Sometimes people are worried, or afraid, that they might have a bedbug infestation. Having bedbugs in the house is not necessarily a sign of a dirty home, for even some 5-star hotels have bedbugs. However, sometimes bedbugs can be hard to find, as they often hide out in particular crevices of a mattress, a box spring, a headboard. Their size and color can elude the human eye, and they do not feed until night time. There are, however, several easy ways to identify bed bugs and bed bug infestations.
EditIdentifying the Possible Bedbug Problem
- Check your mattress for bedbugs. Bedbugs tend to live and migrate towards mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards. These are small, brownish red insects that are oval in shape. They live off of the blood in animals and humans. Look around the edges of your mattress, the creases of your sheets, and pillowcases. If there is a bedbug problem, you will see a mass of small black bugs ranging from eggs (1mm) to adults (5mm, size of an appleseed). While most are black, some are pearl white, and the size of a pinhead.
- Bedbugs however do not always mass together. Sometimes they are more spread out, across the entire mattress or bed spread. In that case, use a magnifying glass to check around the edges of your mattress and sheets.
- A flashlight can also help in a dim bedroom. Hold your flashlight about 6 inches away from the mattress in order to use the light effectively.
- Bedbugs do not fly, but they do however move rather quickly along multiple surfaces, including but not limited to: ceilings, walls, and fabrics. If the bug you find does have wings, or is flying, the bug is probably a mosquito or a fly, rather than a bedbug.
- Locate fecal waste products on your mattress. Bedbugs feed for approximately 3-10 minutes a day before they retreat. Their fecal matter appears to the human eye as small black specks (the size of a marker dot). This is because they feed on blood, and then that blood dries when it is released by the bedbugs.
- Often times the bedbug defecates where it originally ate. This includes, but is not limited to, edges of mattresses, creases in bed spreads, and cracks in a headboard.
- You might have to use a magnifying glass if the excrement is spread out over a wide area (not clumped together). Rub your hand gently over the surface area to see if anything kicks up, or has been embedded.
- Get near the area you think the bedbugs might be. Put your hand near the potentially affected area and waft your hand. If bedbugs have produced fecal matter you should be able to detect a musty odor from the bedbug’s scent glands.
- Check mattress for egg shells and case skins. Bedbugs, like all other bugs, mate, reproduce, and shed their skin. When bedbugs mate they can produce hundreds of offspring, which can then lead to the production of a ton of exoskeleton waste products.
- Look near the edges of your mattress, creases in the bed spread, and the cracks of your headboard. See if there are small, white larvae (1mm, size of a pinpoint) bunched together. Also, look for clear, tan, or dark brown excess skin in those places as well.
- Because the larvae are small, and the exoskeleton waste is likely to be clear, you will want to use a magnifying glass to detect any potential problems. Run your hand gently over the surface to see if anything has been lodged inward or embedded.
- If your bed has any brown, black, or red marks on it, this could be because bedbugs have been squashed and killed during the night.
- Examine your headboard and box spring. While these places are not primary feeding grounds for bedbugs, they are great places for them to live, retreat after feeding, and to reproduce. Cracks and crevices are perfect breeding grounds which need a thorough going over.
- Remove the dust cover over the bottom of your box spring. Examine the cracks and seams in the wood framing. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight to inspect the area. Look for black specks (living bedbugs) or pearl white larvae.
- Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the bed frame. Check in the crevices and underneath the surface area.
- Bedbugs love to live and breed where wood frames meet, or where the wood has come to be split apart by age and maturation, so you will want to check there too.
- Investigate the clutter around your bed. Bedbugs love to hide out in small crevices wherever they can reproduce. These can include books, night stands, telephones, radios, and even electrical outlets.
- Open up your books that are near your bed and flip through the pages. Check and make sure that there are no black, or dark red specks within the pages.
- Lift up your radios and telephones. Use a magnifying glass and a flash light to inspect the places where the wooden boards of your night stand are nailed together.
- Unscrew your electrical outlets. Make sure that when you do so, you first cut the circuit breaker for that particular bedroom. Use a flashlight and see if there are any remnants of bedbugs, whether they be alive, shells, or fecal matter.
- Scan the edges of your carpet. Different types of flooring like carpeting (tight or loose) or linoleum are great places for bedbugs to hide out. These are also perfect for seclusion which bedbugs need to reproduce. If you can do so, without damaging your carpet/linoleum, peel up the edge. Use a magnifying glass and a flash light to detect any bedbugs, shells, or defecation. Do the same around the floor boards where the wood paneling meets the floor.
- Probe your closet and clothes. Bedbugs love to live on the fabrics of shirts and pants, especially if they have not been washed in a while. The closet provides seclusion, heat, and yet still easy access to your bed.
- Go in your closet and inspect your clothes. Rub your hands against the fabric of your hanging clothes. See if any dark black specks begin to release as you apply pressure.
- You can do the same with your clothes in a dresser drawer. Rub your hands against the fabric. Check with a magnifying glass and a flashlight the cracks and crevices of the inner paneling of the dresser.
