As far as insect pests are concerned, bed bugs are not the most dangerous ones. In fact, as the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) and many other institutions agree, bed bugs don’t really transmit or cause any diseases. However, they are still considered a “public health pest” as they often lead to various negative physical health concerns such as allergic reactions to their bites, skin infections, sleep deprivation and insomnia, mental health problems due to stress and insomnia, and so on. All this, together with the sheer annoyance that comes from their unpleasant bites is reason enough to want to get rid of them.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are very hard to deal with which is why we’ve compiled this extensive article to help you learn everything there is to know about bed bugs and how to get rid of them.
In this article:
- Signs of a bed bug infestation
- Bed bug identification
- Bed bug control methods and products
- Hiring a professional bed bug exterminator
- Prevention steps to avoid a future infestation
Signs of a bed bug infestation
Finding bed bugs signs in your home sounds like something that should be simple but it really isn’t. These pests are quite small so identifying the signs of a bed bug infestation can be tricky. Here’s a quick list of what you need to watch out for:
- Bite marks on your skin. The most common sign of a bed bug problem is waking up with itchy bite marks on your body. The problem is that bed bug bites don’t look or feel different from most other insect bites so you might either ignore your bed bugs thinking that you have another problem or think that you have bed bugs when you’ve simply had a couple of mosquitoes in your home.
- Finding actual live or dead bugs. Bed bugs are small but they tend to clump together so it’s not unlikely that you’ll stumble upon them while you’re moving your mattress, for example.
- Finding bed bug eggs. Bed bug eggs are even smaller and paler than the adult insects but they are also often piled together which can make them easier to notice.
- Finding bed bug cast skins, droppings, stains or smears. As bed bugs cast their skin its left thin and pale but can be noticed upon careful examination. Bed bug droppings are more easily visible as they look like dark spots, while blood spots and stains left after a crushed bed bug are also noticeable.
- Bed bug smell. Bed bugs have their own unique musty and sweet smell that can remind you of berries. The problem is that you are likely to notice that smell only of the bed bug infestation has already become extraordinarily large.
Bed bug identification
Bed bug control is vital but it’s also different from dealing with other insect pests. That’s why it’s important that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Knowing what bed bugs look like, distinguishing between bed bugs or fleas, and properly identifying the bed bugs symptoms, are all vital steps to finding the best bed bugs solution.
Bed bug characteristics
Bed bugs are well-known insects so you can easily get to know their appearance, diet and life cycle from the various scientific sources that have written about them. To quickly summarize the basics and give you an idea, however, here is what a bed bug looks like:
- Physical appearance. An adult bed bug is quite small (5-7 mm or 3/16 – 1/4 inch long) and has a flat, oval-shaped body. After it has fed, an adult bed bug will have a more balloon-like shape and a reddish coloring. As for the other bed bug stages, adolescent bed bugs are smaller, translucent and yellowish in color. Baby bed bugs or bed bugs eggs are even smaller and white in color. All this means that bed bugs are most easily located in the morning as they might have fed during the night.
- What do bed bugs eat? Unfortunately, bed bugs feed on our blood. Fortunately, their bite doesn’t directly transmit diseases.
- Bed bug life cycle. Female bed bugs tend to lay hundreds of eggs, typically in smaller batches on wooden or paper surfaces. Eggs take about 10 days to hatch and adolescent (nymph) bed bugs will shed their skin five times before they reach maturity. This process can take between five weeks or four months, depending on blood availability (i.e. – you). Adult bed bugs can live up to a year, each producing 3 – 4 new generations in their lifetime.
Where do bed bugs come from?
Finding bed bugs in apartments or houses is where start to take action, but where do these pests come from? The short answer is – from other apartments, houses or people. Unlike most other insect pests, bed bugs are unlikely to just come in through an open window or the sewage pipe. They need to frequently feed on human blood so they reside in places with regular human contact.
- From used, second-hand furniture and clothes. Using second-hand clothes or furniture is a great thing to do but only as long as you’ve exercised proper hygiene and protection. Any piece of clothing or furniture that you’ve taken from someone else might contain bed bugs or bed bug eggs.
- From traveling. Whether you’re visiting a friend or staying in a hotel, you are at risk of bed bugs hitching a ride on your clothes.
