If you notice bed bugs in your house, you’re likely to be shocked at first. Bed bugs can mess up your living if you don’t identify them and take appropriate measures to deal with them.
Bed bug infestations can also seriously weigh down you financially, not to mention the physical and emotional toll that they can take on you. And in many cases, you might need to enlist a reputable pest control company to completely get rid of an infestation.
Before we look at various ways on how to completely eradicate bed bugs from your home, it’s important to understand what bed bugs actually are, where they come from, where they live, what attracts them, signs of a bed bug infestation, and signs of a bed bug bite.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small household pests with small, oval-shaped, flat bodies. They have no wings. Adults do have the signs of wings known as wings pads, which don’t completely develop into useful wings.
Adults are brown, although their bodies become red after feeding. They measure between 4 and 5 mm and move quite slowly.
Some homeowners mistakenly believe that the pests are too tiny to spot with the naked eye. While the nymphs (baby bugs) may be tiny and hard to spot, adults are visible and may spotted in the cracks and crannies where they live.
Newly hatched nymphs are tan or white before feeding and are about the size of a pinhead. They’re often about the shape and size of an apple seed.
Types of Bed Bugs
The most common bed bug is the household one (Cimex lectularius), which is found all over the world. Household bed bugs adapt favorably to human habitats and are normally found in temperate climates.
Several other related household pests look like bed bugs in terms of appearance and habits. Proper identification normally requires experience with differentiating the different species, as well as magnification.
- Tropical bed bugs (Cimex hemipterus) also feed on humans but are mostly found in more tropical areas, including Florida.
- Bat bugs (Cimex adjunctus) are also found in more temperate regions as well as topical areas. These bugs mainly feed on bats, but they do occasionally feed on humans, especially if the primary food source isn’t available anymore. Found majorly in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, Mexican chicken bugs also look more like common household bug. However, these pests usually live in poultry farms and prefer to feed on domestic fowls and other bird species.
- Barn swallow bugs also look like bed bugs. Although these species stay in shallow nests and mainly feed on cliff swallows, they can enter human environments during the bird migration season.
It’s important to correctly identify bed bugs prior to treating an infestation. Inappropriate control methods won’t work and may be dangerous. Call in your local pest exterminator to set up a consultation and inspection.
Sources of Bed Bug Infestations
Since bed bugs can be spotted in any place where humans live and spend a lot of time, it’s imperative to watch out for bed bugs while sitting in public places like a library or using public transportation. Most importantly, you should thoroughly inspect hotel rooms before going to sleep.
Inspect the bed sheets for blood spots and traces of the eggshells and bugs. Use a small torch to carry out visual inspections. Since bed bugs also travel very easily, make sure to vacuum your suitcases and check for signs of pests when you return from a holiday.
In addition, consider carrying a sizable trash bag with you to store your suitcase while staying in a hotel and wash your apparel on hot cycles when you come back, even those you’ve not worn.
Also, never bring used furniture, especially box springs and mattresses, into your home without thoroughly checking for bed bugs. It’s hard to detect a bed bug infestation if you’re untrained, so consider having the furniture inspected by a pest control expert.
Where Bed Bugs Live
Since they’re transitory in nature, you can bring bed bugs back home from your travels. Or you can bring them from the hotel room you stayed in.
Whether you’re concerned about bed bugs being in your hotel room or home, perform a brief inspection to check if there’s any sign of infestation, particularly before unpacking in your hotel room.
The three main areas should always inspect for signs of a bed bug infestation include:
- The bed frame as well as headboard
- The box springs
- The mattress—check everywhere, including the buttons, folds, and tuffs
While the box spring, bed frame, and mattress are the most common places to check for signs of an infestation, you can also find bed bugs on furniture, including chairs and desks, behind wallpaper, in cracks on wooden floors, under pictures and clocks, and under the edges of a carpet.
What Attracts Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are nocturnal pests and crawl into bed when you’re sleeping in order to silently feed on your blood. But apart from blood, what else attracts bed bugs?
