Bed bugs are pests that can be hard to detect due to their small size. They are typically nocturnal and feed on the blood of humans and animals. Although bed bug bites are not dangerous, their bite can cause skin irritation and a rash. Find out more about how to detect this challenging pest and the steps you can take to eliminate and prevent bed bugs from infesting your home.
Detecting and Monitoring Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are typically one-fourth of an inch long and are about the size of an apple seed. They have flat bodies that are oval shaped and are brown in color. If they have recently had a blood meal, they would be more reddish, with a swollen body. Adult bed bugs are wingless and have six legs.
Areas where you sleep or rest are the most common areas where bed bugs can be found. They prefer dark locations and tight spaces since these areas allow them to stay hidden. During the daytime hours, you can find them in the cracks and crevices of mattresses, headboards, box springs and bed frames. You can also find bed bugs hiding in other locations, including under wallpaper, near baseboards, behind electrical sockets, in the seams of upholstered furniture and clothing or luggage.
If you have a bed bug infestation, the first sign is usually the presence of dark brown or red streaks and spots on sheets or mattresses. These markings are indicative of bed bug droppings and bloodstains can occur if they are crushed while you are sleeping. For bed bug infestations that are severe, you will notice a sweet or musty odor that is caused by bed bug secretions. You can also look for other noticeable signs of bed bugs, such as eggs and shed skins.
Red welts and rashes can appear on your body if you have been bitten by a bed bug. These welts are extremely itchy and usually occur in clusters on the body, particularly on the arms, legs, back and stomach. Since reactions to the bite of a bed bug will vary from person to person, you should not depend on signs of bites as your only indicator of a bed bug infestation.
If you believe your home is infested with bed bugs, you should strip down your bed and carefully examine the mattress, box spring, bedding and wood frame. This should be performed during the nighttime hours as bed bugs are much more active during this time. During your inspection, you should look for the key signs of bed bugs, including bloody smears, dark spots and empty exoskeletons.
Eliminating Bed Bugs
If you discover signs of a bed bug infestation after completing your inspection, you should first contact a professional pest control specialist. They will be able to assess the severity of the infestation and recommend a treatment that may include nonchemical treatments and pesticides. Since bed bugs reproduce at an incredibly rapid rate, it is necessary to begin treatment as soon as possible.
There are numerous nonchemical treatments you can use to eliminate bed bugs from your home. You can use mattress covers or encasements to enclose the box spring and mattress. These coverings should have a zipper that will prevent any bed bugs from escaping. Since bed bugs cannot bite through these materials and are unable to feed, they will become trapped inside and gradually die. Unless box springs and mattresses are heavily infested, you will usually not need to discard them.
You can also physically remove bed bugs from your home by thoroughly vacuuming all crevices and cracks, although not all bed bug hiding spots can be reached with a vacuum. You should empty or dispose of the vacuum bag after each use.
Ensure that the bag is disposed of outside your home to prevent infesting areas that have been disinfected.
You should also wash all bed linens, curtains, clothing, pillows and other items in water that is at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The items should be placed in your dryer on high heat for at least 20 minutes. This will effectively kill bed bugs and their eggs. Clean items that have been disinfected should be placed in sealed plastic bags until the treatment process is complete and your home is free of bed bugs.
Exterminators often use a multi-treatment approach when eliminating bed bugs, known as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This approach uses a variety of treatments, including vacuuming, pesticide application, freezing, steam heat and deep cleaning infested surfaces with a brush.
Preventing Bed Bugs
Secondhand items such as upholstered, furniture, mattresses, box springs, should never be brought into your home without carefully inspecting them. When you travel, you should check the beds and furniture for signs of bed bugs. It is also recommended that you do not place luggage on the floor or bed, rather, suitcases should be placed on a table or dresser. You can also seal all cracks and crevices found in your home which will prevent bed bugs from entering in these areas.