- From neighbors in apartment buildings. Bed bugs are not the most mobile creatures on the planet – they can neither fly nor jump – but they can crawl well enough and in apartment buildings, they can spread by simply crawling from one room to the next.
- From public transportation. This is an often-overlooked place for catching bed bugs. Countless people use public transportation and it’s very common for bed bugs to move from someone’s clothes into the seats, and from there – on your clothes.
- From cinema seats. Similarly, cinema or theatre seats, as well as the seats of other public venues can also contain bed bugs. Fortunately, more often than not they are cleaned more properly than bus seats.
Common bed bug living and hiding places
As is evident from their name, bed bugs are most known to dwell within our beds. It’s a favorite spot for these pests as it gives them direct access to us when we are most vulnerable, as well as a cozy and well-protected place to hide in. Still, these are not the only places where you might find bed bugs in your home. Regardless of the size of the infestation but especially with larger infestations, you can find these pests in other places as well. The University of Kentucky conducted a study of infested living environments a while back and determined the most common hiding places of bed bugs in residential areas:
- Bed bugs on bed box springs – 34.6% of the cases.
- Bed bugs on couches, sofas or chairs – 22.6%
- Bed bugs on mattresses – 22.4%
- Bed bugs on bed frames or headboards – 13.4%
- Bed bugs on walls, inside wall cracks, or on ceilings – 2.3%
- Bed bugs on baseboards – 1.4%
- Bed bugs on clothes, in dressers or nightstands – 0.2%
- Other locations (such as electrical systems) – 3.1%
As you can see, bed bugs can be found on more than just our beds so when it comes to figuring out how to find bed bugs we need to be thorough and inspect much more than just our bedrooms.
How to precisely detect bed bug-infested areas?
As it is hopefully becoming evident, bed bugs often are a huge annoyance that can quickly grow out of proportion. As such, it’s smart to not just wait to find bed bug shells or a bed bug rash on your body before you take action. Proper bed bug monitor practices are also important while you’re in the middle of bed bug removal to help you know how the whole process is going. There are two main ways for precise bed bug detection:
- Detect bed bugs with UV light or bright flashlight. Using a bed bug detector light is a lot like using UV light to hunt scorpions or to look for urine stains. The UV light makes the insects more easily visible, especially when accompanied by a physical search.
- Detect bed bugs with bed bug interceptor traps. Some of the best bed bug trap products out there can be used both for monitoring and for protection purposes. These interceptor traps are simple devices as they are just plastic cups that capitalize on the fact that bed bugs are not good climbers. When you place such traps underneath your bed or its posts you will soon start noticing bed bugs trapped inside if there are any in your bed.
How to distinguish bed bugs from other pests?
Sources such as WebMD give a rather detailed account of what bed bugs look like but what is often left out is how many other insects can look like bed bugs at first glance. That, together with the fact that bed bug bites are similar to those of other insects can also complicate matters even more.
There are several main look-alikes for bed bugs, so here’s how to tell them apart:
- Fleas are similar to bed bugs in size and coloring but they have strong and long hind legs. They are also more frequently found on the carpet or on our pets.
- Bat bugs differ from bed bugs by having longer hair on their bodies. They are also more regularly found in attics or roosts.
- Unlike bed bugs, spider beetles are not flat. They also don’t suck blood and prefer to stay on plats as this is their food source.
- Wood ticks, unlike bed bugs, are an outdoor pest. They are also more individualistic parasites and tend to stay attached to your body once they get a hold of you while bed bugs will crawl back to their hiding place after each meal.
- Carpet beetles are not blood-sucking insects like the bed bugs and instead feed on natural animal fabrics. They are also not as flat as bed bugs.
Bed bug control methods and products
Unlike with many other insect pests, bed bugs can actually be treated in a myriad of different ways. There is a large number of bed bug control methods, each suitable for different situations, depending on where the infestation is located, how severe it is, whether you have pets or kids at home, and so on. Still, keep in mind that it’s often best to use several methods at once to maximize their effectiveness.
Physical bed bug control methods
Most of the methods for how to kill bed bugs are actually quite physical in nature. Where with a lot of other insect pests you can’t rely on physical methods only because they dwell in the ground or can fly, bed bugs are typically within our physical reach at all times. As such, there are many purely physical ways to deal with them.
