Bed Bug Bites

Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Once an endearing way to tuck in your children, now a very real threat!

Many people wonder why bed bugs have become a global problem in recent years. All of a sudden, the little pests are in the news on almost a daily basis. Then, you hear about a friend or family member having to throw out all their bedding or furniture because of an infestation. How can one small bug create such international havoc?

The other question often heard is, where were they before? Well in the past, a chemical, called DDT was used to control them. During WW2 many soldiers were plagued with bed bugs in their barracks, so DDT was deployed and used extensively. It was very effective and bed bugs soon became a thing of the past. That chemical was widely used from the 1940’s until the 1970’s. Then it was discovered to contain cancer-causing elements. No comparable (safe) solution has been developed to date.

bed bug bites

Many cities have even begun to track the infestations of the bugs within apartment complexes and private residences, and then post the information on public websites.

In the mid 19th century, they were very common, but laid dormant much of the time due to houses being much colder. The advent of central heating allowed the pests to breed aggressively and survive throughout the year.
The recent resurgence of the bugs began in the early 1980’s and has continued to plague cities around the world.

What do they look like?

They are small, oval shaped light brown to reddish brown flat bugs with no wings. They have what looks like lateral plates across their backs. They are about the size of an apple seed. They can often be found in the creases of mattresses and furniture, where they are less prone to be disturbed. They lay eggs which are small and clustered and appear black. A female can lay thousands of eggs a year and they can live for over 300 days without eating.

Do they bite?

Oh yes, they bite! The bites are small red blister-like protrusions, which appear like a rash on the skin, usually on the back and the arms. Most people only get the rash, but some may have an allergic reaction to the bite and require additional medical treatment.

How do I get rid of them?

There is no “magic bullet” solution to rid your home of bed bugs. They are very resilient and require multiple techniques to remove them.

  1. A combination of extreme heat and drying will take care of bedding and cushions or any other fabric that may have been infested. Temperatures must be over 45C or 113F to be effective.
  2. Steaming with temperatures above 50C or 120F is also very effective – this may work best for furniture or wall spaces. It is important to be very careful with steam as it can burn you.
  3. Before either of these steps, vacuuming out the eggs and as many of the bugs as possible is critical; then disposing of the vacuum bag and cleaning the vacuum hoses.
  4. Modern pesticides have not been effective, as the bugs have built a resistance to many of the commercially available products. Stronger pesticides affect the health and well-being of most humans.
  5. Some pest control companies have detection dogs who will come into your home and find infestations, ensuring you do not miss areas not yet uncovered.
  6. Most professional companies will make multiple trips to your home to make sure they have eradicated all infestation areas.

bedbug bite

What about foggers? Do they work?

Because bed bugs like to hide in tight, inaccessible areas, there are many concerns about the effectiveness of foggers. They are most effective in an enclosed, focused space.

It is also important to look for foggers specifically made to deal with bed bugs. In all cases, read the label on the product and follow the instructions. Your safety is always the most important thing.

  • Only use the number of foggers required for your space. More is not better! Too many may cause an explosion.
  • Turn off pilot lights (furnace, water heater or gas stove) and unplug appliances to reduce the potential for an explosion.
  • Remove your pets from the living space.
  • Most importantly, leave the room or the building as directed by the label and don’t return until the amount of time listed on the label has passed.

Commercial, off the shelf products like Hot Shot, Bedbug and Flea Fogger is available at Home Depot and other stores for around $10 for a 3-pack and claims to cover 600 square feet.
Raid, Deep Reach Fogger also claims to be able to eradicate ants, roaches, and spiders but bed bugs are not first on the list. The fog covers 625 square feet. It runs for about $12 for a 3-pack.

How do I avoid getting them?

The first step is not to bring anything into your home that may have the potential of carrying bed bugs.

  • Used furniture
  • Clothing you do not know a lot about (or where it came from)
  • Luggage and items which have traveled

Make sure there are no open spaces between yours and your neighbors’ living space. Fill them in with plaster if possible.

  • Check the backs of cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Look in the heating vents and behind radiators
  • Look inside closets

Vacuum the hidden nooks and crannies in your furniture, mattress and headboard frequently. Make sure nothing has the time or opportunity to nest or lay eggs.

You can protect your bed with a protective mattress cover. There are many available at stores like Walmart, Home Depot as well as bed and bath retail stores. They range in price from $30 to over $150. Box spring and pillow covers may be extra.
It is highly recommended to leave any encasement on for a year without unzipping to make sure any bugs trapped inside have died and that nothing else can get in.

Many are vinyl and may have loose stitching to seal the edges or a standard zipper to close. Bed Bugs can still hide and breed in those areas. Mattress, box spring and pillow covers need to have the following features to be effective:

  • Velcro self-locking zipper and internal flap
  • Tight fitting stretch knit fabric
  • Easy slide on and off
  • Machine wash and dry

Some products available are:

  • Protect-a-Bed, an online retail store offers all mattress and box spring sizes as well as pillow covers for brands such as Buglock, Bed Bug Mattress Encasement – a brand specifically made to keep out bed bugs – they also offer a heavy duty option. This product specifically addresses bed bug prevention and state that their product is part of your overall bed bug management strategy.
  • Costco offers NOVOshield, which does, in fact, come with pillow and box spring covers (King Size only) and offers anti-allergy protection as well. This product specifically addresses bed bug prevention.

Many of the major Pest Control companies also offer encasements as part of their service. Additionally Amazon and eBay offer many products and options.
Bed bugs are a common and on-going threat. If you experience an infestation, know that you are not alone and there are ways you can eradicate, manage and prevent the intrusion.