Bed bugs are highly resilient creatures and, as a result, can be very difficult to get rid of. By squeezing themselves into tiny gaps, they can effectively evade most of your extermination attempts and avoid detection. And if you were thinking of simply abandoning your bed for a few days in the hopes of starving them out, think again – bed bugs can survive a very long time without food.
So, if you can’t starve them to death, then how can you get rid of bed bugs?
What do bed bugs eat?
Bed bugs survive on a diet of (preferably human) blood, which they obtain by biting those who sleep in infested beds. However, they will also bite other animals such as dogs, cats, birds, and rodents if there are no humans around.
How long does it take bed bugs to die without a host?
You may think that, given their small size, bed bugs would need a constant supply of food to survive, and would perish within days without their nightly blood meal. However, the unsettling reality is that bed bugs can live a very long time without a host, and can lie in wait for weeks, months or even years for you to return to your bed.
How long can bed bugs survive without food?
So, how long can bed bugs survive without blood? The answer is a surprisingly long time!
Bed bugs can survive for 20-400 days without feeding, so your chances of starving them to death are very slim.
Which is why getting rid of bed bugs requires an integrated pest control plan to kill the insects and their eggs, and to prevent your home from becoming re-infested later. Besides their ability to survive long periods of time without food, bed bugs are also excellent at hiding and can be difficult to completely eradicate. The only way to tackle them is with a multi-step approach and long-term, preventative measures.
How can you get rid of bed bugs?
Wash your sheets
Bed bugs and their eggs can be killed by high temperatures so laundering your sheets, clothes and anything else that may have been infested is a crucial first step in their control. Set your machine to as high a temperature as possible (without ruining your clothes) to make sure you kill them all. Anything that is waiting to be washed should be securely wrapped in plastic bags to prevent the bugs from escaping.
Attack them with bug spray
Once you’ve stripped the sheets from your bed, the next step is to kill the bugs that will be hiding in the cracks and crevices of your mattress, headboard and bed frame. There are a variety of over-the-counter sprays that can be used for this purpose, but you can also get the job done using a mixture of dish soap and water in a spray bottle.
Before you begin your attack, you should work out where the main bed bug harborage sites are around your bed. Take a flashlight and closely inspect the mattress and bed frame for signs of bed bugs. The insects will quickly run for cover when disturbed so, once you’ve worked out where they are, leave them for a few hours to come out of hiding before commencing treatment.
When you’re ready to begin spraying, the key is to move quickly before the bed bugs can run for cover. Bed bug sprays will usually kill on contact, so don’t hesitate to hit as many as possible!
Vacuum your bed and the surrounding areas
You can use your vacuum cleaner to suck up any stray bugs and eggs from your sleeping area, which will prevent the infestation from re-establishing itself after the initial treatment.
First, take a stiff brush and scrub your mattress to dislodge any eggs or bugs, then go over the mattress (and the area around your bed) thoroughly with the vacuum. Once you’re done, remove and seal the vacuum cleaner bag in plastic wrapping before disposing of it outdoors. You should repeat this process frequently throughout treatment.
Wrap your mattress
One of the reasons bed bugs are so difficult to get rid of is their ability to hide inside your mattress. You can stop these concealed bugs from re-emerging by wrapping your mattress in plastic, leaving no gaps for escape. Eventually, the bed bugs will starve but, as we discussed earlier, this could take a very long time. You should, therefore, leave the plastic in place for at least a year to make sure all the bugs hiding beneath are well and truly dead.
The main way bed bugs find their way into people’s houses is via their luggage. These tiny insects often stow away inside clothes that come into contact with infested hotel beds and re-emerge once you’ve carried them back to your home.
If you are returning from a trip, always leave your bags by the door until you’ve made sure there are no bed bugs inside.
If you do find or even suspect bed bugs, wash everything on a high temperature to kill the insects before you take your belongings to your room. Bed bugs can also find their way into your home via laundry and secondhand clothes; always inspect these items carefully before storing them in your bedroom, and wash them first if necessary.
Bed bugs are one biting, bloodsucking pest we could all live without. Unfortunately, these hardy insects can be very difficult to get rid of due to their excellent hiding abilities. Simply abandoning your bed and starving them out may seem like the simplest solution but, unfortunately, this rarely works. Bed bugs can live for more than a year without food in favorable conditions, so trying to starve them is unlikely to be an effective pest control strategy.
Instead, wash all your bedding on high heat, bust out the bug spray and vacuum regularly to clear your infestation. Encasing your mattress in plastic will prevent any concealed bugs from getting out, but the plastic must be left in place for more than a year if you want to guarantee that the bugs inside are all dead.