A bed bug invades your house and multiplies into an infestation.
Unfortunately, that’s when you first realize how terrible a lone bed bug is.
While bed bugs aren’t really dangerous, no one actually wants to be living with a bed bug infestation.
It makes for unhygienic living conditions that cause stress and anxiety. Not to mention the very thought of living with creepy crawlies that suck your blood.
Infestations can last for a long time, for months on end, and can be difficult to deal with.
If you’re going through one right now, we relate. So, we’ve put together this article for you to help stop you from pulling your hair out.
That is, all the methods to kill bed bugs.
The problem with these little beasts is that you become aware of this problem only months later when the tiny little creatures really become a problem.
They breed quickly and before you know it, you have thousands of bed bugs living with you in your bedroom, feasting on your blood as you itch and scratch subconsciously as you sleep.
Now, you might’ve just chanced upon this article because you have this fear that perhaps, there might be bed bugs in your house. Or because a neighbour just received word of their own infestation.
Hence, the following are signs that there are bed bugs in your home:
If small inflamed welts that itch start appearing on your body, it’s probably bed bugs.
Most people would definitely like to this to attribute these to mosquitoes or other causes. However, if multiple bites align themselves along a straight line across your arms or legs and you haven’t been suffering from a mosquito problem in a long time, the unfortunate next step is to search for physical evidence of the bed bugs you’ve been living with.
As you sleep at night, you might end up rolling onto a few bed bugs as they try to sneak away after feeding on you.
This would mean unexplained spots of blood on your bedsheets in the morning.
Now, instead of the red spots, you might also find unknown dark brownish spots on your mattress or even wall or other furniture in the room. They’re the fecal remains of these bed bugs.
Yes, it’s gross and nasty. Unfortunately, it also means you’re going to have to get your house checked for bed bugs. Bed bug shells (coverings being shed as the bed bugs mature) are another result of this problem.
You might suddenly find these elongated tiny white grains dotting the rough surfaces of your carpet and bed mattress. Google Search might eventually find you discovering to your horror that these are in fact, bed bug eggs.
This isn’t something you’re going to notice in the beginning stages of the infestation.
However, as the months go on and the bed bugs continue to multiply unbeknownst to your knowledge, you might get these sensations of something crawling over your body. This is usually the result of the itching that comes with the continual bites.
Something else to note might be if you’ve had a friend who’s come over or a neighbour who’s recently discovered a bed bug infestation in their own homes. The one thing that they love to do apart from feeding on human blood is latch onto people’s clothes and bags so that they can invade their human friends’ homes.
So, you’ve unfortunately verified that niggling fear. That there’s probably bed bugs in your house.
Just in time for the next worst step of them all.
Looking for the actual little buggers.
They’re always going to try their best to hide nearest to their food source, i.e you.
It’s time to do the heavy work. Start by lifting your mattress, combing through every inch to catch one bed bug to confirm your fears. Be careful of any rips or seams they might be hiding in.
Next would be to look under the bed frame. They can slip into any crack or crevice so watch out for any holes they might be hiding in.
And when you’ve found it in your bed, you still have to look through all the furniture in the house. Figure out if the bed bugs have invaded your entire house or your room only.
Your best bet would be to invite an exterminator. Someone who actually knows what they’re doing and who has studied bed bugs in hundred of homes for many years. They’ll then be able to give you details of the damage and how bad the infestation is.
The problem with bed bugs is that they can survive for long periods of time without feeding.
Certain strains of bed bugs can survive without blood for more than a year!
And because they’re so small, they can hide anywhere. You shouldn’t just look at your mattress and furniture, but also at wall coverings, sockets, paintings, closets, books, clothing, etc..
Don’t leave anything unturned.
Getting rid of all the bed bugs in your house isn’t just a one-step method.
You might kill every bed bug you find in the house. However, they’re just going to keep coming back like a respawning villain if not done effectively.
We’ve listed down various methods to kill bed bugs, how it works in killing bed bugs and the benefits and demerits of each if any.
Now, depending on how bad your infestation is, how many rooms the bed bugs have infiltrated into, your preference of treatment, here are the various ways you can kill a bed bug:
One of the best ways of dealing with bed bugs is heat. Their bodies cannot handle extreme temperatures and will die in 20 minutes when exposed to temperatures of 48°C.
The reason this becomes effective is that heat passes through even the smallest of crevices. Which means it’s nearly impossible for them to hide.
Heat also kills bed bug eggs, making them a good alternative to chemical treatments.
