Merely talking about bed bugs can induce a psychosomatic itchiness in some people, so let’s at least start with some good news: bed bugs do not transfer diseases to humans. According to the Center for Disease Control, bed bugs do not pose the threat of transferring any known diseases to households and other places that they tend to infest. What’s the bad news? These little vampires are mainly after one thing: human blood.
While they also snack on other mammals like housepets and even bats, we are their number one prey. They live in our beds because that’s where they can remain unseen and then strike when we’re most vulnerable – when we’re asleep. This brings us to the first step in stopping a bed bug infestation: detection.
Bed Bug Bites Are Not Always Instantly Visible
It can take anywhere between a few days up to a week before you can actually see the result of bed bug bites on your skin. This is one way in which bed bugs can conceal their presence and spread in your household without you being any wiser. You may not know it, but you may have already been bitten by these little vampires – either while inside your home or while staying in a hotel or someone else’s house.
The bites usually result in tiny red bumps (or welts) that appear on the neck, face, hands, and feet. Another helpful clue is when these bumps appear in a predictable pattern of three bumps in a row on the skin. But this isn’t always the case. Many people are highly resistant to the effects of these bites, resulting in very little to zero itching and visual clues on the skin. So if your roommate starts developing itchy red welts on their skin while your skin remains spotless, they might not be just suffering from an isolated allergy: there’s a chance you already have a bed bug colony developing at home.
Visually Inspecting Your Bed is the Best Way to Detect the Little Buggers
According to Lou Sorkin, an entomologist (or insect expert) who breeds bed bugs for the sake of studying them, knowing what to look for is the first line of defense. If you suspect that bed bugs are to blame for a household member’s red bites and welts, it’s time to strip the bed naked and look for clues.
- Their eggs look like much smaller and somewhat translucent bits of rice. These can be really hard to spot without a magnifying glass or an inspection aid like a flashlight.
- The eggs hatch to release 1mm long young, light brown-colored bed bugs called nymphs. In a way, they resemble extremely tinier and rounder versions of baby cockroaches.
- As the nymphs mature, they can dramatically grow into 5mm, dark reddish brown versions of themselves. While adult bed bugs are much larger than their nymph versions, they can only grow to about a quarter of an inch or 6.5mm in length, which still makes them really hard to spot with the naked eye. Well-fed bed bugs are much plumper and are easier to see.
- Bed bugs also leave either red smears or tiny black dots on your pillows, sheets, mattress, and pajamas.
While bed bugs are experts at remaining hidden, they’re never too far away from their source of fresh blood. This is why, according to cleaning professionals that deal with the little buggers, the first place to check is your pillows and pillow cases. The seams provide them with a safe and cozy environment to hide in until their next feeding time.
After you’re done checking the pillows, move on to the next layer: your quilt or comforter. Work your way through layer after layer and very carefully inspect every inch of every part of your bed (including bed skirts) until you reach the mattress. Check your box springs or bed frame as well. Any seams, vents, labels, corners, and other cozy areas that can provide cover can be used by bed bugs as refuge.
Check Your Bedroom and Entire Home
Obviously, the mattress itself (with its different layers and cozy spots) is the best place for bed bugs to hide. But don’t stop there. Any object in the bedroom is a possible hiding spot, especially the ones nearest your bed. Check your phone, alarm clock, bedside table, lamp, dresser, and everything else that’s close to the bed bugs’ main food source: humans.
Any rooms or pieces of furniture where people spend a lot of time sitting or lying down should be checked as well. The same meticulous method for inspecting your bed should also be applied to any chairs, couches, and day beds in the house. Once they’re in your home, it’s very easy for bed bugs to spread (usually through hitchhiking on stuff being moved around the home or through climbing on your home’s electrical wiring).
Consult a Professional Pest Control Service to Handle Full-Blown Infestations
So you have bed bugs in your home – don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world. At worst, bed bugs are a massive irritation, but they can’t really kill you. You, however, have access to different ways of killing them.
There are a bunch of cheap DIY methods of getting rid of bed bugs, but none of them is as effective as hiring a professional pest control crew that can stamp them out of your home once and for all. Find a reliable one that’s near your area and stay out of the way. Let them work and follow their instructions to completely eradicate every trace of the little vampires from your home. Once the pros can tell you that your home is 100% clear of bed bugs, you should take every step to ensure that they never return to bother you again:
Ensure that Bed Bugs Don’t Hitchhike Home
Bed bugs can attach to your stuff whenever you take public transportation or venture anywhere outside the house, but this is most likely to happen when you stay for prolonged periods of time in a hotel or similar location. The first step to ensuring that they don’t follow you home is to ensure that you don’t check into a place with bed bugs in the first place. Before you stay anywhere, do your research and take steps to ensure that you’re not staying in a potentially infested location.
Even if the place you’re staying at appears to be clean and clear of bed bugs, remember that they’re experts at hiding. In fact, according to experts at detecting the little buggers, even the highest rated 5-star hotels can be infested. So before you make yourself comfortable at any luxury hotel, put your luggage down on a surface that’s non-porous (bathroom tile, bathtub, steel/plastic furniture), and do a thorough inspection of the room that you’re staying in. Never ever set your clothes and luggage down in and on hotel closets, dressers, beds, and furniture unless you’ve done the necessary inspection. Inspecting everything may seem like a lot of work, but it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) than flushing bed bugs out of your home.
The same thorough inspection should be done on anything that you’re planning to bring into your home, including clothes, furniture (especially secondhand pieces), electronics, and even brand-new mattresses. Any foreign object you bring inside your home is a potential carrier of either bed bugs or their eggs.
Encase Your Mattress and Box Spring in Protective Covers
Commercially available bed encasements can completely cover your entire bed to prevent any part of it from being infested. If a whole-bed encasement is over your budget, even getting just an encasement for your box spring can help in bed bug detection and prevention. If you have no idea where to get these, ask the pest control services you hired to get rid of the bugs. Just as a mattress protector can prevent stains, so can these plastic encasements prevent full-blown bed bug infestations.
Use Traps and Interceptors for Early Detection
Full-scale infestations are avoidable through early detection, and a cheap way to do this is via traps and bed bug interceptors. Usually attached to the legs of the bed or other bedroom furniture, interceptors are used to trap bed bugs whenever they move from one place to another. While this,in itself, is not an effective way to curtail an infestation, it is a good way to detect their presence and deal with them early on and not give them a chance to multiply.