Bed bugs are one of the stealthiest pests to invade your home. Unlike house lizards, roaches, flies, or spiders, these insects have evolved to hide effectively in crevices and furniture even though they live in close proximity to their human hosts.
This is why it can be difficult to tell if the pests are gone for good after a bed bug treatment of your property. If you have had a treatment done for bed bug infestation, how do you know if bed bugs are gone?
The simple answer is to wait for three weeks to see if there is any bed bug activity in your home. If you don’t find any signs of the bugs in that period of time, there is a good chance that the creatures are gone.
Factors that Affect Bed Bug Removal
There are several factors that affect whether bed bugs are actually gone from your property or not.
The Size of the Original Infestation
Bigger infestations are harder to get rid of. There are documented cases where multiple story properties became infested with bugs and they were allowed to linger on for months. The more time you take to resolve the issue, the more complicated and harder it becomes to get rid of the bugs.
A single female bed bug can give birth to hundreds of new ones during its lifetime. As the number of bed bugs increases, they generally spread out from their original hiding location. Bed bugs can move from one room to other rooms within the property. This will increase the number of locations you’re you will have to get treated.
If the size of the infestation is very large then you may have to carry out multiple treatments throughout your home to get rid of them completely.
Type of Treatment
There are several bed bug treatment options, each with their own pros and cons. Common methods include chemical spray treatment, heat treatment, and a combination of chemical & heat treatment.
Some intense chemical applications are very effective but they make a property inhospitable for several days. Other methods are less severe and you can move back in after a day, but they may not be effective in killing every single bug.
If you go for a treatment that does not address all the infested areas within your home, then you may have to carry out additional treatments.
Generally, bed bug nymphs are easier to kill when they are young. They have a hatching and growth period of two weeks, so pest control services will want you to carry out at least two or three treatments every two weeks to ensure that the reproduction of new bugs is completely stopped.
Effectiveness of the Treatment
The effectiveness of bed bug treatment also depends on control measures. You can’t expect the treatment to work in your house if you don’t follow the control procedures that are recommended before and after the treatment.
For example, you need to make sure that your bed is isolated and away from the area that has shown signs of bed bug activity. Most bugs come out at night when you are asleep, leaving you vulnerable to their bites. Bugs need to feed only once a week and they can go back into hiding spots that treatment chemicals do not reach.
You should also cut down other methods for the bugs to reach you and reproduce. Female bed bugs need to feed more often as they lay eggs. If you cut their supply to food, they won’t be able to reproduce very often.
Once the bed bugs are not able to multiply, then eliminating the infestation becomes much easier.
Type of Home
Smaller properties such as condos and apartments are more prone to beg bugs infestation because people live closer together. Bugs can also move from one apartment to the next.
That means even if you completely get rid of bugs in your apartment, they will reappear after a few months because your next-door neighbor still has them.
If you are living in a multi-family building, then speak to the manager or landlord as soon as you detect the bed bugs. This will ensure that the building manager carries out appropriate treatment for the whole property.
If you live in a shared dwelling and get bed bug treatment for the bedroom, then also add other adjacent units and common areas such as the laundry, dining room and lounge etc. Bed bugs can cover a lot of ground and they easily move 10 – 20 feet each day to find a host.
Post Treatment Evaluation
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure if bed bugs are really gone from your property after a treatment. As we noted in the beginning, these pests are extremely good at hiding. It is quite possible that some of the bugs survived and stay hidden for a few days after treatment.
Common bed bug treatments also do not affect their eggs. Bed bug nymphs that hatch after the treatment will be able to reproduce and grow unless you carry out a second treatment to kill them.
The first method to determine if the bugs are still around is to carry out a visual inspection of your property. Look at the sides of your mattress and under the bed. These are the most common hiding places where the bugs live. Also, check out your sofa and other wardrobes for signs of bugs. Look under the edges of the carpets if you have one.
Tiny Blood Stains on Your Sheet
Some of the tiny nymphs get crushed under your body right after they feed, as you twist and turn in your sleep. Check your sheets every day after a treatment to see if there are any tiny bloodstains on your sheet. If you don’t find any stains, it is a good sign that the bugs are gone.
Dark Spots and White Skin Shells on Your Bed or Near the Walls
Bed bugs leave a trail of tiny black fecal matter and white, husk-like skin as it sheds behind them. These are very easy to discover and if you continue to find them after the treatment, then you probably still have some bugs in your home.
Tiny Bite Marks in a Line
Bites from the bed bugs cause tiny marks on your skin, usually in a line. If you continue to find these bite marks on your skin, then you still have some of these pests around.
Install Mattress Covers and Box Spring Encasements
Bed bugs love to form their colonies in a corner or in crevices because it helps them hide. These crevices are generally found along the stitched sides of your mattress.
If you use mattress covers and box spring encasements, it becomes difficult for the bugs to hide. They are also less likely to lay their eggs close to you which is part of the control process.
Interceptor traps are designed to be placed under the legs of the bed, chairs, and couches. These traps come in two varieties. The first variety includes cardboard pieces that have a sticky surface at the top that catches and holds bed bugs as they walk over it.
The second type of trap has a flat bottom, bowl-shaped design with a rough surface on the outside and a smooth lining on the inside. The design makes it easy for the bugs to climb up and fall into the trap but it is very difficult for them to crawl out.
Apart from your bed and chairs, you can also place these traps in other areas where you suspect that there is a bed bug activity and check it every day to see if any bugs have been caught.
Bed Bug Monitors
A number of pest control firms have developed special monitors that can be used to detect bed bug activity. These monitors are quite effective at finding bed bugs even at a very low level of infestation.
Active monitors create a very small and consistent supply of heat or carbon dioxide that attracts bugs to the device. The monitor is connected to a trapping system that causes the bugs to fall into a bowl or get stuck to a glued surface.
Inactive monitors allow you to apply a small amount of liquid on any black spots that you find in your home. You can then test these on a strip to see if any blood was present in the spots.
Bed bugs are very good at hiding. This makes it difficult to get rid of them if you can’t even know for sure whether a treatment has effectively gotten rid of them or not.
The ideal strategy is to have at least two treatments on your property to kill all the adult and newly hatched bugs. After the treatments are done, you should actively monitor the area around your bed, couch, and other possible hiding locations for signs of bed bugs.
You can use inexpensive traps and monitors to see if any bugs get caught. If you don’t see any activity for three weeks, it is safe to assume that the bed bugs have been eliminated.
Featured image credit: “Pests – Bed Bugs” flickr photo by British_Pest_Control_Association https://flickr.com/photos/95230066@N07/29184442633 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license