There are two reasons why heat works so well in getting rid of bed bugs.
The treatment usually needs to be done only once (by professionals). This also kills bed bugs at all stages in the life cycle.
You don’t have to worry about any detrimental side-effects. Heat will still leave your room and furniture intact with minimal damage. Obviously, keep it away from heat sensitive things at home. Best of all, if it’s a lot quicker and far more friendly for the environment.
Unfortunately, your wallet might not be too happy with it. Heat treatments are the more expensive bed bug treatments, far more than chemical treatments. This is because the equipment is expensive and hiring professional exterminators cost a lot of money.
Now, this is the complete opposite of the first one and has its own set of benefits and demerits.
The truth is that bed bugs can definitely survive the cold. This is not the case if they’re exposed to below extreme temperatures of -18°C for a few days.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can breathe a sigh of relief when winter comes. You can’t simply turn off the heat for the cold to enter and think it’ll kill bed bugs. This is because, with winter, humidity, changes in temperature, and sunlight would still enter and with the heat off, it can actually cause damage to the structure of your house.
So here’s the responsible way of going about it:
Pack any dry items such as jewelry, toys, shoes, pictures, clothes, in plastic bags. Place in your freezer for at least two to four days.
This is to ensure prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. DO NOT freeze items that are prone to condensation, contain moisture or liquids, have LCD panels, antiques, old items, or are irreplaceable. It is important to buy a remote thermometer to monitor the temperature since it needs to consistently be below -18°C. It also means that you can’t open the freezer door during the treatment days.
Using your own freezer, as seen in option one, might be difficult. Hence, we recommend buying a chest freezer solely for the purpose of killing bed bugs.
This is perfect for items that can’t be thrown into a dryer or if heat can’t be used on it. Otherwise, it can destroy books, vinyl records, vintage items, and electronics. Throw these in the freezer after removing any batteries and keep for a few days. Ensure that the temperature is below -18°C.
This doesn’t need to be a one-time purchase and can be used for items in the future. It’s best after travelling when you run the risk of another bed bug infestation.
Cryonite is another option. It is a machine that uses a patented hose to convert carbon dioxide to dry ice snow. This comes to about -110F. It is both eco-friendly and non-damaging to your furniture and rooms while penetrating deep into clothes, fibres, and furniture. As it comes into contact with the bed bugs, the fluid in their bodies freeze, making it an instant kill.
While the first is something you can do yourself, Cryonite machines are way too expensive for you to purchase for one-time use.
Since freezing isn’t a foolproof method, we don’t recommend it unless done by a professional exterminator.
Professional exterminator teams would be far more helpful in this scenario, especially since they would actually know how to use these machines.
Freezing has its own pros and cons. It takes a long time, more than four days which is a lot of time to be out of your house or not using certain items.
And the worst part – the female bed bug can lay 200 eggs. Which means even one little bug comes out alive, you can still deal with an infestation after a few months of living a comfortable lie of no bed bugs.
This doesn’t mean that you go pick up your regular old vacuum.
You need ones specifically designed for catching bed bug and their fecal matter and droppings. The traditional vacuum might still let a few escape. Bed bug eggs make it more difficult since they have these glue-like encasings that let them stick to the surface.
Obviously, a bed bug vacuum needs to be fully sealed.
One of the best ways of ensuring this is to check if they have a HEPA filter. This prevents the bed bugs from escaping the filter and infiltrating other parts of your home as you move about with the vacuum.
Another thing to take note of is the weight (since you will need to lug it around). Another is the suction power.
Only vacuuming won’t solve the bed bug problem, as with all other treatments. On the other hand, it is a quick way of getting rid of groups of bed bugs living together in certain places in your home. This makes sense since it will make the follow-up treatment more effective in targeting the remainder of the bed bugs.
Exterminators will almost always recommend to follow up the vacuum with a bed bug steamer.
How the steamer works is that it blasts deadly temperatures to kill bed bugs, wherever they may be hiding.
Vacuums can only suction up bed bugs on the surface area. The steamer, however, can penetrate as much as a few centimetres into the mattress. 75°C to 85°C but less than 93°C is optimum.
A commercial grade steamer (specifically for killing bed bugs and not carpet steamers) can rack up thousands of Canadian Dollars so you can either rent it, have your housing society buy it for the tenants to share, or you could get a professional team to come in and do it.
While you might still consider one on the lower end of the price scale, they’re not powerful enough for the job required.