- Survey your bedroom for loose wallpaper and/or peeling paint. These are another great area for bedbugs to roam about. They get seclusion and easy access to your bed. If the bedbugs are not readily apparent, peel back some of the chipped paint and/or wallpaper. Look for tiny white larvae using your magnifying glass. There may be also black specks which pop out as you peel some of the paint and/or wallpaper back.
- Check your skin for bite marks. Bedbugs generally feed at night (nocturnal) on human flesh in order to extract blood. These bite marks are often mistaken for mosquito bites, but are very different.
- Inspect your ankles/feet in the mornings. Bedbugs feed on exposed skin, and the ankle/feet area is the part most likely to be exposed at night. However, the marks could occur almost anywhere along your body.
- Notice whether or not you see bite marks after you wake up in the morning. Bedbugs bite in linear groups of three, as compared to the mosquito which generally only bites once. Bedbug bites appear as a series of small red dots.
- These bites are mostly painless at first. However, if you notice that they begin to itch after a few days they most likely are bedbugs. The itchiness and swelling can last up to nine days.
- Call an exterminator. Sometimes bedbugs are hard to find, or not readily apparent. A great thing to do is to call your local exterminator who is trained in the field, to come and inspect the house. He or she will be able to give you an exact answer.
EditTreating an In-House Bedbug Problem
- Clean your bedding and linens. This is the quickest and easiest way to get rid of bedbugs. The insects do not last long in extreme heat, so putting your sheets, pillow cases, and comforter in the washer can help.
- Simply put your linens in the washer. Make sure the water is hot. Check beforehand whether or not your bedding can be washed with hot water (look at the tag).
- After they come out of the washer, put them immediately in the dryer at the highest temperature setting.
- You can do the same with your clothes. However, you will need to be extra pre-cautious with clothes, as they might tend to shrink in both hot water, and the extreme heat of the dryer.
- For items that cannot be washed, stick them in the dryer on high heat for thirty minutes.
- Encase your bed with a tight fabric. Wrap your mattress and box spring with tightly woven fabric, such as a mattress cover. This will prevent the bedbugs from becoming embedded in the mattress and box spring cracks and crevices. It will also make it easier to get rid of the bedbugs because you can simply throw the fabric in the wash.
- Use plastic cups around the feet of your bed. Buy four plastic cups and place them upright as if you were about to drink out of them. Sit each of your beds legs in one of the four cups. This can prevent the bedbugs from crawling out of your closet, or from your carpet, and onto your bed.
- Get rid of the clutter around the bed. Because clutter is a great place for bedbugs to hide out, clean up the area around your bed. This will get rid of hiding places, and make your bedroom more sanitary in the process.
- Stack up books, and place them far away from your bed, or on a bookshelf.
- Clothes should also be clean, neatly folded, and placed far away from your bed. Hang them up in a closet, or keep them in a dresser drawer.
- Make sure that your nightstand and/or desk are neat, and properly maintained. Pick up any garbage, cups, plates, utensils, napkins, tissues, etc. Wipe the surface down with a damp cloth, or use a healthy cleaning spray.
- Vacuum the area around your bed frequently. Bedbugs like to embed in the fabric of the carpet, and use the carpet as a means to move around. Make sure that your vacuum is powerful enough to pick up materials which are deeply embedded.
- Vacuums with cyclone technology, or 4-chamber suction are great for this job.
- Vacuum regularly, whether it be once a day, or once a week. You do not want to attract the bedbugs in any way, and give them time to move about.
- Repair cracks. Bedbugs love to breed and live within the cracks of furniture, bed posts, and headboards. Use putty, plaster, or safe wood glue to fill in the cracks which might have the potential to house the bugs.
- Buy a portable heating chamber for your bedroom. These can be either handheld, or ones that sit upright on the floor. Because bedbugs cannot live in extreme temperatures, the heating chamber will kill them.
- Use an upright heating chamber, and sit it on your bedroom floor. Turn the heat up to between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to shut the door to keep the heat in. Warning: Continuously check on your room that there isn’t a fire resulting from the heating chamber.
- Use a handheld heating chamber, and run it over the surfaces you believe to be infected. Be careful as to not touch the heating chamber directly, as it will be very hot.
- After you have you have used either of these, clean the area of dead bedbugs. Vacuum the carpeting, wipe the wood furnishings, and throw your linens in the washer.
- Get rid of your mattress/furniture. This is oftentimes a last resort, but if the bedbugs have overwhelmed the situation, it is best to start over.
- Dispose of your mattress a great distance from your house. Either leave the mattress near the place where the trash men pick the garbage up, or take the mattress directly to the garbage dump. Do the same with any furniture infected with bedbugs.
- Remember, secondhand furniture and mattresses are especially vulnerable to having bedbugs in them. If your furniture or mattresses are secondhand, it is even more of a necessity to rid yourself of these furnishings. They have likely already had bedbugs in them before, and are a breeding ground for more to come.
