You wake up in the middle of the night to an irritating itch and see that there are red raised bumps on your body. You flip the lights on and scan your bed only to find nothing but blood spots. That’s when you realize that you have bed bugs. Cue the horror music!
Bed bugs are among the most frustrating pests you can encounter in your home and are even more frustrating to eliminate. The presence of bed bugs indoors will almost certainly lead to you and anyone else in your home having a terribly time sleeping because that is when they feed on your flesh and you will wake up to marks and bite marks that are extremely itchy.
When bed bugs get their fill of blood, they move right into reproduction and multiplying their population which is why it is crucial to spring into action and control the bloodsuckers before the numbers get out of hand and they overrun your home. Your first instinct may be to call a bed bug exterminator who will have to inspect your home and then lay out a detailed plan of attack.
While exterminators can be effective if you find a reputable one, they can be quite costly. Based on studies, the average cost of an exterminator can be between 1,000 to 2,000 dollars. Most people don’t have a stash of funds set aside for bed bug control, and since bed bug infestation often take people by surprise, they might not be prepared to meet the high price tag.
Does that mean that you should just give up and live with incessant biting from bed bugs for the rest of your life? Of course not. There are cheaper alternatives to wipe out the population; you can do it yourself? It is possible to achieve an exterminator quality treatment of bed bugs in your home by having the right approach and using the right technique and products available to you.
We will cover how you can do so in this article. But first, it’s importantly to learn about your enemy, the dread bed bug, before you proceed with a plan of attack.
All You Need To Know About Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are a species of insect that are considered to be a parasite, meaning that they need to live off a host for survival. In this case, their preferred hosts are warm-blooded humans.
Because of their tiny size and flat bodies, bed bugs have an advantage of hiding very well and going undetected. They have been known to hide in crevices in bedding, baseboards, floor cracks and under carpets.
They are particularly frustrating and increasingly difficult to find at night, especially when they are feasting on sleeping humans. When bed bugs bite, they penetrate human flesh with an numbing injection which prevents a person from realizing that they are being bitten. Clever little monsters huh?
Bed bugs almost always gain access into a home by people unknowingly bringing them into their home from some other place. This is because bed bugs are hitchhikers. They gather in areas where there is a lot of transfer of people and belongings. Examples of such places are hotels, motels, airports, bus stations, theatres, apartment complexes and the like. They will crawl onto suitcases, bags, purses, clothing, you name it.
Due to the rise in international travel, people that often go vacationing overseas may have bed bugs infesting their items and bring back bed bugs as an unwanted souvenir.
Bed Bug Life Cycle
One of the most frustrating things about a bed bug infestation is their knack for reproducing and multiplying at an alarming rate. This is because their life cycle goes by very quickly. All bed bugs go through a gradual metamorphosis (from egg, to nymph, to adult) to develop. Bed bugs are nocturnal insects, preferring to feed at night or in subdued light during the day.
After feeding, one male can fertilize several females in a 24 hour period. Once fertilized, a female bed bug will typically lay 1-5 eggs a day (200-500 in a lifetime). The eggs take 6-10 days to hatch. Nymphs must complete 5 instars (molting phases where the bed bug begins shedding its skin) before reaching adulthood. At least one blood meal is required between each instar, but developing nymphs can feed as often as once a day.
Upon locating a host it can take 3-12 minutes for a bed bug to eat its fill. As mentioned earlier, they will inject a host with a numbing substance during the time from so they don’t immediately feel the itchiness of the biting, which allows the bed bug to go back into hiding once they have been satisfied.
Under ideal conditions, the bed bug life cycle can be completed in 4-5 weeks. Adult bed bugs can survive 6-9 months without feeding while a nymph can survive 3 months.
It’s important to know about the life cycle if only to let you know that bed bug control is something that is not a one and done deal. You will have to conduct repeat treatments in order to fully eliminate the bed bugs in all four phases of development.
Inspecting For Bed Bugs
Bed bug control always starts with a thorough inspection. What exterminators often do is scan your home for bed bug fecal deposits or “rust spots” as well as any signs of the insects themselves. Some other signs to observe are shed skins of the bed bugs that are going through their instar phases and any bed bug eggs which are creamy or translucent and very tiny.