This can be used on nearly all furniture, floorboards, curtains, mattresses, etc.. Except those come with the requirement of needing electric power (TVs, music systems, washing machines, etc.. are a no-go).
A few fair warnings that come with doing this treatment.
Although bed bug steamers can be used on most items, a patch test is recommended.
This is testing to see if the steamers leave an unseen part of the furniture of upholstery damaged. The material shouldn’t be too wet either since it might negate the high temperatures required to kill the hiding bed bugs.
If you’re lucky and your house doesn’t have a terrible bed bug infestation, mattress encasements can be a huge money-saver.
So, you’ve looked through your mattress, ensured that it has no rips or holes, and done all the treatments required to get rid of any possible bed bugs.
So now, you can put a part of your mind and wallet at ease.
Why? Because you don’t have to throw away your mattress, you can save a lot of money! This follows with your next step which is to use a mattress cover.
Sure, your bed might be now free from bed bugs, but that doesn’t mean your house is. Depending on how bad your infestation is, treatment will continue for a few more weeks. That doesn’t mean you can’t sleep on the same bed.
But it also means you have to take some major precautions since bed bugs love to make a home in your beds. After all, it provides direct access to their feeding source, i.e you.
A bed bug mattress encasement is essentially protecting your mattresses from any possible bed bugs.
A mattress encasement cover is to be used on your newly treated mattress and sealed with its special protective zip. If covered properly, this prevents any remaining bed bugs from hiding in your mattress.
It also prevents any existing bed bugs in the mattress from escaping. Another reason why you should keep these mattress encasements on for 12 months since they’ll eventually die!
You use a mattress cover on top that can be washed every 2-4 weeks. You should also use an encasement for your box springs.
There are still a few things that need to be kept in mind:
For starters, ensure that they’re being sold by the pros, tested and certified.
Many mattress encasements contain insecticides that are obviously harmful to anyone sleeping on the mattress, especially young children. These mattress insecticides can also be ineffective in actually killing the bed bugs.
Hence, look at customer reviews before buying.
You might not believe it but there’s a small and practical way of catching bed bugs. All without actually hunting for them.
And that’s with the help of a bed bug interceptor.
These passive traps are placed under furniture legs. This is usually after initial treatment and helps to catch any wandering bed bugs that might climb up the furniture legs. And they can’t escape from these!
The reason they can’t escape is that bed bugs cannot climb vertical, smooth surfaces. The interceptors are shaped in the form of a circle with an inner ditch.
If bed bugs need to get onto the furniture, they need to climb the interceptors. This causes them to fall into the “ditch” of the interceptor, out which they can’t climb out.
It is a great tool not just for catching these little buggers. These also help give you a visual understanding of the severity of your bed bug problem over time. And if the bed bug problem isn’t decreasing, you can then determine if other treatment methods are required.
You can also fill them with anti-bed bug powders (explained in the next section). This causes them to literally fall to their death in the “ditch”.
One recommendation is to keep your furniture, especially your bed, away from the walls. After this, the only way for the bed bugs to actually get onto your furniture is by climbing directly into the bed bug interceptors. Another is to ensure that no cloth material from your bed actually touches the ground.
Sure, you can also create some of your own using a tape, talcum powder, and plastic containers. The truth is that commercial bed bug interceptors will provide you with that ease of mind once that initial treatment is done. They’re also relatively inexpensive.
This is one option we don’t recommend.
Why? Well, because bed bug nymphs (larvae) can live to about 28 days after feeding. Adults live even longer without feeding – even more than 12 months depending on certain conditions like temperature and humidity.
So unless you plan on abandoning your house for more than a year, this is not a viable option.
Even if this does work out, what really happens is that the bed bugs go looking for other hosts to feed on. This translates into them invading your neighbours and leading to infestations that will eventually come back to your house.
A little far-fetched but as you can see, this isn’t a very nice thing to do. Nor does it even work.
Before we get started with the chemical side, we still have to understand a few things.
Usage of these chemical treatments usually falls into two general categories: contact and residual. These come in the form of bed bug sprays and bed bug powders.
Just like the name suggests, contact sprays kill the bed bugs on contact. This is unlike residue sprays and powder that take their own sweet time to ensure that any bed bug coming into contact with it dies. They usually last for about 12 weeks. On the other hand, the effects of contact spray almost disappear in less than 24 hours.
As you can see, each has its own merits and demerits. This is something we will explore as we read more about bed bug sprays and powders through the following:
These are some of the most common insecticides and work as contact sprays.
