Adult bed bugs are about 1/5th of an inch long, wingless, oval in shape, rusty brown in color, and resemble a tick. They’ve been around for thousands of years all across the world. They do in fact bite and can consume up to 6 times their body weight in the blood (human or animal). Their bite marks can easily be confused with mosquito bites.They come out only at night and hide during the day. They do not live only in “dirty” places but can thrive even in a clean, well-kept home. Many people with bedbugs in their homes are entirely unaware. Bedbugs may hitchhike home with you if you travel, stay in hotels, live in an apartment building, or buy used furniture. But wait, before you run and throw out your mattress, take heart! Bed bugs and their bites do not carry or spread disease and according to the CDC are generally not a threat to human health.
A few simple preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of bedbugs in your home. Bed bugs are tough to get rid of once they get established in your home. These hardy bugs thrive under most conditions, reproduce quickly, and can live without food for up to 400 days. Chemical extermination options are available, but how many people want chemicals sprayed in the places they sleep? In fact, over time bed bugs have become resistant to the chemicals that are allowed in extermination. It’s a problem all around.
1. Inspect. Then Inspect Again
Prevention and early detection are your best resources against a bed bug infestation, so don’t delay! To start, you’ll need a flashlight and a mirror. Remember these critters are small, and their eggs invisible to the human eye. Most bed bugs are found on and around mattresses and bed frames, so start there. Carefully inspect the mattress and the box spring for each bed in your home. Don’t forget to lift the mattress and the box spring, checking underneath and in all seams and cracks.
Look for bed bug feces–rusty brown smudges or spots that look like dried blood. Check all crevices and cracks in your bed frame. Even better, take the bed frame apart for a thorough inspection. Inspect the headboard and behind it. If you find signs of bed bugs, try the following natural ways to combat them. (If you don’t find evidence of bed bugs, skip to the all-important step 9.)
2. Physically Remove the Ones You Can See
Wage war. Flick them out of crevices with a business card, crush them in a paper towel, vacuum them up, or catch them on sticky tape. Do whatever you have to do to get rid of them.
3. Launder all Bedding
Gather up everything that is near the sleeping area and can be washed, including stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, and sheets. Launder and dry on a hot cycle. High heat will kill the bed bugs and any eggs.
4. If You Can’t Wash it, Freeze it
Certain items that can’t be washed can be bagged and put into the freezer. Extremely low temperatures also will kill the bed bugs and their eggs.
5. Vacuum Thoroughly
Vacuum the mattress top and bottom, bed frame, carpet, both sides of the headboard, and especially any crevices. Do this daily if you’re treating for bed bugs with the most powerful suction attachment you have. Make sure to seal and throw away the vacuum bag immediately (outside of your home).
6. Try Essential Oils
Tea tree oil, cedar oil, and orange oil are harmful to bed bugs in contact. Mix with water in a spray bottle and lightly mist the areas you are treating daily.
7. Use Diatomaceous Earth
I’ve sung the praises of diatomaceous earth before, and it’s no exception when it comes to bed bugs. Professional exterminators even use it. Sprinkle mattresses, bed frames, and carpet with DE (wear a dust mask for this step). Vacuum up the excess before sleeping. I explain more about how DE works and cautions for using it in this post.
8. Remove Clutter Around Beds
Bed bugs don’t discriminate as they like both messy and clean houses. But eliminating clutter under and around beds helps cut down on their hiding places. Be sure to treat these items (using one of the above methods) if you have found signs of dust mites.
9. An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Bed bugs or not, don’t skip this step! Treating a bed bug infestation costs time and money (not to mention stress!). Prevent them from happening by following these best practices before they become a problem. Purchase bed bug-proof mattress encasements for all mattresses and box springs in your home. These can reduce dust mites too and are a worthwhile investment for healthy sleep and the life of your mattress.
Fill all cracks and joints in headboards and bed frames with caulk or sealant, cutting off bed bug hiding places. Install bed bug traps under the legs of each bed. This solution is cheap, easy, and one of the most effective ways to detect and stop bed bugs before they are a problem! Routinely inspect traps and return to step 1 often!