Bed bugs are a major menace. They enter your home through clothing, luggage, used furniture, and other personal items. These tiny hitchhikers then find a place to lay low until nightfall, hiding behind baseboards, around bedding and furniture, and in cracks and crevices. Come dark, the bloodsuckers emerge for a midnight snack. Getting rid of bed bugs is not always easy, especially if an infestation has already developed. The good news is that they can be controlled through a combination of techniques. Here’s how to get started dealing with bed bugs at home.
Controlling Bed Bugs at Home
1. Target Infected Areas
While bed bugs can be found in virtually any room of a house, their primary location is the bedroom. Most infestations begin in one room and spread slowly to other areas of the home, especially rooms where people sleep. Low-level infestations are more challenging to locate and identify. In some cases, bed bugs are mistaken as other common household insects, such as carpet beetles. Look for infestations in places where the parasites hide most often, such as around the bed, the tags and seams of a mattress or box spring, near piping, and in cracks on the headboard or bed frame.
2. Perform an Inspection
Once you’ve located the infected rooms, you’ll want to perform an inspection to make sure that you’re dealing with bed bugs and not some other insect. While bed bugs typically still hidden, they often leave behind evidence of their presence. Look for bed bug skins, shells or exoskeletons. You may also notice miniscule fecal stains on your bedding or mattress. There may also be blood stains on pajamas and bedding. Another major indicator of bed bugs are bites on the skin. Bed bug bites typically appear as raised, red welts or a rash across a localized area. The bites may also burn or itch.
3. Develop a Strategy
To ensure that you follow proper protocol from start to finish, you’ll want to develop a strategy as you go forward in the bug removal process. Jot down important information on a piece of paper or calendar to keep you informed on your progress. Write down the dates you find and treat bugs, as well as the location where you find them. After you have treated the bugs, you’ll want to monitor your home for several more months. If you fail to remove all the bed bugs, the infestation can grow again and the treatment will need to be redone.
4. Contain the Infestation
If you’ve determined that you do in fact have bed bugs, you’ll want to develop a strategy to contain the infestation. As the insects are most likely linked to your bed, you’ll want to isolate your bed from the rest of the house. Begin by stripping and vacuuming both the mattress and box spring. Encase the bed in a bug-proof encasement, and double bag your bedding and wash it in hot water. If possible, install bed bug interceptors under the feet of the bedframe. These interceptors prevent the bugs from climbing onto your bed. If the infestation has spread to other rooms, you may need to call in the professionals for help.
5. Prepare for Treatment
Whether you’ve decided to treat the bed bugs on your own or hire a pest management professional to eliminate the insects for you, you’ll need to properly prepare. Controlling bed bugs at home means going through each section of the home to remove clutter where insects hide, cleaning well to ensure a hygienic environment, and eliminating all possible bed bug habitats. By getting your home thoroughly clean and clutter-free, all of the bed bugs can be located and eliminated.
6. Perform Bed Bug Removal
If you plan on removing the bed bugs yourself, you have several options. Insecticides are one choice, but are not always effective. While commercial insecticides may kill bed bugs upon direct contact, they won’t affect hidden insects. Foggers are also mostly ineffective against bed bugs, as aerosols don’t reach bugs hidden in small cracks and crevices. If you are against chemical treatment, consider hiring a professional to complete a heat treatment. Heat treatments use hot water to kill bed bugs without the use of harmful toxins or chemicals.
While not always possible, you can reduce your chance of developing an infestation by catching a bed bug problem early on. Take caution when bringing secondhand items into your home and when returning from public sleep establishments like lodges and hotels. Routine bed bug inspections are also an effective method to prevent infestations in the future.