How Do You Get Bed Bugs Out Of Your House

How to Keep Bed Bugs Out of Your House

As experts predict increases in bed bug infestations this summer, here are some of the public places bed bugs may be lurking — and ways to prevent bed bugs from coming home with you.

The summer of 2011 could be the worst one for bed bugs yet, according to Jeffrey White, a research entomologist at BedBug Central, an online resource for bed bug information. While isolated reports of bed bugs started more than 10 years ago, he says they didn’t become a widespread problem until 2006 — and infestations have steadily increased with each passing summer.

Bed bugs reproduce at a rapid rate, travel from place to place on almost any thing or person, and may require multiple pest control visits to be eliminated. Not only do bed bugs leave itchy bites and have a “creep” factor that can trigger anxiety, stress, and even depression, they may also not be as harmless as previously thought. Recent research from the U.S. Center for Disease Control’sEmerging Infectious Diseasesfound that bed bugs may even spread the dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

We talked to experts to find out where bed bugs are most commonly found — and to get tips to keep them from coming home with you.

The Big Picture: Bed Bugs Mapped

After a traumatic experience in a San Francisco hotel, writer and computer programmer Maciej Ceglowski started when he discovered there wasn’t a national forum to report bed bug incidences. The site, which maps bed bug sightings in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, contains more than 20,000 reports of bed bugs in more than 12,000 locations. If you’re planning to travel, you can look up the city or town — or even a particular hotel — to see if there have been bed bug reports. You can find additional resources about bed bug outbreaks and identifying, preventing, and eliminating bed bugs on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site or from your local health department. The New York City Health Department, for example, has illustrations and advice for spotting bed bugs and their markings, droppings, eggs, or bites.

Bed Bug Express: Dogs, Cats, and Birds

Although they prefer humans, bed bugs can hitch rides on small animals like cats, dogs, birds, rats, or guinea pigs. If you suspect your dog or cat has bed bugs, check their skin for small red bites close together (they appear the same as on humans). Wash and dry your pet’s bedding with heat and throw away any toys that have holes. “You might not see bed bugs on an animal, but you might find them harboring on their beds,” warns Lou Sorkin, an entomologist and bed bug expert at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. If you see a bed bug feeding on your pet or among his bed or toys, search for an infestation in your home and call a pest control company or canine detection service” — one that uses dogs to sniff out bed bug infestations.

World-Traveling Bed Bugs: Hotels and Luggage

Bed bugs can cling to and find hiding places in your suitcases and bags and travel with you from a vacation hotel or convention center very efficiently. When you stay in a hotel, bring a small flashlight to inspect the mattress, behind the headboard, under couch cushions, and in furniture drawers. Immediately report sightings of bed bugs, as well as other less-obvious evidence such as streaks or droplets of blood, bug droppings, or eggs. Since bed bugs can cling to carpet, keep your suitcase off the floor and on a luggage rack (or leave it in the bathroom).

On its bed bug advisory site, the New York City Health Department says you can protect your clothes by packing them in large plastic bags or washable mesh bags before putting them in your suitcase. When you return from a trip, put all of your clothes in the dryer immediately to kill bed bugs and their eggs. Spray your luggage with alcohol, which also destroys bed bugs, or vacuum it and throw away the vacuum bag promptly. If you travel frequently, you may want to consider investing in a thermal container that can heat your luggage when you return home. For example, the PackTite thermal container ($320) is large enough to hold a suitcase and promises to kill bed bugs.

Bed Bug ‘Yachts’: Cruise Ships

Like hotels, cruise ships also have to deal with bed bug infestations. “With thousands of pieces of baggage and tons of supplies brought on each year, a ship is vulnerable to occasional pests,” says Linda Sietz, a customer service representative for Royal Caribbean cruise line. “However, we maintain pest management products on board, and every effort is made to prevent insects from entering the ship.” Before you book, ask the cruise line about what precautions they take to avoid bed bugs, such as conducting regular pest inspections and keeping extermination supplies on hand. Just as you would in a hotel, inspect the mattress and the rest of your stateroom, and use the same precautions with your luggage.


Bed Bugs

Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control

Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?

Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:

  • How many bed bugs you have;
  • How much clutter is available for hiding places;
  • Whether your neighbors have bedbugs; and
  • Whether all residents of a house or building will participate.

Getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation. To be successful, everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.

The following steps will help you begin:

You may have to follow these steps more than once to kill all the bugs and their eggs.

