It starts with an itch, but soon changes into several red mosquito-like bites all over your body. For the life of you, you can’t figure out where they’re coming from! If you are facing a similar situation, you could be in danger of a bedbug infestation in your house.
Bedbugs are parasitic insects that feed on human blood by hiding in areas they visit often. By building nests in the crooks and corners of your bed, couch, or sofa, bed bugs ensure that they can catch you unguarded one way or another. They attack at night, and their bites can several health issues such as skin rashes, allergic reactions, and in some cases, even psychological effects!
Their scientific name is either Climex hemipterus or Climex lectularious—the two species that most commonly affect humans. Bedbugs are extremely hardy, as they can survive up to a year without food. In adult bedbugs, the body is a reddish brown oval with pad-like structures in place of vestigial wings. They grow up to 4mm in size, and exude a distinctive smell when crushed. With their sucker-like mouths they can inject anticoagulants and painkillers so as to make their attack as sneaky as possible!
But you can strike back—here’s how to get rid of a bedbug infestation in your house.
Recognizing an Infestation
The first step to getting rid of bedbugs is recognizing an infestation. Contrarily to popular belief, bedbugs don’t just occur in dirty or unsanitary places. They hide in warm, moist areas that are hidden from view. This can include cracks in walls or floors, in corners of beds and upholstery.
Look for the Bite
Observing the bite marks can be one symptom of a bedbug infestation. The bumps are red and swollen, usually occurring three in a row. However, this could just as easily be a sign of another parasitic opportunist hiding in your blanket. The only way to be sure of a bed bug infestation is seeing one in action. Try observing the area you think might be infected and make sure to check in the corners.
Look for the Bug
Another sign of a bedbug invasion is bloody marks on or along the corners of sheets. These bugs are messy eaters, and spots of blood are usually a telltale sign. You could also be subjected to a hanging smell of dried blood or rotten raspberries in the air. However, the only way you can really be sure is if you actually see it in action!
How to Get Rid of Bedbugs
You will find many articles on the web discussing extermination of bedbugs, but we’ll take you through it step by step. Getting rid of bedbugs cannot be made easier!
Determine the Scope of Infestation
First, you have to determine what areas of your home have been infested, then contain and limit those places. If you live in a communal space with several beds close by, it is likely that the bedbug population has expanded to the neighbors. Human blood is a delicacy, and bedbugs are not ones to hold back. Check for the telltale signs we just mentioned and isolate the areas that fit the bill. Trust us; it’s better to get rid of all the bugs together so as to reduce the chances of a recurrence.
They can be found:
- in the corners and crevices of bed frames
- in wall cracks and behind wallpaper
- between furniture joints
- under the mattress
- behind paintings, posters, or curtains
- in switchboards
- in couch cushions or pillows
Empty Drawers and Dismantle the Bed
The rooms in your home subject to the tyranny of these blood thirsty creatures need to be emptied. This includes everything in your drawers, on the side tables, on the headboard or shelf behind the bed. The area or piece of furniture that has been infected has to be dismantled and observed.
For instance, sometimes bedbugs have laid eggs under the mattress or in crevices of bed frames difficult to access. The only way to make sure you get to all of them is taking apart the bed completely. The same goes for chairs, sofas, or any other upholstered piece of furniture.
If there are sure-shot signs of infestation in a room, it makes sense of dismantle all furniture in the vicinity. Use a flashlight and do some thorough investigation!
Discard or Wash the Bedding
Before going for the kill, it is important to do a little preparation to increase your chances of success. Throw away the sheets, clothing, curtains, and other cloth items that have been in contact with the bugs. Alternatively, you can also wash these items in scalding hot water (115 °F) for about 30 minutes to wipe bedbugs and every kind of bacteria from existence.
Use a Steamer
Mattresses, couches, and other hiding places can be cleaned out using a steamer. Bedbugs cannot survive in very high temperatures. This is why directing a steamer towards hidey holes for an extended period of time can either extract them or get rid of them entirely. You can find a steamer easily at a local hardware store.
Leave Them Out on a Hot Day
Another method is to leave the bedding or entire pieces of furniture out in the sun on a hot day. Sunlight hitting the infested objects will help drive them away from the scene of the crime. Make sure that the temperature outside is at least 95 degrees for optimum results. In cooler months, it can take months for the sealed up bugs to die.
