Bed bugs have been around since before written history. Beyond being exasperating little bloodsuckers, the presence of bed bugs can afflict psychological effects by triggering extreme anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, obsessive behavior, and other PTSD symptoms. And the most disturbing thing about a bed bug infestation is that most people are not aware of it because they aren’t trained on how to inspect for evidence. Even bed bug “bites” can appear several days later and can be mistaken for mosquito bites.
Bed bug infestations can increase exponentially as adult females can lay up to 7 eggs per day, so early identification and treatment are critical. There are a range of treatment options from Do-It-Yourself to hiring a bed bug removal professional. Research and ask questions of the professionals to help determine the best solution for your own situation.
Bed Bug Resurgence
Bed bugs were a common problem in the United States through World War II. During this time, wide-scale use of pesticides including DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) became common practice, which was quite effective in eradicating these insects from the United States (US) and around the world; However, bed bugs began to re-emerge during the late 1990s in the US, and many other countries including Canada, the UK, and Australia after the ban of DDT.
DDT had been widely used since the 1800s and was turned into a synthetic insecticide, widely adopted in the 1950s. People used it on everything in their homes, including their beds. It was extraordinary in resolving the bed bug problem, however, it was discovered that the prolonged presence of DDT in humans led to other medical problems. It was also found to never break down in the environment so it was killing wildlife and fish. As a result, DDT became the target of criticism during the environmental movement of the 1960s. The campaign led to DDT’s agricultural ban in 1972 and the eventual ban of its use worldwide in the 2001 Stockholm Convention.
Without DDT, bed bugs have resurged more than 50 years after their decline. Due to the insects’ self-survival tactics, increased global travel, and lack of awareness, it was only a matter of time before bed bugs came back.
Important Facts about Bed Bugs
Adult bed bugs are smaller than a pencil eraser, measuring only 5 millimeters across. They are tough, smart, reproduce quickly, and know where to hide to avoid detection. A female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, and these insects can live for months between meals. Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about bed bugs.
- A bed bug’s sole purpose is to find it’s next food source. Regardless of their name, these little vampires don’t reside only in beds. As the epitome of hitchhikers, they’ll spend time wherever you spend time — in your couch, or favorite chair. As an infestation grows, bed bugs can be seen travelling for food on your floors, railings, and even ceilings. When getting rid of bed bugs, you should consider how to properly treat your entire living space.
- Bed bugs don’t actually “bite”. They are very similar to mosquitoes in that they have a proboscis used for feeding and an anticoagulant is injected into the bloodstream in order to thin the blood to make it easier for feeding. The “bite” is actually a reaction to the anti-coagulant. Some people are quite allergic while others have no reaction.
- Bed bugs crawl at a relatively fast speed, but cannot jump or fly.
- Depending on humidity and temperature, a bed bug life cycle can last 20-400 days without food. They can survive 2-5 months without feeding at about 73°F. In colder climates, they can survive up to a year because their metabolism slows down. Adult female bed bugs can produce 1-7 eggs per day, with each egg taking 10 days to hatch and another five weeks for the offspring to develop into adults.
- When an adult female bed bug lays eggs, she also excretes a cement-like substance used to help secure eggs in cracks, crevices and in other isolated places for protection.
- Bed bugs are nocturnal and typically feed at night, but they are also opportunistic feeders and will feed anytime they are hungry.
- Bed bugs use warmth, moisture, and carbon dioxide to locate their hosts. So, when you go to bed at night, they know it’s feeding time as carbon dioxide and/or human sweat collects your room.
- Bed bug bites can be painful and lead to sleeplessness, anxiety, and secondary infections (due to scratching), but at this time, they are not known to transmit diseases to humans. Many use antihistamine, witch hazel, aloe vera, calamine lotion, anti-itch cream, or a baking soda paste to alleviate the burning and itching sensations.
- Bed bugs do not discriminate based on income, color, hygiene, or cleanliness. However, homes with more clutter do offer more places for these nasty critters to hide and reproduce. If a bed bug identifies you as a possible food source, they simply need the opportunity to hitchhike on you or your belongings.
- Bed bugs are very predictable in behavior, until a bed bug bomb or fogger is used, which then forces them to scatter behind walls, underneath baseboards and behind outlets for fresh air. This further exacerbates the problem, if you will, since the adult females are now laying eggs in these new locations.
Since these insects are more commonly found in places where people come and go, people tend to associate them with hotel beds. The most common places that house bed bugs include:
- Motels, hotels and other vacation rentals (Airbnb and VRBO)
- Outdoor campsites
- Daycare centers
- Medical Facilities
- Cars, SUVs, Trucks, RVs, Trailers
- Public transits (e.g., taxis, buses, trains, and rideshare vehicles)
- Cruise ships
- Shipping Containers
Guide to Removing Bed Bugs from Your Home Yourself
Fortunately, if you are armed with information and the right tools, you can get rid of bed bugs. You can attempt to do it yourself; however, it is recommended to call a bed bug professional. That being said, we’ve listed a bed bug removal step-by-step guide to help you with the process.
