The phrase “don’t let the bed bugs bite” takes on a whole new meaning when you really have bed bugs. All you want is a peaceful sleep without the threat of bug bites, but bed bugs are hard to kill and can reproduce very quickly. Here’s how to identify if you have a bed bug infestation and how to protect yourself from becoming a bed bug victim.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
The first sign that you have a bed bug infestation is bites and/or small smears of blood on your sheets. Bed bug bites are fairly small and red, and they may form a trail across the skin.
If you wake up with bites, check along the seams of your mattress and box spring. If you have bed bugs, you may see small black spots of excrement, tiny yellow eggs, and/or the bed bugs themselves.
Adult bedbugs are about ¼ inch long, red, and flat before a meal, but as they feed, their body expands to a more cylindrical shape. Younger bed bugs are shaped like the adults, but smaller, and are yellow or clear before a meal.
If you happen to see bed bugs roaming around your home, you likely already have a bad infestation.
Bed Bug Lifecycle & Behavior
Adult female bed bugs can lay multiple eggs every day. The eggs hatch in about 7 to 10 days; young bed bugs reach maturity rapidly, repeating the cycle within about 5 weeks.
Bed bugs can live almost anywhere as long as it’s not too hot or too cold. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide, moisture, and warmth that you emit. And as long as they have a steady source of food, they’ll stay in one place for a long time. If they don’t have a clear, consistent source of food, they’ll scatter and search until they find something.
Because they can easily travel to new homes on luggage, clothing, or furniture (and because colonies grow daily), bed bugs are a big problem all around the world—especially in the U.S.
How to Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation
The best way to prevent large infestations of bed bugs from forming is to check your mattress and box spring regularly. If you can detect bed bugs before their numbers begin to grow, you’ll have a much easier time getting rid of them.
Some pests (like cockroaches) seek out dirty homes, so simply keeping your home clean deters them. Unlike cockroaches, which prefer a dirty home, bed bugs don’t care—all they want is blood—so the best way to prevent them is to avoid bringing them into your home in the first place.
Bed bugs have mastered the art of hiding in small seams on luggage and traveling home from hotels with people, so one way to prevent them is to avoid staying in questionable hotels.
If that’s unavoidable, then at least make sure you inspect your hotel room mattress as soon as you get there, thoroughly examine your luggage before returning home, put your laundry in a plastic bag, and immediately wash your vacation clothes upon returning. These simple precautions can save you from the headache of a bed bug infestation.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bed bugs usually hide in box springs and along seams in the mattress. They can also hide along baseboards and in walls, furniture, bags, and folded clothing. They like to make their nests close to where people sleep or spend a lot of time, and some of them usually spread to hiding spots separate from the group. Bed bugs are so small they can hide in the most unusual places—they’ve been found hiding behind baseboards and inside cracks in furniture. Because of this, more than a simple bug bomb is usually needed to get rid of them.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Once you have identified a bed bug infestation, make sure you follow these steps to get rid of them:
- Place a bed bug mattress cover on your mattress to trap the bugs.
- Thoroughly wash and dry all bedding, clothes, and towels. The heat from the dryer should kill the bugs.
- Clean baseboards, along walls, and in any cracks where the bugs could hide.
- Make sure you get a professional pest control company to spray for the bugs.
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to kill off because one female can replenish a bed bug colony in just a few months. If you can break the egg cycle with a few thorough treatments, you should be able to completely eliminate the infestation. This is why you’ll need a professional spraying company to perform repeated treatments that successfully break the egg cycle.
Even after the bugs have been treated, it is still possible for bed bugs to be brought back into your home in the future or to move from a neighboring apartment to yours. You can help prevent this from happening by taking proper precautions while traveling and by treating the entire apartment complex for bed bugs (instead of just the affected apartment).