If you have ever seen or heard about an infestation of bed bugs, then you probably know your fair share of horror stories. Conduct a search online and you will find account after account from people speaking about an entire slew of bed bugs found hiding in tight spaces, delivering multiple bites on a nightly basis to unfortunate victims and making living within the four walls that they are a living nightmare.
So what if in your home you happen to find a lone bed bug crawling around? Should you panic? Should you kill it and just move on? It’s just one bed bug, after all. In this article, we will cover the nature of bed bug infestations and how even a single bed bug should raise an alarm in you to take action and protect your home.
Why Finding Just ONE Bed Bug Should Still Be a Concern
How Bed Bugs Operate
First things first, it’s important to know the habits and tendencies of bed bugs so that you are better equipped at addressing an infestation, even if it is just one bed bug that you were to find. Bed bugs are a parasite, meaning it relies on a host for its survival. That host, unfortunately, happens to be us humans in the form of our blood and that is why they go out of their way to be wherever there are plenty of us around (apartments, airports, theaters, hotels, motels etc.)
The times when they attack us is cleverly when we have our guard down—at rest. Bed bugs opportunely wait until nightfall when we have laid our heads to sleep to crawl over to us and bite into our skin to get their fill of blood. When doing so, they at the same time inject us with saliva that acts as a numbing agent so we don’t feel the bites right away. By the time we stir awake from an irritating itch, the bed bugs will have already went back to their hiding spaces.
Bed bugs don’t just crawl into a home or building from outdoors, they are almost always brought in, often unknowingly, by people via their belongings. Their mode of survival depends upon their abilities to hide in secluded areas and hitch a ride on items like luggage, boxes, clothing and other items that are being moved around.
It is because of their hiding and ride hitching skills that makes it hard to predict how many bed bugs will be present in a building, even if you do happen to detect one of them.
Are You Sure It’s A Bed Bug?
If it is one thing we humans are good at, it’s jumping to conclusions. Say you found a brownish red looking bug in your home, then erroneously believe it to be a bed bug because of an hunch or assumption. Your guess could likely be a mistake and it was another bug you are dealing with.
While there are a lot of insect species out there that can make their way into a home, a bed bug is very distinct. They look like a crawling apple seed the way they are shaped and their flat bodies make it easy for them to squeeze their way in the tiniest of cracks and crevices.
Proper identification is key to whether you should be concerned that bed bugs are present or whether it is an entirely different insect problem altogether.
Always Assume There Are More
Let’s say that you did your due diligence after finding a bed bug and start to do a bit of investigation to find out if there were other bed bugs around and came up short. You conclude that the bed bug must be the only one around and thus, you squish it, discard it and consider it a victory of bed bugs. Not so fast.
If you did indeed find a bed bug in your home, the chances of it being the ONLY one around is rare. Bed Bugs most often travel together and more than one tends to infest an outside item that is brought into the home or on luggage while you are traveling. You should always automatically assume there are others that you don’t see, especially if you found the bed bug during the day.
As we mentioned earlier, bed bugs are experts at hiding and they usually spend the entire daytime staying in hiding. They activate themselves at night solely because that is when we sleep, so that is when they feed. A bed bug wandering around during the day may even mean that the infestation is so large that the bed bug is trying to find a new place to hide out since the other areas are occupied by too many other bed bugs.
The only way that you can be sure if there are no bed bugs is by conducting a thorough, detailed inspection of your home and checking every nook and cranny possible for bed bugs. If you don’t do this, you won’t know for certain that there are no bed bugs present, and the answer will become clear when you wake up to welts all over your body from bed bug bites.
A single bed bug or even a handful can be worrisome because just one single female bed bug that is pregnant can lay eggs and cause an infestation that can result in hundreds to thousands of bed bugs in your home within a period of six months!
How? A female bed bug that has had a blood meal can lay 1 to 7 bed bugs a day for a span of 10 days. Bed bugs hatch within 6 to 9 days and can move into adulthood in a little over a month. After that they can also lay eggs and soon enough the bed bugs will double and triple if there is no intervention.
