How To Locate Bed Bugs In Your Home
How To Find Bed Bugs
Need to know how to find bed bugs in your home or hotel room?Let’s walk through the inspection process step-by-step right now. It’s time to find out if you have bedbugs.
Before you can check for bed bugs in your home or hotel, you need to know what bed bugs look like, other signs you have bed bugs and where they hide so you know where to look.
How to Look For Bed Bugs Step-by-Step
If you follow these instructions, step-by-step, you will be just as likely as to find bed bugs (if they are present) as a professional.
Start with the bed.
This is the most likely place you’ll find bed bugs because they like to hide close to where they feed.Here’s how to find bed bugs there:
- Carefully pull back the bedding and look for signs that bedbugs have been around like blood spots and fecal stains.
- Thoroughly check the mattress, paying particular attention to edges, seams and air-holes. If possible, turn the mattress on its side to inspect the under-side too. Bed bugs are more likely to be closest to the head of the bed, but make sure you take a look at the foot end of the mattress too.
- Do the same with the box spring. You may have to cut or remove the gauze вЂњprotectorвЂќ on the underside of the box spring to take a good look inside вЂ“ but you need to do this (unless it’s not your bed, of course). Box springs are the #1 bed bug hiding place, so spend extra time doing a really thorough inspection here. This is where a flash light and magnifying glass become your greatest allies. Pay special attention to wooden joints, corners, screw holes and staples. The wooden slats make a very attractive place for bedbugs to lay their eggs and the area where the cover is attached to the frame is a favorite hiding spot too.
- turn your attention to the head board and bed frame. Remember to really look closely at any grooves in wooden headboards and pay attention to corners and joints. Don’t forget to pull the bed away from the wall and inspect the backside completely too.
Next, try to find bed bugs in any upholstered furniture.
This includes sofas, love seats, recliners, easy chairs, chaise lounges, and ottomans.Here’s how to find bed bugs in these items:
- Carefully remove all cushions and pillows and inspect them one by one. Paying attention to seams, tufts and piping. Also examine the zippers closely (this is another common place for bed bugs to hide and lay their eggs).
- Look in and around all the seams of the couch or chair itself. Don’t forget to lift up any skirting and check the underside – focus especially on pleats in the fabric and the seam that attaches it to the piece of furniture.
- Pull it away from the wall to inspect the back side as well.
- If at all possible (with the help of a friend or partner), lay it on its back side to inspect underneath/inside just like you did with the box spring.
Now, turn your attention to the night stands and dresser to see if you find any bed bugs there.
(You can also use the directions below for coffee tables, end tables and desks in other rooms of the house.)
- Take everything out and put it in a large garbage bag or plastic tub with a cover to reduce the possibility that they spread if there are bed bugs in those items.
- Pull the drawers completely out, one вЂ“ by one, and thoroughly inspect each one inside and out. Remember to check underneath as well. Like the headboard and frame, pay close attention to the corners, joints, screw heads and any grooves where bedbugs might like to hide or lay their eggs.
- Next, check inside, behind and underneath the piece of furniture itself. I think you know what I’m would say here about, corners, joints and crevices. (c’mon, I’m sure you need a chuckle by this point)
If you’ve gotten this far and found nothing.
You’ve checked thetop 92.6% of places where bed bugs are foundin residences with infestations according to a study conducted by the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky.
You also have all the skills you need to inspect the other places you might find bed bugs. You will find a list of more places to look for bed bugs here.
IMPORTANT NOTE:If at any point you find a live bed bug,STOP.Your inspection is done for now and you need to start working on your bed bug pest control plan.
Don’t jump the gun and grab for a bed bug spray can or fogger!That’ll just make things worse. much worse. Head over to the bed bug pest control section to learn what to do next.
How to Find Bed Bugs When You Travel
Obviously when you’re inspecting for bed bugs in a hotel or friend/relative’s guest room, you have to make some modifications. You really can’t tear the bed apart in a hotel room. And youcertainlydon’t want the folks you’re visiting to come-a-knockin’ askingвЂњeverything okay in there?вЂќ
Hotel rooms can present some special challengesbecause the bed frame and head board are usually affixed to the floor and wall.
Generally you won’t have access to the the box spring (if there even is one) so your efforts will need to focus on the mattress itself, the head board and anything within about 5 feet of the bed.
Also, don’t forget the luggage rack (never put your stuff there) and make sure to check any upholstered furniture like love seats and chairs.
