Bedbugs: Where They Came From and How to Get Them to Go
A home infestation is never fun, but bedbugs can be one of the most challenging to treat. While the telltale signs of creepy crawlies in your bed are enough to make your heart sink, you can get rid of them with a combination of good hygiene, bedbug extermination methods and plenty of persistence.
Below, you can find out how to get rid of bedbugs and stop them from returning.
The most common signs of a bedbug infestation are bloody or dark smear-like stains on your bedding or mattress. You may also notice bedbug eggs or shed skins. More severe infestations can cause an unpleasant, musty smell that's a little like berries. Bedbugs also release a cilantro-like odor when they feel threatened, which sometimes happens when you wash infested bedding.
The brown, black or red smears you see on your bedding when you have bedbugs are caused by bedbug poop. These smears usually look like dots and can bleed into the surrounding fabric, making them appear like a felt-tip pen stain.
Bedbugs have long beaks that allow them to pierce the skin to feed on human blood. They usually remain attached to the skin for between 3 and 10 minutes.
Bedbug bites look like small welts. They often appear in lines and have a raised center. Many people mistake bedbug bites for flea bites. However, flea bites usually affect the ankles and legs, while bedbug bites can appear anywhere on the body.
It can be tricky to tell the difference between bedbug and mosquito bites. The only surefire way to determine what's causing the bites is to examine your bedding for signs of bedbugs.
Generally, bedbug bites don't hurt. However, they can become itchy and inflamed, causing significant discomfort. The bites may be more uncomfortable if you are allergic to bedbugs, and they can occasionally become infected.
Unfortunately, spreading bedbugs is relatively easy because they can hitchhike on fabric and used furniture. You could even bring bedbugs into your home on items that have been placed on a soft, infested surface. Bedbugs can't fly, but they can crawl reasonably quickly. Therefore, they can easily infest multiple rooms or apartments inside a building.
High temperatures can kill bedbugs instantly. Diatomaceous earth is also lethal to bedbugs because it dehydrates them, causing death relatively quickly. While various pesticides kill bedbugs, they can cause health problems in humans if used incorrectly.
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DIY bedbug extermination techniques can help you control an infestation without using harmful chemicals. However, exterminating bedbugs yourself can be challenging, so you'll need to be persistent and use the following tips in combination to get on top of the problem:
- Steam-clean your mattress, bedding and upholstery regularly to kill as many bedbugs as possible with heat.
- Remove unnecessary clutter in infested rooms.
- Vacuum your bed, furniture, floors and molding every day.
- Place used vacuum bags in an airtight container or bag and put them in an outside trash can.
- Wash your bedding and clothing on a hot cycle.
While you can sometimes tackle minor bedbug infestations yourself, you'll need to call the professionals if the infestation gets out of hand. Seeing bedbugs in unusual places, such as window sills or electrical outlets, signifies that you need professional bedbug extermination. You may wish to call an exterminator sooner if the bites are causing major discomfort.
Tenants should tell their landlord as soon as possible if they suspect a bedbug infestation. Your landlord is responsible for contracting a bedbug extermination company to treat your home and any surrounding units. They must provide a notice of entry for any scheduled inspections or treatments, and they should talk with you to arrange access at a convenient time.
Some states have specific legislation outlining what landlords and tenants must do in the event of a bedbug infestation. Depending on your state, your responsibilities may include:
- Notifying your landlord within 24 to 48 hours if you suspect an infestation
- Allowing the bedbug exterminators access to the property and cooperating with the extermination process
- Following any reasonable instructions your landlord gives you to prevent the infestation from recurring
Don’t Let Them In
One of the most effective ways to prevent a bedbug infestation is to avoid bringing them inside your home in the first place. If you purchase used furniture, bedding or clothing, inspect it for signs of bedbugs before bringing it home. You can remove any undetected hitchhikers by washing fabric items in hot water and cleaning larger items with a steam cleaner.
Seal Your Mattress
Purchasing a mattress and box spring encasement is an effective way to stop bedbugs from infesting your bed. It's worth spending a little more on a high-quality encasement, as cracks or rips could allow bedbugs inside. You can even stick duct tape over the zippers to make your bed as bug-proof as possible.
Practicing good home hygiene can also help you swiftly deal with any bedbugs before they cause a full-blown infestation. Vacuum your home regularly and remove any clutter to reduce the number of places bedbugs can hide.
People who live in multifamily buildings should be especially vigilant, as bedbugs can quickly spread between apartments. Seal any cracks or crevices in walls, doors and ceilings, and consider installing door sweeps to prevent bedbugs from entering your home from the corridors. Bedbugs can spread through shared laundry facilities, so use a clean plastic bag to transport your laundry and consider using a hot wash or dry cycle.
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