Identify the Problem

  • Identify the pest:
  • Collect a sample of the pest to show an extension agentExitor other insect expert.
  • Extension agents can identify the pest at no cost to you. They are trained in pest control and know your local area.
  • If an extension agent or other expert says the pest is a bed bug, notify your landlord if you live in an apartment. The units near yours should be inspected.
    • Landlords may have a responsibilityExit to participate in treatment.
    • Check the housing codes and laws in your area.
    • Inspect all areas that may have bed bugs, plus surrounding living spaces, to find out the extent of infestation.
    • Develop a Strategy

      • Make a schedule for completing the steps below. Be sure to include any personal plans, such as vacations.
      • Keep records through the whole process. Note the dates and exact locations where pests are found. This will help you track progress and better know where to target your work.
      • Keep checking for at least a year after you’re done to make sure all the bed bugs are gone.

      Keep the Infestation from Spreading

      • Remove infested items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and treat them. Learn more about treatment methods in the sections below.
      • Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left there for up to a year to ensure any active bugs are dead.
      • Empty the vacuum after each use. Seal the bag as tightly as possible and immediately throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
      • Discard furniture responsibly if you can’t safely eliminate the bed bugs. Destroy it so someone else won’t be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
      • Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
      • Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs."
    • Have infested items picked up as soon as possible by the trash collection agency.
    • Don’t discard furniture if you can safely eliminate the bed bugs from it.
    • Prepare for Treatment

      Preparing for treatment is very important; it will make it easier to monitor for bed bugs that haven’t been eliminated. This preparation should be completed whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.

      Kill the Bed Bugs

      • Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What’s Legal, What’s Not.
      • Considernon-chemical methodsof killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others depending on your situation. These and other methods can be helpful, but they might not get rid of the infestation entirely:
      • Heat treatment:You can use a clothes dryer on high heat. You can also use black plastic bags in a hot, closed car in the sun, but success depends on your climate and other factors. Do-it-yourself heat treatments might not work. Professionals have access to more intensive and proven methods that can even treat whole houses with heat. You may also purchase a portable heat chamber, which is usually quite effective.
      • Cold treatmentcan be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0 o F. You must leave the items in a sealed bag in the freezer at that temperature for four days. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0 o .
      • Steam cleaners(wet or dry) can get into cracks and fabrics to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. The steam temperature must be at least 130 o F but should not have a forceful airflow, or it may cause bed bugs to scatter. Use a diffuser to prevent scattering.
    • If needed,hire a pest management professional or use pesticidescarefully according to the label directions:
      • Look for EPA-registered pesticides that have bed bugs listed on the label.
      • Use foggers (bug bombs) only with extreme care and only if bed bugs are listed on the label. Improper use can harm your health or cause a fire or explosion. Foggers should not be your only method of bed bug control. The spray will not reach the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. See Should I Use a Fogger? for more information.
      • Carefully look for any evidence of bed bugsevery few days after you complete your initial cleanup and control processes.If you see bed bugs, either the initial cleanup missed some bugs or eggs have hatched. Retreatment may be needed.
      • Consider using different types of pesticides if repeated treatments are needed.Desiccants (chemicals that dry things out) can be particularly effectivein some situations since they work by drying out the bug (which means the bed bugs can’t develop resistance).
        • If using desiccants, be sure to use only products registered by EPA as a pesticide.
        • Do not use pool- or food-grade diatomaceous earth(made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms). This type of diatomaceous earth can harm you when you breathe it in. The pesticide version uses a different size of diatoms, which reduces the hazard.
        • Desiccants can be very effective but may take several months to work.
        • Evaluate and Prevent

          • Continue to inspect for bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remain. You can use interceptors, traps or other monitoring methods. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. Commercial and do-it-yourself interceptors are options.
          • Continue to protect your home from bed bugs.

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          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.

          Bedbug Treatments

          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.


          Bedbug Extermination

          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."

          Here’s what to do when you find out you have bedbugs

          • First: breathe. Then figure out if you’re calling a pest management professional or dealing with the problem yourself.
          • If you live in an apartment or condominium, call your landlord or property manager immediately — bedbugs elsewhere in the complex need to be handled, too.
          • Depending on where you live, your landlord may be legally obligated to deal with this problem.
          • Properly handling a bedbug infestation is an ongoing process — you won’t get rid of them overnight, even if you do call professionals.

          As far as bad news goes, finding out you have any kind of vermin living in your house is never cause for celebration. Bedbugs feel more personal, somehow — I mean, these creatures are living in your bed and drinking your blood at night like tiny six-legged vampires.