When you’re staying with folks you know,discretionis the word of the day.You can hit the most common bed bug hiding places without making a ruckus. Focus on the mattress, visible parts of the box spring, and the headboard.
Consider how often/recently the room is likely used.If it’s been closed up since the last time uncle Chuck came through 6 months ago, chances are slim there will be bed bugs present (they would have migrated to where people in the house sleep or lounge). If it’s also used as a reading room, take a look at that big comfy upholstered chair.you get the idea.
Whether you’re on the road or at home, make sure you know how to find bed bugs without helping them spread.
How to Find Bed Bugs without Spreading Them
The last thing you want is for some of these little buggers to hitch a ride on your clothing while you’re looking for them. You’re going to be getting up close and personal with their hideouts, so this is a real possibility. Here are five ways to help you find bed bugs without letting them spread.
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How to Find Bed Bugs
If you have a bed bug infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.
However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.
Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.
Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs
A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:
- Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
- Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
- Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
- Live bed bugs.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.
If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:
- In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
- In drawer joints.
- In electrical receptacles and appliances.
- Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
- At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
- Even in the head of a screw.
How to Check for Bed Bugs
The Two-Step Process to Finding Where Bed Bugs Hide in Your Home
Bed bugs are incredibly small and can fit into cracks as thin as a credit card. This makes bed bugs hard to find in the home, and can make bed bug control difficult. Use this guide to learn where bed bugs are most often found, then read the rest of our 4-part guide to learn more about getting rid of bed bugs and how to prevent bed bug infestations.
Check Common Bed Bug Hiding Spots
Using a flashlight and a stiff, flat-edged object like a credit card or paint scraper, check around beds, mattresses, and other areas where you suspect you might have bed bugs. Look for actual bugs, eggs, feces, or molted skin as evidence of an infestation. Be sure to look in the cracks, crevices, and folds of fabric and furniture. You may also want to wear protective gloves during this inspection.
- Bed bugs are attracted to warmth. The number one hiding place for bed bugs is in mattresses and beds. Inspect your sheets for blood spots bed bugs may have left behind. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the seams, tufts, and folds of your mattress in addition to any corners or crevices of your bed.
- Bed bugs also like to linger where humans sit or lay idle for long periods of time. Couches, recliners, and even office chairs are popular hiding spots for bed bugs. Don’t forget to look beneath furniture, where fabric meets the legs of the furniture, and between seat cushions.
- Bed bugs will also hide around the perimeter of a room. The edges of baseboards and carpet should also be inspected.
Inspect Less Common Bed Bug Hiding Spots
Bed bugs are treated directly, which makes it important to know exactly where they are, and where they are not, in your home. This will help you target where to treat for bed bugs and avoid wasting chemical. You also do not want to miss any bed bugs, which can cause a longer infestation.
Using your flashlight and flat-edged object, inspect your nightstand and dressers. Empty out each drawer and examine the cracks and joints of the drawers. Don’t forget to turn your drawers over and inspect the bottoms.
Inspect curtains and drapes, around window and door frames, around the ceiling (especially in the corners of the room), behind loose wallpaper, behind outlet covers, under lamps, inside picture frames, and inside alarm clocks and other home electronics. Watch the video below for a demonstration of a bedbug inspection.
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In this Article
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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."
How to Find Bed Bugs
Good Night, Sleep Tight. Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite!
For those born after the 1950s, bed bugs were an almost forgotten artifact of history, as extinct as buggy whips and zoot suits. They were once a scourge of housewives and travelers all over the world, more despised than cockroaches. The introduction of the pesticide DDT in the 1940s soon eradicated them from the western hemisphere.
DDT, effective but environmentally disastrous, was banned in the U.S. in 1972, and they began staging their comeback. In 2001, infestations in metropolitan cities and small towns across the country began making headlines. The reasons for the upsurge aren’t clear, although increased international travel and the insect’s resistance to most current pesticides are often cited.
Regardless of the reasons, travelers and homeowners must take precautions and make it part of their regular routine.
What Are They?
These bugs are small, flat-bodied parasitic insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Unlike fleas or ticks, they do not live on their food source. They hide near their host, and bite during the night.
Bites are painless at the time of attack; in fact they bite several times over a ten minute period, resulting in meandering lines or clusters of red, itching bumps.
Adult are approximately 3/8th of an inch long, about the size of an apple seed. They are reddish brown and have oval, flattened bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks. Immature bugs, called nymphs, are translucent and are about the size of the “e” in the word “liberty”on a Lincoln head penny.
Have Bed Bug Problems?
