So you just discovered that you have bed bugs…Now what?
Panic!!! Right? No, take a deep breath and remember you aren’t the first person to get bed bugs. Whether you brought them home from your latest conference or your angry ex planted them… no one knows. What you need to focus on now is halting their spread and preventing an infestation.
First, you should try to identify which parts of your home are infested. Start with areas where you spend 2+ hours a day like your bed, favorite chair/couch, pet beds or office chairs. Since bed bugs need a live host, they are more likely to harbor in areas were a host is readily available and may travel 5-20 feet from harborage to feed.
- Look in the cracks/crevices of the mattress or box spring for live bed bugs or casings
- Look in the creases of your pet beds for live bed bugs or casings
- Look for dark spots (about the size of a period) that could be bed bug excrement
- Look in the cracks/crevices of bed side tables, dressers or coffee tables
- Look in electrical outlets, behind wall paper and around wooden trims as these areas are often infested where high bed bug populations are present
- Look in the folds of fabric drapes or bed skirts
- Look at the underside of rocking chairs and couches
Keep in mind that bed bugs look different at every life stage so pay attention to anything that looks suspicious – not just adult bed bugs. If you find multiple life stages in your home, it may mean that an infestation has already established. Be sure to keep any specimen that you found in a plastic bag or specimen jar for future reference.
Life cycle of the bed bug. Photo Courtesy of Stephen Doggett, Department of Medical Entomology, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia
If you find evidence of bed bugs in your bed, you might be tempted to start sleeping in a new area. Just make sure to use caution so that you don’t spread the infestation. Start by gathering all the supplies you will need to clean and prepare the infested room for treatment:
- Gather trash bags, a bagged vacuum, and a rubber tote;
- Place all disposable items in a trash bag to be placed in an outdoor trash receptacle;
- Place all of your dirty laundry, visibly infested fabrics, or clothing you want to move to a different room into trash bags to be laundered and make sure to seal the top so that bed bugs cannot escape when you transport the bags;
- Place all of your bedding into trash bags to be laundered and make sure to seal the top so that bed bugs cannot escape when you transport the bags;
- Place any non-fabric items that you want to transport to a different room (i.e. shoes, electronics or books) in the rubber tote after you have visually inspected them for bed bugs;
- Vacuum the floors and dispose of the bag in an outdoor trash receptacle;
- Complete any additional items recommended by your pest management professional;
- Close the door and don’t re-enter the room until after it has been treated.
The apartment provided lots of harborage for bed bugs in cardboard, trash and other misc. items.
The infested couch & chair were removed and the debris was clean up in preparation for an initial bed bug treatment.
Once you have finished cleaning and preparing the infested room, launder all the bedding and clothing that you bagged up (including the clothes you were wearing during the process) and make sure to dispose of the bags in an outdoor trash receptacle so that clean items do not become re-infested. It is also a good idea to install a bed bug mattress and box spring encasement on the bed you are moving into. Now you can relax until a bed bug treatment can be performed in the infested area.
Depending on what you found during your investigation you may need to call a pest management professional to schedule a bed bug treatment. Home remedies for an active infestation are not advised as they do not provide consistently effective results. If you do choose to pursue a home remedy, make sure that you thoroughly research optimal treatment areas and carefully read product labels before proceeding with any applications.
Pest management professionals have access to a broad range of professional products and the experience to appropriately treat each bed bug infestation. Most professionals will require a measure of preparation as discussed in the previous section, but the exact method of treatment will vary based on the situation.
You may be interested in pursuing a heat treatment to kill bed bugs without any chemical exposure. While heat can kill bed bugs, keep in mind that it has no residual properties. If the heat does not penetrate evenly into wall cavities or furniture, some bed bugs may be able to survive. Talk with your pest management professional to understand the process and make sure that a heat treatment is the best fit for your situation.
Residual Insecticide Treatments
Chemical control methods for bed bugs typically involve applying a residual insecticide barrier that exterminates the bed bugs. Treatment areas might include the bed frame, dresser, baseboards and outlets. Since chemical applications cannot penetrate bed bug eggs, it is important that your pest management professional follow up after the initial treatment to assess activity. Have a conversation with your pest management professional to understand the process and make sure that a residual insecticide application is the best fit for your situation.
Now that you’ve gotten rid of your bed bugs, it’s time to think about the future. What you can do to limit your chance of getting bed bugs again?
- Be aware when you travel by checking your hotel room for signs of bed bug activity before taking your luggage inside, keeping your luggage off the floor and avoiding the provided dressers;
- Upon returning from a business trip or personal vacation, thoroughly launder all your clothing and check your luggage for any bed bugs;
- Use caution when purchasing used electronics as bed bugs have been known to harbor in laptops, computers, gaming consuls etc.;
- Use caution when purchasing new (yes, even new items can have bed bugs) or used furniture and inspect it prior to placing it in your home;
- Install a bed bug encasement on any mattress or box springs brought into the home;
- And if you live in a multi-unit building, consider having regular pest maintenance inside your unit to limit bed bug’s ability to migrate into your unit.