          However, that unsettling mental image doesn’t mean that you should panic.

          Instead, here are some decisive steps you can take to end their reign of terror and get past this infestation to live your best, bedbug-free life.

          There’s good and bad news about your bedbugs

          First, the good news: Although these little bloodsuckers literally drink your blood as you sleep at night, they aren’t known to spread disease among humans . That’s especially helpful to know since Zika virus in mosquitoes is still a concern.

          But now for the bad news: They’re stinky. Also, they poop everywhere. If you notice a weird moldy smell in your bedclothes — and there’s no reasonable explanation for it — you should check for little brownish or reddish spots that you also can’t otherwise explain. Those are poop, and while they’re definitely gross — at least now you have a reasonable clue about what’s happening.

          First things first: You need an inspection

          Bedbug bites usually look and feel a lot like mosquito bites . Since they bite you at night — while you’re presumably sleeping — you’re more likely to smell them or see the fecal presents they leave behind on your sheets than you are to actually see the bugs themselves.

          That’s why it’s important to correctly identify the pest responsible for those itchy bites before you go any further. Treatment and follow-ups for a bedbug infestation differ significantly from those for other pests that may also be biting you.

          Failure to treat any type of pest infestation correctly just means you’re going to have to start over from square one in the future — wasting your time, your money, and your patience in the process.

          Once you’ve confirmed that it’s bedbugs, it’s time to identify, remove, and treat affected materials

          Although bedbugs have that name for a very obvious reason, they don’t confine themselves to your bed. However, they do like to stay within about eight feet of wherever you sleep.

          Places you need to check for evidence of bedbugs include your mattress, box spring, all your bedding, your bed frame, in any cracks and crevices around your bed — including in furniture, behind wallpaper, and under carpeting. Electrical outlets and switch plates are also prime places they might be hiding , according to the University of Minnesota.

          If you live in an apartment, you need to talk to your landlord right away

          Your landlord needs in on the bedbug action for two reasons.

          First, your neighbors need to check for infestations of their own and contain them — just like you’re doing.

          Second, the laws in your area may require your landlord’s involvement in treating — and necessary follow-up — with any bedbug infestations.

          Seek professional pest management help if you can

          Individual bedbugs are easy to squish — if you see them. Unfortunately, there are almost always more than just the ones you see.

          Not only that, but they reproduce by laying eggs. So even if you kill off a bunch of bugs that are out living their bloodthirsty little lives, when those eggs hatch, the problem cycle starts all over again.

          Some steps you can do yourself — including a lot of deep cleaning

          Once you’ve identified the items in your home that are infested, you’ll need to securely put that stuff into sealed plastic bags. At this point, anything that you can launder should be laundered — on the highest heat setting you can. That includes all your bedding, sheets, and pillows.

          Since bedbugs can travel very easily, it’s also important to sleep in the same place you’ve been sleeping to avoid accidentally transferring bugs elsewhere in your home, according to TODAY.

          Vacuuming everything in sight can be helpful, as long as you empty the vacuum frequently and keep what comes out of your vacuum contained. Steam cleaners can also be effective , according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

          Why home pesticide treatments often don’t completely solve the problem

          Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria are all over the news all the time in recent years.

          While bedbugs aren’t bacteria, they’ve also quietly been evolving to defeat the chemical compounds that were successful at controlling them in the past.

          Add this to the fact that bedbugs can stay dormant — not feeding on human or animal hosts for several months at a time — and you can see why this is a tough problem to face on your own.

          Things to know if you do decide to face your bedbug infestation on your own

          The Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides for use in human habitation — these are different from the ones approved for agricultural use. Make sure you’re using the correct item for your application to protect humans of all ages in your house — as well as any pets.

          It’s impossible for anyone — professional or otherwise — to get rid of a bedbug infestation in a single day. Instead, the EPA recommends taking the time to develop and stick to a strategy . You’re more likely to have success if you do this.

          Always look for the EPA label and a specific mention of bedbugs on any pesticide that you decide to bring into your home. Also, the EPA warns everyone to stay both safe and legal when trying to combat bedbug infestations in our homes.

          Plan to follow up and do several thorough bedbug checks in the future. Be prepared to repeat the entire process to rid yourself of bedbugs again if necessary — they’re both persistent and resilient.

          Unfortunately, bedbugs can be picked up from just about anywhere — from a five-star hotel to a movie theater seat to your Uber.

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