid of bed bugs? Are they destined to stay forever once they take up residence? The good news is that bed bugs can be treated and eradicated. Yes, they are tough to get rid of. Patience is the key. If one method doesn’t do the trick, you simply move on to another.
There are five phases to getting rid of bed bugs and each of them is vitally important to the process. Those phases are:
Bed bugs are persistent and tend to hang around primarily because of numbers. A lone female lays over one hundred eggs in a lifetime and each bug can develop in about a month. Because they reproduce so readily, getting ahead of the cycle can be tough. Stick to the plan and you will eventually get rid of them. Just don’t take shortcuts and follow the process laid out below.
Phase One – Inspection
The first important step is to dig in and really inspect your bed bug situation. Some bed bug infestations are obvious while others are a bit more difficult to identify. The one thing you have to know before you begin is how bad the bed bug infestation is. This can be done by learning a bit about bed bugs and where they hide and then checking those areas carefully. Common signs of bed bugs infestation include Blood stains on bedsheets, Cast/shed bed bug skins, bed bugs shells, bites on body in a straight line, feces stains on bedding.
Where do bed bugs come from?
Bed bugs enter our homes in a million different ways but they are always brought in. This can be on luggage, bedding, pillows, couches, clothes and a million other items. Much like roaches, they need the tiniest areas to hide and then work their way to the source of what they are searching for…us.
Why do they want us?
Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood and this is why they hide in and around bedding. They wait until we sleep and then latch on for a meal. Disgusting, right?
That said, bed bugs do not transmit disease, but they do cause welts and serious itching. This can cause secondary problems and is also a clear identifier that you have bed bugs. Flea bites are often blamed for bed bug bites but they are completely different. Flea bites have a red mark at the center and bed bugs have none. Flea bites are also commonly around the ankles whereas bed bugs will latch onto any visible skin area to feed.
Where do bed bugs hide?
Bed bugs are not nesting creatures like bees, but they do tend to congregate in groups. They can often be found in some number around the same hiding places. Many people think that bed bugs only live in the bed, but that is very wrong. In fact, this misconception is at the core of why people have so much trouble getting rid of them. They throw out a bed or mattress because of bed bugs and bring in a new one, only to have it infested in no time flat. Why?
This happens because bed bugs live all over the place and only need proximity to the bed. This means the drapes, the stuffed animal on the bed, the end table, the slippers under the bed, the carpet and pretty much any other spot that is at least as wide as a credit card. You have to treat the entire problem, else you will simply have new items getting infested all over again.
Inspect the likely hiding places
Start off by checking the most obvious places. This would be your bedding. Bed bugs leave excrement behind that looks like little black dots. You may need to use a magnifying glass to really get a good look but you can generally find this in areas where you are suspecting activity.Blood spots are sometimes found as well. They do feed on your blood and thus, can leave behind traces of this. The bugs themselves will sometimes be readily apparent but they are very good at hiding. There is more about bed bug identification in phase two.
Here is a step by step examination to follow so that you are thorough in your inspection:
- Take your bedding down and check the mattress to bottom.
- Take your box spring and check carefully in the seams and the surface. If you have a pad, check it as well.
- Take the staples off the mattress and check on the inside of the box spring.
- Check the headboard, footboard and framework of the bed paying special attention to the tightest areas.
- Check all pillows, stuffed animals and items that might be on your bedding for any signs of infestation.
- Inspect a 5-8 foot area around your bed and anything that might be sitting in that space. Every nook and cranny must be checked.
- Look along baseboards, in cracks on the walls, and any other openings.
Once you have checked this initial area, you should have a pretty good idea about your infestation. They leave behind a slightly musty but sweet smelling odor too but not everyone seems to be able to recognize it. Keep an eye (or nose) out for that and anything else that might seem off. Once you have done all of this, move on to phase two.
Phase Two - Identification
When you go through and check for bed bugs it is also a good thing to know how to identify the bugs themselves. Bed bugs are noticeable if you happen to discover them and they are big enough to see if you know what you are looking for.
Bedbugs are shaped like an oval and generally speaking they are brown in color. They usually are flat but this can vary depending on where they are in the feeding stage. A bed bug full of blood will actually be a bit larger, swollen and reddish in color. An adult bed bug is about the same size as a seed you might plant in the ground.
A young bed bug, called a nymph is a good deal smaller. They have not yet shed their skins and grown as big as an adult. This process will repeat itself five times before the nymph reaches maturity and identifying them at this stage is not always easy. These nymphs are small early on but they can absolutely grow quickly and be fully formed within a couple of months. Bed bug eggs are super small and won’t be seen. While you may not see them, they are massive in number with females laying bed bug eggs in the hundreds over the course of their lives.
