Bed bugs are annoying insects that hide in soft, warm places like beds, couches, and clothing. These bugs feed on their hosts at night, leaving small bite marks that, though rarely dangerous, should be treated right away to prevent unwanted symptoms and potential allergic reactions. To prevent more bites in the future, you’ll need to get rid of your bed bug infestation completely.
When the controversial pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, most bed bugs were already resistant to it, Schal says, and today's populations are even more widely resistant thanks to the use of a new class of pesticides. Pyrethroids, the main class of pesticides used against bedbugs today, targets sodium channels in bedbug cells, just like DDT. Consequently, as bedbugs develop resistance to pyrethroids, they also become cross-resistant to DDT.
Bed bugs occur in all regions of the globe. Rates of infestations are relatively common, following an increase since the 1990s. The exact causes of this increase is unclear; with proposals including greater travel, more frequent exchange of second-hand furnishings, a greater focus on control of other pests, and increasing resistance to pesticides. Bed bugs have been known human parasites for thousands of years.
Checking beds for bed bugs was a common practice long ago, especially while traveling. Travelers today should consider doing the same, preferably before unpacking. This would entail examining the bed sheets and seams of the mattress and perhaps box spring for signs of bed bugs, especially along the head (pillow end) of the bed. Experts also remove and check behind headboards since this is a frequent hiding place for bed bugs in hotels. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves.
Instead, get written quotes from three licensed exterminators detailing their course of action, including pesticides, traps, and/or heat treatments they'll use and how and where they'll use them. "You should ask lots of questions to the companies you interview, because a good company will answer them and will never pressure you to make an appointment," says Dunham.
You are correct about using alcohol. I used straight alcohol in a spray bottle. You can’t just spray and expect it to work. The alcohol has to be sprayed ON THE BUGS in order to kill them. It must be repeated periodically in order to kill them with any affect on the population. Also they hide in cracks and crevices in your walls, and places like wallsockets, baseboards, gaps in wooden furniture like headboards. Basically anywhere they can fit. Their eggs look like little TINY clear crystals. If you are not sure if the bugs are bed bugs… squash one. They smell like black walnuts (to me anyway). I’ve read they only lay 1 egg at a time, but can lay up to 5 a day… that’s 40 in a week. So if you have them, spray OFTEN, but do not smoke or use any open flames (candles, etc…) at the same time. Alcohol is very flammable!!!
Bedbugs live in any articles of furniture, clothing, or bedding, so they or their eggs may be present in used furniture or clothing. They spread by crawling and may contaminate multiple rooms in a home or even multiple dwellings in apartment buildings. They may also hide in boxes, suitcases, or other items that are moved from residence to residence or from a hotel to home. Bedbugs can live on clothing from home infestations and may be spread by a person unknowingly wearing infested clothing.
First off you should ALWAYS go to pest control if you think you have bedbugs! You shouldn’t try and get rid of them yourself, 99% of the time it does not work. Plus even if you removed infected areas and wash them it wouldn’t kill the eggs. Plus bedbugs are very easy to get but very hard to get rid of. So you should never do it yourself it won’t work!
To use sprays effectively to eliminate all traces of bed bugs, you need to know the signs of a bed bug infestation. The first sign that you may have bedbugs are some itchy bite marks on your skin when you wake up in the morning. Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the bites from bed bugs cause red itchy bumps on the skin.3 You can learn about their other signs and symptoms in my articles on what do bed bug bites look like.
You can check bedding, mattresses, furniture, and crevices in walls for bed bug infestation. Do your inspection just before dawn, which is when they are the most active. The bugs will be larger and slower after feeding. Bedbugs will quickly flee from light, so live bugs are best located in the folds and seams of mattresses and sheets. Bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed, about 1/4 inch long. They change from light brown to purple-red after feeding. You may also see their eggs, which are about the same size as the adults. The eggs will often be in seams, cracks, or crevices.
