The ANSWER… How to tell if you have bed bugs?

A full-blown bed bug infestation is often very dangerous, especially now that we are experiencing a resurgence of possible infestations [1] in major world cities such as New York and London.

Unlike two decades ago, today’s world has more globetrotters than ever before but the sad thing is that not many of us can detect and identify a possible bed bug problem back at home.

Interestingly, this increase in traveling cycles is one of the main means of bed bug dispersal. This means that bed bugs often hitchhike on us as we travel and in turn spread them around.

Scary, isn’t it?

Despite their ability to spread from person to person, bed bug bites are known to cause a range of skin irritations. This ability to evoke varied allergic responses necessitates the need to know how to tell if you have bed bugs, especially now that we know how easy it is to bring them home with you unknowingly.

Knowing this will help you take early precautions in detecting and managing these annoying blood-sucking pests.

We’ll further discuss some of the treatments to use in case of a bed bug infestation and simple tips on how to prevent these elusive insects.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bugs are usually brown and have an overall oval shape. The size of a well-fed adult bed bug matches that of an apple seed and is commonly red and fat [2].

As stated earlier, bed bugs do suck blood for food, and in order to access this, they often tend to dwell in the bed area. Their small size enables them to fit in very tiny hiding spots and you’ll need to be very keen when surveying your bed for any signs of infestation.

Unlike most insects, bed bugs don’t fly but have the capability of moving very fast. This ability enables them to spread quickly into nearby rooms and hide there.

Mature bed bugs can measure up to 5mm [3] and are visible to the naked eye. Spotting the immature ones can be quite hectic sometimes, especially if they are still in the early stages.

Bed bugs commonly lay up to 1mm long pearly white eggs and usually stack them in clusters. Eggs are generally the hardest to locate with the naked eye.

Where do Bed Bugs Like to Hide?

Bed bugs are very sneaky and often find their way into our homes through our personal effects like traveling bags, clothing, and second-hand furniture [4]. Similar to cockroaches, bed bugs usually hide in very small crevices in bedrooms because of their small flat body structure.

Bed bugs are capable of fitting in very tight spaces almost the width size of your credit card.

Since they depend on blood to survive, bed bugs often make their lair in close access to our beddings. Some of their most common hiding spots include headboards, loose paneling, along the bed frames, bed joints, mattress seams, and box springs [4].

Bed bugs usually live in groups and if they aren’t detected soon enough, they’ll start moving to nearby rooms and houses.

To scan for these pests effectively, you’ll need a flashlight to illuminate their dark hideouts. Start by carefully checking the corners of your mattress before proceeding to the headboard section. All you have to do is to shine a light on the surfaces and be alert for any sudden movements.

Mature bed bugs are very visible to the human eye.

Other areas that you should check for any signs of bed bug infestation include the underside of any nearby bedroom furniture, the backside of loosely hanging paintings near the bed, and along the bedroom curtains and/or blinds.

What do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

One survey done by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) [5] highlights that one out of five Americans either has had a bed bug infestation in the past or knows someone who is a victim of such incidences. NPMAs most recent report [6] further outlines that insect bites are the most common signs for possible infestations.

Unfortunately, most people still seem to mistake bed bug bites with bites from other insects such as mosquitoes. So, what do bed bug bites look like?

These bites are usually small in size, reddish in color, possibly itchy, and can sometimes be inflamed. Most people are physically immune and rarely get any form of skin reaction.

However, bed bug bites often cause severe allergic reactions to those with highly sensitive skin. According to the NHS [3], bed bug bites commonly occur in a distinctive linear pattern and it’s one of the easiest ways to differentiate a bed bug bite from bites from other insects.

According to info from the United States Environmental Protection Agency [7], bed bugs always target easy to reach areas. This means that bed bugs often go for exposed skin such as along your legs, face, shoulders, arms, neck, and any other body part that might not be covered while in bed.

Therefore, any bite with traits similar to what we’ve discussed above should be treated as a bed bug bite.

Treating Bed Bugs

To treat bed bugs, once you’ve detected a “brewing” infestation, there are few things you need to do.

Start by cleaning all your beddings, curtains, linens, and clothing with hot water and dry them by using the highest dryer settings. Toss stuffed toys and shoes in the dryer and run it on high for half an hour.

Scrub the seams of your mattress with a stiff brush to remove elusive bed bugs before vacuuming the mattresses, all bed sections, and surrounding areas. Remove any form of clutter surrounding your bed area and put the vacuum collecting bag in a plastic bag before tossing it in a trash can outside for disposal.

Repair and fill in cracks and crevices around the house to reduce places where bed bugs can potentially hide. In case of a full-blown infestation, buy and apply bedroom-friendly insecticides to rid your house of these infuriating pests or simply get professional help from certified exterminators

Preventing Bed Bugs

Once you’ve gotten rid of all the bed bugs in your premises, you’ll want to make sure that they’ll never come back. Here are some quick bed bug prevention tips and best practices to help keep bed bugs from reoccurring at your place:

  • Similar to how we keep sugar ants away from our bedrooms, avoid leaving clutter such as papers, clothes, and magazines on your bedroom floor
  • Tightly encase your box spring and mattress with a protective bed bug cover
  • Regularly clean and vacuum your beddings, bedroom furniture, carpets, and curtains
  • Check and seal all cracks and crevices, especially around electrical outlets and baseboards to prevent bed bugs from gaining entry from nearby apartments
  • Inspect hotel rooms and lodgings for bed bugs when traveling to prevent carrying them home with you
  • To avoid a possible infestation, adopt a habit of dry cleaning the clothes and beddings used during a trip immediately you arrive home
  • Thoroughly inspect second-hand furniture for bed bugs before bringing them home

Conclusion

Even though bed bugs are very elusive, this article comprehensively summarizes the different ways to tell if you have bed bugs. Remember to use our handy treatment tips to rid your residence of a possible bed bug infestation and follow our prevention guide to avoid any future recurrence. Good night and don’t let the bedbugs bite!

Citations

  1. https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/introduction-bed-bugs
  2. https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/bed-bugs-appearance-and-life-cycle
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bedbugs
  4. https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/bed-bugs/bed-bug-faqs
  5. https://www.pestworld.org/news-hub/press-releases/bed-bugs-in-america-new-survey-reveals-impact-on-everyday-life
  6. https://www.pestworld.org/news-hub/press-releases/pest-control-professionals-see-summer-spike-in-bed-bug-calls
  7. https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs
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