News > Bed bugs: Getting them, getting rid of them, and keeping them out for good
Bed bugs: Getting them, getting rid of them, and keeping them out for good
May 10, 2021
The household bug with the biggest ick factor
Cockroaches may be more stereotypically gross, and house centipedes may be the first thing that comes to mind when you ask someone what household bugs freak them out, but at the end of the day (literally), bed bugs are the pest that give most people nightmares. Because while the cockroaches usually stay near food sources in the kitchen, and house centipedes prowl the basement, bed bugs like to get up close to us and literally drink our blood. And while they’ll feed on any animal blood, sleeping humans provide a nice stationary target.
How do you get bed bugs?
Bed bugs don’t fly and they’re not fast movers, so, generally speaking, they get into your home by hitching a ride on people, clothes or furniture. Maybe you brought a few home from work, maybe a few came back with you after a trip that included a stay in a hotel, or maybe that upholstered chair you thrifted had a few larva hidden in the seams – bed bugs have been around for 3500 years, which has given them plenty of time to adapt to human behaviour.
It’s important to remember that finding bed bugs in your home doesn’t mean you’re ‘dirty’ or ‘unhygienic’. Humans of all classes, in just about every country on earth, have been battling bed bugs for thousands of years.
Why are bed bugs a problem?
First of all, of course, there are the bites: Bed bugs tend to bite humans when we’re sleeping, and we don’t notice at first. When you get up, you may notice clusters of small red dots that may at first be mistaken for a skin irritation, but then they’ll start to itch. If you’re sleeping on a bed with bed bugs night after night, the itching can become more than just irritating.
Additionally, there’s increasing evidence that bed bugs alter the microbiome of a home, and in homes infested with bed bugs, histamine levels are much higher than in bug-free homes. Histamines are what cause allergic reactions. In other words, living in a house with a bed bug infestation can lead to all kinds of chronic health issues normally associated with allergies, like asthma, skin problems, runny nose and eyes – it’s sort of like living with chronic hayfever all year round, and can be especially problematic for children.
And of course the psychological effects can be debilitating: We hear from homeowners, tenants and residents all the time that not only does the itching drive them nuts, but worrying about bedbugs can lead to insomnia and even a fear of coming home, and over time that level of stress impacts all areas of their lives.
How to get rid of bedbugs
The government of Canada has a good starting point on their site, and over at Healthline there’s a really good detailed outline of the steps you should take if you find yourself with a bed bug infestation.
As a pest control company, of course, we think that bed bugs – especially if you’ve got a moderate or severe infestation – are one time when you really should call professionals in to help. The reason bed bugs have persisted for thousands of years, and are so insidious, is that they are wily: They’re tiny, they can survive in stasis for long periods of time, and they can leave eggs and larvae in all kinds of cracks and crevices that DIY bed bug treatments just can’t reach.
If you’re trying to get rid of bed bugs, you should:
- Wash everything that can be washed (linens, clothes, shoes, etc.) in super-hot water and a hot dryer (bed bugs don’t like the high temperatures)
- Throw out things that can’t go in the washer, like decorative pillows, stuffies, upholstered furniture, etc.
- Encase items that can be discarded or washed, like mattresses, in plastic for several months to trap the bedbugs inside where, without a food source, they will perish
- Consider buying a new vacuum after you’ve used it to clean a major bed bug infestation, just to ensure that you’re not ‘storing’ bugs in there for a future infestation
Keeping bed bugs from coming back
Here’s the problem with bed bugs: Because they are tiny, and persistent, and tend to like to cling to soft surfaces like mattresses and upholstered furniture, it’s almost impossible to be certain that you’ve gotten rid of them all just by looking at surfaces. You may be diligent about ensuring that you don’t track them into your home again via clothes or luggage or second-hand furniture, but if you didn’t get rid of them in the first place, they’re going to make a resurgence.
The two best ways to ensure bed bugs don’t return?
- Take a ‘scorched earth’ approach when you get rid of them. Don’t hang on to a sentimental throw pillow if you can’t wash it; don’t try to vacuum your mattress and hope for the best; don’t neglect to clean that last little corner behind the dresser that was too hard to move. Throw out what you can, wash (in high temperatures) what you can, and encase everything else.
- Ask a professional for help, if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to do the cleaning/treating yourself. Professionals not only have the right tools, equipment, treatments and experience, but they can provide you with advice on how to address potential hotspots and answer questions – which could be the key to getting you back to enjoying your home (and your bed) again.
Bed bugs: The bottom line
Having bed bugs doesn’t make you a bad housekeeper, and they don’t have to make your life miserable. Just remember that the sooner you deal with them, the sooner your life will get back to normal.