All You Need to Know to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Comprehensive knowledge on Bed Bugs gathered from various renowned sources to help you in your fight against them. We believe that the fight against these pesky bugs is like a war and hence the need for you to know as much as you can about the enemy.
Know your Enemy and How it Attacks
Bed Bugs can now be found at all Places
Bed Bugs can now be found even in the finest hotel and living accomodations. The reasons for this are not totally understood but appear to involve increased global travel and commerce, ease of movement of infested items, widespread insecticide resistance, and changes in pesticides available to control this pest.
Bed Bugs are oval, flattened, wingless, rusty red or mahogany
Adult bed bugs are oval, wingless, about 1/5 inch long, and rusty red or mahogany. Their bodies are flattened, they have well-developed antennae, their compound eyes are small, and the area behind the head (the pronotum) expands forward on either side of the head, bearing many small hairs.
Their eggs take five weeks or more to hatch
Female bed bugs lay 200 to 500 tiny (1/20 inch) white eggs during their lifetimes, usually two to five eggs per day, on rough surfaces such as wood or paper near their hosts’ sleeping places, resting places, or both. Gluelike material covers the eggs, which hatch in about 10 to 15 days at room temperature.
Bed Bugs feed on humans, usually at night when they are resting
Bed bugs inject a natural anesthetic while feeding. However, saliva injected dur ing feeding can produce red patches on the skin These may become irritated and infected when scratched. Swelling may not develop until a day or more after feeding, and some people show no symptoms at all.
How to Locate your Enemy?
Check your Bed thoroughly
85% of bed bugs are found near the bed. To locate look for fecal spots, blood spots, egg cases and shed skins around mattress, box spring, bed frame and headboard.
Inspect the Mattress well
Check the mattress properly including sides, seams, crevices, and any partings or holes that may be present for bed bug signs. If you see any fecal spots or dead skins, that’s a sign that bed bugs are around harboring in the mattress.
Furniture & Wall Cracks
Check furniture using flashlight to see if any bed bugs are residing in holes or joint. In chairs, they can hide in screw joints, holes and fabric folds.
Fecal Spots at various places
Most common tell tale sign is fecal spots near windows, switch cabinets or bed mattress. These spots look like ink pen marks created by putting the pen in one place for sometime or dragging it in a line.
Enemy's Strengths and Weakness
Deceptive and Agile
Complete elimination of an established bed bug population is nearly impossible to accomplish in a single visit by most Pest Management Professionals. They are nocturnal, use cryptic harborages, are very small and elusive, and can detect and avoid many chemicals, including cleaning agents. Due to all these strengths they are often difficult to control.
Survives Long without Food
Unfed adults can live for several months, sometimes >1 year under certain conditions, while nymphs can survive for >3 months without feeding. Public’s fear of bed bugs, the effects of their bites, the stigma of having an infestation, and the characteristic, “musty-sweetish” smell of large or long-standing infestations magnify their importance as pests.
Cannot Chew, Claw or Fly
Bed Bugs cannot chew or claw through even a very thin coating of sealant or an unbroken layer of paper or cloth. Storing clothes and other items in plastic bags or tightly-sealed containers can greatly reduce potential harborage sites. Bed bugs cannot fly or jump and do not normally crawl long distances. They move using humans, i.e. in luggage, laundry, etc.
Assess Enemy before Attack
It is important to ascertain if the infestation is in early stages or is it more widespread. When you see fully grown bed bugs during daytime or outside the sleeping areas, the infestation is large. If bedbugs are small, mostly confined to sleeping areas and not visible in daytime unless searched for intently, infestation is in nascent stages. For a large infestation, start with chemical insecticide treatment and continue with natural remedies that can be more residual.
You will have to deploy several home cleaning methods such as vacuuming, washing at a high temperature, using steam or heat treatment, and sealing off hiding places. Overall, it needs a strategy for minimum 60-90 days. Bed Bugs lay several eggs in a short duration that are usually hidden and may not get eliminated immediately.
Key Strategy to Win the War
Residual effect of a treatment is key. Bed Bug eggs hatch after weeks and can lead to re-infestation. Combination of one time chemical pesticide treatment with residual treatment using natural remedies is effective for mild infestations. This has to be done for a 2-3 month period while following home cleaning methods such as vacuuming, washing at a high temperature, using steam or heat treatment, and sealing off hiding places.