Household clutter removing
Let’s start from something that most people find exceptionally annoying – household clutter removal. We may be thinking just about cleaning our bed and couch from bed bugs but the first step should always be to get rid of all the clutter in your home. Not only is it going to get in the way but it actually helps the spread of bed bugs. In other words, household clutter removing is both the first step to bed bug control as well as a necessary step for bed bug prevention.
But what do we mean by household clutter? To put it as simply as possible, household clutter is anything that is not sitting where it belongs. Clothes on the chairs, laundry on the stairs, stacks of books and papers on the table, unclean bowls right next to them, hair clips in your underwear drawer, and so on. These things make it much harder to detect bed bugs and much easier for the insects to travel around undetected.
But more important, when you are starting to exterminate the little pests with your method of choice, you don’t want them to find salvation on the sweater on your floor while you are treating the bed, right? Even the best bed bug treatment can fail miserably if you have too much clutter left lying around, just like even the mildest bed bug presence to grow into the largest infestations when there is plenty household clutter all over the place.
To make sure your removal and prevention methods are running smoothly, you’ll need to get the household clutter in check. Make it a habit to toss the trash regularly, as well as place thing where they belong. If something doesn’t seem to have a permanent spot in your home, consider whether it deserves one at all? Designate 10 minutes twice per day every day, for dealing with household clutter. In the morning before work, and in the evening before dinner, for example. Keeping your household clutter in check is a vital step for bed bug prevention, as well as for the prevention a lot of other potential problems.
Vacuuming bed bug control method
Vacuuming is quite a popular method for dealing with bed bugs. As the insects tend to clump together, several passes with a vacuum cleaner can effectively gather a large percentage of them and help you dispose of them quickly and easily. The basic idea is that you just vacuum over a cluster of bed bugs that you’ve detected, then seal off the vacuum’s bag, put it in a plastic bag, seal that one as well, and then throw them in the trash.
The pros of this method are that you can deal with a large number of bed bugs very easily and quickly. Up to 90% of the bed bugs in your home can often be easily vacuumed with little problems.
The cons of vacuuming bed bugs are obvious from the above statement – you can’t vacuum 100% of the bed bugs in your home and you will need to apply other treatment methods and bed bug products. Additionally, you should keep in mind that even the strongest vacuum won’t kill the bed bugs upon sucking them in so you’ll need to be quick and careful when disposing of the bed bugs as we mentioned above. If you want to vacuum several places with pauses between them, either empty the vacuum after each place or seal the nozzle of the machine in the meantime to prevent the bugs from escaping through it.
Also, make sure that you’re not pressing the nozzle of the vacuum to the fabric as you are cleaning because you might flick the bugs or their eggs off the fabric instead of capturing them. That being said, make sure you’re using the strongest possible setting on your vacuum cleaner as bed bugs can cling to their “homes” quite a bit.
There are, of course, vacuums that are specialized in bed bug and insect removal, but even a regular vacuum can help you out if you are using it properly. Regardless of the vacuum, you’ll likely need several passes to deal with the majority of the insects. And remember that you’ll still need to use at least several different bed bug control methods after that to eliminate the problem fully.
Steaming bed bug control method
As bed bugs are vulnerable to high temperatures (north of 48.3 °C / 118.94 °F for prolonged periods of time or 70 – 80 °C / 160 – 180 °F for immediate kills), steaming is another viable physical method of dealing with them. The best steamer for bed bugs is any high-quality commercial steamer that is capable of reaching temperatures of 70 – 80 °C / 160 – 180 °F and has a capacity of at least 1 gallon. Keep in mind that carpet cleaning machines or clothing steamers won’t work because can’t reach high enough temperatures. High-quality commercial steamers are usually too expensive for households to get, but housing cooperatives or social assistance groups often get steamers for use within them.
The pros of steaming bed bugs are that – like vacuuming – this allows you to deal with a large percentage of the problem at once. What’s more, the steamer will immediately kill the pests instead of just capturing them. And killing bed bugs with heat is definitely better than just capturing them in a bag.
