Do you wake up itchy in the morning? Are there strange red welts along your body that seem to appear for no reason at all? If this is happening to you, then there’s a good chance that you’ve got a bed bug problem.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small insects that, as indicated by their name, will typically live within a mattress. Because they feed off of the blood of animals and humans, however, bed bugs could also be in pet beds, blankets, and other commonly used items that are stationary in nature. They’ve even been found in luggage. These insects are usually flat, small, and brown, but their bodies change after they have a meal. They’ll swell up and turn from brown to red.
Although these insects are called bugs, it is important to note that they cannot fly. They move over floors and ceilings to find a new habitat to call their home. Female bed bugs can lay hundreds of eggs and they’ve been known to live for several years, so expecting a bed bug infestation to just die off is an unreasonable expectation.
Having bed bugs doesn’t mean someone is living in unsanitary conditions. It does mean that action needs to be taken to get rid of the bugs so they don’t spread out from their initial infestation point. If you have red bite marks that look a lot like a mosquito bite, but they’re noticed in the morning, then this guide is for you.
Signs of Bed Bugs
Not everyone has the allergic reaction to the bite of a bed bug. The bites might not even appear to be red or swollen. Because of how prevalent these bugs happen to be, however, any used furniture that has recently been purchased should just be treated for bed bugs just to be safe. This includes wood furniture. Bed bugs love a box springs or a mattress, but they’ll live on the headboard or footboard of a bed as well.
Here are some other common signs that may indicate the presence of bed bugs in your home.
- When you wake up in the morning, there are small blood stains that are on your pillows, sheets, blankets, or clothing.
- There is frass from the bed bugs. This will look like a rusty, dark spot on a sheet, wall, or clothing when you wake up.
- Shells from bed bug eggs or shed skins from the immature bugs are detected when changing sheets and blankets.
Immature bed bugs must have blood from a person or an animal to be able to shed their skin. They’ll shed their skins around 5x before becoming a full adult and this process takes about a month if there is regular access to a food supply. If you aren’t seeing these signs, but your bed smells really musty, like the sheets sat in the washing machine for 3-4 days because you forgot you ran a load of laundry, then it could be because of bed bugs.
How To Kill Bed Bugs
The primary way to kill bed bugs is to either apply a chemical solution to the infected area that will kill the bug or to deprive them of their food source. If the bed bugs are unable to shed their skins, then they won’t reach the mature stage where they can begin to reproduce new generations. This will eventually kill them off, but food supply deprivation can take up to 1 year to complete and just one error can cause a new generation to form and the process to start over.
Before beginning any extermination method, it is important to make sure that you’re dealing with bed bugs and not fleas. Even if you don’t have pets, fleas can jump from one person’s clothing to your own and then they can travel back home with you. Remove clutter from your suspected infestation area and then begin to look for evidence of the bugs. Be careful about where you place items so you don’t inadvertently transfer the bed bugs to a new location.
If you can’t find any evidence of the bed bugs, make sure to wash your sheets and blankets in water temperatures that are above 120F. Encase your mattress and your box spring and leave that on for a full year no matter what. Make sure that all of your clothing, stuffed animals, and other harboring areas are washed in hot temperatures as well.
Killing bed bugs also means thoroughly cleaning the room where an infestation is suspected. That’s not to say that anyone who has an infestation is an unclean person. This cleaning is required to dislodge eggs that might have been put into the carpet. Take a stiff bristled brush and run it all over the carpet in the affected room. Dispose of the brush after the task has been completed and then use a vacuum on the carpet. Consider having a steam cleaning specialist come in afterward as well to follow-up on these efforts.
It is important to remember that most beds cannot be treated with insecticides. There are repellent sprays that are designed to drive the bugs off of the bed and onto the floor or bed frame, but take care about using a direct insecticide. You could wind up harming yourself as you try to kill off the bed bugs for good. They will come in dust and aerosol form. If you wish to use one, consider using dust since it will last longer.
As a final solution, some homeowners have found that heating their entire home above the 120F threshold can kill off all bed bugs. The home will be completely sealed by a contractor and then heated up. This is a professional service, however, and cannot by completed in a DIY fashion.
DIY Bed Bug Treatment
Many DIY bed bug treatments are very effective, but they must be continued according to their instructions for a prolonged period of time. Be prepared to be using some of these products for at least 12 months.
