If you have ever had to deal with bedbugs in your home, you know the stress and fear at the mere mention of an infestation. It is important to know that while bedbugs can be easily transmitted from one area to another, they can also be controlled with time, effort and diligence.
Bedbugs enter homes on luggage, clothing, and on items such as used beds and couches. Since this is the case, a bedbug infestation is not a sign of dirtiness. They are just as likely to be found in immaculate homes and hotels as they are in particularly dirty ones.
Bedbugs can be found just about anywhere, but are most often found close to where people sleep. They are active during the night but typically hide during the day and can be found in nearby furniture, nightstands, baseboards and cracks in the wall.
Adult bedbugs are small, brownish insects, about ¼” and are relatively flat and oval in shape, about the size of an apple seed. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) are similar to adult bedbugs but they are smaller and more translucent. The physical signs of these insects include: small blood stains, the size of pinheads, or smears of blood on sheets and pillow cases. Often there will be nymphs, eggs, fecal spots and casings on mattresses, box springs and bed
frames. Check the underside of the box spring by removing the thin layer of material on the underside, look for remnants on the material as well as along the wooden slats. Signs of an infestation will be particularly visible along the seams and cracks in furniture.
Bedbugs feed solely on the blood of humans and animals and have not been known to transfer diseases. The bite of a bedbug often feels similar to that of a mosquito or flea. The bite area will be itchy and raised and the skin may have welts. Excessive itching can lead to infection, as with other insect bites.
Early detection is the best way to eliminate bedbugs. It is important to regularly clean, vacuum and remove clutter from around beds. Bedbugs on clothing and bedding can be managed by laundering using hot water and drying on high heat for 30 plus minutes. Special bedbug resistant casings may be purchased for mattresses; the mattress casings block bedbugs from entering or exiting, thereby protecting the area. They should be left on for at least a year to make sure all bedbugs are dead.
In home cleaning options include the use of cleaning solutions, vacuums, steam machines, and carpet cleaners. A specific option is the use of diatomaceous earth, found in local hardware stores. This material has been shown effective on bedbugs, as the product desiccates the eggs, which are otherwise difficult to manage. Brands such as the Garden Safe are meant for indoor and outdoor use. Make sure to use a ventilator mask if working for prolonged periods of time and follow all manufacturer instructions.
While pesticides may be used, they should only be administered by licensed pest control professionals. Bug Bombs are not an effective method for managing bedbug infestations, as they tend to kill only the adult and nymphs and not the eggs. If the active bedbugs are not killed by the Bug Bombs, they often flee the area and relocate somewhere else in the premises.
A cleaning company can help manage the initial outbreak of bedbugs by deep cleaning, steaming and cleaning carpets, but it is necessary to remain diligent in cleaning habits once this cleaning has been completed. For the best results vacuum, check mattresses and nearby furniture, regularly, for signs of activity.
Try King County’s Public Health site more specific information and resources.