The Freeze Method
If you want to save the sheets and upholstery that became home to these parasites, you can also try the freeze method. Pack the infested sheets and other items in an airtight, sealable bag. Then, chuck it in the freezer. While this may seem icky to some, cold temperatures are just as efficient in killing bugs as heat. Leaving the bags in the freezer for up to four days in a below freezing environment will exterminate them completely.
Apply Silica Gel
Another natural product that works well is crystal silica. You can grind up crystallized silica gel into powder form and sprinkle it all over the infested room. Put some on and around the furniture, on the mattress, along the wall, and on any other surfaces that may be susceptible to a bed bug reign. The gel works by sticking to the bug, unable to be shaken off, and causing dehydration. Make sure to cover your face when performing this procedure so you don’t inhale any of it. You can perform a similar process with diatomaceous earth—these two combined are referred to as desiccants.
Spray Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a powerful essential oil with many useful properties. Amongst other magical functions, it can also effectively rid your home of bed bugs. Dilute a small amount of the oil with water in a spray bottle and use it to spray around the house thoroughly. Moreover, you can add a few drops to the laundry when you wash infected bedding and clothing.
Additionally, tea tree oil can be used as a preventive measure when sprayed around the house every week. Spray it on every corner of the house to ensure that you are protected from not only bed bugs, but all other kinds of dangerous insects.
Discard Affected Items
Sometimes, even when all of these methods have been tried, you are unable to save affected items. If left alone, bed bugs can reproduce frequently (every 5 days when feeding) resulting in a serious infestation. It may not be possible to save your favorite blanket or comforter. So let go, and discard all items that look like they aren’t going to make it.
Sometimes, our busy lives don’t give us the time to launch a DIY project for a bed bug infestation. If you are similarly afflicted, it is ideal to hire a professional exterminating service for your creepy crawly problem. Depending on whom you choose for the service, you may be given chemical and non-chemical options to choose from. We already mentioned many of the non-chemical options earlier (heat treatments and natural crystals). Now, let’s have a look at some strong chemicals that can prove to be poisonous for bed bugs, thereby removing them completely.
Also known as bug bombs, these smoking balls of chemical are thrown in parts of your house suspected to be infected. They are highly effective in killing bed bugs, but they are unable to get into cracks and fissures where the crawlies usually hide. Besides, they can be harmful to humans if used incorrectly. That’s why this procedure is best left to a professional.
Pyrroles work by disrupting the cellular processes in a bedbug’s body. Once administered, it can render a bed bug paralyzed in minutes.
Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids
These are two of the most common chemicals employed to kill bedbugs. However, because of their frequent use, some bedbugs may have developed resistant against them.
This is a human-made version of the chemical nicotine. By emulating the infamous stimulant, it acts on the bedbug’s nervous system and debilitates its ability to operate. While bedbug immune system can develop resistance to other pesticides, neonicotinoid is foolproof.
Plant Oil-Based Products
We spoke about tea tree oil in some detail, but other plant-based products can also be useful against bed bugs. For instance, Bed Bug Patrolare and EcoRaider can work wonders in exterminating bedbugs, and they are much less toxic to humans than other chemical insecticides.
Do I have to throw away my bedding after a bedbug infestation?
Well, not necessarily. You can wash the infested items in water with a temperature of at least 115 °F. When submerged for 30 minutes in such high intensity heat, your bedding, drapes, or other upholstery will be good as new.
However, if the infestation was left to its own devices for too long, it is possible that your items are no longer worth saving.
Can bedbugs come back after professional services?
Bed bugs are not attracted to dirty or unclean places as much as pop culture would like to tell you. They can appear anywhere that is warm, moist, and has plenty of human meals around. So, yes; they can reoccur even after extermination if preventive measures aren’t taken.
How can I prevent bedbugs?
To prevent bedbugs from occurring again, you can spray nooks and crannies with a diluted tea tree oil solution regularly. Also, make sure all cracks in the walls and furniture are taken care of. Additionally, you can leave the plastic covering on a mattress to make sure no crawlies are getting inside!
Can I get rid of bedbugs in one day?
Unfortunately, no—getting rid of bed bugs is not a one-day job. Including the preparation and aftercare, it can take up to two weeks for things in your home to go back to normal.
Where else can bed bugs hide?
Besides all the common hiding places mentioned in this article, bed bugs can burrow into any spot that provides them warmth and safety. This includes books, shelves, ottomans, cushions—basically anywhere a fresh supply of human blood is available.
What else can I do to keep bedbugs away?
If you live close to a dumping site, there are more chances of bed bugs finding their way into your home. Fight against illegal dumping sites and keep your neighborhood free of junk.