Bedbugs are becoming a more and more common phenomenon in the US, and while nobody is really sure why there has been such an increase in infestations in the last couple of decades, it makes sense for everybody to know a bit about the bugs and what to do if they are infested. There are a lot of common misconceptions about bedbugs, too. Here, we look at what you need to know about these domestic pests, how to try and avoid bringing them home, and what to do if you find them.
Myths About Bedbugs
Some people believe bedbugs are invisible to the naked eye. This is actually a misconception caused by being confused about the difference between bedbugs and dust mites. Dust mites are very tiny, and very common, and usually don't cause any problems unless you have an allergy. Bedbugs on the other hand are small, but clearly visible bugs, and you can see both the bugs and the eggs if you look for them. They bite, and leave itchy marks on the skin, meaning they are a pest you want to avoid not only for the 'gross' factor of having bugs alongside you when you sleep, but also to avoid irritating bites.
Another myth about bedbugs is that they only live in dirty homes. Unlike cockroaches and other pests associated with things like food remains being left in the house, bedbugs feed off of mammals like humans and their pets, and so will want to live in your home whether you are messy or keep your place immaculate.
How Do Bedbugs Get Into Your House?
Bedbugs are usually brought in from somewhere else that has them. They can be transferred on your clothes or luggage if you visit someone's house or a hotel that has bedbugs already. Another common way to end up with them is by buying or collecting secondhand goods. Things like upholstered furniture, cushions, linens, towels, soft toys and clothing can carry bedbugs if they come from somewhere that has an infestation.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should avoid buying secondhand items or accepting hand-me-downs just in case bedbugs come with them, however you should take care to clean anything you get in this way thoroughly before bringing it in to your home. With small items like teddy bears or cushions, a good way to make sure no bugs get transferred into your home can be to seal them in vacuum bag for a couple of days before washing them. This will suffocate any living bugs or newly hatched eggs and make sure none of them manage to get out and move on to other things in your home.
Checking for Infestation
If you wake up with itchy spots on your body that weren't there before, then there is a good chance you have bedbugs, especially if you have recently bought furniture or been away somewhere with luggage. Of course, there are other things that may have bitten you that are not a sign of an infestation problem, such as mosquitoes, so you will need to check for signs of bedbugs before taking action.
Bedbugs don't have one particular nest like ants do, but tend to set up groups in places where they can hide easily, so if you find one collection of bugs then this is unlikely to be the only one. They are most active at night, as you might expect, when they come out to bite and feed on human blood. This means if you search for them during the day you will need to look in hard to reach places, such as under your mattress, in dark corners, and even in cracks in the plaster or patches of peeling wallpaper. What you are looking for is the bugs themselves, which are flat, oval shaped, and brown in color, but you may also find other evidence such as shed skin, egg shells, eggs (which look like small black dots), and smudges of bug excrement on your sheets. You may also find tiny spots of blood on your sheets where the bugs have bitten.
Another way to tell that you have bedbugs is of course to catch them in the act of biting you. When a bedbug attaches itself to feed, it uses a long thin beak to break the skin, and then feeds on blood for up to ten minutes. As it is feeding, it becomes full and swells up. If you can find a bug on you doing this in the night, it is certain there are more where it came from. Bear in mind that bedbug bites are painless when the bug actually bites you, so you probably won't be woken up by this. It is only later that they become irritating, itchy welts.
If you do find bugs in the most obvious places like your mattress, then you will need to check elsewhere to see the extent of the problem. They may not be limited to just one room, and while they don't fly, they can move quite quickly and make their way into different crevices. If you are unsure of whether you have found evidence of bedbugs or not, or don't know how bad the infestation is, then the best thing to do is have an expert from a pest control company like Go Forth Pest Control of Charlotte come and take a look. They will also, of course, be able to help you get rid of the infestation.
What Can I Do If I'm Infested?
The easiest and best thing to do if you have an infestation of bedbugs is to get a pest control company to deal with it. Bedbugs can be pretty persistent, and can survive for quite a long time without blood to feed on, so even if you clean very thoroughly or leave the house unoccupied for a while, the infestation can remain and the population of bugs can build itself up again quite rapidly. One female bedbug can also lay hundreds of eggs, so what starts off as a very minor infestation of a few bugs brought in on an item can quickly become a big problem.
However, if you do want to attempt to tackle the bug problem yourself, you will need to strip down the infested rooms and clean everything, as well as checking and cleaning every conceivable bedbug hiding place, including things you might not expect like electrical outlets. You should wash all fabric items on the highest temperature they can stand, and also put things that can't be washed with water in your drier for a spin so the heat and motion can kill off bugs and eggs, or try the suffocation technique of sealing them in a vacuum sealed plastic bag.
You'll also need to hoover very thoroughly, including things like the hard to reach parts inside your bed frame. Remember when you do this that your hoover will be picking up bedbugs. Seal your hoover in plastic (for instance in sealed garbage bags) and leave it somewhere like your garage so the bugs can die without being moved around the house. Make sure too that you immediately take out the garbage as you do all of this cleaning, as bed bugs and their eggs will probably be in there too.
You may also want to consider replacing some things that may be harder to rid of bugs, or which may have been the source of the bugs in the first place, for example if you have a secondhand mattress.
Getting rid of your own bedbugs is not an easy process, so be sure to keep checking for signs of bugs for a couple of months after cleaning.
Although it may feel a little embarrassing, you should also really warn people that have visited your home and close by neighbors that you have experienced an infestation. If you live in an apartment then it is possible bugs have moved between homes just as they move between rooms in one house, and so the people in neighboring condos or apartments should check their own homes too. If you have had guests, especially if they have been in rooms that were infested (for instance if your couch was infested and they sat on it, or they stayed the night in a guest room that was treated for bedbugs), they may have taken bedbugs home with them, so it is best to warn them so they can check before a severe infestation develops.
Bedbugs are more of a nuisance than anything and the bites don't spread diseases or cause risks of more serious complications. However, it is of course not very pleasant to have these pests in your home biting you, and a minor bedbug problem can escalate quite quickly. Be sure then, to know the signs, and to know what to do if you do suspect bedbugs are in your home.