The most common species is the Cimex lectularius, which prefers the blood of humans, but it will also feed on other warm-blooded animals such as rodents, bats, dogs, cats and birds.
Where do They Thrive?
Hardy and prolific creatures, they thrive in the temperatures and humidity levels favored by humans. In a year, a female can produce three generations of offspring. Nymphs mature within a month. Each of those adult can survive up to a year without feeding, so even a vacant dwelling cannot be assumed to be bug-free.
Once they have found a host, they stay within a five to ten-foot radius of the feeding area. A hungry bug, however, can travel 100 feet in search of a blood meal. Insect repellants are ineffective. Studies have proven that they will march across wet or dry repellants and bite through them, with no ill effect on the bug.
Are They Dangerous?
These parasites do not transmit disease, though this seldom reassures anyone suffering from an invasion of the voracious little creatures. Entomologists have isolated several pathogens from their internal organs bugs, but as of this writing, no case of any illness has ever been traced to a bite.
The realization that one’s bed has been infested by bloodsucking insects can cause anxiety and serious psychological distress. Anxiety, fear and the itching bites can result in insomnia.
Reactions to Bites
Bites can be numerous in a heavy infestation, but they are rarely serious. Most people develop a raised, itchy, red bump or wheal at the site of a bite within ten minutes, though reaction can be delayed for seven to ten days.
A few individuals do not react at all to being bitten. Others may develop allergic reactions such as hives, blisters, or a rash. Children exposed to a heavy infestation are sometimes lethargic from disturbed sleep and can become anemic.
As with any insect bite, they can become infected from scratching. Itching can be controlled with calamine lotion or over-the-counter anti-itch creams. Always consult with a physician or pharmacist about the suitability of any topical treatment before use.
Not all bites in the night are the work of these insects. Mosquitoes, fleas, ants and spiders are also frequent offenders. If the source of bites cannot be easily discovered, it is best to call in a pest control professional for an inspection and treatment evaluation.
How Do Infestations Occur?
Wingless and unlikely to crawl more than ten feet from their established feeding site, these bugs rely on humans to transport them to new habitats. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to become a personal transport service for these bugs.
They are attracted to body warmth and the carbon dioxide given off during breathing. During the day, they conceal themselves in dark areas and crevices, such as inside box springs or in the screw holes and cracks in wooden bed frames. This habit means that they will also take refuge in clothing, shoes, luggage and other items that are left on or near their current habitat.
Unlike ticks and lice, do not attach themselves to a person’s skin or hair, but they can be transported inside the seams of clothing, purses, backpacks, luggage and shoes. Hitchhiking bugs can infest upholstered furniture, with couches and easy chairs being favorite destinations.
Early Detection is Crucial
If noticed early, an infestation can be controlled by treating the limited area the bugs inhabit. However, once they spread throughout a room or apartment, eradication becomes much more difficult. Unchecked or ineffectively treated, they can spread throughout a building.
Rats, mice, bats, birds or other wild mammals can also be the source of infestations. While the most common, Cimex lectularius, prefers a human host, other species of similar insects infest warm-blooded animals and will feed on humans and colonize homes if their animal hosts invade the building.
An infestation is not a sign of poor sanitation. Unlike vermin such as cockroaches and rodents, these bugs are not attracted to filth or food debris. The cleanest home may become the site of an infestation if the creatures are introduced from an infested area.
As their name suggests, the first place to inspect is the bed. Check the sheets and blankets for any dead bugs, dormant bugs, or small, black spots and streaks. Take pillows out of their cases and check along their seams. Remove the bedding and check the mattress for the same signs of spots, streaks or bugs.
Take special care to check along seams, cording, tufting, and under any buttons. They are especially fond of the cording around the edge of a mattress, particularly where it folds over at the corners. If there is a pasted-on label on the top of the mattress, check carefully around it and under any loose areas.
Check the Box Springs
If possible, lift the mattress and check the box springs and bed frame, paying close attention to crevices, cracks and seams. Mattresses and box springs can be heavy and unwieldy, so have help to do this, if necessary, to avoid possible injury.
They may be more likely on the underside of mattresses and box springs than on top.
The bottom of box springs is their ideal habitat. Check along the dust cover. They congregate around the staples that hold the gauze dust cover to the frame.
If the box springs have plastic or cardboard corner protectors, they will often rest under or around them. If possible, remove these to allow inspection, but be aware that it may be difficult or impossible to reattach them as they were originally installed.
