Things You Need to Know to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

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.

War on Bed Bugs Page with host of info on how to handle bed bugs

Information Sources

A visit by Bed Bugs can be a nightmare in urban living. This page intends to help in understanding about the pest and devise control strategies. The content is collated from various manuals designed by Armed Forces, Dept of Health, Universitiesas well as Pest Control authorities in United States. List of specific sources is as below:

 

  • Bed Bugs - Importance, Biology, and Control Strategies Technical Guide by Information Services Division of US Armed Forces Pest Management Board
  • Shipboard Guide to Bed Bug Control by US Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit
  • Bed Bug Fact Sheet by Department of Health and Human Service, State of North Carolina, USA
  • Bed Bugs – Integrated Pest Management in and around the Home by University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
  • Bed Bugs – Biology and Control, North Carolina State University, Insect Note - ENT/rsc-#31
  • US Environmental Protection Agency (http://www2.epa.gov/bedbugs/how-find-bed-bugs)
  • National Pest Management Association Bedbug Hub

Know your Enemy and How it Attacks

bed bugs can now be found at all places including hygienic places

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 bug picture

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.

lifecycle of bed bugs

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 bug biting humans

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?

bed bugs can now be found at all places including hygienic places

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 mattress for bed bugs

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.

check furniture and wall cracks for bed bugs

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.

bed bug fecal spots check

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

bed bug hiding

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.

bed bugs can survive for long without food

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.

bed bugs cannot pierce any paper or cloth

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.

planning for bed bug treatment

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.

strategies for bed bug treatment

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

Organophosphate chemicals

Organophosphate Pesticides

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

Fumigation

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.

sunergized pyrethins

Synergized Pyrethrins

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.

Low volume aerosols and foggers

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 for bed bugs

Diatomaceous Earth

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 of cloth and linen

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.

mattress covers for bed bug entrapment

Mattress Covers

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.

using garbage and vacuum bags to seal bugs

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

heat treatment

Heat Treatment

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.

cold treatment using CO2 for bedbug

Cold Treatment

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 treatment for bed bugs

Steam Treatment

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.

Attack Plan

This attack plan is designed keeping in mind the integrated pest management approach for bed bugs as well as various factors specific to Indian scenario – it also has inputs from conversations with several people who have got rid of bed bugs from their homes. As mentioned earlier, the key thing in treating bed bugs is focusing on a more long term solution to save you from recurrences in future as that is very common with this pest.

 

  • Ascertain that the pest causing you trouble is a bed bug using the images and details provided in this ebook as well as many sources online
  • Assess the severity of infestation and the life cycle of the bugs at your premises.
  • If the infestation is large and you need immediate relief, contact a pest control company who can apply the solutions at their disposal to provide you with immediate relief. You can assess the methods that they are using by learning regarding various pesticide treatments. For a more prolonged and lasting benefit, you can continue to follow the steps below.
  • Identify the locations where the bed bugs are harbored by checking at possible hiding places
  • Apply a natural pesticide like diatomaceous earth based pest control product at all areas where you suspect an infestation. Specially remove your mattress and dust your beds, wooden / metallic base, space between the mattress and wooden base (if any), ground area below the bed and around the bed including bed posts. After putting the mattress, apply diatomaceous earth powder again on the sides and corners before putting the bed sheet above it. You can let the powder be there for around a week before cleaning it up and reapplying it after a gap of few days. This can be done over a 45-60 day period to prevent any recurrences.
  • In parallel, de-clutter your home checking for any areas that can harbor the bed bugs and applying the diatomaceous earth powder across any such place.
  • Segregate all clothes at home that you do not use regularly, bag them in a garbage bag or vacuum bag to keep them separate. You can take them to a Laundromat over time and get them cleaned and heat dried to ensure that they do not carry any live bugs. Once cleaned you can seal them again.
  • Apply Diatomaceous Earth powder to upholstery on your sofa and your car just to be sure that they do not become harboring spots for bed bugs as you move around sitting and driving them.
  • Continue washing your regular use clothes in hot water if washing by hand or on high temperature mode (40+ degrees) when washing in a washing machine.
  • Continue step V through IX till you do not feel a bed bug bite continuously for 60 days. That is an indication that you have won the war!

Strategies that do not Work

DO NOT VACATE PREMISES OR DISCARD GOODS. Although people with a bed bug infestation often consider abandoning rooms or even whole premises this action will not eradicate bed bugs. An immature bed bug that takes just one blood meal can mature into an adult without feeding again and live for more than a year. Bed bugs will also crawl to find a new host that includes humans and other animals. Simply discarding beds and bedding is not a sound approach to bed bug management. Bed bugs are likely in crevices, voids in walls, behind mouldings, cracks in ceilings, inside light fixtures, electronics, TV remote controls, alarm clocks, spaces within and along floor boards, and the edges of carpets etc. Bed bugs will move from these sites to infest new furnishings brought in to replace the infested items.

DO NOT USE "BUG BOMBS" or total release foggers since these applications do not penetrate the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide and will produce poor results. This practice may cause bed bugs to become resistant to pesticides and contribute to their increase and widespread occurrence. It may also result in increased pesticide exposure to the resident. Do not use unregistered/unclassified products, home remedies or pesticides not labeled for bed bug management.

DO NOT USE STRONG PESTICIDES in your desperation to get rid of bed bugs – they can provide you with temporary relief at a risk but with no guarantee that the bugs are not going to be back. In your effort to cause damage to bed bugs, you could cause damage to yourself as well.

DO NOT DO MULTIPLE THINGS at the same time – you will not be able to assess which is effective and if using one is decreasing the effectiveness of the other or not.