Chemical Weapon Options
Many pest control companies in India use organophosphate based pesticide sprays as their first line of treatment. These are among the oldest pesticides and their effects on adults and children can be bad. When used, one needs to vacate the place. Also, their residual effect diminishes in a few days.
Fumigation of furniture, clothing, or other personal items can kill all bed bug stages present. However, such treatments do not prevent re-infestation immediately after the fumigant dissipates.
Pyrethrins are lethal to bed bugs. When mixed with other chemicals, it can flush out bugs from hiding places. After use, one will need to vacate the place. Their residual effect diminishes after few days. Specific bug species may have higher levels of resistance to them though.
Aerosols and Foggers
Sprays and foggers with low volume of pesticides have limited effect except some short term relief. High volume is harmful to humans. Also, they may not be able to treat bed bugs in cracks and crevices.
Natural & Safe Options
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) can also be used to treat affected sites, including cracks and crevices. One can liberally spread the dust in infested areas and leave it for days to provide prevention against bedbugs, any eggs or recurrences. Vacuuming the area and reapplying the dust later is always a good strategy for effective control of bed bugs. DE is the best alternative for a residual bed bug treatment plan as it is safe for prolonged use among humans and pets at home.
Heat Drying Clothes and Linen
Bed bugs usually spread in the home using humans as a transport medium – they can get into our clothes and infest the cupboards etc. if not cared for properly. To be safe and sure, one can wash their other clothes at a Laundromat at 60 degrees water temperature and dry them at the dryer there at 60+ degrees temperature. This will kill bed bugs at any stage of their lifecycle. Heat treatment is one of the best natural ways of getting rid of bedbugs. Once treated the clean clothes can be sealed and kept aside.
Commercially available mattress covers (>0.08 mm thick, usually with a zippered edge), can completely enclose a mattress and prevent any bed bugs harboring in them from accessing hosts. Originally developed to reduce human exposure to allergens in mattresses infested with house dust mites, such covers can both seal in and exclude bed bugs. They may also be homemade, using plastic sheeting (>0.08 mm thickness) that is sealed shut with durable, flexible tape.
Garbage Bags and Vacuum Seal Bags
Garbage bags with a sealing / tying option is an inexpensive alternative to segregating laundry at home for washing, drying or separation when an infestation is suspected. Vacuum bags are usually large polybags with a vent that can be used to suck out all the air inside using a vacuum cleaner. In case of bed bugs treatment, these bags come in handy to store all clothes that have been washed and dried. The decreasing clutter makes it easier to manage items that may be infested or are at a high risk of infestation.
Physical Attack Options
Bed bugs can be controlled by heating infested rooms or whole buildings to temperatures >45oC (113oF), the thermal death point for the common bed bug. For heat treatment to be effective, high temperature and low relative humidity has to be maintained for a length of time. In India, exposing mattresses and bed covers to sunlight was a natural and effective way of treating or preventing bed bugs. However, it provides no residual effect, and bed bugs can re-occupy immediately after temperatures return to suitable levels. In India, this is not popular among pest management professionals currently.
Exposure to low temperatures can kill bed bugs if they are kept cold enough long enough. Bed bugs can tolerate -15 degree C (5 degree F) for short periods and, if acclimated, they can survive at or below 0 degree C (32 degree F) continuously for several days. In USA, a new commercial technology uses CO2 from pressurized cylinders deposited as a “snow” to kill bed bugs and a variety of pests by rapid freezing. It is still in its nascent stages and not widely available in India currently. It may also need special care and training for pest management professionals to deploy when available.
Steam treatments have been used effectively by some pest management professionals to quickly eliminate live bugs and their eggs from the seams of mattresses and other cloth items. However, this technique requires practice and care. The steam emission tip must usually be about 2.5-3.8 cm from the surface being steamed. If the tip is too far away, the steam may not be hot enough to kill all the bed bugs and eggs that it contacts. In India, using a steam cleaner sold by various brands online and offline can be an option though it has to be used along with other treatment options.