It’s been a long week’s work and you are finally home, eager to put your worries aside and get some well-deserved rest on your clean, comfy bed. Your soft feathery pillow is like a cloud welcoming you to your own piece of heaven. Yet, in the morning you are laying in smudges of your own blood, and your skin is riddled with aching sores. That’s despite you had the bug screens mounted.
What Are We Dealing With?
So, the bloodsucking bed bugs have invaded your home. The good news is they do not spread diseases, but on the downside getting rid of them is going to be an uphill struggle. These small, flightless insects have a very quick reproductive cycle. Female bed bugs lay up to 500 eggs during their life and the eggs hatch within a week or two.
The size of an adult bug is up to 5mm, and to make things worse they are fast and good at hiding. As nocturnal creatures, they hide in mattress seams and cracks in the floors or walls during the daytime. Never too far away from their prey, during the night they locate warm-blooded creatures by their warmth and the carbon dioxide that they emit.
While their bite can cause allergic reactions, it is not dangerous to your health. The bugs feed regularly and adding insult to injury, after feeding they will leave small spots of red or brown fecal matter on your bed.
Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?
Bed bugs are nature’s hitchhikers and as such a traveler’s nightmare. They can crawl into luggage or clothing and allow you to generously bring them to your home. Once there, they spread quickly. The more one travels, the higher the likelihood of picking up one of these unwanted guests.
They dwell in hotel mattresses and the seats in theaters, taxies, airplanes, coffee shops, and airport lounges. Cleanliness of the area does not matter, and regular cleaning of the sheets and upholstery will not end the infestation. Another way to bring them to your home is via 2nd hand furniture.
While previously thought that their numbers were under control in North America, recently they have had a resurgence. There is no satisfactory explanation for this as of yet, some go as far as to claim that the increase in foreign travel is the culprit. On the other hand, tests have shown that the bed bug population has grown more resistant to pesticides.
How to Detect Them?
If you suspect that these flightless mosquitoes have infested your room, the first thing to look for would be stains on the sheets. Another good indicator of troubles to come is the remains of the skin that bed bugs shed as they grow. In the case of a particularly large infestation, the room can have a distinct odor sometimes described as moldy while others say it has the sweet smell of coriander.
How to Prevent Them?
Prevention is the key. Always use a stand for your luggage while lodging, never leave them on the bed or the floor. Thoroughly inspect your suitcases for the little stowaways. Clean your clothes when you return from a trip and preferably leave them in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes.
What to do if some of the little critters managed to slip through your defenses? First, do not move your infested furniture! Tempting as it may be, moving an infested mattress to throw it out will only spread the bugs throughout your entire home. At this point, there are no easy solutions left and it’s time to reconsider your strategy.
How to Kill Them?
If you are brave enough, you can try and defend your home by yourself. Conversely, you can call for professional help. Whatever your choice may end up being, know this – it will be a long fight.
Do It Yourself
The DIY approach is a viable option if your infestation is not too severe. An added bonus of this is that it can also be environmentally friendly. However, you will need to be thorough, so it would be wise to get acquainted with the so-called integrated pest management (IPM) system. The idea is to create an all-encompassing strategy in order to reclaim your home from the unwelcomed guests.
Prepare your battlefield! This is a war of maneuver and you will need space to effectively apply your countermeasures, as well as to deny for your enemies a safe fallback point. Create space between your furniture, and clear out all unnecessary objects (wooden or metal tables, chairs, etc.).
The opening salvo. Do it thoroughly: mattresses, carpets, furniture, and cracks and crevasses in the floor and on the walls. Try to hit every possible hiding place, the more powerful the vacuum cleaner the better. After vacuuming you should dispose of the bag or the content of the dust container, as you wouldn’t want the bugs to return.
3. Steam Cleaning
The heavy artillery. Use steam cleaners as an immediate follow up after vacuuming. Hit the same target areas again. The hot steam will penetrate deeper into the seams and cracks and hopefully finish off the surviving bugs and their eggs.
4. Laundering and Proofing
Before the ultimate termination of the infestation, daily washing of sheets and pillowcases is mandatory. Also, consider covering your mattresses and installing bed leg protectors to deny any newly hatched bugs access to your bed.
If it’s to succeed, the IPM approach will require daily repetition. Even then, there is a chance that the infestation is too severe to be contained. As a last-ditch effort, you may try purchasing an insecticide for DIY use. Failing to achieve results with that will necessitate calling in reinforcements.
After inspecting your house, pest management professionals (PMP) are likely to put two options before you: heat treatment or insecticide treatment.
In the first one, the infected room is heated up to 145°F (62.7°C), well beyond the maximum temperature the bugs can survive. Whole room heat treatment usually lasts up to 8 hours. In contrast, the insecticide treatment involves spraying the house with chemicals designed to kill bed bugs on contact. Each room may require at least 2-3 treatments at about 2 hours per treatment.
Bed bugs are true globetrotters, patiently waiting to hitch a ride. You can bring them into your home from anywhere: hotels, restaurants, airplanes, trains, cars, you name it. The more you travel, the higher the likelihood of you coming across them, and they do not say goodbye easily. Once you realize your home is invaded, it’s critical to act quickly and prevent the infestation from spreading through your entire house.