Step #1 – Identifying areas infested with bed bugs
Routine inspection of your living space is important, especially if you travel often or if you’ve visited a home or business that has an infestation. When assessing damage, the first place to look is your mattress, box spring, and headboard. You should also inspect nightstands near the headboard and the baseboard. You can perform an inspection yourself or hire professionals to do it. Some companies also offer K9 inspections, which use specially trained dogs to detect bed bugs by scent.
You want to find bed bugs before they begin to reproduce because it’s cheaper and easier to treat a smaller infestation. However, small infestations are typically harder to detect. These critters have narrow and small bodies that allow them to squeeze into tight and tiny spots, such as:
- Inseams of a couch or mattress
- In baseboards
- In cracks in the bed frame and headboard
- Upholstered furniture
- Between couch cushions
- In furniture joints
- Folds of curtains
- Underneath posters and paintings on the walls
- Under loose wallpaper
- In the seam where the ceiling and wallpaper meet
- Behind electrical outlet plates
Go over these areas with a magnifying glass and flashlight to detect any bed bug infestation areas. You can spot bed bugs by several signs, such as:
- Reddish stains on your mattress or couch from bugs that have been crushed
- Dark spots about the size of a dot (bed bug droppings)
- Live bed bugs – about ¼-inch long and reddish
- Yellowish skins (that young bed bugs shed), eggshells, and small pale-yellow eggs
Bed bugs look somewhat different throughout their life cycles, so becoming familiar with the bed bug look at each stage of their life cycle will help identify them. Bed bug eggs are difficult to detect because they have a transparent white color with white fluid and have a hard exterior. A bed bug nymph remains white-clear in color until it starts to feed.
Once you find a bed bug, capture it and put it in a jar with one teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. There are other types of bugs similar to bed bugs, such as bird bugs, bat bugs, and fleas. To confirm that you have bed bugs, you should catch one to show a professional. If you can’t, there are four key signs: You can identify them by the bug’s bite (it is itchier than a mosquito’s bite and sometimes is in a line of 3’s), fecal traces (dark black around or in your mattresses, box springs, sheets, headboard, night stands and baseboards), blood spots (on the sheets and pillow covers), and skin casings (around or in your mattress).
Step #2 – Containing the bed bug infestation
Do-It-Yourself bed bug control in residences begins with looking for bed bugs and killing them or vacuuming them. Use the vacuum to trap the bed bugs by running over any potential hiding place, including your bed, carpets, dresser, and electronics (such as PC, TVs, etc.). Ensure that all your clothing, rugs, drapes, linens, and other hiding places are cleaned and thrown out. Once you’re done vacuuming, seal up the vacuum bag, put it in a plastic bag, and throw it in the trash outside the apartment or house. Also, don’t forget to clean the vacuum thoroughly.
Next, take all the affected clothes, linens, stuffed animals etc. and quarantine them in sealed plastic bags, until you get the chance to heat disinfect them. Some resources suggest you wash and dry, however, we suggest heating your items in the dryer on the highest heat setting for up to 2 hours first. Clean or discard infested furniture.
We also suggest that you consult with a professional to review treatment options before you proceed with a bed bug fogger or bomb that will exacerbate your infestation.
Step #3 – Bed bug treatment preparation
A little preparation increases the odds of success. First, get rid of bed bug hiding places – pick up clothes, magazines, books, and other items that may be lying under the bed and on the floor. Throw out everything you can, but don’t move things from an infested area to clean areas because you will spread the bugs. Glue down loose wallpaper, seal up any open areas, tape up open electrical outlets, and caulk the cracks around baseboards and in furniture. Lastly, move the bed (at least) 8 inches away from the wall to prevent bed bugs from climbing on it.
You can also place bed bug-proof mattress covers over the mattress and box spring and zip the covers all the way so new bugs won’t be able to get in, and those trapped inside will die. Just make sure that your mattress encasement says it’s bed bug proof, and you will keep your mattress safe. If these methods don’t work, you may try applying an insecticide.
Step #4 – Killing the bed bugs
Heat is scientifically proven to be the MOST effective method in killing bed bugs by top entomologists and universities. Bed bugs are increasingly immune to the most common pest sprays, but they have not yet evolved to survive high heat. Adult bed bugs have a thermal death point of 113°F and start dying in seconds if fully exposed. Bed bug eggs have a thermal death point of 122°F.
- You can rent or buy proper heat treatment equipment to treat your entire space.
- On a hot 95°F+, securely pack all infested items into black plastic bags and leave them in a closed vehicle sitting in the sun all day. The temperature inside the vehicle should exceed 130°F.
- Using bed bug steamers that can attain the thermal death point can help to disinfect couches, mattresses, and other places where bed bugs might hide. However, it won’t help with bugs hiding under baseboards, under outlets in drawers, etc.