- Use safe chemical treatments on and around your bed. There are many name brand bedbug removal chemical agents that are available at stores across the country. Find one that is safe to use, and that comes in a spray bottle form.
- Spray the chemical agent onto the surface you wish to rid of bedbugs. Let it sit there for a few minutes.
- You can also buy some chemicals which you can leave sit in a particular room which will kill bedbugs, much like the chemicals an exterminator uses.
- After you have used the chemicals, wash the surface off with a damp washcloth or paper towel. Immediately dispose of the cloth as it will contain chemicals and dead bugs/feces/shells.
- Call an exterminator. Rather than use chemicals which might be harmful, it might be better to call a professional. He or she will be able to document the problem, and provide an adequate chemical solution.
EditFixing an Out-of-House Bedbug Problem
- Inspect your temporary housing. Whether it be an apartment, dormitory, cruise ship, hotel, or homeless shelter, it is critical that you examine the space for any bedbugs/feces/shells. Even the best, five star hotels, have been known to have bedbug problems.
- Bring along a magnifying glass and a flashlight with you. Get up close and personal with your mattress, bedding, headboard, carpet, closets, and anywhere else you think bedbugs might be lurking. Check not only for small, dark, oval shaped bugs, but also little black marks (feces) and clear or yellowish bedbug shells.
- If you find something suspicious, immediately contact the tenant of your temporary home. They will be able to bring in people who will clean the area, and disinfect.
- Inspect your luggage after a trip. Upon returning home from a vacation, it is imperative that you check whether bedbugs from a hotel, cruise ship, etc. have entered into your luggage.
- Use the magnifying glass and flashlight to first see whether there are any bedbugs. Check along the creases of the luggage where the fabric is sewn together, and check your clothes.
- Whether you find bedbugs or not, it is best to disinfect anyways. Use a mild chemical agent and spray down your luggage (after you have taken your clothes out). After you have done so, wipe the luggage down with a clean, wet cloth or paper towel.
- Wash your clothes frequently. The minute you get home from a vacation or retreat, put your clothes in the washer. Make sure the water is hot, which will kill any bedbugs. Finally, put them in the dryer at the highest heating setting.
- Inspect your work related facilities. Believe it or not, work can be a great place for bedbugs to reside. They can camp out in break room furniture, teachers’ lounges, offices, and storage facilities.
- Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight to check the furniture. Look along the creases of the fabrics where they are sewn together. Inspect the wood paneling that s near the floor (baseboard). Check to see whether there are any cracks in the wall, peeling paint/wallpaper. These are great places for bedbugs to hide out.
- Look for the bedbugs themselves, along with black dots (feces) and any clear bedbug shells.
- If you are allowed to, clean the area with a safe chemical agent. Follow that by wiping the area clean with a wet washcloth or paper towel. If you are not allowed to disinfect the area, notify the supervisors of any bedbug problems you are aware of.
- Educate the staff at your workplace. It is important that your fellow co-workers/employees knows what to look for when it comes to bedbugs. Let them know that it is important to be on notice of any small, dark, oval shaped bugs. As well as small dark marks which are bedbug feces, and clear or yellowish bedbug shells.
- Establish a monitoring program at your workplace. Write up a schedule so each employee has a set time that they are to check for bedbugs. This will distribute the workload, and make sure that bedbugs are consistently being monitored for.
- Ask each employee to send in to you a time of the week that they are free to check the lounge, office, furniture, etc. Compile the list into a block schedule. List everyone’s particular times on one master schedule.
- Send this master schedule out to all employees, and post one on the wall near the lounge area. This will provide a consistent reminder to the rest of the staff.
- Discourage panic amongst the staff. The office you work in should not be in hysteria over bedbugs. These are not lethal insects, and they are found even in the most clean environments. Make sure that your employees know what to look for, and are vigilant. However, looking for bedbugs should not replace normal work activities/interfere with your daily work life.
- Create a to-go card for your purse and/or wallet. Write on a small sheet of paper, or on the back of a business card, what to look for when you are searching out bedbugs. You can then carry this around in your wallet/purse, and always be ready to look out for those pesky insects.
- Be slow and methodical when you are checking your bedroom. Often times bedbugs are not readily apparent. Make sure to look closely and for long periods of time. Make sure to check, double check, and triple check the same areas.
- Call a friend or relative in for a second opinion. They will be able to help you look for bedbugs, as well as help you determine whether what you see are signs of bedbugs.
- Do not overreact to the situation. Remember that even very clean spaces can have bedbugs.
- Regularly clean your sheets and replace your mattress every few years.
- Make sure that the chemical agents you use to remove bedbugs are safe to be around. If you are not sure, contact your local exterminator.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Magnifying glass
- Putty/caulk/wood glue
- Pesticides (check with local exterminator)
- Prevent Bed Bugs
- Get Rid of Bed Bugs
- Recognize Bed Bugs
- Get Rid of Bed Bugs at Home
EditSources and Citations
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