Notorious for infesting mattresses, bed bugs can also slip into chairs, couches and electric outlets. They can live under wallpaper and in appliances. They infiltrate homes and hotels, hospitals and offices. In short: They can be everywhere, they're hard to find, and they're tricky to get rid of. Arm yourself with these tips on identifying, eliminating and preventing bed bugs.
Identifying bed bugs
These pests bite, then feed on blood, but they do not transmit disease. Fully grown, bed bugs look like an apple seed — long, brown, oval and flat; their eggs are pearly white and tiny. The egg-to-adult lifecycle is about five weeks, and females can lay up to 500 eggs in their 6- to 12-month life spans.
Bites often resemble hives or a rash, or even bites from another insect, making them a notoriously bad predictor of a bed bug infestation. Instead, look for red or brown stains, eggs and eggshells, and shedded skin on sheets or mattresses. Bed bugs tend to be more active at night, and can bite both humans and animals.
How to get rid of bed bugs
There's no insecticide to eliminate bed bugs, which means removal is time-consuming and difficult. You may need to consult a pest management company or bed bug exterminator to effectively eliminate them from your home, but follow these steps to try to do it yourself:
- Use heat. Heat is one of the more effective methods to kill bed bugs. Remove any infected clothing, bedding or other items that can be washed. Use hot water, then place them in the dryer on high. You can also put things in a black plastic bag, then place in the sun to heat. Conversely, cold treatment may also work, but only if the freezer is below 0ºF.
- Vacuum everything. Vacuuming does not kill bed bugs, but can help to eliminate very large infestations. After you have vacuumed up the bugs, place the vacuum cleaner bag in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.
- Get rid of furniture. Destroy any furniture that's unable to be thoroughly cleaned. Remember: Bed bugs can travel.
- Use traps. Traps and tools, called interceptors, may help keep bed bugs from climbing furniture.
- Re-inspect your home. Inspect your home after several days to check that all bed bugs are gone.
Bed bug prevention
The best way to avoid a costly bed bug infestation is to prevent them from coming into your home to begin with. When traveling, always check the mattress and luggage rack in your hotel room, and once you return home, immediately wash your clothes and inspect your suitcase. Protect your home by putting a mattress cover on each bed, vacuuming regularly and removing clutter so there are fewer places for them to hide.