Bed bugs are on the rise all over America, so early detection and due diligence is critical in order to prevent a serious bed bug invasion from taking over your property.
Raising the awareness of bed bugs
Bed bug awareness week is from 2-8 June 2019. In association with the PPMA*, we want to raise awareness of the prevalence of bed bugs across America and inform people on preventative measures, early warning signs, and the best ways in which to combat a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs – still the number 1 pest in America
Bed bugs are the most common pests found in cities all across America. Non-discriminate they will make their homes in hospitals, 5-star hotels, and public and suburban housing, no matter what the state of sanitation, as long as there are humans residing these blood-sucking critters will happily stay put.
It doesn’t take long for a small invasion to become a chronic infestation. We have all heard the saying “breeding like rabbits” thanks to their ability to produce bunnies regularly, but perhaps this popular phrase should be changed to “breeding like bed bugs”. These tiny pests are capable of rapid population growth, and an adult female bed bug can lay two to five eggs per day (that’s an overwhelming 500 eggs in just one lifetime!).
According to our research, the most bed bug-infested cities in America, based on the number of treatments carried out, are as follows:
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles
- Columbus, Ohio
- New York (+2)
- Cincinnati (-1)
- Detroit (-1)
- Atlanta (+4)
- Philadelphia (+2)
Bed bugs are masters at hitchhiking, so it comes as no surprise to see cities such as Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York featuring highly on this list, due to the number of tourists visiting on vacation each year. But it is Baltimore who takes the bed bug crown, having hit the top spot for a staggering three consecutive years in a row! So, if you live in or are visiting any of these cities, make sure you stay extra vigilant about your susceptibility to picking up bed bugs.
8 steps to bed bug prevention
There are many ways in which you can protect your home from these elusive and difficult to spy bed bugs. In order to ensure that you remain bed bug-free, you should inspect your home regularly.
- Dig deep into mattresses, scratch along seams and check-in, and behind hanging headboards and pictures as well as electrical outlets.
- Be wary of bringing any second-hand furniture into your house – especially bedroom furniture and couches. Make sure that you examine them thoroughly before purchasing.
- Use a protective cover on all mattresses and box springs to eliminate hiding places as they make bed bugs easier to see.
- Declutter your home regularly in order to make it harder for bed bugs to find places to rest.
- Deep clean bed linen, curtains, cushions, and soft toys regularly on a high temperature.
- Vacuum frequently to scoop up any bed bug wanderers. A normal vacuum will not kill bed bugs, so you must ensure that you seal the bag and place it outside in an enclosed garage area.
- Install door sweeps and fill in any cracks or crevasses to discourage movement between walls and rooms.
- Place interceptors on the feet of your bed. These will encourage bed bugs to climb in, yet their shiny surfaces make it incredibly difficult for them to get out.
But be warned, even the best methods of bed bug prevention don’t always stop persistent pests from finding a way into your home. If you are a regular traveler, then it is important to observe your surroundings – after all, you don’t want to be bringing home some unwanted new house guests!
Effective bed bug observations to follow when traveling:
- Make sure you research the place you are staying at beforehand. Reading the reviews can often be enlightening.
- Travel with a hard suitcase as bed bugs struggles to hook on to shiny and smooth surfaces.
- Place and keep your luggage inside plastic bags as they provide an extra layer of protection. Examine your clothes carefully when repacking.
- Elevate your luggage away from the bed and wall and resist the temptation to hang up or put your clothes in drawers as these are tend to the most infested places. Placing your case in the bath is often the safest option.
- Survey your room for any signs of bed bugs. Check the sheets for small blood stains, bugs, or eggs and look in the corners of the mattress, hard-to-reach edges, and behind headboards.
- Wash your clothes on high heat as soon as you return home.
