Bed bugs are tiny insects that usually hide in mattress seams, bed frames, and box springs. These insects can cause a lot of chaos at home; therefore, it is important to know how to get rid of them before they do any more damage. The good news is that there are several proven methods to get rid of bed bugs in your bedroom.
Bed bugs are small, flat insects that feed on human blood while they sleep.
During the day, bed bugs hide in the mattress seams, box springs, and bed frames. At night, they move into the sleeping areas.
Signs you may have bed bugs in your home include reddish stains or dark spots on bed sheets or mattresses, the presence of eggs or egg shells, and a sweet, musty odor.
To get rid of bed bugs, you can use chemical, non-chemical methods, or a combination of both.
Bed bugs infestations on the rise
Over the past few weeks, these tiny insects have been all over the news and social media. Paris, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, is dealing with a bed bug outbreak. Multiple mattresses are thrown away on the city's streets as the infestation takes over hotels, rental apartments, buses, trains, hospitals, and movie theaters.
The issue has escalated to the point that it is now being treated as a public health problem. The government has even come up with a plan to deal with the bug situation before the 2024 Olympics.
According to ANSES, the French health and safety agency, the infestation could be caused by the rise in tourism and the insects' resistance to insecticides. These insects typically live in mattresses and bed frames, but they can also lodge in people's clothes and luggage and travel with them to explore new horizons.
We can already notice bed bug infestations arising in other parts of the world, such as the UK. As bed bugs continue to spread across Europe and beyond, it's crucial to learn more about them to fight this issue effectively.
What are bed bugs, and how do they appear in your bed?
Bed bugs are brown, flat insects that feed on human blood. They’re about the size of an apple seed, ranging from 1 mm (0.04 inches) to 7 mm (0.27 inches) in length.
These insects are spread all over the globe. They can show up almost anywhere, including apartments, shelters, dorm rooms, cruise ships, trains, and buses. You can find them even in the nicest hotels and resorts, so it’s not about how clean a place is.
Bed bugs are wingless creatures, so they can’t jump or fly. In the daytime, they hide in spots like mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, and even behind the wallpaper. Then, at night, they make their way into sleeping areas.
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
If your home is infested with bed bugs, it’s wise to spot them early and take action before the problem gets worse. Taking care of a minor infestation is much easier and cheaper than dealing with a widespread one.
But identifying a small infestation can be tricky, as bed bugs can easily get mistaken with other household bugs. And once you misidentify them, you give them time to spread.
Many people check for skin bites, but experts at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say this isn’t the best way to detect a bed bug infestation. This is because bed bug bites look very similar to bites from other insects, such as mosquitoes or chiggers. Plus, they can be confused with skin rashes or hives.
Signs and symptoms of bed bug infestation
Checking for physical signs of bed bugs in your surroundings is a more accurate way to identify a possible infestation. Pay attention to the following signs when cleaning or changing bedding:
- Rusty or reddish stains on your bed sheets or mattresses occur when bed bugs are accidentally squished.
- Dark spots, which are bed bug excrement.
- Eggs and eggshells, usually measuring about 1 mm (0.04 inches), as well as the pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow bigger.
- Live bed bugs are in the creases and folds of your mattresses and sheets.
- A sweet, musty odor.
Can bed bugs cause health problems?
Bed bugs typically aren't a major health threat, but they're a nuisance because their bites can be itchy, disrupt your sleep, and affect your mental health. Bed bug bites affect people differently. Some might not even realize that they’ve been bitten, while others can be allergic and have adverse reactions to the bites.
Common symptoms of bed bug bites may include
- Redness and swelling of the skin
- Inflamed areas often feature a darker spot at their center
Those with allergies to bed bug bites may experience severe itchiness, the formation of blisters or hives, and, less frequently, anaphylaxis. Frequent itching can sometimes lead to skin infections that require specialized treatment.
How to get rid of bed bugs
Getting rid of bed bugs takes time and patience; there’s no quick fix for it. There are two basic options when dealing with bed bugs: the chemical and the non-chemical approach.
While each can work on its own, a combination of both is often the most effective. This combo approach is known as integrated pest management.
Preparation for bed bug elimination
Whether you decide to tackle the problem on your own or bring in a professional to do this for you, it’s crucial to get your home prepared. Follow these tips:
- Remove clutter. Get rid of furniture, clothing, excess magazines, or other items that you no longer need. Swap cardboard boxes for plastic boxes. Place infested items directly into plastic trash bags.
- Clean and tidy sleeping area. Make sure your bed is not against the wall. If possible, use bedbug-proof covers on your mattress. Make sure all bedding is tucked under the mattress and doesn't make contact with the floor. Don't leave anything under the bed.
- Keep everything clean. This includes thoroughly washing clothes and bedding and heat-treating them using a dryer. Vacuum all areas and inspect all furniture for bed bugs or any signs of their presence.
- Eliminate bed bug hiding places. Fix any wallboard damage, make sure the wallpaper is firmly attached, and check electrical outlets and switches for any bed bug signs.
Non-chemical methods of killing bed bugs
Bed bugs have developed strong resistance to many insecticides on the market. The fact that many people live in cluttered places with lots of hiding places for these bugs makes the situation even worse. That’s why non-chemical methods have become a viable option for dealing with this issue.
Non-chemical methods of killing bed bugs include:
- Heat treatment. Bed bugs are quite susceptible to heat. You can simply toss infected clothing in a hot dryer or use a steamer to eliminate bugs and their eggs from furniture and carpets.
- Cold treatment. Cold can also be effective, but only if the freezer is set at 0°F (-17°C). Unfortunately, many home refrigerators don’t get cold enough to kill bed bugs. To use this method, seal the infested items in a bag and place them in the freezer for three days.
- Steam cleaners. You can use steam to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. Just make sure the temperature is set to at least 130°F (54°C). Also, be gentle with the airflow to prevent bed bugs from spreading.
There are over 300 chemicals that can be used to combat bed bugs. However, many of the options available to consumers are not potent enough to effectively resolve the issue. The safest bet is to consider hiring a pest management professional.
Bed bug infestations are a real headache all over the world. But there’s no need to panic. Even though it might seem challenging, there are plenty of ways to get rid of these undesired guests. It’ll just take some patience and the right methods.
Is there a mattress cover that kills bed bugs?
Bed bug covers are usually waterproof, and they have zippers that go all around your mattress. They're made to catch and get rid of any bed bugs already there and stop new ones from getting into your mattress.
What chemical kills bed bugs and their eggs?
There are various types of insecticides that can be used to control bed bugs. The most common are pyrethrins and pyrethroids, which derive from chrysanthemum flowers. Other examples include desiccants such as boric acid, biochemicals such as cold press neem oil, pyrroles such as chlorfenapyr, neonicotinoids, and insect growth regulators.
Does baking soda kill bed bugs?
There’s no scientific evidence behind using baking soda to deal with bed bugs. It might knock out a few, but it’s unlikely to get rid of an entire infestation.