Bed Bugs: Get Them Out and Keep Them Out
Protecting Your Home from Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. They can move from an infested site to a new home by traveling on furniture, bedding, luggage, boxes, and clothing.
Although they typically feed on blood every five to ten days, bed bugs can be quite resilient; they are capable of surviving several months to a year without feeding.
A Few Simple Precautions Can Help Prevent Bed Bug Infestation in Your Home:
- Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.
- Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs to eliminate many hiding spots. The light color of the encasement makes bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check the encasement regularly for holes.
- Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
- Vacuum frequently to remove any successful hitchhikers.
- Be vigilant when using shared laundry facilities. Transport items to be washed in plastic bags (if you have an active infestation, use a new bag for the journey home). Remove from dryer directly into bag and fold at home. (A dryer on high heat can kill bed bugs.)
- If you live in a multi-family home, try to isolate your unit by:
- Installing door sweeps on the bottom of doors to discourage movement into hallways.
- Sealing cracks and crevices around baseboards, light sockets, etc., to discourage movement through wall voids.
- Consider purchasing a portable heating chamber to treat any items that you believe may have bed bugs.
- Be sure to read and carefully follow the directions if you use one of these units and be aware that they are not regulated by EPA or other federal agencies.
Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control
Bed bugs are challenging pests to get rid of, since they hide so well and reproduce so quickly. In addition, the egg stage is resistant to many forms of treatment, so a single attempt may not be sufficient to complete the job.
Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:
- Extent of the infestation.
- Site-specific challenges.
- Neighbors with infestations.
- Ability of all of the residents to participate.
Achieving complete control can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation, and everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.
Identify the Problem
- Inspect infested areas, plus surrounding living spaces, to determine extent of infestation
- Correctly identify the pest
- If you have bed bugs and live in an apartment, notify your landlord, because the units surrounding yours should be inspected.
- Landlords may have a responsibility to participate in treatment. Check the housing codes and laws in your area.
Develop a Strategy
- Using a calendar, map out each stage based on the recommendations in the following sections
- Plan to keep records through the whole process – including dates and locations when pests are found
- Leave time for long-term monitoring to make sure all of the bed bugs are gone
Keep the Infestation from Spreading
- Anything removed from the room should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and treated.
- Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left for an extended period of time to ensure any active bugs are dead (research shows variation in the length of time needed, but it can be as long as a year).
- Empty the vacuum after each use.
- Seal the bag and throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
- Don't discard furniture if you can eliminate the bed bugs from it.
- If furniture cannot be salvaged, discard it responsibly. Destroy it so someone else won't be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
- Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
- Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs."
- Take steps to have infested items picked up as soon as possible by the trash collection agency.
Prepare for Bed Bug Treatment
Jumping straight into control is tempting, but won't work. Preparing for treatment is essential to getting successful control. It will also help by making it easier for you to monitor for bed bugs that haven't been completely eliminated. This preparation should be conducted whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.
Kill the Bed Bugs
- Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What's Legal, What's Not for more information.
- Consider non-chemical methods of killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others.
- Heat treatment using a clothes dryer on high heat, black plastic bags in the sun or a hot, closed car (pest management professionals have other methods that are not suitable for non-trained individuals to use).
- Cold treatment can be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0o F. You must leave the items in the freezer at that temperature for four days. (Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0o.)
- Reducing the numbers of bugs with these and other non-chemical methods is helpful, but is unlikely to entirely eliminate the infestation.
- If needed, use pesticides carefully according to the label directions or hire a pest management professional.
- Every few days after you complete your initial cleanup and control processes, carefully look for any evidence of bed bugs.
- If you see bed bugs, that means that either the initial cleanup missed some individuals or that eggs have hatched (finding and removing or killing all eggs can be very difficult) and retreatment may be needed.
- If repeated treatments are needed, consider using pesticides with different modes of action.
Evaluate and Prevent
- Continue to inspect for presence of bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remained.
- Interceptors (placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs; commercial and do-it-yourself versions available), traps or other methods of monitoring can be used.
- Continue to implement preventative measures.
Bed Bug Treatments That DO NOT Work
- Switch sleeping location
- Ultrasonic pest repellers
- Dryer sheets and plant oil-based repellents
- Moth balls
- Rubbing alcohol
- House cleaning materials
- Most natural pest control products
- Most consumer pesticide sprays
SERVPRO of Upper Darby Can Help Keep it Clean
Keeping a clean, tidy and uncluttered house can save you a lot of time and money by drastically decreasing your chance of bed bugs in the first place.