The cons of steaming are that, once again, it isn’t effective at 100% and will leave some bugs behind. Additionally, if the steamer is not good enough and/or the temperature is not high enough, a lot of the treated bugs might survive. Add to that the fact that a steamer can actually damage the treated fabrics if used incorrectly and it becomes clear why this method should be used with care.
When using a steamer always follow the instructions to the letter and avoid direct contact with the steam. Also, make sure to first use the steamer on locations that aren’t too visible in case the steamer causes damage to the fabric. Avoid going too far above 80 °C / 180 °F as most fabrics will be damaged by the high temperatures. Steam every place where you know or suspect bed bugs might be hiding and repeat the whole process at a couple more times. Follow the bed bug steamer method with another bed bug control method for maximum results.
Laundering and hot drying method
Laundering and hot drying is an excellent method for removing bed bugs from clothes and other fabrics that can be put through a laundry machine of a drier. With this method, it’s neither the water nor the laundry detergent that does the job, it’s the heat. That’s why for clothes and fabrics that shouldn’t be laundered even just the dryer can do the trick. The key here is that the dryer should be able to reach the necessary temperatures of 70 – 80 °C / 160 – 180 °F. Anything below that risks leaving some bed bugs alive. However, keep in mind that not all fabrics can withstand such temperatures so it’s important to sort everything properly beforehand.
The pros of laundering and drying fabrics against bed bugs are that this is a very easy and effective method of removing all bed bugs from the infested fabrics.
The cons of this method are that only things that can go through the laundry machine or the drier can be cleansed this way – everything else should be treated in a different manner.
To use this method properly, there are 3 main steps to follow:
- Sort everything as you would otherwise. All clothes and fabrics should be separated based on the temperatures they can withstand and whether or not they can be machine washed. The only difference is that you’ll need to do the sorting in plastic bags so that the bed bugs don’t escape and infest other areas of your home.
- Wash and dry everything carefully. Tip the plastic bags in the laundry machine and/or the drier and make sure that no bed bugs are escaping the bags and onto the floor or other areas of your home. After you’ve dumped the fabrics in the washing machine or the drier, carefully place the plastic bags inside other plastic bags and seal the latter as well as possible.
- After everything has been washed and dried, fold and sort them carefully in other plastic bags and seal them well. This will make sure that they won’t get infested with new bed bugs before the rest of your household has been cleaned.
Heating bed bug control method
Using the bed bug heater method is another way to deal with a bed bug infestation. In fact, these are two separate methods – the “Hot box” heating bed bug control method and the “Home heat treatment” method.
The former consists of putting infect items such as shoes, blankets, toys, and other such items into a hot box and heating it to the needed temperature. This can either be 70 – 80 °C / 160 – 180 °F for short periods of time or 48.3 °C / 118.94 °F for prolonged periods of 2 – 3 days. What you choose depends on how much time you have, what temperatures the infected items can withstand, and so on.
The latter method involves raising the temperature in your entire home to a temperature of 48.3 °C / 118.94 °F and keeping it that way for 3 – 4 days. This is done because very often they may be bed bugs hiding in unreachable and unnoticed locations. This method is usually the last thing you do after you’ve vacuumed, steam cleaned, hot box treated and washed all the minor infected items in your home. This is an unpleasant procedure as it involves you vacating your home for the time being but it’s often necessary.
The pros of these two heating methods are that they are very thorough and effective – after them, you can usually be certain that there will be zero bed bugs left living in your home.
The cons of these two heating methods are that they can hurt the treated items, as well as that the home heat treatment method involves you leaving your home for several days.
To apply these methods successfully you’ll need to be very careful. Damaging your household items, bothering your neighbors or leaving some areas untreated are all notable risks when using heat for bug control.
Freezing bed bug control method
The opposite method of heating is freezing. There are various scientific studies that tell us that bed bugs are not only vulnerable to high temperatures but too low ones as well. The lethal freezing temperature for adult bed bugs is -18.0 °C / 0.00 °F. However, killing bed bugs at such a temperature typically takes days as for the shorter period of times the insects can survive even temperatures of -25 °C / -13.0 °F. So, the way this method works is by placing specific items that can’t be steam cleaned (electronics (without LCD screens), books, shoes, toys, etc.) in a freezer, setting it to the right temperature, and keeping the items there for 4 -5 days.