If the dust cover is loose, or torn, or if it can be removed by the owner, check inside the box springs for signs of insects. It is extremely difficult to thoroughly check every nook and cranny inside box springs, so if bugs are found on the outside it may be best to replace the box springs or cover it with a zippered case sold for dust mite and bug control.
Wooden bed frames are more likely to harbor insects than the more common metal variety, but the seams and overlapping sections of metal frames should also be inspected. Also be sure to look behind the headboard, if possible, and behind any pictures or loose wallpaper near the bed.
Drawers and Other Areas in the Room
These parasites cannot climb smooth surfaces, but hitchhiking bugs can invade drawers. Always check the inside and bottom of drawers and inside closets before storing clothing. If possible, do not remove clothing from the suitcase.
In dorms and furnished apartments, check along baseboards where they join the wall, and also along the edges and seams of carpets. Lift throw rugs to check the underside. Inspect upholstered furniture, paying special attention to seams, cording, cracks and crevices, and where attached cushions touch.
Check under seat cushions and along the seams and crevices of the furniture’s decking. Couches and recliners used for sleeping are to be considered especially suspect.
Heavy infestations can produce an unpleasant, sickly-sweet odor, but this is not a reliable indication of their presence. Even with close inspection, bugs can hide so well that they can be missed by someone who is not a pest-control specialist.
Prevention is the best method for dealing with the threat of infestations, while on the road or at home.
Avoid While Traveling
These bugs thrive in places like dorms and hotels, where the turn-over of guests are high.
Hard-shell luggage is less likely to harbor them than luggage made of fabric. Remember, they cannot crawl up smooth surfaces.
Pack a small, bright flashlight to aid in inspecting your hotel room. Bring sealable plastic bags for packing items that cannot be laundered. Place items that can be laundered into dissolvable laundry bags before returning home. Dissolvable laundry bags can be found at many retailers and purchased from online merchants.
How to Store Luggage
Never place luggage or clothing on the bed or other upholstered furniture. Always use a luggage stand or the top of a piece of furniture. If no luggage stand or suitable furniture is available, set luggage in the center of the room, away from other furniture. Do not allow luggage or clothing to touch walls near the beds or other upholstered furniture.
Because they prefer to be near their hosts, and because they cannot negotiate smooth surfaces, the safest place to store your luggage and other belongings is in the bathtub. If it is feasible, keep clean clothing inside the suitcase, and store soiled clothing in dissolvable laundry bags.
If bugs are found, or bites are discovered in the morning, contact management at once and request another room in a different area of the building.
Returning Home from Travel
Before returning home, seal luggage in trash bags. On arrival at home, unpack the luggage outside. Do not bring luggage back into the home until it is treated. This can be done by exposing it to heat. Temperatures above 120°F will kill adults and their eggs.
In the summer, a simple method of disinfection is to place luggage in sealed black plastic bags, and set the bags in direct sunlight. Check interior temperature with a thermometer before removal. In winter, a blow dryer or heat gun may be used, but is somewhat less effective. Discard the used trash and packing bags in outdoor receptacles.
For frequent travelers, special units are available that will heat luggage to the appropriate temperature to eradicate all bugs and their eggs. These may be found wherever luggage and travel supplies are sold, and through online retailers.
Launder all clothing without removing it from the dissolvable laundry bags. Launder clothing as soon as it is unpacked. If it is allowed to sit in the laundry room, any stowaway bugs will have a chance to wander away and begin to breed. Use water of at least 120°F. Adding borax, a mineral laundry aid available at most supermarkets, is considered helpful. Dry laundered clothing on the hottest dryer setting the fabrics can tolerate.
Commercial dry cleaning will kill these bugs, but taking infested articles in to be cleaned risks spreading the insects to the entire shop. Dry cleaning experts say that delicate items such as silks or men’s suits will not be harmed by application of dry heat below 160°F.
This can be applied by placing items in black plastic bags in the sun for a day. Do not overfill the bags, as that can allow the bugs to seek refuge in cooler areas. Use a thermometer to ensure that the entire contents of the bag reach the critical temperature of 120°F.
Other Heat Methods
If sun treatment isn’t feasible, de-bug items by sealing them into bags and placing the bags on top of heating pads until temperatures of 120°F or above are achieved for ten to twenty minutes. Use caution when utilizing heating devices for this purpose and never leave the items unattended while being treated.
Items that are not delicate, but which cannot be laundered, such as purses or backpacks, can be disinfected by being put in the dryer on moderate heat, between 120°F and 160°F, for ten to twenty minutes.
Do not overload the dryer; small or medium-sized loads ensure effective heat circulation. Place infested articles in the affected home’s laundry machines only. Transporting buggy linens and items to a commercial laundry or Laundromat will spread the insects to many other locations.
