How Do Bed Bugs Enter Your Home
10 Ways to Bug-Proof Your Home
You Can’t Keep Out All the Bugs But You Can Make it Harder for Them to Get In
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- B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University
Let’s be honest: It’ pretty much impossible to bug-proof your home completely. Like it or not, some insects are going to find their way inside. Although an occasional ladybug or stinkbug is inevitable, you don’t have to make it easy for them to breach the perimeter. You especially want to avoid biting insects, but don’t have to worry as much about the ones that don’t bite, like clover mites. When bug-proofing your home, the goals is to keep out as many bugs as possible and to make your house inhospitable to the few that do find their way in. You’re going to need to do two basic things: prevent insects and spiders from getting inside in the first place and eliminating existing habitats in your house. By investing a little time and money into some simple maintenance and housekeeping tasks, you can greatly reduce your chances of a serious pest infestation.
Install and Maintain Screens on Doors and Windows
Use fine-mesh screening to prevent all but the tiniest insects from entering your home. If you don’t have screen doors, install them. Inspect all window screens regularly for tears and holes and promptly repair or replace any damaged ones.
Seal Around All Doors
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If air or light is getting in around your outside doors, bugs can get in too. Install tight-fitting thresholds and door sweeps at the bottom of exterior doors and use door seals to fill in gaps around the sides and top of each door as well.
Seal Cracks in Foundation, Walls, and Vents
Any crack in an exterior wall of your home is like a welcome sign to insects. Grab a tube of caulk and inspect your home from top to bottom. Seal any cracks you find. Insects can also get in through tiny gaps around your dryer vent, gas line, or even a cable wire. Seal these areas from the inside using a spray foam product or caulk, as appropriate.
Take Out Garbage Often and Rinse Recyclables
If you can smell it (even a little), it’s going to attract bugs. Even ifyoucan’t smell it, bugs can. Insects are much more sensitive to odors than humans. One of the best ways to keep pests out of your home is to empty the garbage often. Line your cans with plastic garbage bags and make sure to tie them tightly before you take them outside for pickup.
Don’t forget the recycling bin; it’s a smorgasbord for bugs. Soda cans, beer bottles, and pet food cans all attract insects if they aren’t rinsed out thoroughly. Rinse each item before dropping it in the can.
Where Do Bed Bugs Come From – How Do You Get Bed Bugs
How do you get bed bugs in your house? Anyone who has ever woken up with a chain of red blisters from the bites of night parasites would wonder where bed bugs come from. In most cases, bed bugs are not transferred to the apartments. The thing is that they live there for decades, not revealing their presence at once. Mostly these insects spread from one apartment to another, but where do bed bugs come from?
It is impossible to answer this question because they just spread through the building being attracted by the presence of humans. How do bed bugs get in bed? After penetration into the premises, insects hide under the beds, in the wardrobes, under the carpets, behind the baseboards, in the cracks of furniture and in mattresses. These insects prefer to settle in places where they can bite people during night time.
In suburban areas bed bugs find human dwelling using their sense of smell. Then insects move to the buildings from chicken coops and rabbitries, where they parasitize on the skin of medium-sized animals. However, bed bugs parasitism on other mammals and birds is more like an exception, because these insects usually feed on human blood.
Bed bugs are not very mobile insects. They cannot fly and run much slower than cockroaches, but they can survive without food for quite a long time. Thus, bed bugs can travel for long distances. How do bed bugs spread? Despite the fact that these parasites cannot run fast, they spread through the apartment considerably quickly. They move freely through ventilation holes, electrical wiring channels and cracks in doors. Due to flat shape of their bodies these insects are able to crawl even where no cracks or holes are visible. It is impossible to isolate an apartment from bed bugs because they come through the outlets and by the outer walls through the windows. It is especially true for the apartments in old high-rise buildings and the houses built in the countryside.
How Do You Get Bed Bugs in Your House
First, people get bed bugs by bringing them home from journeys. For example, bed bugs can be in the luggage and the things brought from the trips, to the warm countries in particular. Tropical Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia and India seem to be a paradise for thermophilic bed bugs. Thus, travelers have to remember that the last place they traveled to before the bugs appearance is the most likely to be a historic homeland of the blood-sucking parasites. In this case, you can bring a single adult female that may lay eggs and give rise to a new population. You should be cautious because these insects can hide or accidentally fall into the pleats of the clothes, into the suitcases, bags and footwear, and travel through several time zones. This way of getting bed bugs is particularly relevant for backpackers, who often change hotels.
