Bed bug infestations are becoming more and more common, and getting rid of them is getting more and more difficult. Modern breeds of bed bugs have become resistant to most pesticides and so these tiny insects thrive even after beds and carpets and upholstery has been treated for them.
It is more important than ever to become aware of the ways bed bugs are moved around and introduced in new environments so that you can prevent an infestation. Here we will look at the two most common ways bed bugs enter your home and what precautions you can take to stop that from happening. We will also cover the basics of heat treatment for bed bugs and how you can routinely be checking once you have cleared up a problem to make sure they are taken care of permanently.
First, an Introduction to Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are tiny, reddish-brown blood-sucking insects that are commonly found hiding in bedding and mattresses, and which feed on human blood while a person is sleeping. Bed bugs are quite small in all their life stages (egg, nymph, adult), but are visible in all those stages. Bed bugs do not transmit disease like other biting insects (mosquitoes, ticks, or lice), but they will give you an itchy rash.
Bed bugs can’t be starved out, since they can go well over a year without feeding, they have become resistant to most pesticides, and they can be hard to find since they can hide in any number of places. Because of all this, they can be incredibly challenging to get rid of.
Precautions When Traveling
One of the two most common ways that bed bugs are transported into your home is through traveling. They could be in hotel rooms, bus or theater seats, in carpets, and on shoes. To prevent bed bugs from coming home with you there are a few precautions to take.
Hotel rooms are the big culprit when it comes to bed bugs, so knowing how to check your bed and mattress is important if you suspect bed bugs. First, keep your luggage on a hard surface, like in the bathroom, until you know that there aren’t bed bugs. This will prevent them from getting on your bags. With a flashlight and a credit card, begin to inspect the room, first the bed, including the corners of the mattress and box spring seams, the sheets, couches or upholstered chairs, the headboard, the curtains, behind and around any picture frames, and in any dark crevices in the nightstand.
You will be looking for any sign of bed bugs, including adult bugs, nymphs, or eggs. You should also look for exoskeletons or dark brown blood spots as these are also signs of infestation. You should leave the room immediately in that case and get a different room.
How to Check Second-Hand Furnishings
Bed bugs are also commonly transferred on second-hand furniture so there are a few precautions to take when considering bringing any used piece of clothing, linens, mattresses, couches, or upholstered chairs.
- First, you should use common sense. Don’t pick up things from off the side of the road or from inside a dumpster,
- If you can help it, avoid buying anything upholstered since it is very difficult to get bed bugs out of upholstery. Steam can’t penetrate the layers deep enough to kill all bed bugs and it could create an ongoing problem,
- Don’t buy anything people sleep on or near since that is where bed bugs tend to live,
- If you buy bags, hats, clothes, plush toys, or linens, be sure to heat treat everything thoroughly to ensure any potential bugs are killed, and,
- Inspect new furnishings for a while, possibly even keep them in quarantine, to ensure no bed bugs came over.
You should be looking for the same signs that you do in a hotel room—bugs in any life stage, exoskeletons, and brown blood spots.
What to Do If You Find Bed Bugs
In the case that you do find bed bugs in your home, what can you do? What is the best way to kill these seemingly indestructibly hardly little creatures?
Bed bugs can be killed with extreme heat and extreme cold. At the correct temperatures, heat or freeze treatments will kill bed bugs in all their life stages very effectively.
Heat is the more common way of treating bed bug infestations since commercial steamers are a little easier to use on larger objects and many people don’t have freezers that get cold enough to kill these bugs. For heat treatment to be effective you have to maintain a certain temperature for a certain amount of time, either 113ºF for 90 minutes, more, 118ºF for 20 minutes, or 130ºF for a couple minutes or more. What method you use will depend on what is infested and what steaming methods you have available.
To successfully freeze treat an infested item you will need to store it at 0ºF or less for five days to a week. If you can get to -13ºF or less, it will take only four days to kill off all the bugs, but most residential freezers don’t get that cold which is why most people use the heat treatment methods.
Once you have cleared up an infestation you need to routinely inspect your bed’s sheets, mattress, carpets, upholstered furniture, headboards, baseboards, and any cracks or crevices in the walls to ensure that the bed bugs don’t return. Check every few days of a few weeks.
In the case that you don’t want to deal with an infestation yourself, or you don’t have the necessary equipment to 100% eradicate them, you can always call a trusted pest control company in your area to have the bed bugs professionally removed. Be sure to discuss what methods will be used so that you know whether they intend to use extreme temperatures or pesticides to kill the bed bugs. You should also discuss any possible health or safety risks to you or your house.
You can reduce the likelihood of future infestations with a few simple practices when you are out and about, including inspections of bed and mattress when you stay away from home, mindfulness when it comes to where you put your baggage as you travel, and being thoughtful of what you buy and from where, when it comes to second-hand furnishings.