With practice and a flashlight, nonprofessionals can become proficient in finding and destroying bed bugs. The process is made easier by reducing clutter, especially in bedrooms and sleeping areas. Bugs that are spotted can be removed with a vacuum (see previous discussion), or killed with over-the-counter insecticides labeled for such use. Most bed bug sprays intended for householders have little remaining effect after the spray has dried. Therefore it’s important to initially contact as many of the insects as possible with the spray droplets. Insecticide labels should be read carefully as some bed bug products should not be used on mattresses and seating areas. Some insecticides applied as powders or dusts (e.g., diatomaceous earth) will kill bed bugs although boric acid powder will not. However powders can be messy and difficult to apply, especially by nonprofessionals. Total release foggers (otherwise known as ‘bug bombs’) are ineffective against bed bugs and potentially dangerous when used incorrectly (see University of Kentucky entomology fact sheet Limitations of Home Insect Foggers).
Hiring a pro to wipe out bed bugs isn’t cheap. Expect to pay about $200 per room to kill bed bugs, and you’ll likely need a few chemical treatments in order to eradicate bed bugs. Professional heat treatments will cost even more. And even if you hire a pro, you’ll still have to do lots of work yourself (moving furniture, washing all clothes, etc.). So consider declaring a DIY war on bed bugs. If you’re willing to spend $100 to $200 and do things right, your chances of success are excellent.
Before you begin your own bed bug treatment, you will need to prepare the room or rooms where bed bugs have been found, in addition to rooms that share walls with the infested rooms. Remove any items in the room that you absolutely cannot treat or that have already been treated. Cover items that will be removed from the room in plastic bags before moving to the next room to prevent any unseen bed bug from infesting another room.
That means despite your preventive steps, bed bugs could still get into your house. But of course, that doesn’t translate that taking preventive measures is futile. In contrast, it is a great help in reducing the chance of bed bugs to infest. Nonetheless, it couldn’t completely protect you and your home from the said pests. Hence, you must always be ready to kill bed bugs whenever they get past your defenses.
A flashlight: Bed bugs hide in dark areas and in cracks and crevices. Bed bugs are a dark red to brown color, but they can be light brown if they haven’t been feeding. This makes it very hard to see them. When hunting for bed bugs hold your flashlight parallel to the surface being inspected, this will cause eggs and small bed bugs to cast a shadow, making them easier to find.
Alternatively, place a bed bug proof mattress cover over an infested mattress to trap the bed bugs inside and starve them to death. This will eliminate the need to purchase a new mattress/boxspring and make treatment and future inspections easier. (Starving the bugs CAN take up to 400 days, so make sure your cover stays sealed for at least that long.)
Bed bugs were once a common public health pest worldwide, but declined in incidence through the mid 20th century. However, bed bugs have undergone a dramatic, worldwide resurgence since they have now evolved resistance to common insecticides. Bed bugs are one of the great travelers of the world and are readily transported via luggage, clothing, bedding, and furniture. To get rid of bed bugs, act at the first signs of infestation and use an integrated pest management approach involving prevention, sanitation, and chemical treatment. Bed bugs can be persistent, so you'll need to demonstrate a greater level of persistence if you want to eliminate them.
Treatment for bedbug bites is typically supportive. Local antiseptic lotions or antibiotic creams can be applied for secondary infections, whereas corticosteroid creams and oral antihistamines can be used for allergic reactions. Bedbugs can be eliminated through the use of permethrin insecticides, baited traps, special bedbug-free beds, and bed nets. Homemade methods, such as wrapping duct tape around bed legs as shown, may be effective, but bedbugs have been known to climb other objects and then fall down onto a bed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Unfortunately standard insect monitors (“sticky traps”) are not very good at trapping bed bugs. To date, the best bed bug trap as measured by cost, ease of use, and effectiveness, is the “Climbup™ Insect Interceptor.” This trap resembles a plastic dish and is placed beneath the legs of beds and other furniture on which persons might relax and serve as “bait” for bed bugs. Bed bugs that climb into the dish are unable to climb its slippery inner surface (which is coated with talcum powder). Studies have shown that even inspections performed by trained and experienced pest management professionals often miss some bed bugs, especially in heavier infestations, and that bed leg traps can catch many of those missed bed bugs.
Minimize its spread. First, notify your landlord if you rent in a building to control its spread to other units. Thoroughly vacuum any infested areas, including carpets and mattresses, and then empty the vacuum bag into a plastic bag, seal it, and throw it in the trash outside. If you can’t get the bed bugs out of your furniture, discard items in a responsible manner. To avoid someone else from salvaging infested furniture or mattreses, rip, remove stuffing, or spray paint with the words “bed bugs.”
The size of bed bug bites varies with a number of different factors. Bed bugs inject an anti-coagulant along with their saliva when they pierce the skin to take a blood meal. This anti-coagulant is mostly responsible for how a person reacts to the bite and determines the size of the bug’s bite. Since people will have various sensitivities to the bed bug’s bite, the size of the bite will vary, as well. Another factor that influences the size of a bed bug reaction is the number of times a person is bitten. Bite reactions of people bitten many times are also variable, and their response may be either more or less intense as the number of bites increases.
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.
Reactions to bed bug bites vary among individuals. Many persons show no signs of bites. Others don’t realize they’ve been bitten until redness and swelling appear around the bite, sometimes with intense itching. Some exhibit inflamed swollen spots that may occur in linear series or have a rash-like appearance. Such bite marks, when they appear, may not show for several days after the person is bitten.