Bed bugs are the ultimate pest. They’re easy to bring in and hard to kick out, easily hiding in plain sight and finding new ways to invade our homes every day.
A bed bug infestation can be an itch-inducing irritation at best and a serious health issue at worst. When you start to suspect that you have a bed bug infestation, it’s critical to take fast action to minimize the headache.
In most cases, you’ll need to look to experts who know how to kill bed bugs swiftly and thoroughly, preventing the possibility of a repeat problem. But with a little know-how and DIY motivation, you can stand a chance against bed bugs in the early stages.
We’ll show you how to make immediate efforts that could help you avoid a pest control service call.
How to Spot a Bed Bug Infestation
Bed bugs are tiny, brown insects with flat, oval-shaped bodies. Once they mature to adulthood, bed bugs can reach 1/4″ in length. They feed on human and animal blood, with their bodies swelling and taking on a reddish hue with every feeding.
It can sometimes be difficult to identify bed bugs as they have many lookalikes across different regions, and their bites can easily be mistaken for another pest’s markings.
Instead of waiting for a bed bug to stare you in the face, several common signs can clue you into their presence:
- Reddish-brown stains on sheets or mattresses
- 1-2mm sized dark brown or black spots on mattresses
- Bloodstains from bites
- 1mm eggs and shells
- Foul, musty smell
You may also find yellow skin pieces, which bed bugs discard as they grow to adulthood. Bed bugs shed their skin five times before reaching their final size.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bed bugs are notorious for hitch-hiking in clothes, luggage, furniture, and other portable items. Returning home from vacation and having guests are some of the most common ways bed bugs get inside.
As the name suggests, bed bugs love setting up a home in your mattress, headboard, and footboard. Because they’re able to squeeze through near-paper thin cracks, they can spread and further infest almost any area.
Bed bugs will venture up to 20 feet from their homes to feed, so you can expect to find them in small cracks, nooks, and crevices near a human environment. Along with your mattress and bed, common areas where you can find bed bugs include:
- Electrical Outlets
- Gaps in bedroom furniture
- Seams and joints in couches and chairs
- Carpet edges
- Curtain folds
- Closets and clothing
They can live nearly anywhere, coming out to feed at least once every two weeks. Because they require few feedings and can produce hundreds of eggs over their lifetime, which is about 6-12 months, it’s easy for infestations to sprout up and continue coming back.
How to Kill Bed Bugs
To get rid of a bed bug infestation, you need cooperation from anyone who might be affected. This means talking with your neighbors in apartment complexes and your roommates. It’s easy for bed bugs to spread, and carelessness can easily cause them to move from one environment to another.
Routinely Inspect for Bed Bugs
Treating bed bugs is rarely a one-off ordeal. After your initial extermination efforts, you’ll need to inspect for any bed bug activity for at least a year after you find the last signs of an infestation.
Bed bugs can bury themselves deep, so when it’s time to search, make sure you’re prepared. Use a high-powered flashlight and magnifying glass to inspect any small spaces that might harbor a nest.
When you find and treat bed bugs, it’s helpful to keep a log so that you can recognize patterns and make your control efforts more efficient. Let’s look at how some effective methods to get rid of bed bugs when you find them.
Vacuum your mattress, bed, and surrounding carpet and furniture to suck up as many bed bugs as you can. This does not kill them, so you need to keep them within a sealed container at all times.
If you use a canister vacuum, empty it into a plastic garbage bag, tie/tape the bag shut, and put it in the garbage bin. Wash the vacuum canister to kill any remaining bugs.
After vacuuming, you need to remove clutter to make your bed bug treatment easier and to reduce the number of hiding spots.
If you have any items that can’t be washed but may have bed bugs, seal them in plastic bags and put them in storage for at least a year to give the bugs enough time to die off. In some cases, if you can’t safely get rid of the bed bugs, you’ll have to dispose of the item.
Soft furniture can often turn into an unmanageable bed bug nest. If you have to dispose of furniture, rip up the cushions and attach some kind of sign that it has bed bugs to dissuade people from picking it up off the curb.
Wash your linens, clothing, curtains, and any other washable fabrics in hot water. Dry them on the highest heat setting for at least 30 minutes to kill any remaining bed bugs. If an item can’t be washed, you could still use the dryer to destroy any bugs.
Freeze Small Items
If you can’t heat an item, you might be able to freeze bed bugs to death. If your freezer goes below 0F, put small items in plastic bags and freeze them for about five days.
For large furniture, carpets, and mattresses, you can try a penetrating steamer to kill bed bugs that can’t be reached with a vacuum. Check fabric tags before steaming to prevent any damage.
Use Mattress Covers
Bed bug-proof mattress covers will keep bed bugs from infesting the mattress and make your bed usable again. You’ll need to have it on for at least a year to kill any bed bugs still in the mattress.
Use an Insecticide or DIY Bed Bug Killer
You can treat bed bugs effectively with spray solutions. The EPA keeps a database of approved pesticides that kill bed bugs for you to reference. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully and wear protective gear.
For a homemade bed bug spray, mix one-part rubbing alcohol with one part water. The solution works on direct contact, so it has limited use, but it is a powerful killer nevertheless. Be careful not to spray outlets or other potential fire sources.
Stay Smart to Prevent Bed Bugs
Knowing how to kill bed bugs is only half the battle. The best way to control bed bugs is to keep them from coming into your house in the first place. Being careful when traveling and keeping a tidy home can go a long way in stopping bed bugs from making themselves at home.
If you still have a bed bug problem despite your best efforts, you still have a powerful tool at your disposal — professional pest control. For help with your pest control problems, contact the experts at Pointe Pest Control to schedule an appointment today.