- Warmth: Dirt and grime don’t attract bed bugs. Instead, bugs are drawn to the warmth of the human body. Since your body produces heat and warmth, bedtime is an absolute field day for these pests! Also, this explains why the area around our beds, particularly the headboard, has the greatest risk of an infestation.
- Carbon dioxide: In general, bed bugs are attracted to humans simply because we make carbon dioxide. Also, these pesky little critters tend to be attracted to areas with high levels of carbon dioxide. For the most part, bed bugs typically bite on people at night when they’re sleeping. Since we don’t normally move much while asleep, the carbon dioxide you produce is trapped around you.
- Dirty laundry: Apart from feeding on human blood, bed bugs usually like to live in dirty laundry. The heap of soiled laundry on your bedroom floor might be the origin of a bed bug infestation in the whole room. Did you know that bed bugs are attracted to the smell of dirty laundry? Now you know. In any case, soiled laundry carries bacteria and germs which are bad for your health, so it’s best to avoid this poor housekeeping habit.
- Dark bed sheets: A dark environment is a haven for bed bugs. Research shows that bed bugs are drawn to certain colors, especially black and red. This is because these colors resemble the two things they’ll always be drawn to darkness and blood.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
If you have itchy areas that weren’t there when you last went to bed, there might be bed bugs in your home, especially if you recently brought a second-hand bed or other furniture item home. Other signs that bed bugs might be in your home include:
- Bites on the skin: This is the clearest sign of an infestation. Unlike flea bites, bed bug bites often appear in clusters. They’ll be in one straight line since these carnivorous creatures usually move up your leg or arm, feeding on blood.
- Black dots: All living organisms poop, including household bugs. If you notice black stains and dots, this is a mixture of the skin they lose when they become adults and fecal matter. Sounds appetizing, right?
- Egg shells: It’s difficult to spot these due to their light color and small size, but watch out for any tiny flecks of ivory matter in your furniture, on the carpet, or on your bed.
- Rusty/red stains: Those rusty and reddish stains are basically your blood. It might be blood from bites, or blood from bugs getting crushed after feeding.
- Live bugs: You might even spot bugs roaming around every now and again. They’re very tiny, but on closer inspection, you can occasionally spot them. After feeding, they get redder, bigger, and easier to spot.
Signs of Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs usually bite on any part of the body as long as its covered with skin. Bites usually occur on areas that are exposed during sleep, such as the:
Many people neither experience the bite itself nor develop obvious signs apart from the specks where the pest bit and some mild, surrounding irritation and inflammation. Others develop more serious symptoms due to being hypersensitive to bites.
In most cases, bite symptoms occur shortly after the bugs feed, but they may develop or worsen over the next few days, too. Without further irritation, these symptoms usually resolve within 7 days or so.
For the most part, bed bug bites produce some level of discomfort, usually inflammation and itchiness. Other bite signs and symptoms include:
- A painful burning sensation
- An itchy red swelling with a dark middle and lighter inflamed surrounding area
- A raised itchy swelling with a clear middle
- Small red welts or swellings in a line or zigzag pattern
- Small red swellings surrounded by hives or blisters
- Popular eruptions or skin areas with flat or raised patches that can be swollen
- Small blood spots from bites often stained onto bed clothing or sheets or dried
- Clear or white skins, shed by nymphs while they mature
- Reddish-brown or reddish dried stains on sheets or clothes caused by bed bug fecal matter
Specific characteristics of the person bitten and the bite also affect the resulting sore.
Although quite rare, some people develop severe symptoms and reactions from bug bites. Severe symptoms that may require medical treatment include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen tongue
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feeling flu-like or nauseous
Other Signs and Symptoms
A bed bug infestation can lead to other health problems:
- Higher risk of infection: This is due to the surface of the skin is compromised.
- Decreased well-being: A repeated lack of sleep can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, lower immune function, and general fatigue. The misconceptions associated with bed bugs, particularly the erroneous link with dirt and grime, can increase feelings of low self-esteem and depression.
