What to Do When the Bed Bugs Bite!
By: Julie Day
After several decades of relative freedom from bed bugs in North America, it seems the critters have recently resurfaced with gusto! It’s believed that increased travel and a general lack of awareness have resulted in a resurgence of bed bugs in homes and hotels across the U.S. and elsewhere.
Here’s what you need to know to identify, eliminate, and prevent bed bug infestations from occurring in your home.
About Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are small oval-shaped brownish insects that are about 1/4-inch long. They feed on human and animal blood, and they’re known for colonizing in cracks and crevices of upholstery and mattresses close to their human hosts, hence the name “bed bugs.”
Bed bugs feed at night and hide during the day. As the population grows, the infestation can spread to other furniture or rooms as they search for more food. They also can travel by hitching a ride in clothing, luggage, and bedding.
Most people discover a bed bug infestation when they wake up with small red bites on their skin. While bed bugs aren’t thought to carry disease, the bites can cause itching, rashes, or hives.
How to Inspect Your Home for Bed Bugs
Begin your inspection by targeting:
- Places where you sleep or sit, such as beds or chairs.
- Places where you put or store your luggage, such as closets or entryways.
When inspecting your home, look for:
- Adult Bed Bugs: Brown colored adult insects are easily visible.
- Bed Bug Nymphs: Smaller than adult bed bugs and clear in color.
- Bed Bug Eggs: Resemble white grains of sand tucked into crevices.
- Bed Bug Skins: Bed bug nymphs leave a trail of cast-off skins.
- Bed Bug Droppings: Resemble tiny red or brown dots on the upholstery.
Bed bugs can flatten themselves and fit into very tight cracks. A general rule is that if a crack is large enough to fit a credit card, it’s large enough for bed bugs. In particular, carefully examine:
- Room Coverings: Peek behind loose wallpaper or underneath carpet for bed bugs.
- Everywhere Else: Expand your search beyond the bedroom, since bed bugs can migrate!
How to Treat Bed Bug Infestations
Controlling bed bugs is a complicated process that requires very careful application of pesticides and a rigorous control program. There are DIY products out there, but simply spraying a room fogger isn’t enough to eradicate bed bugs.
Consider hiring a professional pest control company to handle things like:
- Sealing: All cracks and joints in woodwork should be sealed with caulk, and plumbing and electrical openings sealed with foam, to get rid of any possible hiding places for bed bugs. In addition, chimneys and windows should be shielded to keep out birds and rodents that can also attract bed bugs. If you choose to keep the mattress, it should be encased in a bed-bug-proof mattress cover.
How to Prevent Bed Bug Infestation
Follow these tips to help prevent bed bug infestation in your home:
- Clean Well: Deep clean your house periodically including baseboards, closets, bed frames, and clothes hampers. Vacuum all cracks and crevices, and throw away the vacuum cleaner bag afterward. If you see any evidence of bed bugs, repeat the treatment.
- Bed Bug Information (EPA)
- Bed Bug Treatment Steps (doyourownpestcontrol.com)
- Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs in Residences (Univ. of Minnesota)
- Bed Bug and Bed Bug Bite Pictures (Stern Environmental Group)