Phase Three – Removal Methods and Treatments
Phase three is all about getting rid of the little buggers but understand this….if you have a massive infestation you might as well skip to phase four and get a professional bed bug exterminator. These bed bugs can be nearly impossible to get rid of and they are extremely persistent. If you feel you infestation is not all that bad, then certainly try a few of the following things first:
Massive Bed Bug Cleanup
This is exactly what it sounds like. A complete and thorough cleansing of your home and bedroom space as well as any other places that bed bugs might be hiding. While we are on the subject, you might know that bed bug infestations are not a sign that a home is dirty. Bed bugs feed on blood only. They depend on hosts such as humans and pets. It has nothing to do with how clean or dirty your home might be. A dirty home and a clean home are equally susceptible to bed bug infestations.
To debug your home thoroughly, consider the following list:
- Break down your bed and cleanse it completely. Take all the pieces and treat them individually. Scrub the seams and vacuum all surfaces repeatedly.
- Start with cleaning every single piece of bedding you have and laundering it all in hot water. Dry these items in the hottest dryer setting.
- Clean all clothes, stuffed animals, shoes and linens in a similar fashion. Include the curtains if you have them. If you are unable to put them in the wash, try to at least dry them on hot.
- Shampoo the carpets and make sure you really vacuum well afterward.
- Eliminate all clutter around your room. The more spaces they have to hide, the easier the whole thing can start over again.
- If your mattress is really bad, get rid of it. Better to buy a new one than to try to salvage one that is heavily infested.
Now that you have the bedroom under control and you are bed bug-free, it is time to make sure. Get yourself a nice zippered mattress cover and encase the mattress. This will serve two purposes….one, it will trap any bugs you missed. They will die off within a year and then you will be bug-free. Two, it will protect the mattress from getting bugged again.
None of these things will work at all if you skip any part of the process or miss any bugs in the rooms. If you have bugs in multiple rooms, you have to get rid of them all over. Otherwise, they will repopulate in no time and you will have the same bed bug problem all over again.
While there are commercial strength chemicals out there that you can use, they are sometimes quite dangerous. Some are not safe to use in certain areas and you can also have problems with pets. Before you go the route of bombing your home to get rid of bed bugs, you need to really consider what you are doing. Make sure you do your homework and you pick a product that will be harmless to you and your loved ones.
If you have done these things and you still have bed bugs, it is probably time to move to phase four.
Phase Four – Professional Extermination
Image Credit: UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences
Bed bugs are not like your basic run of the mill insects. They are kind of like roaches in that they procreate so quickly and easily. Some insects are so good at multiplying that we simply need the professionals to get rid of them most of the time. Contacting a really good exterminator is your best bet and there are some things to look for:
- Always make sure they are certified for bed bug removal.
- Try to find an exterminator that specializes in bed bugs.
- Ask around to find someone that comes recommended.
- Search online to find several options to choose from.
- Never agree to a rate that is not attached to guaranteed removal.
Great professional bed bug removal is all about persistence so find a pro that is as determined as you are.
Phase Five – Prevention
Now that your home is bed bugs free, how do you keep it that way? Bed bugs are much easier to keep out than to remove, that is for sure. Here are some tips to prevent bed bugs in the future:
- Be highly aware of hotel rooms and be sure you always inspect before moving in. Because motels and hotels are constantly turning new people, they can get bed bugs much easier than the typical home. If they are there, you can be fairly sure they will try to hitch a ride.
- Be vigilant about bites. Bed bug bites are pretty obvious but they can seem like flea bites or mosquito bites. The difference is in the center. Bed bug bites will not be red in the center of the bite area and will generally be all over. They are more like hives than bumps like mosquitoes.
- Be very selective about bringing used furniture into your home. This is especially true of beds and mattresses. Even a new set of luggage can carry bed bugs.
- Don’t hesitate to call a pro. If you suspect a problem, the earlier you catch it the better.
- Empty your vacuum right away in a receptacle outside after cleaning. The bedbugs can find their way out of a vacuum if you don’t and if you empty them into the garbage they are home free. Take them outside.
If you do all of these things, you will have no problems whatsoever getting rid of bedbugs in your home. Remember the five phases and follow each to the letter and you will be rid of them in no time. Just don’t give up and keep pushing…and know when to call a pro!