Bed bugs are a major concern for homeowners and hoteliers alike. Consider how PestWorld.org reports that these tiny, biting insects appear in all 50 states and that roughly 20 percent of individuals interviewed in each of the United States’ geographical areas reported having to deal with the bothersome pests.
Statistics alone, though, hardly do justice to how much havoc bed bugs can wreck. Thin as a credit card, barely as big as an apple seed, producers of a natural anesthetic that masks the pain of their bites, and able to survive months without food and temperatures ranging from about freezing to 122 °Fahrenheit, they’re difficult to eliminate. No wonder user-driven websites such as BedbugReports.com have cropped up to help travelers avoid infested areas.
In this article, we’ll explain how to get rid of bed bugs at home and in commercial contexts, as well as describing steps you can take to stop the spread of these insidious insects.
What Is the Main Cause of Bed Bugs?
Given the interest of not developing a bed bug infestation or (if you do have one) learning what kills bed bugs instantly, most people want to know what the main cause of bed bugs is. Unfortunately, these insects’ small size complicates matters. We’ve already mentioned that they’re about as big as a seed, but they also swiftly lay hundreds of eggs, each about the size of a speck of dust, and quickly scamper from space to space, both of which facilitate new infestations. They’re also masters at hiding, and pest control professionals have located these insects secreted away within the heads of exposed screws.
Despite their stealthy nature, though, the main cause of bed bug colonies isn’t a mystery: It’s travel. Because they’re so small and able to hide themselves in cracks and crevasses, bed bugs typically hitchhike their way into a property through luggage or clothing. It isn’t just your coat of suitcase that may be the culprit. Linens, boxes, or pieces of furniture can also shelter these irritating insects.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
If you find yourself dealing with bed bugs, you likely care less about how they gained access and more about how to get rid of bed bugs fast. Have no illusions about the situation in which you find yourself. Bed bugs are tenacious, and they won’t vanish on their own. And while we will discuss self-service, do-it-yourself options down below, understand that these sorts of treatments will often fail to fully remediate the problem.
Read on to learn more about how to how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress, living room, bedroom, furniture, and more.
Look for Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
The very first thing that you should do is determine if the pest problem you have actually involves bed bugs and not some similar insect. PestWorld.org reports that “84 percent of pest control professionals were initially contacted about a different type of pest before identifying them as bed bugs. The majority of these contacts (71 percent) were about fleas, followed by cockroaches (28 percent).” Careful inspection may reveal that you’re dealing with an irritating but less tenacious creature.
Of course, once you know about them, the signs of a bed bug infestation are pretty distinctive. Individuals in an infested space (usually a home, hotel, or dormitory) will wake up with neat lines or clusters of bites which are typically on the chest, neck, or any part of the body not under the covers. Sufferers typically don’t feel the bites when they first happen, but later they become incredibly itchy. Often, they discover spots of blood on their bedding. Other signs include spots of bed bug feces (which usually looks something like a rust spot), egg casings, dandruff-like shed skins, and an oddly musty and sweet smell.
While bed bugs can travel up to 20 feet to bite their victims, they typically reside within an eight-foot radius. They’re drawn by exhaled carbon dioxide, which means they usually take up residence within or around a bed. They like to tuck themselves into tightly sealed areas, and you should check for them in the following places:
- Where mattress and box springs meet
- The seams of your mattress and box springs
- Behind and tucked into the corners of your headboard
- In the corners of picture frames
- In clothing left on the floor
- In the corners of backs of drawers
- In pockets and in structural seams of luggage
- In divots and interior spaces of appliances and fixtures (e.g., alarm clocks)
- Around baseboards, door frames, the edges of your carpet, and (amazingly) even in screwheads holding hinges in place
Determine if you Need Professional Pest Control
Once you’ve discovered that you indeed have bed bugs in your property, you may want to immediately contact a pest control professional. However, some owners or managers may want to attempt to deal with the problem on their own. Whatever your choice, you should determine at what point you would like to consider engaging a professional to conduct treatment. Due to their fast reproduction cycles, ability to hide themselves, and general hardiness, bed bugs require steady, concerted effort to eliminate — effort that many property owners cannot sustain on their own.
Prepare your Space
Regardless of your eventual choice of treatment, you should take several steps to properly prepare your space, making it less hospitable for bed bugs. They include:
- Vacuum your mattress, furniture, baseboards, carpet, and any other areas where they could be hiding
- Avoiding bringing used furniture into your home
- Wash and dry any affected clothing and linens at maximum heat
- Remove clutter from the affected room — but make sure that you do not accidentally contaminate another room
What to Do During the Visit
Once you’ve prepared your space, the most valuable thing you can do is to thoroughly apply your preferred treatment (if you’re doing your own pest control) or clear out so that technicians can do so (if you’ve selected the professional route). Note that no matter your choice, you may need to apply treatments more than once. Eliminating bed bugs doesn’t happen all at once, and even if you are instantly successful, you will need to monitor the space to ensure that they don’t return.
Pest Control vs DIY Solutions
So far, we have treated DIY bed bug solutions as identical to professional options. The problem is that such an impression really isn’t accurate. While homeowners and business managers have lots of tools at their disposal. The problem is that they’re rarely as effective as what’s offered by professional companies. Steam works well, but it’s hard to correctly direct it and burns are a real and present danger. Essential oils are safe, but they can’t kill these insects faster than they reproduce. Pyrethroid insecticides aren’t particularly toxic to people or pets, but most bed bugs have developed a resistance to them. So-called bug bombs are toxic enough, but they disperse insecticide everywhere except where the bed bugs are, posing more of a risk to inhabitants than to insects.
Things are different with professional pest control companies. Their targeted treatments, such as Thermal Remediation® and freezing with Cryonite®, are highly effective and safe. You’ll get rid of your bed bugs quicker, and neither you nor anyone else in your property will run the risk of getting ill.
How Do Bed Bugs Spread from House to House?
Bed bugs spread from house to house and apartment unit to apartment unit the same way they initially come into a property: They hitchhike. The limit of a bed bug’s ability to travel under its own power is about 20 feet, but they can cross the world when stowing away on an object.
Can Bed Bugs Spread from Person to Person?
Bed bugs aren’t like an illness; they aren’t contagious. Even if a person was covered with numerous bed bug bites, he or she couldn’t spread the irritating insects to someone else. However, people can “transmit” bed bugs by inadvertently carrying them from one location to another on their clothes.
How Do You Stop the Spread of Bed Bugs?
The best way to halt the spread of bed bugs is by practicing vigilance. Reduce clutter in your surroundings. Avoid bringing used items into your property, particularly those left by the side of the road. And if you notice signs of an infestation, treat them promptly.
Can Bed Bugs Survive Extermination?
Bed bugs cannot survive a professional pest control treatment — as long as that treatment comes into contact with them. The truth of the matter is that it’s very difficult to eliminate every bed bug in a single treatment. Additionally, some have doubtlessly laid eggs, which means that new bed bugs can hatch even after all existing insects have been eliminated. This is why monitoring and evaluation is such an important step.
How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Property owners and managers naturally want to get rid of bed bugs as quickly as possible. Still, the inconvenient truth is that bed bugs are difficult to eradicate once they’ve gained a foothold. You will generally need two to four professional treatments to eradicate them, which may require up to six weeks of time.
If you find yourself with a bed bug problem, contact Smithereen as soon as possible. We have more than a century of experience in eliminating undesirable insects.