- Sleep deprivation: The thought of being feasted on can be utterly stressful. Considering that bed bugs only bite on humans at night, some individuals will skip sleep or only get intermittent sleep.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Naturally
Bed bugs are a serious health hazard. They quickly multiply in great numbers and will cause extremely itchy rashes and bites on one’s body if not dealt with swiftly. If you’ve detected a bed bug infestation early on, then it’s possible to do away with it fast using the natural remedies below.
But if the bed bug issue is out of your control, then be sure to call upon a pest control service. Of course, professional pest removal is expensive, but trying to deal with a serious bed bug infestation naturally will cause more harm than good.
Before you try any of the home remedies below, vacuuming should be your first step to take. Remove clutter and thoroughly vacuum the entire house. This ensures that the bed bugs and their eggs are removed.
Be sure to vacuum mattresses, upholstered furniture, curtains, shelves, carpets, and boxes. Bed bugs like to shelter in obscure locations, so be sure to vacuum clean all obscure places to flush them out.
Use Extreme Cold or Extreme Heat
- Freeze non-washable things: Put items that can’t tossed into the washing machine in plastic bags and put them in the freezer. Let the items stay there for at least a day and then remove and shake them out to get rid of dead bed bugs and their eggs.
- Wash stuff on the hottest temperature: To kill bed bugs instantly, wash your clothes, bedding, soft items, and stuffed animals in the wash on the hottest possible setting (over 140° Fahrenheit).
- Steam clean: For large stuff like furniture or mattresses, steam clean them with the hottest possible setting (over 140° Fahrenheit). Steam clean the upholstery or bed repeatedly, paying close attention to all cracks and crevices where bed bugs like to hide.
Borax is a household cleaning agent that suffocates bed bugs and kills them. To use, apply a substantial amount of the substance over your mattress. Wait at least a day for the bed bugs to die of suffocation. While the pests won’t feed on borax, they’ll find it difficult to breathe when they’re doused in the substance.
Also, you can add some borax to the wash when doing some laundry. The substance has salt-like properties, so it’ll dry them out.
Of course alcohol is powerful enough to kill just about anything, including household bugs and their eggs and larvae. To kill bed bugs instantly, use alcohol diluted to at least 90%.
You can spray bed bugs with alcohol when you see them, as well spray their hiding places to kill their eggs.
But keep in mind that alcohol is dangerous to inhale and extremely flammable, so use it with care.
This naturally-occurring sand feels very sharp and rough to bed bugs. These critters have frail exoskeletons, so crawling over or into diatomaceous earth rips them to shreds.
To use, sprinkle diatomaceous earth on affected areas and wait 1-2 days. The process is slow but it surely works! After two days, vacuum the area up to remove the dead bugs and diatomaceous earth.
Tea Tree Oil
Want a healthier alternative to alcohol for bed bug eradication? Try tea tree oil. It contains antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties as well.
It’s safe to inhale, so feel free to spray it as much as possible, even though it has a strong odor that can be repulsive.
While the substance can’t eliminate bed bugs instantly, it’s a strong repellent and masks your sweat, which attracts bed bugs.
It’s recommended that you spray your furniture and bedding with undiluted tea tree oil. If you’re sensitive to its odor, you can dilute with it some water.
Sprinkling some baking soda over the infested areas makes the areas uninhabitable for bed bugs since the substance dries the pests out.
This method won’t kill bed bugs and may not be convenient since you have to vacuum the baking soda later, but it’s a temporary measure to frighten them away if there’s nothing else at the ready.
By oxidizing the outer shell of bed bugs, bleach gets rid of bed bugs instantly. It’s an extremely harsh substance, so making a contact spray out of it is the best way to use it. It stains, though, so don’t use it on your clothes, bedding, or furniture.
Vinegar is a useful contact remedy, but you must use it alongside other natural remedies. Spray undiluted vinegar on your furniture and floor cracks where bed bugs often hide. Vinegar does eliminate bugs, but not its larvae, so make sure to use diatomaceous earth or a vacuum cleaner along with vinegar spray.
