With Halloween approaching, we find ourselves talking about the spookiest topic of all: Bed bugs, because nothing is spookier than a bed bug.
“Bedbug” is an honorary four-letter-word not just in the housing/hospitality industry, but particularly in one’s own home. These nasty little freeloaders are easy to get and dang near impossible to get rid of if the infestation goes unnoticed for too long.
Many people are under the impression that once they get bedbugs they must burn all of their belongings to get rid of them. This is, in most cases, untrue, but it’s important to educate yourself on bedbugs and what can be done to detect them early so that they can be more easily mitigated.
How do I know if I have bedbugs?
There are various means of detecting bedbugs both before and after they start taking their nightly snacks off of yourself and your family.
- The first and most obvious means of discovering that you have bedbugs is to make periodic inspections for them on all mattresses and upholstered furniture. It may seem tedious, but it takes very little time. Bedbugs can be visually detected on mattresses and furniture under fitted sheets along the seams in the mattresses/furniture. On box springs, close attention should be paid to areas that are covered by wood or plastic that a tiny bug and its brethren can hide.
What you’re looking for are small, rust-colored stains and the remains of dead bed bugs/shed bed bug exoskeletons. These will be about the size of a pinhead so look closely!
- If bed bugs have begun using you as a buffet, you’ll know more quickly by small blood stains on your sheets and/or pajamas than looking for welts. This is because bed bug bites are initially painless and sometimes invisible. It can take days for bed bug bites to appear, so looking for spots of blood can alert you to a bed bug infestation more quickly than the bites themselves. There is also a large percentage of the population that don’t have skin reactions to bed bugs. They’re the lucky ones, but less likely to discover an infestation in a timely manner.
- Look for bed bug excrement. This is admittedly pretty gross, but what about bed bugs isn’t? Excrement stains will be different than blood spots in color because the blood has been digested. These stains will be black or brown and rather than just appearing on your pajamas and sheets, these stains can appear anywhere that bed bugs go. This could be your mattress, box spring, mattress pad, etc.
What do I do if I find evidence of bed bugs in my home?
People often think that if they find any evidence of bed bugs in their home that they should dispose of their linens and cloth items, but this is extreme and not necessarily true. There are several steps that should be taken before something extreme is done.
- Do not throw away your expensive mattress or your bedding. Anything new you bring into an already infested home will likely just become infested again, because bed bugs are very good at staying hidden.
- Do not start sleeping in a different area of the house. Bed bugs are ravenous little things and they will usually move where their food source does, so by changing where you sleep you’ll potentially inadvertently spread your infestation to more areas of your home. YIKES.
- While you don’t want to change your sleeping area, as stated above. It can be very tempting to sleep somewhere else just for relief from the bed bug bites. There is a solution to this! Most big box stores and even Amazon will sell bed bug-proof cases for mattresses and box springs. These will trap the bed bugs and their eggs inside the case in order to starve them out and eventually kill them. Prior to putting these casings on your mattress and bed spring, however, you should vacuum both items, paying specific attention to the seams and folds to reduce the number of bed bugs inhabiting them. Once the bed bugs are sealed away, they won’t be able to access you for a snack and will eventually (though it is an alarming period of time) starve.
- When your mattress and box spring are covered it’s time to focus on your bed frame. Bed bugs mostly live in the soft surfaces of your bed, but they can live and lay their eggs in your bed frame as well. Vacuuming isn’t 100% effective for this, so purchase insecticide sprays to effectively get into every nook and cranny that the bugs could have hidden themselves or their offspring.
- Treat other areas of your home as needed. If you suspect that you have bed bugs in your furniture, make sure that when you treat each piece of furniture (vacuuming and insecticide as above) that you move it far away from furniture that has not yet been treated to avoid cross contaminating between treated and untreated furniture.
- If the infestation is not caught early, while it may not seem ideal, it’s best to call a professional in. This is particularly true if it has spread to other parts of your home where bed bugs are harder to find and eliminate.
- Most importantly, if you rent, please alert your property manager. Nobody wants to talk to their property manager about bed bugs, but unfortunately they are terribly easy to spread. If bed bugs are in your home, chances are high they could have found their way into adjacent units, and it’s unfair to inflict bed bugs on the neighbors if you can help it.
It is important to note: that you should be aware of where you dispose of the contents of your vacuum after doing the above! You will want to dispose of the contents of your vacuum outdoors. Double bag the vacuum bag before disposing of it in an outdoor dumpster. Double bagging will help reduce the risk of spread to some unsuspecting stranger’s home. If your vacuum is bagless, double bag the contents of the dirt reservoir and be exceptionally careful that all bed bugs have been removed from your appliance before allowing it back in your home.