Getting Rid of Bedbugs

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”  The old saying sounds very casual and even optimistic.  It doesn’t give a hint of how effective bedbugs are at the art of survival.  Bedbugs are opportunistic insects that live on a diet of blood, their favorite type of blood being human.

Nobody likes bedbugs.  Preparing for this article has made me feel itchy, even though there is no reason to scratch.

We’ll get to know our opponent, how to get rid of them and how to prevent an infestation.

What do bedbugs look like?

Bedbugs

  • are about a ¼ inch (5-9 mm) long as adults
  • do not have wings
  • are lightish brown before eating
  • are rust brown to reddish after eating
  • have an oval-shaped body, which becomes cigar-shaped after eating
  • have a flat body, which means they can get into narrow cracks
  • have large antennae
  • have a large mouth

Where do bedbugs come from?

Bedbugs like to hide in luggage and clothes.  They don’t need to worry about transport because they can hitch a ride from place to place.  They are most often present in hotels and any place with high people traffic.

They are less likely to be picked up in commercial premises where people do not stay still for an extended period, e.g. a clothes store.

What do bedbugs do to humans?

Getting rid of bedbugsThere is no evidence to show that bedbugs transmit diseases.

Reactions to bedbug bites vary.  There may be no reaction at all to their bites, except a tiny hole at the place of the bite.

Other reactions include red welts which may be very itchy.  Try not to scratch them.  If they are not scratched, they should be gone in a week.  You might consider an anti-itch cream, such as calamine lotion.  An icepack will reduce any swelling.

Scratching may cause infection, and in this case, medical attention is required.

Where there is a pre-existing condition, such as asthma, bedbug bites have been known to bring on an attack.   Seek medical attention for allergic reactions.

What conditions does a bedbug like?

Bedbugs can be found anywhere in the world.  They have enjoyed a revival in the last 30 years as more people travel worldwide.

Bedbugs

  • Love a warm temperature, hate extreme hot or cold temperatures
  • Choose to live in dark areas close to their food source (you)
  • Are nocturnal; the night hours are their feeding time

How can I tell if we have bedbugs?

  • If you see small spots of blood on your bedding, this may be due to squashed bedbugs.
  • You may also see dark spots of their excrement on your bedding or walls.
  • You may actually see them, although bedbugs are very small. They are nocturnal so you won’t normally see them during the day.  They can move very fast over floors, walls, and ceilings.
  • Getting rid of bedbugsRemove and inspect your bedding. Look closely at the seams, buttons and folds of your mattress.
  • They also hide in cracks and crevices and have been found behind clocks, picture frames, and electrical outlet plates. Also, check items such as radios and books, or anywhere that they can crawl into.
  • Check your closet. If you have been traveling lately, check your suitcases and the area where they are kept.
  • You and your family may have bites, especially on the arms and shoulders, or any skin exposed while sleeping.
  • If there is a severe infestation, there might be an unpleasant smell. It is a sweet musty odor which is said to smell like coriander.
  • It may be necessary to bring in an expert to inspect your home.
  • Are you sure that they are bedbugs and not ticks, mosquitos or fleas?

How can I get rid of bedbugs?

  • Wash bedding and infested clothing in hot water, and dry with a clothes dryer for a minimum of 30 minutes using a hot setting.
  • Scrub your mattress with a firm brush to dislodge eggs before vacuuming. Eggs are the size of dust particles.
  • Vacuum all surfaces, including your mattress. Don’t forget your couch.  Use the appropriate attachments to clean the walls and any crevices.  Empty your vacuum cleaner into a plastic bag outside your house, and place the bag into your outside garbage can immediately.  To avoid infestation of your vacuum cleaner, wrap the vacuum in heavy plastic or store in a sealed container.
  • If possible, leave the vacuumed mattress in the hot sun. Wrapping the mattress in plastic will accelerate results.
  • Place wrapped delicate or smaller objects in the freezer and leave them there for 7 to 10 days.
  • Spray hiding spots with a safe surface spray that is designed to control bedbugs. Ensure you read the instructions carefully.  Do not spray your bed or bedding unless the instructions state that it is safe to do so.
  • Foggers or “bug bombs” will not be effective because the bedbugs are well hidden and will be little affected by the pesticide mist.
  • Steam-clean your carpets.
  • Leaving your home will not get rid of the bedbugs. They can live for 6 to 12 months at room temperature without food.
  • You may need to get professional help to get rid of the bedbugs. Look for a licensed operator with bedbug experience.  The pest controller will inspect your house, and this may involve taking furniture apart or looking in places that rarely see the light of day.  After the first visit, eggs laid previously may hatch and cause another infestation, so that another visit might be necessary.  Don’t vacuum immediately after a visit to ensure the treatment has a chance to work.

How do I prevent an infestation?

Keeping your house extremely clean will discourage a heavy infestation and will also expose the existence of bedbugs in the early stages, making control easier.  However, a high standard of hygiene will not stop them completely.

You need to deprive them of their hiding spots

  • Protect your mattress in a bedbug resistant cover. It should be tightly woven and zippered.
  • Fill and repair any cracks and crevices in the walls.
  • Ensure the edges of your carpet and wallpaper are fixed in place.
  • Keep clutter around your bed to a minimum.
  • Vacuum often, especially in likely hiding places.

Use a bedbug interceptor

A bedbug interceptor is a plastic tray in the shape of a bowl.  They are usually placed under bed legs, but could be positioned anywhere that you think is a traffic area for bedbugs.

Bedbugs can’t fly.  The interceptor will stop them from scurrying up and down the bedpost.  Those leaving your bed will be trapped in the bowl.  On the other hand, bedbugs that are newly arrived will have no way to enter your bedding.

The interceptor is not a fix for bedbugs, but it is a way of confirming that you have a bedbug problem and a tool in your prevention arsenal.

You could consider purchasing interceptors, or you could experiment with household items.  Look for anything that is a bowl shape that can be discarded after use.   Don’t use items that would be appealing to very young children.

 

Reactions to bedbugs range from irritating to distressing, and may include a visit to the doctor.  Make sure you leave them no place to hide.

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