Peppermint Oil and Lavender
For some reason, the scent of peppermint and lavender does repel bed bugs as well as numerous other insects. A peppermint and lavender oil spray might not eliminate bed bugs instantly, but it does keep them away from your home.
Add 10 parts of both peppermint and lavender oil to 20 parts of water to make a spray. Spray freely in areas where bed bugs may be found.
How to Eliminate Bed Bugs with Chemical Treatments
While home remedies can be very effective for staving off bed bug infestations, it isn’t always feasible to eradicate bed bugs without chemical treatments (pesticides).
The most popular chemical treatment for bed bugs is spray, which can either be sprayed on infested areas or used in a fogger (bed bug bomb). Some bed bug sprays are faster and more effective than others. While bed bug bombs have had mixed success, and their effectiveness is in question according to EPA, you can fumigate a whole room or area of your home with them.
If you decide to use a bed bug bomb—or any other pesticide—make sure to learn how they function and read all directions on how to use them correctly. Not all bug sprays are approved by the FDA or are safe, so be sure to ask for ones that are known to work.
Inspect all chemical treatments before use to ensure that they’re legal and tested.
How to Keep Bed Bugs Away
It’s vital to inspect second-hand furniture, especially mattresses and bed frames before bringing them into your home. In particular, mattresses carry the highest risk of sheltering bed bugs along with their eggs.
A practice that you can implement during your travels is to check for bugs in your hotel rooms. If you can, bring a flashlight along and inspect the area around the bed thoroughly. You may also want to inspect your luggage or vacuum it up when you get back to avoid bringing bed bugs home.
After returning from a trip, you can prevent some infestations by washing any bedding or clothes used during the trip. Make sure to do this right away.
Never bring discarded mattresses, bed frames, upholstered furniture, or box springs into your home.
Call In a Professional Pest Control Service
If repeated bed bug treatments don’t work, and an infestation persists for weeks to months, it’s time to bring in a professional pest exterminator. Moreover, you should always bring in the experts if your family is suffering many bites.
A professional pest control service can help you get rid of bed bugs from your home for good, and they’re trained to use pesticides, sprays, heat, repellents, and other methods. Also, they can give you specific tips to help keep your home free of bugs once and for all.
Fortunately, household bugs are more of a nuisance that anything else. Nevertheless, they’re some of the worst guests in your home, so prevention is the best course of action rather than the time-consuming and ultimately expensive treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bed Bugs
Question: What Exterminates Bed Bugs On Contact?
Answer: Rubbing diluted alcohol is one of the best DIY solutions for eradicating bed bugs instantly. As soon as bed bugs come into contact with alcohol, they die. Alcohol also evaporates fast, making it a safer choice than other treatments.
Question: How Do You Eliminate Bed Bugs in a Day?
Answer: Heating your room up to more than 130°C will kill bed bugs within 24 hours.
Question: What Destroys Bed Bugs and Bed Bug Eggs?
Answer: Isopropyl alcohol kills not only bed bugs but also their eggs. Before you begin spraying, however, you should keep in mind that rubbing alcohol is ineffective in dealing with a bed bug infestation and can in fact be dangerous.
Question: What Mainly Causes Bed Bugs?
Answer: The number one cause of a bed bug infestation is travel. Often undetected by travelers, bed bugs hitchhike on people, luggage, clothes, or other personal effects and are accidentally moved to other items. Bed bugs are very good at moving unnoticed by humans.
Question: What Irritates Bed Bugs the Most?
Answer: Many bugs hate certain smells, including lavender oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil. Bed bugs are also repelled by the pheromones released by baby bugs (nymphs).
Bed bugs were almost done away within the 1940s. However, they’ve become rife in hotels and homes since 1995.
The reason for this remains a mystery, but it’s believed that a combination of people forgetting how pesky these little creatures are, pesticide resistance, and increased travel allowed them to return with such fury.
Fortunately, there are various effective treatments you can use to do away these troublesome insects once and for all. But if the infestation keeps returning, consult a professional pest exterminator.
They’re experts in detecting the extent of bed bug infestation in your home and can come up with ways to not only eradicate the problem but also prevent its re-occurrence.