Bed bugs are highly vulnerable to heat; exposing them to a certain amount of direct heat will kill them instantly, while lower temperatures can kill them in a matter of minutes. This is why many forms of heat treatments are recommended. Some methods, such as steamers and portable heaters, have been proven effective through professional use and are quickly becoming standard issue in holistic treatment arsenals.
A cloth and hot soapy water: Like the sticky tape, a cloth with hot water can be useful for capturing bed bugs. Have a bucket of water handy and as you wipe an area, check the surface of the cloth for bed bugs and then immerse the cloth in the bucket. Wring the cloth to remove excess water; you do not need to soak the surface that you are wiping. Also, check the area that you just wiped because heat may cause hungry bed bugs to move. The cloth is particularly effective when you find a cluster or group of bed bugs. Keep in mind that wet surfaces will reduce the effectiveness of sticky tape as a trapping method.
We recommend spraying Steri-Fab in areas where live bed bugs are visible. Steri-Fab combines a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide and isopropyl alcohol to kill bed bugs fast on contact. Steri-Fab also acts as a sanitizer. Steri-Fab does not leave any residual, meaning it can be applied virtually anywhere. Simply shake well, then apply to desired treatment areas. Insect mortality is imminent, generally within 10 minutes of spraying.
If disposal isn't an option, encasing the mattress and box spring will be helpful if bugs are still present (allergy supply companies sell zippered bed encasements for dust mite prevention). Vacuuming and brushing will further help to remove bugs and eggs from mattresses and box springs that cannot be discarded. Some pest control firms also treat beds with portable steam machines. The technique is useful, but does not kill bugs or eggs that are hidden inside the box spring or mattress.
Some pest control firms also employ commercial steamers or spot-freezing equipment to treat areas where bed bugs are found or suspected. Used correctly, they kill bugs and eggs on contact. Neither method, however, affords residual protection against bed bugs which may have been missed. Steaming and spot-freezing equipment also have limited ability to penetrate fabric, wood, and other materials where bed bugs often reside.
Doctors often misdiagnose those afflicted because it is nearly impossible to tell, if you are experiencing an allergic reaction, what bit you. Often healthcare providers and individuals that have been bitten by a member of the Hemiptera order mistake bites for those of a mosquito. The only way to discern, with complete surety, what your bites are from, is to get a sample of what has bitten you.
Select and use insecticides safely. There are no magic sprays that kill bed bugs very well. Most commercial insecticides will kill bed bugs if applied carefully and directly to the insects and their hiding places. An exception is “Bug bombs”, or aerosol foggers. Foggers are mostly ineffective in controlling bed bugs. Because bed bugs hide in crevices and voids where aerosols do not penetrate, they are able to avoid contact with these insecticides. Their use is not recommended. Some of the products you may find helpful include:
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Start with the bed, including mattress, box-spring and bed frame. Inspect the visible areas first. Look along all edges and corners. Also check along all stitch lines and the mattress label. Five sides the mattress can be checked while the mattress is on the bed. When you are finished checking the upper surfaces, you can then stand the mattress upright so you can check the bottom of the mattress.
Pay attention to when the bites occur. Consider, for example, if you notice the bites after waking up when previously you hadn't noticed them. However, this can also be difficult to determine because each person's reaction time can vary significantly. Symptoms that result from the bite can manifest at any point from a couple of hours to more than a week after the bite occurred.
Traps aren’t an effective way to wipe out a bed bug infestation, but they’re an excellent way to determine whether you have them. Set traps in areas where they may hide or travel, like near baseboard trim or under nightstands. If they aren’t living in your mattress or other parts of your bed, that means they need to travel up the legs of the bed frame to get to you, so place traps there as well.
Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they're like humans—if they're hungry, they'll get up and get something to eat. "If you go away to visit a friend for a week and you come back and sit down on the couch, even though it's daytime the bedbugs will come looking for you," Schal says. Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.
The journal Insects published a study on products containing essential oils for bed bug control. It was found that essential oils like cedar oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and lemongrass oil all have insecticidal properties against bed bug populations. The study concluded that using these essential oils in a bug spray can be an effective way to reduce bed bug populations without putting humans at risk of exposure to chemicals.8