When my parents tucked me in at night, they concluded the lovely nighttime ritual with the words “don’t let the bed bugs bite,” leaving me to wonder what in the world a bed bug actually was. Bed bugs, however, are a very real threat and, when they find a home in your sleeping sanctuary, can become the stuff of nightmares.
These tiny pests have come back with a vengeance in the 21st Century and knowing how to treat them if they decide to take residence in your home is absolutely essential.
Know Your Enemy
The bed bug (cimex lectularius) is a tiny parasitic insect whose favorite meal is the warm blood of humans. Well adapted for their vampiric task, bed bugs hunt at night when their prey is asleep and vulnerable. Chemicals in the saliva keep their victim nice and calm so that they feel no pain during the feeding. The victim remains unaware of the fact that they’ve become the bed bug Burger King. Like most pests, bed bugs reproduce at an alarming rate and even a small group of bed bugs can quickly become a full blown infestation.
No Place is Safe
Bed Bugs are a threat to everyone with blood in their veins. The area in which you live and the type of house that you live in makes little difference to these tiny traveling experts. In our globalized world, bed bugs were able to find homes in any place that humans chose to settle. Their diminutive size allows them to creep into a home through the smallest openings (they can even invade through outlets!). Long story short, if bed bugs want in, very little can be done to keep them out.
Signs of an Infestation
Bed bugs are very sneaky little critters and detecting their presence can be a markedly difficult task. There are a few tell-tale signs of their presence, however, that a keen eye and a prepared mind can identify.
The most obvious sign of bed bugs in also the most problematic. When bed bugs feed, they can leave a visible bite mark on exposed parts of the body. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bugs out there who enjoy turning us into human scratching posts. The presence of inexplicable bug bites alone won’t point you directly to a bed bug infestation. There is also a great degree of variance in reactions to bed bug bites. Some individuals can experience severe allergic reactions to bed bug bites while others can show no signs of being bitten at all! That being said, you should be on the look out for some of the following signs of a bed bug infestation as well.
Much like mosquitoes, if a fully fed bed bug is squashed the blood it sucked up will leave a red blood splotch. If a lot of these splotches are ending up on your mattress, you’ll want to seek some professional help (even if it’s not from bed bugs!)
Bed bugs will often leave their waste on a mattress and around other small openings along the wall where they may have taken residence. A casual eye can easily overlook these little brown spots, but, if they are indeed found along with random bug bites and blood splotches on the mattress, it may be time to call your local exterminator.
DIY Does Not Apply
While there are do-it-yourself bed bug treatment methods and products , getting rid of bed bugs requires very careful and very thorough execution. An attempt at bed bug extermination can be rendered useless if performed poorly. The best bed bug treatment is going to come from a reliable professional.
A professional can (a) tell if you really have an infestation and (b) ensure that all of the pests are wiped out. Keep yourself aware of the policies of the hired company, however, as a poor job can cost you greatly. In the unfortunate event that a professional extermination turns out to be a fluke, you will have to ensure that the job gets done right and gets done fast.
The extermination of bed bugs is a very labor intensive activity. Treatment has two basic steps: housekeeping and chemical application.
Before the killer chems can be effectively applied, the infested room needs to be cleaned. This isn’t a toss-everything-under-the-bed-so-mother-doesn’t-yell sort of cleaning, either. Shelves and closets need to be completely cleared . Bedding and pillows need to be removed from the mattress so that the mattress can be steamed and vacuumed. Any cloth products, from comforters to socks that are returning from the alternate dimension of lost socks, need to be washed and dried on the hot drying cycle. Once the prep and cleaning is finished, the exterminator can bring out the big guns.
Synthetic pyrethoids are one of the most common means of chemical treatment for bed bugs. This particular form of insecticide is popular because it is very effective on the insects and poses very little danger to humans( unlike the DDT thought to have wiped them out in the 20th Century). Unfortunately, there are some super strains of bed bug which have emerged in Australia that have developed a resistance to the pyrethoids. The alternative chems will kill the super strain bugs, but can ruin certain types of mattress.
What’s It Cost?
Knowing how treatment for bed bugs works is only half the battle. The other half, unfortunately, is fought with a pen and a checkbook.
Bed bug extermination services can cost anywhere from $250 to $1000 per room. This can certainly put a hurtin’ on the wallet, but the folks over at BedBugRemovalGuides.com have a few tips on how to get the most bang for your buck.
Got a Bed Bug Survivor Story?
If you have any experiences with bed bugs that you would like to share, please leave a comment with your personal tale of triumph or your bed bug horror story so that we can all be one step closer to winning the fight against our tiny hunters.