IDENTIFYING THEM AND THE BEST BED BUG TREATMENT SOLUTIONS TO USE
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small blood-sucking insects that can live in cracks and crevices in and around your bed.
Attracted by your body heat and carbon dioxide, they crawl out at night to bite your exposed skin and feed on your blood, just as mosquitoes do.
Not everyone develops a skin reaction to bedbug bites, but some people will develop itchy red bumps one to nine days later, usually on the face, neck, hand or arm. These are often mistaken for mosquito bites, but while mosquito bites tend to be random in pattern, bedbug bites more often occur in straight lines.
The media has recently reported a huge increase in the number of bedbug infestations around the world, particularly in America. It is likely that tourists and an increasing resistance to insecticides are the main reasons for this.
Bed bugs are not dangerous. They do not transmit any human diseases and most people do not develop any serious skin reaction. However, their presence can be upsetting and stressful, and you should take action straight away.
About bed bugs: Adult bedbugs look a bit like lentils and are visible to the naked eye. They are oval-shaped, flat and reddish-brown, and up to 5mm long.
Females lay 200-500 eggs over a two-month period. These white specks stick to surfaces and are very difficult to spot. They hatch to form tiny straw coloured insects that take about six to eight weeks to grow into adults. As they grow, they shed their skin. This looks like mottled brown shells on your mattress.
Bed bugs need to feed on blood to be able to mature, but they are very resilient. Adults can survive for up to a year without feeding.
They are not attracted to dirt, so a bedbug infestation is not a sign of an unclean home.
How to spot them
- look for any unexplained skin rash or itchy bump (although not everyone develops this)
- look out for black spots on your mattress – this could be their dried faeces
- look for mottled shells that bedbugs may have shed
- check your sheets for blood spots where you may have rolled over and squashed a bug after it had fed
- inspect all the crevices and joints of your mattress and furniture using a torch, and see if you can spot any bugs
Where to find them
Because their bodies are flat, bed bugs can squeeze into the smallest crevice or crack, such as a mattress seam or the joints of a bed frame. This can make them very difficult to spot.
They tend to prefer fabric or wood over plastic and metal, and often hide near to where you sleep, for example under the mattress or along the headboard.
However, they are willing to travel several feet if necessary to reach you, so they can also be found away from the bed in other furniture, along the edges of carpets and even behind mirrors or inside smoke alarms. In fact, they can be found in almost any place in the bedroom where they will not be disturbed.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
- Seeing the bugs. Adult bed bugs are about the shape and size of an apple seed.
- Case skins. As the juvenile bugs grow, they shed their skins, discovery of which can indicate their presence.
- Defecation. After feeding, bed bugs return to their harborage to hide where they defecate black to brown stains on porous surfaces or black to brown mounds on nonporous surfaces.
- Bites also may indicate bed bug activity, but further signs will need to be found, since other sources can cause red welts on the skin.
How bed bugs spread
Once introduced into your home, bedbugs can spread easily from room to room. They do not fly or jump, but can crawl quickly.
They can soon spread within a building by getting through holes in walls or pipes, and can potentially invade blocks of flats, hotels or hospitals. The bugs can also be transported in luggage, clothing, furniture and bedding from one building to the next.
This makes is easy for tourists and commuters to unknowingly spread bedbugs.
Getting rid of the bugs It can be extremely difficult to get rid of a bed bug infestation from your home, so it is wise to contact your local pest control firm.
Remedy: When dealing with these hardy pests it is important you gain professional help and advice as thorough searching and investigation is required. Failed treatments will occur if the accurate knowledge of the bed bug is absent. A technician will carry out a thorough inspection, which may take a few hours. They will then use specially designed equipment to get rid of the bugs.
If you insist on tackling the bugs yourself, the following advice may help:
- If clothes or bedlinen have become infested, wash them at 60º or put them in a dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes to kill the bugs.
- Dismantle your bed and furniture and closely inspect every seam, crevice and joint using a bright torch. Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose to suck up any bugs you can see, but bear in mind you may not be able to find them all. Dispose of the contents of the vacuum cleaner in a sealed bag.
- To kill any remaining bugs, you can use insecticide bed bug spray specially designed for bed bugs. Always read the label and never use this directly on clothing, linen or your mattress. Also, bear in mind that these sprays may be becoming less effective as the bugs build resistance to them. Ordinary insect repellent for mosquitoes and ticks does not seem to be effective.
- Be prepared to throw away a mattress if it appears to be heavily infested.
Preventing an infestation It can be difficult to avoid bedbugs as they can be transported so easily.
The best thing you can do is inspect your mattress regularly for telltale signs and take immediate action if necessary. Avoid buying second-hand mattresses and be wary of old beds you might be using in rented accommodation.