Signs of a bed bug infestation
Although bed bugs are nocturnal and often hard to notice, whilst they may be good at hiding, they often leave behind signs of their existence which you should look out for. These include:
- Bites – Bed bug bites are often mistaken for mosquito or other insect bites, and can manifest themselves as a rash, welt, or even a hive. Mainly situated in straight lines of multiple bites they can be quite itchy and sore – especially if you have a reaction to the saliva, injected by the bug as it feeds. As they are difficult to identify it is often the small drops of blood on your bedsheets that give the bed bug game away.
- Smell – It is possible to smell bed bugs thanks to their pheromones and fecal stains, which can be overpowering if there are a large number of them. Some people report the scent as musty and overpowering whilst others describe it as unpleasant, sweet, and sickly.
- Sight – Despite the ongoing epidemic in America, many people are unaware of what a bed bug looks like! But look in the right places and you may well spot their reddish-brown oval bodies scuttling or their exoskeleton shells lurking.
Getting rid of a bed bug infestation
If an infestation of bed bugs is discovered, then you should take action swiftly. Depending on the severity of the bed bug problem there are a number of natural and toxic treatments we would recommend.
As standard practice, we would advise that you wash your laundry, bedding, and any soft furnishings at the highest temperature possible, and once clean, place them in a plastic bag to prevent re-infestation whilst other treatment is carried out.
Natural bed bug remedies
If you have animals or children in or around your property then you may be to steer clear of poisonous insecticides and instead seek some safer, alternative methods such as:
- Bed bug heaters and heat treatment – Bed bugs are vulnerable when exposed to extreme heat which is why bed bug heaters have proved to be such an effective way of killing them. Bed bug heaters raise the temperature of the furniture, where bed bugs are known to be living. Take a look at our review on the top bed bug heaters you can buy. Alternatively, you could call in a professional who has the equipment and expertise to use heat treatment throughout your home. The benefit of this is that it will save you money in the long run and is harmless to both people, pets, and possessions.
- Vacuums and steamers – Your everyday vacuum or steamer will not be effective enough to completely eradicate bed bugs. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you invest in a specific bed bug steamer or vacuum cleaner. Steam cleaners work by exposing bed bugs to extremely hot temperatures, ultimately killing them outright whereas vacuuming allows you to scoop up the bed bugs through suction before sealing and disposing of them accordingly. To find out more about steamers and vacuum cleaners and for reviews on the best ones to buy, check out our review guide.
- Diatomaceous Earth – Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring and soft sedimentary rock that crumbles into a soft talc-like powder. Commonly used because its abrasive texture is uncomfortable to walk over, it strips the lipid layer from insects’ exoskeletons. By stripping this layer of lipids, water evaporates quickly from the insects’ bodies and causes dehydration and death.
Bed Bug Insecticides
There are many over-the-counter insecticides available to purchase which are proven to be successful when used for a period of time. You should always ensure, however, that you follow the safety instructions carefully before administering them.
- Sprays – Most people choose an insecticide-based bed bug spray to fight an infestation. These sprays tend to come in two different forms – contact and residual. A contact spray once sprayed directly on the bed bug itself will kill within a matter of minutes. A residual spray, however, will keep on working for days to come.
- Powders – Bed bug powders use one of two primary active ingredients: silica powder or diatomaceous earth which work by stripping away the protective wax on the insects’ exoskeleton and causing rapid dehydration and death. It is important to note, however, that powders will not work against eggs and nymphs so you may want to consider a combined approach to pest control in addition to bed bug powder.
- Pest control expert – The majority of the time we are able to keep pests at bay through good sanitation and hygiene, regular home maintenance, a range of preventative methods, and when required, a number of do-it-yourself solutions. However, if bed bugs continue to frequent your property or you fail to evict them for good, then it may be time to call in the professionals. This can save you time, money, and a whole lot of stress in the long run.
We hope that by reading this educational article, as part of bed bug awareness week 2019, that you are better informed when it comes to preventing or dealing with bed bugs around your property.
*Professional Pest Management Alliance