Guest Post By Olivia Wolfe
Bed bugs are considered a public health threat by the Environmental Protection Agency and The Centers for Disease Control. Nobody wants to think about having these nasty little creatures in their home, but it’s important to be aware of what they look like and how to treat them because infestations are on the rise. Being informed is a great first step in preventing and eliminating them from your home.
What are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are a nocturnal, bloodsucking parasite that feeds on birds and mammals. “If you have blood, the bed bugs are interested in you,” says Gene Miller of Broadway Exterminating in NYC. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. They are a flat, wingless, reddish-brown bug.
How Do I Know if I Have Bed Bugs in My Home?
Look in the seams of your mattress and box spring for signs of the bed bugs themselves. Although bed bugs themselves are difficult to spot, they also leave physical clues that can help you identify their presence. Things to look for include their shedded exoskeletons, fecal spots on your bedding, or blood stains on your pajamas and sheets.
It’s also a good idea to be familiar with the symptoms of a bed bug bite. They include raised red welts that burn and itch. Sometimes there is a rash, and often there are multiple bites running in straight lines across the skin.
How to Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation in Your Home
As is often the case, it is much easier to prevent a bed bug problem than it is to get rid of them after your home becomes infested. If you live in a building with a known bedbug problem, you should be especially diligent.
- Monitor your home regularly as part of your normal cleaning routine. Although bed bugs are most commonly found in mattresses, they also like to hide in cracks and crevices such as baseboards and underneath of furniture. Inspect these are regularly, and also check carefully in the seams of your mattress and box spring.
- Encase your pillows, box springs, and mattresses in protective covers to prevent bed bugs from hiding in your bedding.
- Hotels are notorious for bedbugs. It’s best to put your luggage in the bathroom while you inspect your room and bedding for bed bugs. Always store your suitcases on a hard surface or luggage rack. The last thing you want to do is bring bedbugs home with you in your luggage. When you get home, you should decontaminate your luggage. Extreme heat or cold will kill bedbugs. Clothes can be exposed to extreme heat in the dryer for 30 minutes. Suitcases can be placed on top of the dryer or into a large chest freezer.
How to Treat a Bed Bug Infestation Yourself
Bed bugs are extremely hard to kill, especially once you have a full-blown infestation. Getting rid of them is going to require a lot of work. If you can’t get rid of the infestation yourself, don’t hesitate to call in a professional exterminator.
- Start by thoroughly vacuuming areas where the bedbugs may be hiding, such as mattresses, box springs and carpets. Be sure to change the vacuum bag and discard it as soon as you’re done.
- Blast the bedbugs with heat. Use a hand-held steamer to heat up any furniture, cracks, or crevices that the bed bugs have been hiding in.
- Wash all bedding and infested fabrics. Be sure to leave them in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes.
Call in a Professional Exterminator
Hiring a professional will definitely improve your chances of success in eliminating the bugs. Bed bug control can be a very labor-intensive process, and a professional exterminator will come prepared to inspect and treat every nook and cranny of your home. They will use a combination of methods to combat the bedbugs that would be very difficult to achieve on your own. Many services will also offer a guarantee, which means they’ll come back and treat your home again, usually at no charge, if you have any more problems within a certain time period.
- Chemical treatments will be applied to all the cracks and crevices of your home. Plant based pesticides are even available, if you prefer them over traditional chemicals.
- Cryonite freezing treatments are also used to kill the bedbugs. This treatment is typically used on the more sensitive area, like mattresses and box springs.
- Heat control treatment may also be used. They will heat up your entire home with safe, high energy heaters and then follow up with chemical treatments. This is considered to be the most effective treatment for bed bugs, however it’s best to rely on professionals for this method because the temperature must be high enough and sustained over a long period of time in order to completely kill the bed bugs, no matter where they’re hiding.
Bed bugs are no joke. If you suspect you may have bed bugs in your home, the faster you act the better the outcome will be!
*Photos courtesy of Olivia Wolfe