How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Let’s say you have detected multiple bed bug warning signs, and believe an infestation has been established in your home. First: take a deep breath. There are several effective techniques for exterminating bed bug populations and restoring your home to a pest-free environment. Also, avoid throwing away your mattress and bedding, furniture and other household items that may serve as harborage areas. These belongings can be quite expensive to replace, and complete disposal will be unnecessary as long as you use proper extermination methods.
Next, scour the entire building to determine which rooms are experiencing the highest rates of infestation. First check bedrooms, living room sofa beds and any other places where people sleep. Once the primary harborage areas have been located, you can attempt to exterminate your homegrown bed bug populations using these do-it-yourself methods:
- Strip your mattresses, box springs and sofa bed cushions. Use a brush or comb to remove bed bugs and eggs, and then run a vacuum over each surface until all bed bugs, eggs, skin casings and other remnants are gone. Then take the vacuum outside and dispose of the bag.
- Place all sheets, pillowcases, bed linens, curtains and clothing in a plastic trash bag, and then contain this in a second trash bag. Also include bedding materials for any pets in the house. Take these items directly to a washer. Wash them in hot water, and then dry on the highest temperature setting. Be sure to throw away the inner bag once the items are in the washer.
- Non-washable items also need to be treated. These include shoes, stuffed animals, pet toys, backpacks, sleeping bags, purses and pillows. Heat treatment is the most effective method for these items. For best results, bag all items in a dryer-safe bag and dry on the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes. Placing bagged, non-washable items in direct sunlight will also be effective in places where temperatures reach at least 80 to 90 degrees. Extreme cold may also take care of bed bugs. Storing these items in a freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) for eight to 10 hours will kill off most remaining bed bugs and eggs.
- Obtain a ‘bed-bug-proof encasement’ for all mattresses and box springs in the house. Encasements are plastic sacks that fit snugly over an entire mattress, with a tight zipper designed to prevent even immature bed bugs from getting out. Encasements are also thick enough to prevent bed bugs from biting you through the material. Bed-bug-proof encasements are widely available through retail outlets like Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon.com.
- After the mattresses and bedding have been secured, vacuum all carpets and rugs in the home. Steam treatment is also highly recommended.
- Rubbing alcohol can be used to kill bed bugs on contact. Apply some alcohol to a Q-Tip and wipe out any stray bugs you come across after the mattresses, bedding and carpets have been cleaned.
- Responsibly dispose of any mattresses, box springs, furniture and other items that cannot be salvaged. Strip all covers, filling and fabric upholstery. For small items, be sure to mark them with a bed bug warning in spray paint before discarding in a dumpster. For large items, consider enlisting in the services of a junk removal, curbside trash pickup or mattress recycling service. You may also be able to deposit your infested items at the local dump or transfer station.
If your entire home is infested, your best option for dealing with bed bugs will involve the assistance of a pest control specialist. Professional services may also be required for those living in rental units, since other residents may also be at risk; any apartment tenants with bed bug concerns should contact their landlord immediately.
The cost of bed bug extermination will usually vary from $500 to $1,500; treatment often includes an in-home consultation and full inspection. Some bed bug specialists have also embraced the less conventional method of canine bed bug detection. Dogs can be trained to find the scent of bed bugs; according to Bed Bug General, there are more than 100 bed bug canines working in the U.S. today.
Several insecticide treatments for bed bugs are available. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered more than 300 chemical products used to exterminate bed bug populations. These materials fall into seven general classifications:
- Pyrethrins and pyrethroids are most commonly used insecticide in bed bug control, usually taking the form of a spray. Botanical-based pyrethrins are synthesized from the chrysanthemum flower, while pyrethroids are chemical-based agents that essentially perform the same function. They are quick-acting and long-lasting.
- Desiccants essentially dissolve bed bugs by eroding their outer shell, which causes them to die of dehydration. Desiccants may pose a toxicity hazard to humans, so it’s important to heed EPA guidelines for different products. Some of the most popular desiccants include diatomaceous earth, boric acid and silica gel.
- Currently, cold-pressed neem oil is the only biochemical registered by the EPA to combat bed bugs. This oil is extracted from seeds of the tropical neem tree, and has proven effective at eradicating bed bugs and eggs.
- Neonicotinoids are derived from tobacco. They kill bed bugs by triggering their nicotinic receptors and causing their nervous systems to crash. Neonicotinoids may be effective in controlling bed bug populations that do not respond to other forms of insecticide.
- Insect growth regulators infiltrate a bed bug’s body by weakening their outer shell and stunting maturity. As a result, most bed bugs that have been treated with growth regulators will die before reaching adulthood.
Fumigation is often used as a last-resort method of bed bug control. Full ‘structure and chamber fumigation’ will kill off all remaining bed bugs; only licensed pest control specialists should facilitate this procedure. In addition to chemical fumigation, heat treatment may be used to get rid of bed bug infestations. This method involves raising temperatures throughout a home or building. The ‘kill zone’ for bed begs is at least 117 degrees Fahrenheit, but some heat treatments raise temperatures up to 135 or 140 degrees; these temperatures should be constantly maintained for at least 45 minutes. Eventually the heat will enter cracks, crevices and other areas where bed bugs thrive. Heat sensors placed in different rooms will monitor the temperature, and also ensure proper airflow. Like fumigation, this method is somewhat expensive and should only be administered by professionals.
Once the infestation has been contained and all bed bugs have been killed, you must monitor your home to ensure the little pests do not return. Check mattress and box spring encasements on a regular basis, and use alcohol to kill any lingering bed bugs you encounter. Also consider installing some interceptor traps throughout your home. These shallow, cup-shaped devices are placed beneath all bed posts and furniture legs; since these features are usually slippery, the interceptor will act as an inescapable moat for bed bugs that slip and fall. Glue traps may be useful, as well. These devices can be placed in dark areas of the bedroom, as well as spaces behind pictures, furniture and bed headboards. If your encasements, interceptor traps and glue traps are mostly bug-free, then your infestation has probably been controlled; if a large number of bed bugs still appear, then you may want to consider another inspection and chemical treatment.
According to the Bugs Without Borders survey, pest specialists conduct an average of 2.6 home visits before bed bugs can be fully exterminated with insecticide treatment. Comparatively, 1.3 visits are needed to kill bed bugs using heat-based methods.