Prevention At Home
Because they can survive for long periods without feeding, it is important to check for signs of their presence when moving into a previously occupied home.
Used and Secondhand Items
Do not bring discarded or secondhand bedding or upholstered furniture into the house. Use extreme caution when bringing in used furniture, such as dressers, bureaus and chests. Remember, that interesting piece may have been set out on the curb because it is full of bugs!
Vintage clothing stores, thrift stores, flea markets and consignment shops are all enjoyable places to find unique bargains, but remember to treat your purchases and also to change and launder your shopping attire as soon as you return home.
These bugs cannot jump or fly, but brushing against items or trying on pieces that harbor them can allow some to stow away. It only takes one egg-bearing female to launch a hostile take-over of the home.
Place all secondhand clothing purchases into dissolvable plastic bags and launder as soon as the items are brought home. Items such as purses, backpacks, luggage, shoes or dry-clean-only clothing should be treated with dry heat as described above in the tips for travelers. Remember, temperatures above 120°F will kill these bugs and their eggs.
How to Handle Bed Frames
Metal bed frames are far less hospitable bugs than wooden ones. Great-grandma favored brass and iron beds for just this reason. If a clean wooden bed frame must be placed in a building suspected of harboring bugs, the bed can be protected to prevent invasion.
Set bed frame legs into metal cans, or onto glue board traps used for cockroaches and mice. Bed frame legs can also be coated with mineral oil or talc used as body-dusting powder. Both substances make the surface impossible for bugs to climb. Bed legs can also be wrapped in double-sided tape.
Keep headboards at least one inch from the wall. Wall-mounted headboards should be removable for periodic inspection and cleaning. Do not allow bedding to touch the floor, and chose bedding that may be cleaned by machine washing and drying.
Enclose mattresses, box springs and pillows in zippered cases advertised to be impervious. Cases advertised as preventing dust mites are also acceptable. These are available from many retailers that carry bedding and house wares, as well as from online retailers.
These cases will prevent an invasion, and will isolate and eventually starve any bugs that may be trapped inside. Check cases frequently, as the material is vulnerable to tearing, especially where there is contact between the case and the bed frame.
In the rest of the home, choose furniture that has raised legs, rather than pieces that sit directly onto the floor. Favor metal and molded plastic furniture pieces over wooden ones and simple leather or vinyl upholstery over fabrics with welting and tufting.
Paint is less bug friendly than wallpaper. Loose wallpaper should be re-glued. Paneling should be avoided, but if it is not possible to remove it, seal all cracks with caulking. Bare floors are preferable to carpet or throw rugs, and sheet vinyl and other seamless flooring materials are preferable to planks.
Repair and seal any cracks in plaster or sheet rock, and caulk any cracks between walls and trim. Loose tiles should be reset and grouted.
These insects are indifferent to dust, dirt and scattered crumbs, but they relish clutter. Piles of clothing and other items in corners and on the floor provide prime hiding places. Items should not be stored under beds or sofas.
Closet floor should be kept clear, and if possible, items on hangers should not touch the closet walls or floors. Wire shelving is preferable to wood, and wooden clothes hangers should be avoided.
Eradicating These Pests
Once they have become established, totally eradicating them even by professional methods becomes an almost impossible task. Once they multiplied throughout a home, hotel, or multi-unit dwelling, it is more precise to speak of control.
If they are found soon after they enter, while they invest only a bed or other single furniture item, then eradication is feasible via an intensive search-and-destroy plan.
How to Handle Infested Furniture
A couch or chair that harbors bugs is best discarded. Because of the construction of these types of furniture, it is impossible to reach all the areas where they may hide. Wrap the item in plastic sheeting, and tape it securely closed. This will prevent dropping bugs or allowing them to sneak into clothing while the furniture is being carried away for disposal.
When setting an infested piece out on the curb for garbage removal, it is advisable to attach a sign to it stating that it harbors these offending creatures. It may also be wise to damage the piece so that no one is tempted to try and salvage it.
What to Do With Bedding
If the bugs have invaded a bed, and the mattress and box springs are older or damaged, it is best to discard both mattress and box springs. Place them inside sealed plastic bags to avoid shaking bugs loose during removal from the bedroom.
It is not recommended to spray any pesticide on the upper surface of a mattress. Some professional exterminators will treat the sides and seams of mattresses and box springs, but this requires special equipment, training, and chemicals that are not available for use by home owners.
