Until 2010, bed bugs were fairly rare in the United States. Increased global travel and other factors, however, have made them surprisingly common today. A small infestation can rapidly spiral out of control, but taking specific measures can help you prevent or eradicate a bed bug problem.
1. Identify the Situation
To the untrained eye, many pests look similar. Ensure that you are actually dealing with bed bugs rather than fleas, ticks, or small, pesky invaders. Tell-tale signs of bed bugs include reddish stains and tiny black stains along the edges of mattresses, tiny yellow shed skins, red skin rashes, and crawling live bugs. If you find bed bugs in one room, carefully check your entire home. If you live in an apartment, alert your landlord so that other units can be assessed.
2. Map Out a Strategy
Although insecticides are an important part of many bed bug eradication strategies, they are not enough on their own. Bed bugs are extremely resilient, and a multipronged approach is the best solution to eradicating them for good. Use a calendar to note the dates and times that you implement different strategies, and monitor frequently for signs of new bed bugs.
3. Bag the Clutter
Get everything off the floor and furniture in affected rooms. Sort items by category and seal them in zip top bags. Immediately dispose of trash, leaving it in the sealed bags. Set aside clothes and linens to be washed, again leaving them in the bags until they are ready to go in the washer. Leave items that cannot be washed sealed in plastic for at least one year, or treat them with heat or freezing techniques.
4. Do Lots of Laundry
Wash all of your bedding, clothes, and other fabric items in the washing machine and dry them on the hottest dryer setting they can withstand. Make a practice of frequently washing and drying anything that touches your floor or your mattress. Clean your laundry baskets, hampers, and similar storage containers every time you do laundry, as bed bugs can hide in the cracks and crevices.
5. Use the Vacuum
Thoroughly vacuum the floors and furniture to remove as many bugs as possible. Seal the bag and throw it away after each vacuuming session. Vacuuming will not remove bed bug eggs, which tightly adhere to surfaces, but can cut down the number of live bugs.
6. Seal Your Mattress
Use a mattress encasement that is specifically designed for bed bug treatment. This will trap existing bugs, preventing them from escaping or biting you, and will prevent more bugs from reaching your mattress. If you use a box spring rather than a platform to support your mattress, encase the box spring as well. Make sure the zipper is tightly closed to prevent giving the bugs an escape route.
7. Steam the Area
Very high heat kills bed bugs, but it is impossible to raise the ambient temperature high enough without specialized equipment. However, you can use a steamer on your mattress and other furniture items. It is nearly impossible to remove all bed bugs this way, but you can make a sizeable dent in the population. For smaller items, wrap the sealed zip top bags in black plastic garbage bags and set them out in the sun. The temperature of your items needs to reach at least 115 F to kill the bed bugs.
8. Freeze the Bugs
Freezing below 0 F for at least four days will kill bedbugs. Place sealed items in your freezer and use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. This will not remove the overall infestation, but is a reasonable way to kill the bugs in small items that can withstand freezing temperatures.
9. Practice Responsible Disposal
Some people’s first instinct is to dispose of everything that has been exposed to bed bugs, but this is not necessary with proper treatment methods. However, if you do want to get rid of some items, make them unattractive to others. Spray paint the words Bed Bugs on furniture pieces or rip them open and pull out the stuffing. Damage fabric items to make them useless or unattractive. Leave small items sealed in zip top bags. Do not let your bed bugs become your neighbor’s problem through irresponsible disposal methods.
10. Call a Professional
It is extremely difficult to get rid of bed bugs on your own. Resilient and highly adaptable, these pests can hide in even the smallest areas and can live for a long time without regular meals. Professional pest control companies have access to products and equipment that can quickly treat your infestation, and can advise you on the best methods for preventing future problems.
With more than 40 years of service and a Tucson family legacy that stretches four generations, University Termite & Pest Control Inc. is well prepared to meet even the trickiest pest control challenges. Give us a call today at 520-886-4146 (Tucson) to learn how best to protect your home.