About Bed Bugs & How to Kill Them
Your best defense against bed bugs is to hire a licensed exterminator. Licensed pest control companies have access to the effective pesticides that are restricted from the general public. There are many do-it-yourself techniques and consumer-grade products that are effective for killing individual bugs – however, do-it-yourself methods are not effective for eliminating a bed bug infestation.
Step 1 – Inspecting For and Identifying Bed Bugs
An important step for eliminating bed bugs is to assess the severity of your bed bug infestation. Are there a few bugs or hundreds? First, you need to know what to look for – adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and similar in shape and color. Babies (nymphs) range in size depending on their age. See some magnified photos:
Bed bug hiding under mattress seam:
Watch the video below on mattress inspection techniques. Generally, you should:
- Check the sheets, bed frames and mattresses for stains – bed bugs sometimes leave small reddish-brown smears of digested blood as they crawl along the sheets.
- Check fabric folds and edges on and around the bedding – check sheets, pillows, stuffed animals, slippers and other items on or around the bed for bugs and signs of bugs.
- Remove the bedding and sheets and inspect the mattress – the most common hiding spot is underneath the fold of a pillow-top mattress or under the edging material. Also check under handles, labels, and other cracks or seams.
- Remove the mattress and inspect the box spring – check under the folds of fabric, edges and underneath the netting on the bottom where it is stapled to the wood. Remove the netting on the bottom of the box spring and look all around inside the box spring. Common hiding places in box springs include – where pieces of wood join together, screw holes or cracks in the wood, where fabric is attached to the wood, folds or seams in the fabric.
- Remove the box spring and inspect the bed frame and headboard – all bed frames are different but do have similar hiding places. Check between the joints, screw holes and in any cracks and crevices. Bed bugs may be barely visible so look closely. A flushing agent such Wilson Pro Aerosol may be used to coax bugs out of their hiding spots.
- Check around the bed and the rest of the house – bed bugs are small and could be hiding in innumerable places – side table, book shelf, dresser, clutter, shoes or slippers, boxes, bags or luggage, baseboards, moldings, picture frames, alarm clock radio or electronics, etc. Inspect furniture including couches, armchairs, office chairs and any other place you spend any length of time.
Note: Please remember that bed bugs are very hard to find in low-level infestations. Finding no evidence of bed bugs does not mean there are no bugs present.
Mattress Inspection Video:
Step 2 – Techniques for Killing Bed Bugs
A) MECHANICAL (non-chemical)
1) PHYSICALLY – Kill as many bugs as you can find! Just because you’ve booked an exterminator for a treatment a few days or a week ahead doesn’t mean you can’t get a jump on the process. Killing bugs immediately will not only keep them from biting you but will also keep them from reproducing and spreading. Use a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe them up – be sure to squeeze them with enough pressure to kill them. If they have had a recent blood meal they may leave a blood mark on the towel or surface they’re being wiped up from.
High temperatures are very effective for killing all stages of bed bugs – live bugs as well as eggs, which are the hardest to kill. Heat can be applied in a number of ways:
- Laundry – washing items in hot water will kill any bugs present. The heat from a dryer on an extended cycle on high heat setting is sure to kill anything present – live bugs as well as any. The dryer is also helpful for treating anything that cannot be run through the wash such as quilts, stuffed animals, slippers, shoes, bags, etc. – or for treating clean clothes that do not need to be washed.
- Steam – handheld steamers somewhat effective for killing live bugs and eggs. The hot steam will kill anything it reaches but the limitation is that you will need other methods to kill bugs hiding in “unsteamable” areas.
- Heaters – turning up your thermostat or space heaters will not produce enough heat to kill bed bugs. Whole-house heating techniques are a very expensive, dangerous and highly technical undertaking.
Cold temperatures are also an effective way to kill bugs. There is much debate among entomologists as to the necessary temperature and length of time necessary to fully kill all bugs and eggs present, but anecdotal evidence shows that a few days in freezing cold temperature will indeed kill bugs.