Disassemble the bed frame and clean each piece thoroughly to remove any bugs or eggs. Rubbing alcohol will destroy both adults and eggs on contact, though it has no residual effect once it dries. Test it first in a hidden area because it may damage the furniture finish.
Before reassembly, dust the frame with talc, diatomaceous earth or boric acid. Diatomaceous earth is made from microscopic fossils that scratch the coating on an insect’s body, causing the bug to dehydrate. Boric acid sticks to an insect’s body and when groomed away, the powder solidifies and destroys the insect’s digestive system.
Both diatomaceous earth and boric acid are considered safe for humans and pets, but be sure to read and follow all label directions and stated cautions before using either pesticide.
Wash all bedding in the hottest water the fabric can tolerate with laundry detergent and borax. Dry at a temperature that will ensure all parts of the bedding reach at least 120°F for at least ten to twenty minutes.
Checking for Bugs
Patrol the room with a flashlight and a putty knife or old credit card. Use the putty knife or card to scrape bugs out of crevices or cracks. A blow dryer set on high heat and low fan will also work to force the bugs out of hiding.
Capture any live bugs that emerge in a paper towel wet with rubbing alcohol, or simply crush them in the towel. Dispose of the towels in an outside garbage receptacle.
Be sure to check posters, pictures, mirrors and wall hangings. Use the putty knife or card to check between frame and backing. Scrape any cracks in the walls or flooring, and reattach peeling wallpaper.
Remove and check the inside surface of the plates over electrical outlets and light switches. DO NOT touch any wires or insert anything into the wiring box. If they are found inside the wiring boxes, a pest control professional must be consulted.
If there are any phones, clocks, toys, smoke detectors or other small appliances within ten feet of the item harboring these bugs, use the flashlight to inspect inside them through ventilation vents or other openings. Do not open electrical devices, because of the risk of a dangerous shock.
Remove all clutter from the room. This removes potential harborage spots and also makes checking for the insects much easier. Seal any item that is possibly infected in a plastic bag and launder or heat-treat.
Before bringing in a new mattress and box springs, cover the new bedding pieces in cases labeled for bug or dust mite control. It is recommended to also enclose pillows in these cases, and to avoid decorative toss pillows or stuffed toys on the bed until the infestation is completely eradicated.
Preventing Future Infestations
Missed eggs hatch within ten days at normal room temperature. For this reason, it is recommended that a check be made every few days for newly hatched bugs. Nymphs are very small, not much bigger than sesame seeds.
It may be helpful to hunt at night, using a magnifying glass and a flashlight with a red lens or with red plastic film or red tissue over the lens. The red light cannot be detected by the bugs, so they will not flee to their hiding places as they would normally do when disturbed.
Thorough vacuuming is helpful in preventing re-establishment of bugs, though it is not as useful for eliminating the primary infestation. Use a crevice tool and vacuum using scrubbing motions along seams and crevices where bugs were found. Be sure to remove the vacuum bag at once, and dispose of it in an outdoor container. It is best not to use vacuums with reusable bags for this purpose.
Remake the bed with white sheets, if possible. This will make it easier to spot even small insects, and to see their dark waste spots much more easily.
Natural Control Methods
Unfortunately, there are no natural control methods that are proven to be effective. Cedar wood, lavender, herbs, essential oils and other aromatics that are effective for repelling moths or other household pests have no effect on these parasites.
Before the twentieth century, bean plant leaves were scattered around the legs of wooden bed frames. The microscopic hooks on these fuzzy leaves would entangle the spurs on their legs, entrapping them. When the leaves wilted or were spotted with bugs, they would be swept up and replaced.
Not many homeowners have access to large quantities of bean plant leaves, and the bean season is short, so this is a control method of more historical than practical interest.
Biological controls are also not feasible. Cockroaches, Pharaoh and Argentine ants, and spiders all prey on these bugs. It is obvious, however, that these pests present far more risk to humans. Cockroaches ruin food, carry several serious diseases and can aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Ants also carry disease organisms and foul food stuffs. Unlike the bite of a bed bug, the sting of an ant or the bite of a spider is venomous and can cause serious reactions.
Heating and Freezing
As mentioned earlier in this article, heat is an effective means of killing adults and their eggs, but as a do-it-yourself project, it is an effective spot treatment only.
Attempts by desperate homeowners to rid themselves of the infestation by cranking up the thermostat are rarely successful. Bugs can find cooler spots to seek refuge, and home heating systems rarely can raise the temperature throughout the home high enough to ensure that all bugs and eggs are killed.