The pros of this method are that it’s quite effective at killing bed bugs and their eggs when done properly, as well as that it allows for the cleaning of items that often can’t be cleaned in any other way.
The cons of this method are that it takes quite some time, as well as that you can only treat small and specific items at a time. There is also the risk of damaging an item that isn’t supposed to be frozen at such extreme temperatures.
Once an item has been properly cleaned with this method it’s important to isolate it in a sealed plastic bag or container until everything else has been cleaned as well. You might also want to place it in a plastic bag while it’s in the freezer as you likely don’t want the bed bugs crawling around the place. Individual applications of this method are enough to kill any bed bug which is good considering how long it takes. The main safety concern of this method is making sure that you don’t damage the treated item.
Specially designed covers (encasements) for mattresses, pillows, couches, luggage etc.
Using things such as a bed bug mattress cover, bed bug bed covers, bed bug sheets, a bed bug protector, or luggage/couch/pillow bed bug covers is another answer to the “How to prevent bed bugs?” conundrum. Such encasements and protectors have two main goals – 1) to stop bed bugs that might bring home in the future from nesting inside your bed and 2) to encase whatever bed bugs you may still have inside your mattress (after you’ve done your best to remove them first) from getting out of it and feeding essentially “burying them alive” inside your mattress. If the bed bugs are sufficiently encapsulated inside and deprived of any food source they will die within a day without being able to reproduce any further.
The pros of using protective encasements and covers for your bedding, luggage or furniture are that it’s an easy and care-free method for prevention, as well as an ingenious way to deal with the remaining pre=existing bedbugs you might not have managed to deal with in any other way. Plus, such encasements and covers often offer additional benefits in the form of being waterproof, hypoallergenic, and so on.
The cons of such covers and encasements are that they are limited outside of their prevention use. A mattress encasement cover may be able to restrict and eliminate several bed bugs trapped inside of it as well as prevent future infestations but if your mattress is swarming with bed bugs you’d still want to clean them off first before putting a cover on it. As for their preventive function, it only works as far as protecting the item that you’re covering, be it a bed, a couch or a piece of luggage, and bed bugs will still be able to crawl onto other items on you or around the house.
To properly use such specially designed covers and encasements you’ll need to pay extra attention to their quality. A sub-par cover will not only not be 100% effective at protecting your mattress or couch but it can also make your bed uncomfortable to sleep in. On the plus side – a high-quality and well-taken care of mattress cover can last for more than a decade so it’s a good long-term investment.
Non-toxic bed bug killer products
When looking for the best bed bug killer products one shouldn’t ignore the non-toxic bed bug killer products on the market. Some of the best bed bug spray items are natural sprays that are non-toxic and natural. Additionally, there are other non-toxic methods such as bed bug traps, silica gel, and others.
Desiccant dusts (diatomaceous earth, silica gel)
Desiccant dusts such as Diatomaceous Earth (DE for short) and silica gel have been used in the pest control industry for the last 60 years with varying success. In some areas, they have a bad reputation as ineffective solutions but in recent years their mechanism and formula have been perfected quite a lot. Both DE and silica gel are comprised of silicon dioxide that is found in more than a quarter of the Earth’s surface. They are completely natural and harmless to humans and other mammals but can be quite dangerous insects such as bed bugs when applied in the right way.
The difference between DE and silica gel is in the way they are made. Diatomaceous Earth is mined from fossilized remains of microscopic plants (diatoms) that contain silica, while silica gel is synthetically produced, usually from sand.
The way these two desiccant dusts work is by attaching to the insects’ bodies once the little pests crawl on top of a treated surface. Both DE and silica gels are so light that their small, porous particles stick to the insects and remove a portion of their waxy outer coating that helps the pests retain moisture. As a result, the bed bugs that pass through the desiccant dust quickly die from dehydration, making DE and silica gel into proper bed bug killer powder products.
The pros of such desiccant dusts are that they are 100% natural, they are cheap and easy to apply, and they are quite effective in dealing with bed bugs.
The cons of these dusts are that they need to be extensively spread onto of the desired surfaces which is quite unpleasant even if they are non-toxic, as well as the fact that they don’t have 100% success rate simply because not all bed bugs may walk over or through the treated areas.