- Winter & Outdoors – in climates where winter temperatures reach below freezing point, placing boxes or bags of items outdoors in a freezing cold garage, porch or balcony is an economical way to kill bugs and “cleanse” belongings.
- Deep Freezer (appliance) – another home remedy is to place items in your refrigerator’s freezer or chest style deep freezer. Again, required temperature and time are debatable but freezing cold temperatures do kill bed bugs.
Sucking up bugs is a quick way to get them off your bed – but be sure to empty and sanitize the vacuum so the bugs don’t crawl back out. Vacuuming is not effective for picking up eggs because bed bugs cement the eggs to the surface on which they are laid.
5) Throwing Out Furniture and Belongings
Bed bugs are just as likely to hide around the bed as they are to be on a mattress, box spring or bed frame. Throwing out items will eliminate any live bugs and eggs contained within those items from your home. However, it can be an expensive and often unnecessary task. Items can be salvaged if they are treated with a residual insecticide.
6) Mattress Encasements –
Encasements are useful from protecting a mattress from bed bugs, but are not helpful for controlling an infestation. Bed bugs are just as likely to live on the bed frame or area around the bed as they are to be on a mattress – or on the mattress cover itself, after it is installed. The added drawback of a mattress encasement is that it may trap any bed bugs inside, away from residual pesticides that an exterminator might use to kill them. Bed bugs have the capacity to live for long periods of time (some entomologists say up to one year) without biting – covering your mattress puts you at risk of reinfestation if a bug is trapped inside and the encasement rips or opens sometime in the future.
7) Bed “Barriers”
One DIY home remedy people often try is creating a barrier around the bed. Either by putting the bed legs in dishes or by using double-sided tape or another sticky material. It is often suggested to turn the dish into a “moat” by adding water, mineral oil, rubbing alcohol, DE powder or other substance which either blocks or traps them. Sticky glue-traps (usually designed for mice) are another readily-available tool that can be placed under bed legs to act as a barrier. Be sure to keep the bed away from the walls and the sheets and blankets from touching the floor or walll, otherwise bed bugs may circumvent the barrier.
1) RESIDUAL INSECTICIDES
In our experience, residual pesticides are the best way to eliminate a bed bug infestation. The degree to which an insecticide kills on contact versus leaving a toxic residue (residual) is a very important factor in the control of bed bugs. Almost all insecticides will kill bugs on contact but few (and virtually no consumer-grade products) have any residual property. Controlled pesticides that are available only to properly insured and licensed pest control companies are necessary for elimination of a bed bug infestation.
2) CONTACT INSECTICIDES
Contact insecticides often contain isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or non-residual insecticides and are usually available as aerosol or spray formulations. These are often available to the general public at hardware stores. They are not effective for bed bug control because bugs that cannot be sprayed directly will survive.
Structural fumigation is a highly regulated, expensive and dangerous procedure. It is effective for bed bug elimination, but fairly uncommon given the expense and disadvantages of the process.
Note: Fumigation is not to be confused with “fogging” (or “bombing”) which involves the use of an insecticide “bomb” which releases a fog or mist that kills exposed bugs. Fogging is generally ineffective for bed bug control because the fog does not penetrate deep enough into the bugs’ hiding places. It may even drive bugs that it does not kill further into hiding or into adjacent units, spreading the problem.
ABSOLUTELY DO NOT TRY THESE METHODS:
Do not put gasoline or other flammable substances on your bed or in your home. There have been a tragic news headlines of foolish people burning down their homes from employing this ridiculous DIY technique.
Do not put Raid or other harmful insecticides on or around your bed. Raid and other products are highly toxic and not designed for use on areas that will be in contact with skin. Read the and follow the instructions on the label of any product you plan to use. Do not use the product for bed bug control if it is not designated as such. It is actually unlawful to use a pesticide product in any way other than what is described on the label.
Please contact Addison Pest Control if you have any more questions or would like to book an extermination. link: www.addisonpestcontrol.com/contact-us