Freezing will also eradicate these bugs, but the items must be kept in a home freezer for at least a week, so this is rarely a practical process for nonprofessionals.
When to Call a Professional
If bugs have spread past a bed or single piece of furniture, it is best to seek the help of a pest-control professional. Effective control of this insect is extremely difficult, and an exterminator will have the training, chemicals and tools to ensure that the bugs are destroyed with no risk to pets or the human occupants of the dwelling.
Any infestation in a hotel or multi-unit dwelling requires professional attention immediately. All affected rooms or apartments must be treated at the same time, to prevent bugs from being reintroduced into a treated unit to another that is still infested.
If a person shows a tendency towards allergic reaction to bites, it is wise to bring in professional assistance for an inspection and evaluation even if the infestation is only suspected. The professional technician will be able to determine if the bites are due to bloodsucking bugs or other pests, and estimate the level of infestation.
Choosing a Pest-Control Professional
If you live in a multi-unit dwelling such as an apartment, townhouse or condominium, the choice of pest control service may be made by your property manager or landlord.
If the homeowner must make the decision, there are several guidelines to aid in making that choice. Referrals from friends and family members who have used a certain company and are pleased with the service is always a good starting point. However, companies that do excellent work in treating other types of pest problems may not be familiar with the treatment procedures and chemicals used for eradicating bugs.
When calling a pest control company, ask about their training and treatment plan for controlling infestations. Be cautious about any company that claims they can rid the home with one treatment. These bugs are a resistant, difficult insect to control even with professional treatment, and the pest control company must return for inspection and retreatment once or twice to ensure the pests are destroyed.
Professional treatments will at require at least one and possibly two or three follow up visits, to allow the technician to monitor remaining bug populations and to re-treat any areas that may still show signs of infestation.
A reputable company will give full details about the service plan and its costs. Cheaper is not always better when choosing a pest control company. Always interview more than one company and receive estimates. A reputable company will come out, inspect the property and give a quote for service rather than stating a flat fee.
After the inspection, the homeowner should receive a written report detailing the findings of the inspection, as well as outlining a recommended plan of action for addressing the problems discovered.
If there are extenuating circumstances in the home, such as an allergic individual or someone who is incapacitated and cannot be vacated during treatment if necessary, be certain to make the pest control company aware of it during the inspection visit.
Integrated Pest Management
Most companies that are knowledgeable about treating these bugs will use Integrated Pest Management practices. IPM practices include judicious use of pesticides along with nonchemical control practices such as using heat, cold, or steam to destroy insects, and physical controls such as vacuuming and removing points of entry.
A pest control company utilizing IPM practices may ask the homeowner to aid in the treatment by making sure that clutter is removed, or personal items bagged and sealed before treatment. These requests should be clearly stated in writing and any questions answered to the satisfaction of the homeowner before a treatment contract is signed.
Review the Contract
Always carefully read any contract or service agreement offered. Before signing, be sure that the contract is fully understood.
Some points to consider include the company’s cancellation policy. Is the homeowner as well as the pest control company allowed to cancel the contract? Are there penalties for cancellation? What, if any, exclusion clauses are included? An exclusion clause specifies what circumstances may cause the contract to be canceled.
What Sort of Arbitration or Other Method is Used to Settle Disputes?
Make certain that the company carries insurance to cover incidents like accidental staining or breaking of furnishings. These are normally covered in the contract under an “errors and omissions” clause.
The company must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, but in most licensing means that all technicians have had proper training, and that a Certified Operator in charge of all technicians is on call within a certain geographical area.
Both the homeowner and the pest control company must sign any contract or agreement. Do not sign until the contract is completely read and understood. The pest control technician or the office staff should be able to answer any questions to the homeowner’s satisfaction.
Chemicals Used for Control
The banned pesticide DDT was responsible for reducing these bugs from a ubiquitous threat at the time of its first use in the 1940s, to near extinction in the U.S., U.K. and Canada by the late 1950s.
DDT acted by disrupting an insect’s nervous system, causing all the neurons to fire simultaneously. This especially effective method of action was augmented by the fact that DDT was, and is, highly persistent. Once applied, it had a residual effect that remained effective for months, sometimes years.
Unfortunately, this same tendency to persist in the environment wreaked environmental havoc among species that were never intended to be poisoned with DDT. It was considered safe for humans at the time it was extensively in use, an assurance that is no longer considered true.
They had only begun to develop resistance DDT before it was banned in the U.S. DDT is still used in other countries, and recent reports indicate that bugs in those areas have begun to develop resistance to the powerful pesticide. In fact, one study in Africa indicated that they actually became more active after being sprayed with the chemical.