One more common method of how bed bugs come to the new house is hiding in the furniture, especially in the new one. In furniture factories or stores bugs have nothing to eat; thus, new products are not infested. Pieces of furniture from infested houses and apartments are, on the contrary, the main breeding ground for these parasites.
People can also get bed bugs on clothes. Although these insects prefer to bite open skin areas, they often hide in the clothes left in the apartment or taken off before going to bed. Thus, you can bring bugs into your house by visiting the infested house or taking guests from such a place. Moreover, there are known cases when bed bugs were found in expensive clothing shops in unworn clothes. The insects got there from people who lived in the infested apartments or from neighboring premises.
Furthermore, bed bugs can get into the house with new appliances. These insects prefer to spend the daytime in warm places. Thus, they can stay in laptops, tablets, scanners, microwave ovens, and any other appliances, and be transferred to a new place from the store.
Moreover, bed bugs can get into the apartment being carried by animals. It is a very rare way of transferring these insects, but it may happen too. Despite the fact that bed bugs do not feed on cats and dogs because they cannot bite their skin tissue, these pets can transfer the parasites. Moreover, bats and birds can be transmitters of these parasites as well.
Thus, once appeared in the house, bed bugs can spread through the entire apartment. They can inhabit all the places where they can be caught only by the professional desinfectants. Moreover, bed bugs can fall into anabiosis because of the absence of food. Thus, the bugs can stay in uninhabited apartments for more than a few months. A flat can be perfectly clean at first glance, but insects and their larvae will crawl out of the cracks as soon as they smell a human body.
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Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.
Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.
Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.
When Bedbugs Bite
Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.
Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.
People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.
Signs of Infestation
If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
- Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
- An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.
If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.
Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:
- Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
- Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
- Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
- Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
- Get rid of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.
While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.
Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."
The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."
University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."
Department of Health
Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them
Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. They feed on blood, but are not known to spread any diseases to humans. Some people can be allergic to their bites. Getting rid of a bed bug infestation is not easy, but there are steps you can take to control the problem. There are also steps you can take to avoid bringing bed bugs home.
What are bed bugs?
How can bed bugs get into my home?
- They can come from other infested areas or from used furniture. They can hitch a ride in luggage, purses, backpacks, or other items placed on soft or upholstered surfaces.
- They can travel between rooms in multi-unit buildings, such as apartment complexes and hotels.
How can I avoid bringing bed bugs into my home?
- When staying in a hotel, place your bag on a suitcase stand rather than on the bed or floor. Keep the rack away from walls or furniture. When returning home, wash the clothes from your trip and put them in a hot dryer.
- Inspect new and used furniture before bringing it inside. Look in seams, tufts and under cushions.
How do I know if I have a bed bug problem?
- You can see the bed bugs themselves, their shed skins, or their droppings in mattress seams and other items in the bedroom.
- There may also be blood stains on sheets.
How do I control a bed bug problem in my home?
It can be done, but it usually requires what is called an "integrated pest management" (IPM) approach. This combines techniques that pose the lowest risk to your health and the environment. Try these strategies:
- Clean and get rid of clutter, especially in your bedroom.
- Move your bed away from walls or furniture.
- Vacuum molding, windows and floors every day. Vacuum sides and seams of mattresses, box springs and furniture. Empty the vacuum or the bag immediately and dispose of outside in a sealed container or bag.
- Wash sheets, pillow cases, blankets and bed skirts and put them in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. Consider using mattress and box spring covers –the kind used for dust mite control–and put duct tape over the zippers.
- Seal cracks and crevices and any openings where pipes or wires come into the home.
Should I also try pesticides?
Pesticides may not be effective and can be dangerous if used improperly. If you decide to use pesticides, follow these rules:
- Only use pesticides that are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (look for the U.S. EPA Registration Number on the label) and make sure they are labeled to control bed bugs.
- Do not apply pesticides directly to your body (there are no repellents registered to control bed bugs that can be used on the human body).
- Do not use outdoor pesticides indoors.
- If you decide to hire a pest control company, make sure they have experience with bed bugs. They should follow the steps of IPM, along with any pesticide application. Use a company that is registered and employs licensed applicators. The Department of Environmental Conservation has a list of registered companies.