How To Properly Inspect For Bed Bugs
A bed bug inspection shouldn’t be a quick glance over your bed, under your pillows and your dressers but should be a detailed scan of your home and to ensure there are no bed bugs around, and if there are, to know where to focus treatment.
Begin by pulling off your bedsheets, covers, and pillowcases until your mattress is totally bare and then pull the mattress away from the boxspring as well. With your bed pulled apart, carefully scan your mattress, box spring, bed frame, head and footboards, and any bedding materials. Lift over the seams and folds of your mattress and arm yourself with a flashlight to look inside hard to view tight spaces and areas. You should also use a credit card or a thin piece of hard plastic to swipe through tight cracks since bed bugs can squeeze through these hard-to-reach areas.
Once the bed has been observed, you’re not done yet as you should then carefully go through your nightstand and dresser adjacent to your bed, the carpeting, curtains and drapes and any other lounging furniture. Just because they are called bed bugs, doesn’t mean that they just infest beds.
You shouldn’t just be looking for bed bugs themselves but also signs of their presence via blood stains, fecal stains (dark red, brown or black spots), shed skins and bed bug eggs (which are hard to see because they are clear-colored and very tiny).
If you didn’t observe any signs of bed bugs, you should still monitor bed bug activity by using bed bug monitor traps around the legs of your bed or go DIY and use double-sided tape around your bed legs, headboards and other common bed bug hot spots.
If you did find bed bugs and evidences of bed bug activity, it is imperative that you move quickly with performing a bed bug treatment of your home before the bed bug infestation grows out of control.
How to Approach Bed Bug Control
While there are a number of bed bug control remedies and hacks you may find online, the best way to get rid of a bed bug infestation is to keep it gimmick-free by vacuuming your home entirely, heat treating infested areas and items, using a residual bed bug killing spray and then finally protecting your bed and furniture with bed bug encasements. We break down each phase of this action plan below:
- Vacuum Everything: That’s right, we mean everything, carpets, floors and even the drapes. Use your vacuum crevice attachments and accessories to vacuum the tufts and folds of your mattress, the cracks and crevices of your box spring, your bed frame, dressers and any other nook and cranny that bed bugs may be. Vacuuming sucks up adults bed bugs, nymphs and eggs. It may not get them all, but it will get a significant amount. After you are done, toss out your vacuum bag outdoors immediately. If your vacuum has a removable canister, dump it out and then wash it with hot water and soap.
- Heat Treating: Bed bugs have a weakness and that is extreme heat. Temperatures of 140 degrees and above can kill bed bugs instantly so what you can do after vacuuming is go the extra mile and steam clean your carpets and furniture. Alternatively, you could toss all items you suspect may be infested with bed bugs in the washer and dryer on the highest heat setting. Do this with your bed sheets, pillowcases, any suspected clothing and other fabrics to kill off any bed bugs in hiding. Afterward, quarantine the items away in your closet, preferably in a plastic bag. Keep them there until the treatment is complete and bed bugs are totally gone.
- Spray Bed Bug Killer: Even after steam treatment and vacuuming, bed bugs may still linger around so you can kill the remaining with bed bug spray. Bed bug sprays kill on contact and often have a residual effect. This means that the product will remain effective long after you sprayed so if a bed bug comes across a treated area days after, they will contact the insecticide and die shortly after. Spray your mattress, box springs and any other piece of furniture you have. Additional helpful items can be bed bug powder insecticides that can be applied in areas that bed bugs may go that sprays won’t be feasible to use like in wall voids and behind electrical outlets.
- Bed Bug Encasements: After bed bugs are killed, you want to rule out the chances of another invasion. Bed bug encasements are a helpful tool to ensure that. Place bed bug encasements around your mattress, box spring and even couches. Encasements wrap around these pieces of furniture and make it impossible for bed bugs to infest because it takes away all the hiding spots they are used to. The chances of reinfestation greatly go down with this addition.
Bed bugs being present in a home–even if it’s just one–is not to be taken lightly, because the likelihood of a full blown infestation being present or soon to be present goes up. By conducting a good inspection and monitoring activity, you can prevent bed bugs from taking over. If bed bugs are present, follow our steps to eliminate the invasion once and for all.