It can be quite distressing to find out you have a bed bug infestation. These blood sucking parasites are notoriously difficult to get rid of and thanks to rising international travel, the number of infestations has been on the increase worldwide. Cities, including Bristol, Bath and London are particularly badly hit.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They are small, brown and about the size of an apple seed and, as the name suggests, they prefer to live close to their food sources, primarily areas where people sleep, although they can infest other dark and warm places.
They do not spread disease directly but their bites can cause a range of reactions, the most common being red itchy welts on the skin.
They are incredibly resilient insects and while a typical bed bug will feed on blood every five to ten days, they can go almost a year without feeding. Add in the fact that they can survive temperatures from up to 45 degrees Celsius down to near freezing, and you can start to see why an infestation can be difficult to treat.
How do bed bugs get into your home?
There’s a common myth that bedbugs are attracted to dirty environments, which isn’t true at all.
While clutter can provide them with good hiding places, the real causes of infestation lies in their ability to hitchhike into homes on furniture, clothing, or as is most common, luggage.
They typically nest in small crevices near where humans are likely to sleep. Some examples include: in the seams of your mattress, your bed’s headboard or box spring, and even in the stitching on nearby curtains or pillows.
Of course, given their size, they can squeeze into the tiniest of spaces so if you’re looking for bed bugs, you will need to get creative as any overlooked and untreated crack or crevice can lead to another infestation.
Signs of an infestation
The most common signs of a bedbug infestation include:
- Dark spots on your furniture or bedding, about the size of this bullet point. These are droppings and can bleed into fabric the same way a marker pen would.
- An unpleasant sickly-sweet scent.
- Live bed bugs. While they are small it is possible to see them with the naked eye, and you are likely to find them in hiding in cracks and crevices.
- Bed bug eggs which are around 1mm in length and white in colour
- Reddish brown stains on your sheets. These are caused by bed bugs being crushed.
- Miniature blood stains on your bedding. There could be a number of causes but if you see any in tandem with other signs on this list, it could mean you have an infestation.
A quick note on bites:
Bed bug bites often occur in lines along areas of exposed skin. Typically, this is usually on the arms, shoulders and legs.
It is important to note that reactions to bed bug bites can vary massively, even among people who are sleeping side by side. Some people are incredibly sensitive and will break out in wheals and rashes while another person can show almost no reaction at all.
Treating Bed Bug Infestations
There is no single treatment that has been found to be effective in all cases. We recommend a combination of techniques to effectively eliminate an infestation.
Insecticides can work really well if used in tandem with other techniques but remember to make sure you use one that is intended for indoor use and never spray them directly on areas that will be in contact with skin, such as mattresses or sofas, or around children and pets.
Thermal treatments are among the safest and most effective ways to be rid of bed bugs. They work by exposing the bed bugs at all stages of their life cycle to extreme heat or cold for a certain length of time. Remember that only equipment specified for pest control should be used to avoid damaging your items. Often these are in the form of special heaters which come with temperature probes. They work by using a dry heat to warm the air to a certain temperature which kills the bed bugs and their eggs.
When you spot an infestation, it is best to assume all clothing in the vicinity has also been compromised, or you risk any bed bugs hiding out and re-establishing a nest once you’ve finished treating the main problem areas.
While bed bugs in furniture can be difficult to eliminate, thankfully your clothing and linens are much simpler. Start by containing all the items in sealed plastic bags until they can be washed and then do so at the highest possible temperature your clothes can handle. If you can’t wash the item, putting it in the dryer on a high heat for half an hour should kill all stages of bed bugs and allow for regular washing later.
If you cannot heat your items, try keeping them in the freezer for three days. This length of time might seem excessive but is there to make sure there is no chance of any bed bug surviving the extreme cold. The cold temperatures cause ice crystals to form inside the bed bugs, killing them and their eggs.
Call in a professional
While the above methods can be used at home with a DIY approach, we would always recommend seeking professional help if you want to effectively eliminate a bed bug infestation and reduce the risk of an infestation returning.
When you are looking to hire a professional make sure they have experience in bed bug control, as they have to be approached differently to other pests. Look for a reputable company who will quote you a price before beginning any work.
Prevention is the best form of defence against any pest infestation, especially bed bugs. Here are a few tips on how to prevent bed bugs:
- If you’re buying second-hand furniture, inspect it thoroughly for signs of bed bugs before you bring anything home.
- Reduce the amount of clutter in your home to limit the places where bed bugs can hide.
- Find and repair any cracks or crevices around your home. These can range from cracks in plaster, loose wallpaper or joins in baseboards. If there is a gap where it shouldn’t be – eliminate it – as it can be a space for bed bugs to nest.
- Use luggage racks whenever possible while travelling and avoid setting your suitcases or clothes on the floor or bed.
- When arriving home, unpack your suitcase into a washing machine and dry your clothing on the highest setting. This eliminates the risk of bed bugs infesting your home.
- Inspect and vacuum your luggage outside of your home after each use.
For more information:
If you’d like to know more about bed bugs or other pests or think you might have an infestation, contact Falcon Pest Control and we’ll be happy to help.