Chemicals for Non-Professional Use
Other than diatomaceous earth, boric acid, and non-residual pyrethrin, there are no pesticides effective that can be applied by a non-professional. Pyrethrin is derived from a type of chrysanthemum and functions as a neuro-toxic contact poison for insects.
While it is very safe, pyrethrin is, by definition and function, a poison. Carefully follow all instructions, warnings and cautions on the label. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in some regions bugs have become immune to the pyrethrine compounds available for use by home owners.
The commonly available “bug bombs”and foggers are ineffective because the released mist of pesticide does not reach into the small, enclosed spaces where the bugs hide.
Chemicals Used by Professionals
Chemicals available to trained, professional applicators that are effective against these parasites include benseneacatate, chlorpyrifos, cyfluthrin, fencalerate, hydoprene, permethrin, propoxur, and resmethrin.
Hydroprene has a unique form of action; it does not poison the bugs, but sterilizes the males. Over time, this drives the population to extinction if unaffected bugs are not brought into the area.
Professional Methods of Control
Many of the professional methods are similar to the methods described above for use by the homeowner. However, the professional receives additional training and has access to methods that are not available to the general public.
Heat and Cold
Special heating units may be utilized, which can bring an entire room or unit up to the proper temperature that is lethal to adults and their eggs. The temperature must be maintained for a sustained period.
Cold treatment may be used for items sensitive to heat. Steam treatment may be used for items such as mattress top surfaces, drapes or other items that cannot be easily laundered or treated with pesticides.
Vacuuming is also part of a professional control treatment, using special machines outfitted with HEPA filters which contain the bugs to prevent re-infestation of the treated area or others.
Judicious use of approved pesticides is part of a professional treatment plan, and these chemicals can be applied with precision and training unavailable to unlicensed applicators.
Other, more unusual methods include tented fumigation, in which a room or an entire building is sealed and fumigated. This is used only in cases of severe infestation.
Canine detection teams are a new method of detection and inspection used by some pest control companies. A specially trained dog, usually a beagle, is brought in by a handler. The dog will alert the handler to the scent of bugs. These canine professionals are very useful in verifying the presence of bugs in cases of light infestations, and are also useful in determining if treatment methods have been successful in eradication.
Monitoring devices that attract bugs through heat and the release of carbon dioxide may also be employed. These are not traps that are intended to eradicate the bugs. They are used to estimate population size, to help determine treatment plans or to determine if treatment has been successful.
The Costs of Prevention and Treatment
These bugs can be expensive pests to control and treat. Regardless of the costs to homeowners, renters and property managers, they also extract a considerable toll on society. Those afflicted with an invasion may lose work or productivity due to sleep deprivation and anxiety. There may be healthcare costs from these issues, or from allergic reactions or infections due to bites.
Professional treatments may be more expensive than treatment for other household pests, because treatments require several treatments by a licensed pest control technician.
Costs of control also include such things as replacing infested furnishings, making necessary repairs to prevent re-infestation, and the purchase of bug-proof encasements for bedding.
Commercial and Multi-Unit Buildings
Bug control in commercial facilities or multi-unit dwellings may be considerably more expensive than treatment for other forms of pests. This is because of the more extensive cooperation required by the staff or renters in preventing the spread from one area to the other, as well as the expenses incurred in treating multiple areas instead of one room or single-family home.
Professional treatment costs vary widely, depending on the geographical area as well as the unique requirements of the infestation area. Professional treatment fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The costs of controls available to individuals are less daunting. These figures are estimates or averages, and should be used for general information purposes only.
Dissolvable laundry bags cost about $2 per bag. These are an important part of any treatment plan, as well as essential for travelers.
Bug-proof encasements for mattresses and box springs may cost about $80 dollars for a mattress case, and $50 for box springs. These prices vary according to bedding size and from retailer to retailer.
Units that use heat to kill the bugs in luggage cost about $300. Heat treatment for an entire apartment may run from $800 to $2,000.
The use of a canine unit may cost about $1,900 per day, or some fraction of that for shorter visits.
For financial reasons as well as health and peace of mind, when dealing with the growing threat of bed bug infestation, an “ounce” of prevention is more useful and much less expensive than the “pound” of cure required.
Take proper precautions and be ever vigilant about detecting and eradicating these bugs at the first sign of invasion. If everyone follows these practices, then these bloodsucking insects may well once again become only part of history and a figure of speech.