This bed bug killer stands out from the rest of the pack because there are numerous case studies that have used it and proved that it works. It is 100% guaranteed to kill eggs, nymphs, and adults quickly – sometimes right on contact. It also has a residual nature to it so that it will prevent any survivors from causing troubles for you. It’s toxin-free, safe for the skin, and it doesn’t smell bad either. When using this product, it is important to make sure the full infected surface is completely saturated, otherwise the results may not be as expected.
Vi-Olivia Organics Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth powder has been proven to kill bed bugs because it removes the water from their bodies that they need to survive. Unlike pesticides, bed bugs can’t become resistant to this product over time either. It can be placed anywhere, but children and pets should not come into contact with it. A typical application will apply the powder on a mattress, box springs, and carpet where an infection is suspected. Follow that up by washing all clothing in hot water and the hottest dryer setting for best results.
Killer Green Bed Bug Spray
This bed bug killer has been shown to kill bugs in as little as 5 seconds. Unlike other sprays, you won’t have to worry about this product staining your mattress or your bedding. It can even be used on dog beds, stuffed animals, and other useable surfaces. You can literally spray it and then lay on it if need be. There’s no offending smell with this product as well, which is a definite plus for rooms that are completely enclosed. It treats areas for 20 days, but you may want to keep a spare bottle on hand to reapply once every 3 weeks for 3-4 months to make sure there aren’t any stragglers lying around.
Bed Bugs Exterminator Cost
It’s impossible to estimate how much the average exterminator cost will be to remove bed bugs. The extent of the infestation will often determine the tasks that need to be done. Everything from carpet removal to home heating and everything in-between may be necessary. Even when all of this is done, there is still no guarantee from an exterminator that the bed bugs will be eliminated. Homeowners can spend upwards of $2,500 and still wake up itchy in the morning.
This is why many homes are turning to DIY products that work on reducing and eventually eliminating the existing bed bug population. Diatomaceous Earth is usually the most expensive product and may cost $20 per treatment for food-grade materials. Less safe options are available for a 50% discount or more. Sprays that are non-toxic are typically in the $30 range while pesticides can be in the $10-$25 range per bottle.
Preventing Bed Bugs
If you purchase used furniture, then it is important to have the item inspected for bed bugs before it gets brought into your home. This means any used furniture, not just a bed, mattress, or box springs. Bed bugs can live on any surface.
Using a full bed enclosure can also help to prevent bed bugs from spreading. Use carpet treatment methods after encasing the box springs and the mattress independently to remove any bugs that could be living on the carpet. Washing your clothing in hot water and use a steam cleaning solution on your carpet for that extra final touch. The bed bugs that are stuck in the casing will eventually starve. You’ll kill the ones on the floor. With patience, this is a proven method of preventing bed bugs from continuing their feeding habits.
Regular hot water cleanings and carpet steaming can also prevent bed bugs. Consider purchasing a floor steamer or carpet cleaning tool that uses a hot water solution and run it over your carpet at least once per week. Hardwood floors can also be a habitat for bed bugs, so a steam cleaner that is used at least once per week can stop those bugs in their tracks.
As a final step, be careful when you travel and stay in a motel or hotel. Don’t lay out your clothing on the bed. Keep the clothing that you sleep in separate from your luggage. Bring a large plastic bag or buy garbage bags to transport used clothing. Wash separately in very hot water when you get home or at a laundromat. Consider leaving luggage out in your vehicle if possible to provide another layer of protection.
Natural Bed Bug Killer and Repellant
The steam that is being applied to your carpets and floors can also be applied to your bed. When combined with simple soap and water, the bed bugs can be pretty easy to manage. Just remember that is you haven’t encased your bed, the steam will cause the bed bugs to run away somewhere else.
Petroleum jelly has also been known to work. Rub the legs of the bed in with your preferred brand of petroleum jelly every night before going to bed. Other surfaces along the frame that the bugs may be able to access may also need to be covered in the stuff. Whether it’s the smell that repels them or they’re attracted to it and become stuck in it, this natural repellent works.
If you’re in a pinch, applying rubbing alcohol in a spray can kill bed bugs on contact. The only problem is that the alcohol evaporates right away, so it isn’t going to repel the bed bugs whatsoever. On the upside, the only leftovers that you’ll have after an application is the smell and you can kill some bugs, so there are a couple of advantages.
Killing bed bugs can be a difficult task. Be patient, use this guide for support, and choose the products that make the most sense for you. Then be proactive with your treatments and over time, you’ll notice the itchiness in the morning has all but disappeared.