With that in mind, such desiccant dusts may need to be applied multiple times, as well as to be used in conjunction with other bed bug control products. Also, while these dusts are non-toxic, using safety gear while applying it is strongly advisable simply because there will be a lot of silica particles flying in the air which may cause respiratory problems. Things such as masks, safety goggles, gloves, and so on are all recommended.
Bed bug traps (interceptor traps, sticky traps)
Not many people tend to think of bug traps when they ponder ways to deal with bed bugs, probably because these insects are so tiny that we can’t imagine them caught in a trap. There are, however, actual non-toxic traps for bed bugs, namely the interceptor traps we mentioned above, as well as sticky glue traps.
Interceptor traps are mostly used for detection and monitoring but they can also be used to prevent bed bugs from leaving your bed or furniture while you’re treating it in a different way. They are placed beneath the legs of your beds or upholstered furniture which are the main exit and entry routes of bed bugs as they can’t jump or fly. A lot of interceptor traps are little more than smooth plastic cups that capitalize on the fact that bed bugs can’t crawl on vertical smooth surfaces and will remain trapped inside. Sticky glue traps are used in a very similar manner by being placed underneath the legs of your bed or furniture. As long as the trap is of a high enough quality the adhesive will be able to hold the bed bugs in place, prevent them from escaping and eventually – kill them.
The pros of this method are that bed bug traps are both an excellent monitoring tool, as well as a clever way for keeping bed bugs from spreading outside of the bed or furniture they are already in.
The cons of bed bug traps are that they simply can’t deal with a bed bug infestation on their own. Yes, most bed bug control methods don’t work on 100% on their own, but bed bug traps are completely ineffective for anything other than monitoring and prevention of spreading. Instead, they shine when used in conjunction with a proper bed bug cleaning tool.
Natural bed bug killer sprays
Natural sprays can also make for good bed bug killer spray options despite being non-toxic. They use various combinations of plant-based oils such as neem oil, resulting in mixtures that are deadly for bed bugs. Such sprays typically have little to no odor and are safe for you, your family and your pets immediately after use. They tend to have a lasting effect of 1 or 2 days so they need to be reapplied several times to work properly but when you’ve chosen a good, high-quality spray you can rest assured that it will do a good job.
The pros of these natural bed bug killer sprays are that they are often actually effective as they are meant to do, they are natural and non-toxic to your family and pets, and they typically don’t smell or stain your bedding or furniture.
The cons of such natural bed killer sprays are that despite their effectiveness they are still often outdone by their toxic chemical alternatives. While a natural bed bug killer spray can kill a lot of the insects in your mattress, for truly disastrously large infestations it’s usually better to choose a more heavy-duty option. Additionally, there are a lot of natural bed bug killer sprays on the market that indeed struggle with the “killer” part – the fact that a lot of natural sprays are effective doesn’t mean that they all are.
All in all, natural bed bug killer sprays can be effective if they are of a high enough quality, especially in conjunction with other bed bug control methods. Also, remember to use protective gear such as a mask, goggles, and gloves while spraying, as even a natural spray can have unpleasant consequences if it gets directly into your eyes or mouth.
Chemical bed bug killer products
Using bed bug pesticide products can be tricky, as a lot of governmental or scientific institutions tend to confirm, however, there are a number of options that you might want to consider. These products utilize artificial pesticides such as synthetic pyrethroids like Esfenvalerate or Cyfluthrin to deal with bed bugs and other insects. Such insecticides make them highly effective at killing bed bugs but also make them hazardous for you and your family if used incorrectly. So, if you are wondering what chemicals kill bed bugs, here are the main categories:
The effectiveness of insecticidal dust is unquestionable as there are plenty of scientific studies that support it. Depending on their exact active ingredients insecticidal dust can work better or worse against bed bugs than against other insects but the ones that work best against bed bugs usually mention them explicitly. Insecticidal dust is usually applied in a similar manner to Desiccant dusts like DE or silica gel, only they are often hazardous for people and pets. As such, the instructions labels of the dust need to be followed to the letter and the treated areas should usually be avoided while the treatment continues.
The pros of insecticidal dust revolve around this product’s high effectiveness. High-quality insecticidal dust is capable of exterminating extraordinary amounts of bed bugs with ease from any given location, be it a bed mattress, furniture or wall cracks.