Start by checking common areas like the bedroom where you have been bitten the most. Arm yourself with a flashlight and a flat piece of hard plastic like a credit card to help you when looking in narrow crevices and tight spaces.
- Check all seams around the mattress and all joints, cracks, and crevices on the box springs. (This will probably require you to remove the fabric from the underside of the box springs.)
- Take drawers out of furniture (dressers, nightstands, etc.) and check the wheels and joints.
- Flip all wooden furniture over and check all the legs, cracks and crevices.
- Pull carpet back slightly and check under all the baseboards.
- Check behind pictures/artwork on walls and in folds of curtains.
- Be sure to check behind all outlet covers and light switch covers as well.
Once you have completed a thorough scan, the areas where you have seen the most spotting or bed bug activity will be where you can focus your treatment.
Preliminary Actions To Take Before Treatment
Before you can break out pesticides and control products, it is important to first prep your home for treatment. This is to ensure the products work at the optimum levels. A few things that should be done are:
- Discard any infested items that you do not need anymore be it furniture, clothing, or other materials that bed bugs have been frequenting.
- Run all infested clothing and bedding materials through a washer and dryer cycle on the highest possible heat setting. The high temperatures will kill any bed bugs that remain on the items. After the laundering, bag the items and stash them away in a closet until the infestation is eliminated.
- Steam clean your carpets and your bed and box spring with a steam cleaner. The heat from the steamer can kill bugs easily with direct contact.
- You should also conduct a deep vacuuming daily of your carpets, rugs and other areas of high bed bug activity. Toss away vacuum bags immediately outside of the home in a tightly sealed trash can after you are finished.
Making Sure You Select The Right Bed Bug Products
There are many products out there available to consumers that claim to kill bed bugs, yet exterminators use products that are reputable and proven to work. Among the items that can work to kill bed bug infestation include pesticide concentrates, Insect Growth Regulators, bed bug powders, and bed bug aerosols.
A insecticide concentrate mixed with the Insect Growth Regulator is great to spray on items that you can apply a little more liberally, such as the mattress frame, baseboards, and any other service that can handle the liquid. This will target both adult bed bugs and their nymphs and eggs.
Bed bug powders are typically used to apply to hard-to-treat areas such as behind baseboards, electrical outlets and wall voids. An aerosol can be used with a straw applicator to apply into the tight seams of the mattress, box springs, furniture etc, and any other tight cracks and crevices.
Using a combination of these items rather than just one will boost the chances that you will successfully get rid of the entire bed bug invasion.
Since bed bugs can hide in unexpected areas, it is important to spray the bed, the bed frame, any carpeting that is near the bed or areas where the insects may hide throughout the room. In some cases, the pests will hide in the couch or in a chair, so it is important to identify the infested area before the insects can spread.
All the pesticides that you use should be repeatedly used every two weeks with a follow up treatment until you no longer are experiencing bites or are seeing any more bed bugs.
Preventing Bed Bugs From Returning
Once you are no longer experiencing bed bug bites, you should not hang your hat just yet. Bed bugs can almost certainly return to your home if you are not careful and if you do not take the necessary precautionary measures.
Cover your mattress and box spring with an appropriate bed bug encasement after treatment has completed. This will dramatically reduce the chances of bed bug reinfestation because the encasement will block them from accessing all the tight folds and crevices they use to hide in your bed.
There are also bed bug traps available to monitor if there is a problem or a reinfestation. These traps can also prevent bed bugs from being able to crawl up the legs of furniture and beds. A few other preventative actions to take include:
- Be extra careful when you are on vacation or are staying in hotels or motels. Thoroughly inspect luggage as you unpack. Check the sleeping quarters whenever you are traveling or staying over at friends and family members house. This may be seen as impolite but again, you can never be too sure.
- Furniture and clothing bought used or secondhand should be inspected thoroughly for bed bugs and treated at high heat before use. In most cases you should probably avoid buying used furniture entirely.
- If you have visitors over or company who spends the night, always check for bed bugs after the visitors have left. Friends and family members may be unaware that bed bugs had joined them on their travels by hiding in their luggage or clothing. Inspect any areas where your guests have spent time resting, sleeping and areas where they stored their belongings.