Recognize and get rid of bedbugs
Bed bugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have a flat body the size of an apple core. However, after feeding, their bodies swell and become reddish in color.
Bed bugs don’t fly, but they can move quickly across floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bugs can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime, each about the size of a speck of dust.
Immature bed bugs, also called nymphs, molt five times before they are fully grown and require a blood meal before each shedding. Under favorable conditions, the beetles can fully develop in just a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Although they are bothersome, they are not believed to transmit disease.
Where bed bugs hide
Bed bugs can invade your home unnoticed through luggage, clothing, used beds and sofas, and other items. Their flattened bodies allow them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but live in groups in hiding places. Their first hiding places are usually in mattresses, box spring beds, bed frames, and headboards, where they have easy access to people at night to bite them.
However, over time, they can scatter around the bedroom and get into any crevice or sheltered place. They can also spread to neighboring rooms or apartments.
Since bed bugs live entirely on blood, having them in your home isn’t a sign of dirt. You can find them in immaculate houses and hotel rooms as well as in dirty ones.
When bed bugs bite
Bed bugs are primarily nocturnal and usually bite people while they sleep. They feed by piercing the skin and drawing blood through an elongated beak. The beetles eat for three to ten minutes until they are full and then crawl away unnoticed.
Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy wheals. Unlike flea bites, which occur primarily around the ankles, bedbug bites are found on any area of skin that is exposed while sleeping. In addition, the bites do not have a red spot in the middle like with flea bites.
People who don’t know they have a bed bug infestation may attribute the itching and hives to other causes, such as mosquitos. To confirm bedbug bites, you need to find and identify the bedbugs yourself.
Signs of infestation
If you wake up with itchy patches that you didn’t have when you fell asleep, you may have bed bugs, especially if you were given a used bed or other used furniture by the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bed bugs include:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty patches of bug droppings on sheets and mattresses, bedding, and walls
- Bug droppings, eggshells, or scale skins in areas where bedbugs are hiding
- An unpleasant, musty smell from the beetle’s scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and carefully inspect for signs of insects or their droppings. Remove the dust cover from the underside of the box spring beds and examine the seams in the wooden frame. Pull the fabric back where it is pinned to the wooden frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including books, phones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet because bed bugs can cling to clothing. If you are unsure about signs of bed bugs, call an exterminator who will know what to look for.
If you see signs of an infestation, start taking steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent them from returning.
Bed bug treatments
Getting rid of bed bugs begins with cleaning the places where bed bugs live. This should include:
- Wash bedclothes, bedclothes, curtains and clothes in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Put stuffed toys, shoes and other items that cannot be washed in the dryer and let them run on the highest setting for 30 minutes.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub the seams of the mattress to remove bed bugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
- Vacuum your bed and the surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately put the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and put it in the outdoor garbage can.
- Wrap mattresses and box spring beds in a tightly woven cover with a zipper to prevent bed bugs from entering or escaping. Bed bugs can live without food for up to a year, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure any bugs in the mattress are dead.
- Repair cracks in the plaster and tape peeling wallpaper in place to remove the spots where bed bugs can hide.
- Dispose of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and buy a new one, but be sure to get bed bugs out of the rest of your home or they’ll infect your new mattress.
Bed bug extermination
While cleaning up infested areas can help control bed bugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that are safe to use in bedrooms. Don’t treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.
In general, the safest and most effective way to get rid of bed bugs is to hire a skilled pest controller.