The cons of insecticidal dust include their often unpleasant odor, the risk of stains being left behind on fabrics, as well as the sheer risk associated with the use of these dust. As powerful insecticides, this dust needs to be handled with care.
Using protective gear while applying insecticidal dust is necessary to avoid any inhalation, skin or eye contact. Getting a good face mask, big plastic goggles and long plastic gloves are a must when handling insecticides. Also, keep in mind that depending on the severity of the bed bug infestation you might need to apply several courses of treatment to any given area. Also, you should still keep in mind that even the strongest insecticidal dust can’t solve a bed bug problem on its own and will typically require the assistance of other bed bug control methods such as glue traps, heating treatments, vacuuming, etc.
Liquid insecticides – contact sprays, residual sprays
Similarly to insecticidal dust, liquid bed bug insecticides include toxic ingredients such as Esfenvalerate, Cyfluthrin or other pyrethroids. Unlike dust, liquid insecticides are meant to be sprayed inside wall cracks and other crevices where bed bugs may reside (especially in hiding after escaping another bed bug cleaning method). Such sprays are very potent despite the fact that their active ingredients constitute for just 0.03 to 0.05 percent of the entire spray.
Like most other insecticidal sprays, bed bug insecticidal sprays can leave a residue behind them that’s toxic for insects. However, unlike most other crawling insects, bed bugs seem to be less affected when they pass through a dried-up insecticidal spray residue. Various scientific studies such as this one from the Department of Entomology in Virginia Tech, point out that bed bugs can sometimes stand on top of dried up insecticide residue for days before dying. Therefore, liquid insecticides are most effective against bed bugs in an on-contact manner. That’s why it’s important that you successfully target all nooks, cracks, and crevices where bed bugs reside and spray them directly.
The pros of such liquid insecticides reside in their sheer power and kill-on-contact effectiveness.
The cons of liquid insecticides are the weaker effect of their dried-up residue as well as how toxic they can be to us and our families as well.
As a result of that, exercising extreme care when handling liquid insecticides is a must. Protective gear such as full-face masks, protective goggles, and rubber gloves should be on at all times and the access of kids and pets in the treated areas should be restricted. In addition to all that, keep in mind that several applications may be necessary, as well as that liquid bed bug insecticides should be used in conjunction with other bed bug control methods for 100% effectiveness.
Bed bug aerosols
Bed bug aerosols are typically just as toxic as insecticidal dust or liquid solutions. The main difference is in the delivery mechanism which in this case is an aerosol can. The active ingredients inside the can, however, are typically the same as the ones found in other toxic bed bug control methods.
Just as liquid insecticides, bed bug aerosols typically leave a toxic residue that is meant to infect and kill bugs passing through it in the next few days. And just as with liquid insecticides, the aerosol residue is also quite ineffective because bed bugs are resistant to dried up toxins. Instead, spraying the bed bugs directly is the best way to apply these products and to effectively kill the pests. Depending on the individual product the bed bug aerosol can either be deemed suitable or unsuitable for use on fabrics, furniture or beddings. Most of them have a strong odor and leave stains, but not all. If you are to use a toxic bed bug aerosol on your furniture or bed remember to properly wash and clean the treated areas after that. The same goes for any walls, floors or other surfaces, of course, but a bed treated with toxic insecticides should be handled with extra care.
The pros of such bed bug aerosols are that they have a huge kill-on-contact potential. Additionally, they are easier to handle in their aerosol can form.
The cons of toxic bed bug aerosols are first that their residue is ineffective against bed bugs as well as that they are highly toxic and should be used with a lot of care.
When using toxic bed bug aerosols you should also exercise a lot of care and use protective gear such as full-face masks, protective goggles, and rubber gloves. Also, remember that a simple aerosol is typically not enough to deal with an entire bed bug infestation and you’ll need to use other tools together with it, as well as apply it often enough.
Things that don’t work
Just as there are multiple methods that work for dealing with bed bugs, there are quite a few others that are advertised as effective but really aren’t.
