Tiny, rust-colored insects that live in walls, floors and, most notably, furniture like beds and mattresses, are called bed bugs. They subsist on human blood and feed at night. Typically, a bed bug bite is painless and results in a small red or pinkish dot-like marking on the skin. Most people react to bed bug bites with itchiness or welts, while others experience reactions so severe that they require professional attention. While bed bugs can be seen by the human eye, many who suffer from infestations are unaware that they have a problem, because of the insects’ proclivity for night activity and the translucent coloring of their eggs. Fortunately, removing bed bugs and preventing infestations can be accomplished using regular and easy cleaning techniques.
Recognizing a bed bug infestation can be challenging, because of bed bugs’ ability to remain unnoticed until they are ready to feed. The resemblances between their bites and those of the common mosquito or flea can also pose problems with identification. There are, however, certain tell-tale signs that can point to an obvious bed bug problem: smears of blood, black spots and dried insect shells on furniture or mattresses can show where bed bugs have been feeding, defecating or molting. Official identification of bed bugs can be made, if a home owner or tenant captures a live specimen in a sandwich bag, and takes it to a pest control professional for review.
Common, store-bought “bug bombs” are typically ineffective against an infestation of bed bugs. Instead, home owners and tenants should opt to manually detect and remove bed bugs, when they can. Using a flashlight and a magnifying glass to inspect common hiding places – starting with sleeping areas – can be prudent. Every inch of a bed should be combed for signs of infestation, including headboards, footboards, the inside of box springs, and even a mattress’ seams and tags. Mattresses should be scrubbed with brushes and vacuumed using flat attachments to help with identification and removal.
Cracks in furniture, walls, and floors should be sealed after they’ve been thoroughly inspected and cleaned. Less obvious population centers, like electronics and windows and their dressings, should also be treated as potential bed bug havens. When live insects are encountered, they should be wiped with a damp cloth and smashed upon sight.
Heat can be a great ally in combating a bed bug problem. Cleaning, vacuuming and steaming areas have been shown to reduce populations. Choosing to wash laundry in hot water and dry it at high temperatures can keep these pests off of clothes. Non-washable fabrics can be tossed into a dryer to rid of them of bed bug residue. Washing stationary items with soap and water can also prove effective in keeping bed bugs at bay.
Severe or recurrent infestations will likely have to be addressed by pest control professionals. Apartment dwellers with rampant infestations should advise their housing managers as soon as possible to help stop the spread of bed bugs to neighboring units. It should be noted that pesticides will have to be applied directly onto bed bug populations for effectiveness, and that the manual inspection and removal of bed bugs will have to continue, even after the application of chemicals.
Regular cleaning can help prevent an infestation of bed bugs. Vacuuming every week — especially in areas where carpet or rugs are present – and changing vacuum bags immediately after the device has run can eliminate bed bugs and their eggs. Organizing clutter, like piles of papers and clothes, can reduce the number of places where bed bugs can hide and multiply. Picking items up off the floor and moving them away from beds can also deter infestations.
Home owners and tenants should be wary of accepting used bedding, clothing, and books. Bed bugs can very easily be transferred from these objects and onto home surfaces. Typical hiding places for these pests should be inspected during move-ins, and repairs for seals, cracks in walls, flooring, and wall treatments should be immediate.
Beds should be positioned so that they are not adjacent to walls. Loose fabrics, like comforters, need to be straightened so that they don’t hang onto the floor and provide a bridge for bed bugs. Encasing mattresses and box springs can close them off as potential hiding places. Washing and disinfecting headboards, footboards, and bed frames, and regularly changing bedding, can remove inviting insect residue. Attaching interceptors to bed legs can capture pests attempting to crawl up onto beds, and advise home owners or tenants of potential infestations.
Visit the following links for more information about the identification, removal and prevention of bed bugs:
Jennifer McBride is a staff writer with MattressInsider. Jennifer loves to write.