It takes time and persistence to get rid of bed bugs, and in some cases, the cooperation of landlords, neighbors and others. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting. It can also be expensive when pest control companies are called in. Just remember – bed bugs are more of a nuisance than a health concern and, with vigilance, you can avoid or deal with infestations.
See the following for more information on bed bug biology and control measures:
Photo courtesy of Dr. Harold Harlan, Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Library
How to Prevent Bed Bugs from Getting into Your Home
You might recall going to bed as a child and hearing a parent call into your bedroom, “Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” It’s a rhyme traced through many origin theories but one gross reality.
Aptly named, bed bugs are found in warm, semi-dark areas but most commonly in mattresses and bedding. Nearly invisible to the naked eye, these pests can thrive just about anywhere there’s a frequent turnover of occupants, mainly college dormitories, hotel rooms and even in a home.
While checking for bed bugs might not be part of your nightly routine today, in 2010 there was such a resurgence of bed bugs that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a guide dedicated to protecting your home from bed bug infestations .
While this article might make your skin crawl, it’s better than your bed crawling with bugs. We’ll go over how to identify, remove and prevent bed bugs from infesting your home so you can sleep tight knowing nothing will bite.
How Do You Identify a Bed Bug?
Bed bugs can be tricky to identify. They’re small and sneaky, meaning it might make it hard to catch an infestation before it becomes an actual problem. If you do happen to get a good look at one, here’s what you should look for :
- Size: 1/4 of an inch long (about the size of an apple seed)
- Shape: Long, oval and flat
- Color: Brown – reddish-brown
- Other features: Antenna and four legs
All the above characteristics are consistent throughout most bed bugs but note that younger bed bugs or bed bug eggs, can have a smaller size and a translucent, milky-white color.
If you’re unable to get a good look at what you think might be a bed bug, you can also identify a bed bug by the trace it leaves behind. If you think your home may be host to uninvited guests, thoroughly clean your home and change your bedding while looking for signs of:
- Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses (caused by bed bugs being crushed)
- Dark spots (commonly bed bug feces)
- Bed bug bites on a person or pet
Although a bite might not be the best way to identify an infestation (they’re often confused for mosquito bites or rashes) know that bed bug bites can raise welts and rashes in humans, as well as cause an intense itching sensation; however, their bite does not carry infection or disease.
What Are Bed Bugs Attracted to?
Now that you know how to identify a bed bug, learning its habits, attractions and ideal breeding conditions can help you stop an infestation from spreading in your home. When it really comes down to it, bed bugs are drawn to:
- Frequent foot traffic
- Access to warmth
- Carbon dioxide
It might sound gross but where there are people, there’s blood, and where there’s blood, there could be a bed bug. That’s why areas like dormitories, hotels and homes are a prime location for bed bugs since so many people go in and out.
However, they’re called “bed” bugs are a reason – their favorite hiding spots are bed frames, mattresses, box springs and beddings, combining their need of warmth, carbon dioxide and access to blood (people).
Although they’re commonly found in the bedroom, they can wedge their way into any small hiding spot in your home, so if you think you might have a bed bug infestation, don’t stop at the bed. Check these other common areas:
- Furniture with cushions (chairs, couches, ottomans)
- Electrical outlets and appliances
- Ceiling or floor cracks
Bed bugs can live anywhere their host can live, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. They are known to bite both humans and pets and are mostly active at night. They can also live between six months to a year, so don’t wait to act if you see signs of an early infestation.
What Causes You to Get Bed Bugs?
Some sources might claim that a messy or dirty home can cause you to get bed bugs when in reality, even the cleanest home can collect a campground of bugs. The real problem comes from previously infested furniture or people .
For example, you might have heard of hotel guests who insist on switching rooms because they found bed bugs or evidence of one. This is most likely because they know bed begs can attach themselves to clothing or luggage and travel back home with you, becoming a souvenir you don’t recall buying from your last vacation.
Unfortunately for bargain shoppers or antique collectors, they can also be found in secondhand furniture. Not to mention, people can carry bed bugs in their clothing and shoes, so there’s really no limit to how bed bugs could enter your home.
So, as you can see, the real cause of bed bugs can’t be blamed on a messy home; the real cause of bed bugs is infested furniture, bedding, luggage, boxes, clothing – really, anything that provides a source of warmth and access to people.
Obviously, while you can avoid staying in hotel rooms and buying secondhand furniture that could possibly be infested with bed bugs, you really can’t avoid people (or at least, we hope you won’t after reading this article!) The most important thing is to know how to prevent and get rid of bed bugs. We’ll talk about that next.