- A fogger or a bug bomb for bed bugs. Foggers have a lot of pros and cons when it comes to insect extermination but when it comes to bed bugs, in particular, the cons outweigh the pros by a lot. The reason for that is that bed bugs can hide so well within cracks, crevices or furniture pieces that even most of the strongest foggers can’t penetrate deep enough to reach them. Instead, what you’ll mostly achieve is shower your home with pesticides. There are multiple governmental or scientific sources that support this such as the EPA.
- Ultrasonic pest repellents. These have been reported to have some effects on insects such as scorpions and cockroaches but are mostly intended for rodents like rats or squirrels (and even there they are not always effective). When it comes to bed bugs, however, you can’t expect an ultrasonic pest repellent to achieve anything, as a lot of sources agree.
- Natural bed bug repellents (plant-oil based). While some natural bed bug killer sprays or dust can be effective, repellents are a whole different thing. Bed bugs are known to not really care about most natural repellents
- Mothballs. People tend to use mothballs to try and repel lots of things, usually with little to no success. Bed bugs are, unfortunately, among those bugs that simply don’t care about mothballs as sources such as the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health confirm.
- Rubbing alcohol. This is another common misconception but rubbing alcohol will not be an effective way to kill bed bugs. Is it able to kill a bed bug by drenching it in it? Sure. Can you use this method to effectively deal with a bed bug infestation? Not really.
Hiring a professional bed bug exterminator
Like it or not, there are situations when a pest exterminator is simply necessary. All of the solutions we listed above are effective in their own right, however: 1) their effectiveness often relies on your skill and ability to apply them properly, and 2) even the most effective methods don’t work alone and the more severe the infestation is, the more you’ll need to juggle between several different methods. Eventually, if left untreated, a bed bug infestation can easily reach a point where you’ll need to clean all your belongings separately, get them out of your home, and heat cleanses the whole place. However, both if you want to avoid this, as well as if you want to do it properly, calling a profession bed bug exterminator may be your best bet.
Still, keep in mind that a bed bug exterminator costs quite a bit to hire so that should be a consideration as well. Still, if you find a good professional that can save you weeks of efforts as well as help preserve a lot of valuable items such as books, clothes or furniture, then it’s usually worth it. The way a professional bed bug exterminator can go bad is if he or she simply isn’t good enough and isn’t worth the money. An inexperienced or a neglectful bed bug exterminator can both leave surviving bed bugs behind, as well as damage some of your belongings.
Prevention steps to avoid a future infestation
Being quick and effective when dealing with bed bugs is important, but prevention is arguably even more crucial as it can save you all the trouble in the first place. Exercising proper bed bug prevention is difficult, unfortunately, as bed bugs can crawl on your clothes or luggage from lots of unexpected places. Regardless of how clean a bus seat or a cinema theatre seat is, there is the risk of someone dropping a bed bug on it before you or even an entire nest residing within the cushion. Hotels can be even more troublesome, especially if they are of a lower rating and quality. We tend to expect hotels to exercise a certain amount of hygiene but things don’t always work out the way we expect them to.
So, here are some important steps to avoid future bed bug infestations:
- While buying used furniture or clothes check them carefully for bed bugs on the inside. Don’t skip on looking inside covers and cushions as this is precisely where bed bugs hide and nest.
- While traveling use a UV LED flashlight to inspect beds or couches in hotel rooms or in people you’re staying with.
- While using public transport either check the seats or just stand upright. Bed bugs can’t fly or jump so if you don’t sit on the seat they are in at the moment, they won’t be able to crawl on you.
- Don’t ignore the importance of using protective mattress covers and encasements. These can be very effective at keeping bed bugs away from your mattress, bed or couch even if you do bring them indoors.
- Reduce the clutter in your home.
- Vacuum frequently as this can easily get rid of the occasional bed bug before it has had the chance to procreate.
- Be careful with shared laundry facilities – use protective plastic bags for both your dirty and your clean clothes and fabrics.
Bed bugs can be a major annoyance if you are unlucky and even cause some health concerns such as rashes, skin infections, anxiety, and insomnia. All this calls for both careful prevention as well as fast reaction and extermination when an infestation is found. Hopefully, all the tips and information we went through above will help you achieve both proper prevention and effective extermination when necessary. Tactics such as steam cleaning, laundering, and drying, as well as hotbox treatments can all be very effective at dealing with bed bugs but don’t forget to use both non-toxic or insecticide products if and when necessary.