Bed bugs. The very thought of them makes us shudder. We’ve heard horror stories of infestations and want to do everything in our power to fight against these nasty insects.
But what exactly are bed bugs? And how can you prevent them? And if you do have bed bugs, how do you deal with them?
In this post, we’re going to break down the what, why, and how of bed bugs. By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do if you find yourself battling bed bugs.
What Are Bed Bugs?
First and foremost, what exactly are bed bugs? Obviously, they’re an insect that can bite you while you’re in bed. But it goes beyond that.
Bed bugs are small, oval insects that are brownish in color and live on the blood of animals and humans. Before they feed, adult bed bugs are relatively flat and about the size of an apple seed. But once they feed, they swell with blood and take on a reddish hue.
Do bed bugs fly? Thankfully not. However, they can move at a rapid pace over walls, floors, and even ceilings. Additionally, over the course of their lives, female bed bugs are able to lay hundreds of eggs, with each one only being about the size of a speck of dust. It is the relative smallness of bed bug eggs that can make them difficult to detect.
Young bed bugs that have not yet reached maturity are called nymphs. These nymphs will shed their skins up to five times before they reach full maturity, and before they can shed their skins, they require a meal of blood.
Bed bugs can reach full maturity in as little time as a month and produce up to three more generations of bed bugs in a single year. It’s no wonder that they can spread so rapidly.
Thankfully, although they are a terrible pest, bed bugs aren’t known to spread diseases.
It’s estimated that one-in-five Americans have dealt with bed bugs or know someone who has dealt with them at some point in their lives.
What Are The Effects Of A Bed Bug Bite?
Bed bugs have a tube-like proboscis which they use to puncture the skin of a human or animal. They use this proboscis to draw blood from their victims. Typically, bed bugs are most active when humans are asleep (night and early morning), explaining why so many bites happen in beds.
Bed bugs aren’t particularly picky in terms of where they’ll bite a person, and bites can occur anywhere on the skin. Usually, the bites occur in areas where the skin is exposed, such as the neck, face, shoulders, arms, legs, or hands. Most people don’t feel the bite when it occurs.
For most people, bed bug bites don’t produce serious symptoms, usually limited to a mark where the bite occurred and some irritation and inflammation around the bite. However, for some people, bed bug bites can cause painful burning sensations along with significant amounts of itching.
The bites often look like a red bump with either a clear center or a dark center. If the center is dark, the surrounding area is often lighter and semi-swollen. Other times, they can look like small red bumps with little blisters surrounding them. The bumps can sometimes appear in a zig-zag line.
Bites can also produce what are called “papular eruptions”, where areas of skin become inflamed.
How Can You Determine If You Have Bed Bugs?
If you even suspect that you have bed bugs, you’ll want to determine as quickly as possible if you actually do.
Unfortunately, bed bugs can fit into even the smallest of places due to the flatness of their bodies. They can wedge their bodies into cracks as small as a credit card. Additionally, bed bugs don’t make nests but tend to live in groups.
They like to hide in places like headboards, bed frames, box springs, and mattresses. This makes it much easier for them to bite humans at night.
Because the bites look similar to mosquito bites, it’s easy to at first attribute a bed bug infestation to mosquitos. This means that you need to confirm that you have bed bugs by finding the bugs themselves.
One way to tell that you might have bed bugs is if you begin to see small spots of blood on your sheets or mattress from where the bugs have bitten you and blood has seeped out. You may also begin to see reddish-brown dried stains on fabrics from due to bed bug droppings. Bed bugs also give off a detectable, musty odor from their scent glands.
If you think that you may be dealing with bed bugs, start by removing all your bedding. Examine it carefully for any signs of the bugs, blood spots, excrement, or the shed shells of nymphs. Then remove the dust cover from the bottom of your box spring and inspect the wood framing and the seams. Peel back any fabric that is stapled to the wood frame and make a careful inspection for signs of bed bugs.
After you’ve thoroughly inspected your bed, perform a thorough inspection of the area around your bed. Look inside books, telephones, radios, the edge of the carpet, and even your electrical outlets. Since bedbugs can also attach to clothing, you’ll want to check both your closet and your drawers.
The most effective way to determine if you have a bed bug infestation is to call an exterminator.
They can tell you quickly whether you’re dealing with bed bugs and begin making treatments immediately.
For more info on how to determine if you have bed bugs, watch this helpful video:
How Can You Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs can be incredibly difficult to get rid of due to how fast they breed and how many eggs they can lay. The absolute MOST effective way to deal with bed bugs is to call an exterminator. This should be your first step if you think you may be dealing with a bed bug infestation.
If you don’t call an exterminator, you may have a difficult time completely ridding yourself of bed bugs.
In addition to calling an exterminator, there are some steps you can take to help eliminate as many bed bugs as possible.
First, clean all your bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water. After cleaning them, dry them on the highest setting. For items that can’t be washed (stuffed animals, shoes, etc.), dry them on the highest setting for at least 30 minutes.
Second, vacuum your bed and the area around your bed frequently. This will help suck up the bed bugs and their eggs. As soon as you’re done vacuuming, put the vacuum bag into a plastic bag and then place it in an outdoor garbage can.
Before you vacuum, brush the seams of your mattress with a stiff brush to remove bed bugs and their eggs.
Third, if you have cracks in your plaster or peeling wallpaper, fix these as much as possible. Bed bugs can live in these cracks and it’s essential that you eliminate as many of their hiding places as possible.
Fourth, get rid of as much clutter around your bed as possible. Bed bugs thrive in clutter and by removing as much as possible you destroy some of their habitat.
Finally, if you think that your mattress is infested with bed bugs, you may simply need to throw it out and purchase a new one. However, before you purchase a new mattress, you’ll want to make sure you’ve eliminated as many of the bed bugs as possible so that they don’t simply come back to your new mattress.
How Can You Prevent Bed Bugs?
There are a number of steps you can take to prevent bed bugs from invading your house.
First, consider covering your mattress and box springs in protective covers. These plastic covers are specifically designed to prevent bed bugs. If you do get bed bugs, these covers make it easier for you to deal with them and keep them from getting into your mattress and box springs.
Second, vacuum your rugs and carpets on a regular basis. If you think you may have come into contact with bed bugs, vacuum daily until you’re sure that you’re clear of the problem. Once you’ve vacuumed, dispose of the bag immediately in an outdoor container.
Third, keep your rooms free from clutter. As noted above, bed bugs love to hide in clutter. Eliminating as much clutter as possible gives them fewer places to make their home.
Fourth, consider installing door sweeps or door jams if you live especially close to other houses or apartments. Installing door sweeps or door jams will seal off your home or apartment, making it more difficult for the bugs to get into your home.
Fifth, if you’re traveling, try to stay in higher grade hotels (at least 3 stars and above). These hotels are the least likely to have bed bugs as they tend to change the mattresses much more often. When staying in a hotel, check the bed, nightstand, and furniture for any signs of bed bugs. This includes the headboard of the bed as well as any wooden furniture near the bed. When you return home from traveling, wash your clothes immediately to ensure that you didn’t bring any bed bugs home.
Finally, if you purchase second hand furniture or clothing, always inspect them for signs of bed bugs. Look for reddish brown spots that indicate bed bug fecal matter. Additionally, look for any blood splotches that suggest bed bug bites. After purchasing second hand clothing, always wash it immediately to eliminate any possible bed bugs clinging to it.
Dealing With Bed Bugs?
If you’re dealing with bed bugs, call Dave’s Pest Control today. We have years of experience eliminating this nasty insect and can help you eliminate your bed bugs quickly.