- You can also freeze bed bugs in personal belongings as an alternative. Take bags containing infested items, place them in the freezer at 0°F and leave them there for at least 4-5 days.
Chemical and non-chemical treatments
There are special, EPA-registered insecticides labeled for dealing with bed bugs. These are the most common products that people use for killing bed bugs:
- Foggers/bug bombs. These products may kill a few bed bugs, but they cannot get to the bed bugs hiding in cracks and crevices. If used incorrectly, they can be toxic to humans, so be sure to read the product labels. Before you set off a fogger, be sure that there are no people present in the room.
- Neonicotinoids. A synthetic form of nicotine that damages the nervous system of bed bugs, causing their nerves to fire continuously until they fail. The chemical has been widely used by professional exterminators, often in combination with other products (to decrease the chance of them developing resistance).
- Pyrroles. Chlorfenapyr is the only EPA-approved pyrrole that can be used to fight bed bugs. When activated to form another chemical, this compound begins its biological activity, disrupting bed bugs’ cell functions and killing bed bugs fast. Exterminators and pest management professionals use it. However, bed bugs have shown early signs of resistance to this compound.
- Pyrethroids and pyrethrins. These two are the most common products used against bed bugs, but they have been overused for years. Pyrethroids are a synthetic chemical insecticide, while pyrethrins are a botanical insecticide. They are great for flushing bugs out of their hiding places but have become increasingly ineffective because bed bugs are becoming resistant to them.
- Desiccants. Desiccants (e.g., silica gel, Diatomaceous earth, and boric acid) are substances that cause and maintain a state of dehydration in their vicinity. They destroy the protective qualities of a bed bug’s shell by absorbing the oils from it. With a damaged shell, bugs simply dehydrate and die. Not all desiccants are effective against these infestations. Boric acid and Diatomaceous earth are not that effective, while silica gel controls bed bug spread and outbreaks quite well.
- Combination of heat and spray. For homes with a more severe bed bug infestation, a combination of heat and bug spray has proven to be an effective option.
Professional treatments take 2-3 repeat treatments to start working, and after each treatment, you may have to stay out of the treated area for several hours until the insecticides are fully dried.
Do-It-Yourself home remedies that do NOT work against bed bugs:
- Moth Balls
- Baking soda
- Ultrasonic devices
- Misusing effective products
- Using a product only once
- Dryer sheets
- Tea tree oil (It must be applied directly onto the bug.)
- Rubbing alcohol (If you use rubbing alcohol to kill bed bugs, it can take up to several days to take effect and is flammable.)
- Talcum Powder
Step #5 – Perform a regular bed bug inspection for signs of activity
Before you can trust that your do-it-yourself (DIY) bed bug treatment has worked, you need proof. Monitor the infested areas once every 6-7 days for signs of bed bug activity. Place bed bug interceptors (bed bug traps) under your bed legs to trap bed bugs before they can climb back into your bed. This will make surviving bed bugs easier to spot. If you notice that they are back and have tried all the DIY options at your disposal, it is time to get professional extermination assistance.
Bed bug professionals typically have the advantage of combining different effective bed bug treatments that are not available to you. BED BUG PRO by Vortex offers a spectrum DIY and Full-Service heat treatment and spray solutions. We heat treat bed bug-infested rooms from 140°F to 155°F (60-68°C) to ensure that heat is penetrating behind the baseboards, furniture, personal belongings, and other personal items in the infested area. For heat treatment, some preparation is necessary (e.g., removing heat-sensitive items from the room). Still, the amount of required decluttering is often less than with other bed bug killing methods. Removing computers, TVs, and electronics is usually not needed.
The Cost of Professional Bed Bug Treatment
When it comes to the cost of bed bugs treatment, it all depends on the circumstances. It is best to reach out to BED BUG PRO to set up an appointment and learn more about our service solutions and how we can best help you.
Nationally, homeowners spend an average of $1000-2500 to exterminate bed bugs. What affects the price is the type of treatment, square footage of the treatment area, and level of infestation. If the problem is small, you could pay as little as $300 to have a room sprayed with pesticides. Disinfection of a larger home could cost $5,000+.
- Average Cost: $1,000-$2,500
- Low Cost: $300
- High Cost: $5,000
The big pest control companies typically charge around $3 per square foot. Therefore, clearing a 1,500 square foot townhome can run around $4,500 with no guarantee, depending on the level of infestation, if foggers have been used, and due to reintroduction from neighboring units. Call BED BUG PRO to learn more about our spectrum of more affordable, heat treatment solutions.
Early detection and selecting the proper treatment for your situation are the keys to eradicating bed bugs for good! Kill the buggers before they spread throughout your home, hitchhike into your vehicle or follow you to homes of friends and family. Heat is crucial to disinfecting an entire structure, including contamination in hidden or inaccessible areas. For a proper heat treatment or hybrid service, contact BED BUG PRO, the Bed Bug Experts.