How Do You Prevent Bed Bugs from Getting into Your Home?
Since the number one cause of bed bug infestations in your home is previously infected furniture and people, here are a few precautions you can take to prevent bed bugs from getting into your home.
Inspect Secondhand Furniture Before Buying
Buying secondhand furniture is a great way to save money when you’re looking to furnish your home on the cheap , but it can also pose a risk of bed bugs if not examined closely.
If you go thrift shopping on the regular, make it a habit of doing a quick inspection of the furniture you’re thinking of purchasing. For furniture, check along the seams of the upholstery for any sign of bed bugs or bed bug residue. As a rule of thumb, never purchase a secondhand mattress.
Even if it looks clean enough to bring home after purchase, give the furniture a good cleaning before placing it in your home. Store it in your garage or shed, vacuuming any furniture with fabric and upholstery and thoroughly cleaning with hot, soapy water if otherwise, careful to check any crevasses like drawers or storage places.
Some sources might claim that a messy or dirty home can cause you to get bed bugs when in reality, even the cleanest home can collect a campground of bugs. The real problem comes from previously infested furniture or people .
Regularly Inspect Your Bedding for Signs of Bed Bugs
This doesn’t have to be a task you do on a nightly basis, rather, whenever you wash your bedding take this time to inspect the condition of your bed for signs of bed bugs or bed bug residue.
If you see signs of bed bugs, remove your bedding from your bed and place it in the washer on the highest heat and cycle setting your bedding will allow. The heat and water combined will kill any bed bugs that might be hiding in your bedding. For good measure, consider also washing any curtains, rugs, throw blankets and pillows that might have also been exposed in your bedroom.
As for your mattress and box spring, take them outside and using a scrub brush get into the seams and other affected areas of the mattress, brushing any bugs or eggs out. Then, take a vacuum and thoroughly clean the entire surface of both the mattress and box spring. After you’ve vacuumed your mattress, vacuum your bedroom, emptying the contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag and placing it in a garbage can outdoors.
Finally, enclose your mattress and box springs in a tight-fitting plastic covering, leaving both outside overnight. The plastic will keep any air from entering the mattress, suffocating any remaining bed bugs or eggs.
At the end of the day, you might feel more comfortable throwing away your affected mattress and box spring. If you’re worried about the chance of returning bed bugs, it’s worth the money to buy a new mattress set.
When Traveling, Always Check the Room for Bed Bugs
When traveling, check your hotel room for bed bugs before you unpack, focusing on the bedding, upholstered furniture and curtains. If you see signs of bed bugs, ask the front desk or host for another room, notifying them that you found bed bugs in your current room.
Don’t bring your luggage into the room until the coast is clear of bed bugs. Bed bugs can attach themselves to your luggage and can live up to a week, making it possible for them to find their way back into your home.
If you think your clothing may be infected, separate the infected clothes from the rest of your luggage in a sealed plastic bag. When you return home, place the infected clothes in your washing machine on the highest heat setting your clothing will allow.
Inspect your luggage outside before bringing it back into your home. Go the extra mile by vacuuming and hand washing the bag with hot, soapy water. Leave outside to dry and inspect one final time before bringing it in.
What Keeps Bed Bugs Away?
According to some sources , there are a few scents that are rumored to repel bed bugs. All-natural products, like essential oils , are said to have an effect on bed bugs, but may not kill them off completely. If you’re dealing with a heavy infestation, it’s a better idea to call an exterminator with professional heat and chemicals.
However, if you’re just looking for a preventative method that might repel bed bugs from your home, here are a few essential oils that may do the trick:
- Tea tree oil
Use ten drops of any of the previously listed essential oils, dilute with water and place in a spray bottle, spraying around the affected areas of your home like your bed sheets, curtains, luggage and other areas where you might suspect bed bugs.
If you’re still noticing signs of bed bugs in your home, contact your local exterminator to schedule a cleaning of your home. Based on the level of infestation in your home, you might not be able to stay in your home during or after the treatment, so make sure you make arrangements to stay at a friend or family’s home during this time.
While you might not ever be able to completely prevent bed bugs from getting into your home, knowing how to properly identify, remove or call a professional to remove the bed bugs will help keep your household safe from infestations.
Have you experienced bed bugs in your home? How did you handle the infestation? Share your story in the comments below.