You’ve heard the old saying, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”. It’s been around for ages, but unfortunately the fact of the matter is there is no way that we can’t let bed bugs bite us if they are in our beds–they’re going to do it anyway!
Bed bugs are among the most frustrating insects to come in contact with and are even more frustrating to get rid of. Encountering bed bugs in your home may lead you to having poor quality sleep in your home because they will feed on your flesh on a nightly basis and you will wake up to marks and bite marks that are irritatingly itchy.
Home Remedies for Killing Bed Bugs: What Actually Works?
The bed bug (scientifically known as Cimex lectularius) has long been a common household pest, but that wasn’t always the case. In recent years, however, there has been an explosion in bed bug outbreak mainly due to international travel. They are known to hitchhike into luggage and even onto people themselves by hiding in clothing.
Removing bed bugs can be extremely expensive if you hire professionals and even then, pros may not be able to successfully eliminate all of the bugs in a home, resulting in follow up treatments needing to be done and more money to be spent. If you don’t have the budget for an exterminator, it is possible to get rid of bed bugs in your home yourself and eliminate the infestation with the right products and home remedies.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bugs are small, nocturnal, parasitic bugs that belong to the Cimicidae family of parasitic insects. As a result, they require a host to survive off of and choose to feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded mammals. They have flat-bodies, no wings, and are oval in shape and grow up to 4 to 5 mm long when fully grown. Their skin color is rusty brown to a deeper red brown.
Because of their tiny size and flat bodies, bed bugs have an advantage of hiding very well and going undetected for long periods of time. Some of their common hiding spots are in mattress crevices, baseboards, floor cracks and under carpets.
Bed bugs are particularly frustrating and increasingly difficult to find at night, especially when they are feasting on sleeping humans. When bed bugs bite, they cleverly tear into human flesh with an anesthetic injection that prevents a person from realizing that they are being bitten.
Bed Bug Life Cycle
Bed bugs are a parasite and must have blood to reproduce. All bed bugs go through a gradual metamorphosis (egg – nymph – 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 (feeding, then 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. Under ideal conditions, the 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.
How to Identify Bed Bugs
Knowing what to look for is the first step in identifying and controlling bed bugs. Homeowners sometimes mistake other bugs as bed bugs because of similar color and characteristics, so it is best to know how a bed bug looks in order to distinguish it from other insects.Bed bugs grow in stages after they exit the egg capsule.
Immature bed bugs are known as nymphs and vary in size ranging between 2 mm and 5 mm. Adult bed bugs are around a fourth of an inch or larger. The Bed Bug life cycle can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the surrounding temperature and available food sources.
Adult bed bugs have a rusty red color and swell to a bright red directly after feeding off blood.
Immature bed bugs are a bit lighter than the adults. They are typically a yellow, tannish color.
The eggs of bed bugs are usually a very light cream-like color.
Inspecting for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs require an extremely thorough inspection as they tend to hide in small cracks and crevices. When performing your inspections check for bed bug fecal deposits or “rust spots” as well as for the insects themselves. Start by checking common areas like the bedroom where you have been bitten the most. A flashlight and a flat piece of hard plastic like a credit card could be helpful for 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 runners and joints.
- Flip all wooden furniture over and check all joints, 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.
Prep Your Home For Bed Bug Killing
Before breaking out any chemicals, it’s best to prep your home for the use of bed bug control products by removing clutter from your home.
- Get rid of anything you do not need anymore whether it be furniture, clothes, covers etc.
- Wash and Dry all of your home clothing that you keep (infested or not-you can never be too sure), bag them and stash them away. The heat from the dryer should kill any remaining bed bugs.
- 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.
- Get good, durable, zippered mattress covers for mattresses and box springs. Cover everything and leave it covered for 6-9 months.Be careful not to tear covers.
- Leave everything disassembled from earlier so that you can treat all known/suspected areas of infestation.
Choosing the Right Bed Bug Remedies
What is important to remember when tackling a bed bug problem, is that the product does not matter as much as the application. Some of the main products to address bed bug infestations include liquid insecticide concentrates, Insect Growth Regulators, Dust, Aerosol and Sprays that are specific for bedding and luggage. These are all different, and in most cases it is important to have some or all of these different types of bed bug control products in your arsenal.
A liquid concentrate mixed with the Insect Growth Regulator are 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.
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. There are special bed bug sprays that have no application regulations, so it can be sprayed often and on mattress, furniture and areas that you have direct contact with the surface.
Bed bug powders/dust are used to effectively treat the walls voids, electrical outlets and any other out of the way places. Bed bug dust is meant to stay put, undisturbed for long periods of time.
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.
Combining all or some of the above methods of treatment along with a regular vacuuming routine and washing and drying all infested items on high heat can go a long way in significantly killing bed bugs in your home.
Preventing Bed Bugs From Coming Back
When it comes to preventing a reinfestation there’s little that can be done since bed bugs usually venture upon homes via traveling or by having company stay over at your home who may have unsuspectingly brought bed bugs along. However if you take the proper precautions you can prevent or limit bed bugs from entering your home ever again.
- Inspect your home regularly–starting with your mattress. Familiarize yourself with the droppings and blood stains bed bugs leave and under the foldings and crevices of your mattress and box springs.
- If you leave the country, or travel and stay in hotels/motels, thoroughly inspect luggage as you unpack. Check the sleeping quarters whenever you are traveling or staying over at friends and families house. This may be seen as impolite but again, you can never be too sure.
- Furniture and clothing bought should be inspected thoroughly for bed bugs and treated or dried at high heat before use. In most cases you should probably avoid buying used furniture entirely. That tempting couch by the dumpster may be a welcome addition to your home, but there’s a reason it’s being cast out so proceed with caution.
- 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.
There is no perfect way to prevent bed bugs in your home, but paying attention to your surroundings and checking your items when you are in areas that have a high tendency to have bed bug problems will make it likely to reduce your risk. If you do encounter bed bugs, using the remedies we mentioned above and being persistent will remove the bed bugs and end the biting so you can rest easy.