According to the experts at the American Pest Management Association, the bed bug problem is out of control. Over 95% of professionals surveyed report dealing with at least one bed bug infestation within the past year, and the majority say that infestations are increasing. According to a different survey, 1 in 5 Americans have encountered bed bugs or knows someone who has. If you want to avoid becoming part of the statistics, you need to know to avoid these pests for good. Use this comprehensive guide to protect yourself, your bed, and your whole home.
What is a Bed Bug?
Bed bugs have terrorized beds for as long as beds have existed. They are small, round, brown bugs that grow to be around 5 millimeters long. The bugs feed on blood, which is why they seek out humans to bite in bed. The bugs are primarily active at night, and they use a decoagulant in their saliva to keep blood flowing at the site of the bite. The good news is that bed bugs do not transmit or spread diseases. The bad news is that their bites leave swollen, itchy red welts.
Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?
Typically, you carry bed bugs into your home without even knowing it. They may crawl into your luggage when you stay at a hotel, or bury themselves in your coat as you ride on a train. Used furniture is another common source of hidden bed bugs, and in an apartment or condo complexes, they can easily travel between units. Experts suspect that bed bug infestations are increasing in part because people are traveling more, unknowingly visiting places with an active bed bug infestation, and bringing the pests home accidentally. Considering that bed bugs can live in carpet, bedding, or almost any cloth surface, combined with the fact that they’re small and reclusive, it’s easy to encounter bed bugs without knowing.
How Do You Recognize an Infestation?
Bed bugs may be hard to spot, but it’s not impossible. Identifying them sooner makes it easier to control them effectively, so you should monitor for evidence of an infestation, especially after you travel. If you end up with red welts, it’s a clear sign bed bugs have followed you home. Small red or brown blood spots on your sheets are also tell-tale evidence. When you have reason to suspect bed bugs, look for the bugs themselves around the piping of your mattress. Even though these pests are small and good at hiding, you will usually be able to visually verify you have an infestation. If you’re unsure, error on the side of caution by treating the infestation, or call in a professional to evaluate the space.
How Do You Prevent an Infestation?
Considering how common bed bugs have become, it’s smart for everyone to take steps to prevent them. When traveling, inspect for bed bugs in your room, and keep your suitcases on a luggage rack so the bugs can’t reach it. Upon returning home, unload your clothes directly into the washing machine, and store your suitcases away from your bedroom. In between trips, be cautious about any second-hand furniture you buy. It also helps to seal your mattress in protective plastic because it denies the bed bugs their favorite hiding spot. Take care to clean your bedroom, bed linens, and clothes regularly while watching for any evidence of bed bugs. Finally, never assume you are immune. Bed bugs are attracted to humans, not messes, and they can make their way into any home and hide out of sight. Be vigilant so you can address the problem as soon as it appears.
How Do You Treat an Infestation?
Getting rid of bed bugs involves multiple solutions. Take all these steps to ensure the bugs and their offspring are completely gone:
- Put all your bedding and clothing in a dryer set to high temperature for at least 30 minutes. Washing will not kill bed bugs, but high, sustained heat will.
- Heat items that may be infested but can’t go in the dryer (furniture, mattresses etc.) along with any rooms that may be infested to 120 degrees for at least 90 minutes. People typically rent specialized equipment to safely reach these temperatures or hire a professional to do it for them.
- Use a pesticide to kill the remainder of the bed bugs. There are literally hundreds of products to choose from, which you can easily search using this tool from the Environmental Protection Agency. Though it’s possible to eliminate an infestation without pesticides, it’s far less reliable, which is why most experts recommend using a product specifically made to kill bed bugs. If you’re worried about toxins in your home, work with an expert to explore greener options.
- Put out indicators that can show you if bed bugs are present in the area so you know whether or not the infestation is gone.
It can take some time and persistence, but as long as you’re thorough you can kick bed bugs out of your home once and for all.