If there’s one kind of guest you really don’t want a visit from, it’s a bed bug. The problem is, bed bugs rarely travel alone. Where there’s one, there’s a hundred. Once believed to have been eradicated from North America, these unwelcome little pests have made a big comeback in recent years. And make no mistake – they aren’t discriminating about who they make a house call to. No matter how clean and tidy you keep your home, you’re still vulnerable to their attention. Here’s exactly what you need to know about bed bugs and how to get rid of them.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Beg bugs (or Cimex lectularius, as they sometimes prefer to be called) are small insects that survive by sucking the blood of a host animal. Although they’ll make do with any animal at a pinch, what attracts bed bugs the most is feasting on human blood than anything else.
In the 1970s, broad-spectrum pesticides such as DDT all but eradicated this pesky household pest. However, when concerns about the environmental and health risks of such pesticides led to their withdrawal, bed bugs regrouped, regathered, and came back stronger than ever.
As seasoned explorers, bed bugs are happy to stow away in luggage and clothing to travel easily and quickly from place to place. Once they reach their final destination, they’ll slip into the cracks of beds and furniture to begin planning their mischief.
Although they aren’t believed to be major transmitters of disease, they’re a big source of discomfort and embarrassment.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bugs are flat, wingless insects with a reddish-brown color. Although they’re small, bed bugs are still large enough to be discernible to the naked eye – picture an apple seed, and you’ll have a good idea of their size. After feeding, their bodies swell and their color intensifies.
How Do You Know If You Have Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are sneaky. They like to hide away in cracks and only come out to play at night. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s impossible to tell whether you have a bed bug problem.
One of the easiest ways of identifying an infestation is to look for bite marks on your face and body. As the bite marks can sometimes take up to 14 days to appear, watch out for these other telltale signs in the meantime:
- Rusty colored blood spots on mattresses or furniture
- An offensively sweet, musty odor
- Bed bugs in the folds of mattresses and bed linen
- Bed bug exoskeletons
As bed bugs are large enough to see, you should be able to spot them easily enough. Keep your eyes peeled as you search under the mattress, in and around the bed frame, and around any wooden furniture.
As bed bugs are excellent hiders, pay particular attention to any cracks and areas of peeling paint or loose wallpaper.
Common Methods For Getting Rid Of Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. They hide extremely well and can go for a long time without feeding. They also breed and spread incredibly quickly. To prevent your home from becoming overrun, quick, efficient extermination is vital.
If the infestation is particularly bad (or if you’d simply rather leave the matter in someone else’s hands), you’ll find most pest control companies are geared to handle bed bugs. If you’d rather save some cash by handling the problem yourself, you might want to try the following helpful home remedies:
- Strip any bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing from the room. Wash the items using the hottest water the fabric will tolerate. Follow up by running them through the highest setting on the
- dryer. The more heat you can apply, the better.
- Run any stuffed toys, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed through the highest setting on the dryer.
- Scrub the mattress seams with a stiff brush.
- Vacuum the bed and the surrounding area. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag immediately after finishing.
- Use a tightly woven, zipped cover over the mattress and bedsprings to stop any bed bugs from getting in or out.
- Remove any clutter from the area surrounding the bed and repair any cracks or peeling paint/ wallpaper.
Bear in mind that while the above home remedies for bed bugs will help control bedbugs, you’ll need to use a chemical treatment to completely eradicate an infestation.
Avoid using general-purpose insecticides that could be harmful if used inside the home. Look for treatments that are specially intended for indoor pests. Only use the treatment on bedding and mattresses if the label says it’s safe to do so.
If you’re still struggling to contain your bed bug problem after trying the home remedies, play it safe and call in the professionals.
How Long Do Bed Bugs Live?
Bed bugs like to stick around. These aren’t the kind of insects that pack their entire lives into a couple of days.
Although their actual life span can vary depending on the conditions, most bed bugs will live to the ripe old age of 10 months old.
How Long Can Bed Bugs Live Without Food?
Bed bugs feed on blood. They’re parasites, and as with most parasites, they’ll eventually die of starvation if their food source is removed. But just how long can a bed bug live with nothing at all to feast on? As it turns out, longer than you might think.
Some studies have shown that bed bugs can live for up to 400 days without a drop of blood. Fortunately, that’s an extreme scenario. Even so, you can still expect an adult bed bug to service for around five months without a single meal.
How Fast Do Bed Bugs Spread?
One of the biggest bugbears about bed bugs is how fast they spread. The speed at which they can infest a house is largely driven by their prodigious rate of reproduction.
Female bed bugs can lay between one and five eggs per day, equating to around 500 eggs over a lifetime. The eggs, which are laid in clusters and resemble tiny, milk-white grains of salt, take between 10 and 12 days to hatch.
After another 20 – 60 days (the exact time depends on the temperature: the lower the temperature, the longer it takes), the ‘nymphs (as newborn bed bugs are known) become adults and the females start hatching their own eggs.
With that rate of hatching, you could have 1200 to 1600 bed bugs within just three months of saying hello to your first little visitor.