They come out at night to feast on your blood only to disappear again when the sun rises. They’re silent, difficult to kill, and can take over entire cities when given the chance. We’re not talking about vampires—we’re talking about bed bugs.
These dreaded insects are the bane of many a homeowner’s and renter’s existence. They spread like wildfire through apartment buildings and hotels, and once you get them, it’s hard to get rid of them.
Do you suspect a bed bug invasion in your house? If so, read on to learn about bed bug identification and what to do if they’ve turned your mattress into their home.
- Learn Bed Bug Identification
Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, is a tiny red-brown insect parasite. The flat, oval-shaped bodies of full-grown adults are only a half-centimeter in size. Nymphs (young bed bugs) are a lighter yellowish-tan color and can be translucent.
Bed bugs don’t have wings, but they do have six legs and visible antennae like other insects. They’re covered in very fine hairs and their bodies have a leathery texture.
If you aren’t sure if what you’re looking at is a bed bug, capture one in a jar or seal it in a folded-over piece of clear tape. Then, compare it to the CDC bed bug image gallery or save it to show a home pest control specialist.
- Be Aware of How People Get Bed Bugs
People can get bed bugs from almost anywhere. Even though they can’t fly or jump, these insects are the perfect travelers. They’re small and flat enough to squeeze into luggage, furniture, and clothing without getting squished, and their legs can latch onto almost any surface.
Bed bugs love to hide in mattresses and upholstered headboards because they provide easy access to a nighttime snack. They can also travel on public transport, hitch a ride to schools and libraries in backpacks, and lie in wait on movie theater seats.
The top places bed bugs spread are those that have lots of people passing through, especially if they stay for a few hours or more at a time. This means hotels, apartment complexes, and college dorms are at the highest risk. (Here’s an article that goes more in-depth into how people can get bed bugs—check it out to learn more.)
- Bed Bug Signs
Learning about some of the telltale bed bug symptoms is as helpful as being able to ID the insects themselves. Luckily, these pests leave a noticeable trail if you know what to look for.
First, keep an eye out for red or rust-colored spots on your bedding and under your mattress. Bed bugs can get squished when you lie down in bed and leave tiny bloodstains behind.
Second, watch for an accumulation of dark black or brown dots that are about the size of a ballpoint pen tip. This is bed bug excrement.
Third, look for bed bugs in every stage of their life cycle. Live and dead nymphs and adults will be easy to identify. The white eggs and eggshells are smaller than a grain of rice, and molted exoskeletons are pale yellow (the color of nymphs).
Finally, examine your skin for bed bug bites. They often look like tiny red spots, a rash, hives, or a line of scabs. They make some people itch, but not everyone reacts to them.
- Know Where to Look
Bed bugs can remain well-hidden and keep reproducing for months before you notice them. That’s because they live in places we don’t often examine.
If you think you may have bed bugs, here are some places to check for them:
- under your mattress or box spring
- under your sheets and mattress cover
- behind your headboard
- along baseboards and electrical outlets
- in and on upholstered furniture
- in luggage and backpacks
You should always check these places when staying away from home as well.
- Bed Bug Cleaning
Cleaning up bed bugs is a serious affair that can take weeks. Here are some of the must-do steps:
- clean up all bedroom clutter
- scrub your mattress with a stiff brush to loosen eggs from the seams
- vacuum the mattress, bed frame, headboard, and bedroom floor
- wash all fabric items in hot water (with bleach if possible) and dry on high heat
- spread food-grade diatomaceous earth on the floors and furniture
Bed bugs can also hide in cracks in your walls, windows, and doorframes. Use plaster, caulk, or silicone sealant to fill the gaps.
- Call an Exterminator
Cleaning makes a big difference, but to get rid of the problem once and for all, you’ll likely have to call an exterminator. They have access to chemical treatments that are effective but still safe enough to use in bedrooms. Pest control technicians also know exactly where to look for bed bugs and can stop the infestation at its source.
- Preventing Bed Bugs
The best way to deal with a bed bug problem is to never develop one in the first place. While anyone can get bed bugs due to a stroke of bad luck, there are ways to lower your chances of picking up these nasty hitchhikers.
Along with being careful while traveling, always be mindful about what you bring into your home. Free or used furniture, especially if it was left by the dumpster or road, has a high chance of being infested. If you must have an item of used upholstered furniture, don’t bring it inside without fumigating and quarantining it first.
Keeping a strict vacuuming and cleaning schedule can also help. Bed bugs aren’t attracted to filth like cockroaches, but they do like to hide in cluttered areas.
Finally, consider getting plastic mattress covers. Mattress covers trap live bedbugs inside until they die and prevent others from moving in.
Follow These Tips for How to Fix Bed Bugs in Your Home
Now that you know more about bed bug identification, prevention, and treatment, it’s time to put these tips to work. Be mindful when you travel, check your house often for signs of bed bugs, and take action as soon as you see the first signs of an infestation.
Do you need more information on pest management and keeping your house clean? If so, take a look at the other articles on our site for more helpful posts like this one.