How to Check for and Treat Bed Bugs

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The bed bug is a vile, bloodsucking creature that has ruined the sleep of humans throughout history. The good news? They can’t jump or fly, they don’t spread disease, and there are many ways to kill them. However, they are persistent, and to totally eradicate a bed bug infestation means attacking the problem as soon as possible with all the weapons available. The sooner you rid your bedroom, your home, and your life of this particularly disgusting pest, the sooner you can get back to a peaceful night’s rest.

Things You'll Need

  • Bed bug trap
  • Food-grade diatomaceous earth
  • Puffer bottle
  • Eye protection
  • Respirator
  • P-100 filter cartridge
  • Bed bug mattress encasement bag

Detection

  • Check your body for any red patches or bite marks similar to mosquito bites. Allergic reactions are usually the first sign of an infestation

  • Inspect for signs of infestation. The bed bugs themselves are so small, flat and naturally reclusive, that you are unlikely to see actual insects. Instead, check your sheets, mattress and box spring seams, and furniture crevices for blood-colored smears from the bed bugs’ fecal matter. Also look for clusters of black and amber dots. These are the skins the bugs shed as they grow.

  • Trap a specimen to verify that the pest you’re dealing with is a bed bug rather than a flea or other intruder. Put bed bug traps under all the bed and furniture legs in your bedroom.

Treatment

  • Remove clutter, such as stacks of old papers or piles of clothes, where bed bugs might hide. Vacuum the entire room, including baseboards, power outlets, furniture, drapes, and the mattress and box spring.

  • Blow food-grade diatomaceous earth into cracks and crevices throughout the room. This includes furniture joints and drawer corners, baseboards and moldings, cracks in flooring, and in door hinges. Use a puffer bottle or an old talcum powder bottle. Wear eye protection, a respirator with a P-100 filter, and long rubber gloves. Do not spread the dust in high-traffic areas such as the top of a mattress or in carpeting, where it might be disturbed and become airborne.

  • Block access with traps. Placed under each leg of the bed and nightstands, these prevent bed bugs from climbing up to the mattress.

  • Wash all bed linens and clothing in hot water, and dry on medium to hot heat.

  • Dry other items such as shoes, backpacks or soft gym bags in a dryer set on medium or high. Dry the items for 20 minutes to completely kill eggs as well the mature bed bugs.

  • Enclose the mattress and box spring in bed bug encasement bags. Used early, these can prevent bed bugs from infiltrating the mattress or box spring and setting up hard-to-eradicate colonies. Used after signs of bed bugs appear, they can work with other measures to eliminate bed bug populations.

  • Hire a professional if your initial steps do not eradicate the bed bugs. Choose a licensed pest management professional with references and specific experience dealing with bed bugs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid inheriting bed bug infestations by never buying used mattresses or secondhand bedroom furniture.
  • Take a bed bug trap with you whenever you’re staying in a hotel or motel. Set out the trap when you go to bed and check it when you wake up. If you find a bed bug, be sure to carefully inspect all your clothing and the luggage before checking out and returning home.
  • Home pesticide remedies are easily misused and often ineffective against bed bugs. Some can even make the infestation worse. When the situation calls for these chemicals, it’s wisest to let a professional administer them.

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References

  • Centers for Disease Control; Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Photo Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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Resources

  • Dateline; What You Need to Know About Bed Bugs
  • The Bed Bug Book: The Complete Guide to Prevention and Extermination; Ralph H. Maestre

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