They work in a manner that disrupts the nervous system of the bed bug, causing paralysis before eventual death.
The only difference is that pyrethroids are synthetic in form, a copy of pyrethrins which are derived from chrysanthemum flowers.
They’ve waned in popularity after some strains of bed bugs developed resistance to these insecticides.
Bed bugs have this waxy, protective layer that makes them difficult to kill.
What desiccants, such as Diatomaceous Earth and Boric Acid do is break down this layer. Thereby, causing the slow death of bed bugs via dehydration.
It is important to note that you should only use desiccants for cracks and crevices where bed bugs may hide. This is because they can cause irritation when inhaled.
However, diatomaceous earth powder is used to filter water, making it non-toxic. Food-grade diatomaceous earth powder is also safe to eat.
Pyrroles work a little differently when compared to other bed bug treatments.
For starters, they activate only upon entering the bed bug. How they work is that they contain a compound that disrupts cellular activity, causing death.
Unfortunately, because it needs to enter the bed bug’s body, they’re ineffective against its eggs.
Insect Growth Regulators are chemicals that act as hormones in two ways. Either forcing the bed bug to develop too quickly or hindering their sexual maturity, almost as if deleting puberty.
Therefore, the bed bugs are unable to lay any more eggs which prevent them from reproducing. This heavily reduces population growth.
As the only registered biochemical for use against bed bugs, neem oil is considered to be a natural bed bug repellant. It works as a contact spray.
Pressed from the leaves of the neem tree, they’re more like an add-on in the case of large bed bug infestations. That’s because there is no way that neem oil alone will work.
You might’ve surmised it from the name, but neonicotinoids are a synthetic form of nicotine. Neonicotinoids cause damage to the nerves of the bed bugs, thus leading to their death.
They are extremely useful against strains of bed bugs that might’ve developed resistance to other forms of chemicals.
Certain plant-based oil products have proven to be useful against bed bugs, as seen in this study by Rutgers University.
It was surmised that some essential oil-based insecticides work great as contact sprays when sprayed directly on the bed bugs. This is in spite of their low toxicity.
They also caused a high death rate percentage when sprayed on the bed bug eggs, when compared to certain types of insecticides on the market.
There are certain contact sprays in the market, such as Steri-Fab that leave no residue behind and work brilliantly.
They’re perfect for use when you’re done with a steamer. It works especially great as a long term treatment.
This is the one option we fully advise against because it presents no real advantages.
For one, they don’t even infiltrate the cracks and crevices where bed bugs might be hiding. Second, most bed bugs have developed a resistance to DDT, a compound present in it.
These can also be dangerous, especially when multiple are used at the same time. And so, foggers and bed bug bombs are slowly being seen as an ineffective method of killing bed bugs.
Chemical treatments are seen to have little to no effect in getting rid of bed bug eggs. This is despite their success against the adult bed bugs.
Bed bugs can also develop resistance to successive chemical treatments. Which means that non-chemical methods are a little more effective in getting rid of the bed bugs.
Non-chemical bed bug treatments are also far more eco-friendly and with fewer side effects.
On the other hand, chemical treatments are far cheaper. And although a professional exterminator is recommended, these can be easily done by yourself.
Suffering from a bed bug infestation can also be embarrassing. So, you don’t have to worry about neighbours seeing you bringing in specialized equipment to kill the bed bugs. You can just hide the bed bug insecticides and powders under your jacket.
However, this is more likely in the case of a low-level bed bug infestation.
Your best bet would, in fact, be to use a mixture of both, especially in the case of a large infestation.
With regards to chemical forms of bed bug treatments, it is imperative that you reduce inhalation risk. This is especially in houses with children and pregnant women. You should also ensure that instructions are carefully followed and to only buy products from authorized sources.
Whether it’s something as small as a scarf to something as big your mattress, ensure that every item is treated for bed bugs.
Something else to consider is that PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) is looking to ban many insecticides in Canada. This can make it no longer easy to buy.
As a customer, your choices might only be limited to a few at Home Depot.
On the other hand, pest control agencies will usually have access to a variety of good quality insecticides since they have the required licenses. It might be annoying but at least someone’s doing good for the environment.
We again reiterate that you use a mixture of various treatments as opposed to just sticking to one.
Adhering to only one form of bed bug treatment won’t get rid of the bed bugs.
It’s never easy to deal with a bed bug infestation. Trust us when we say we know exactly how you feel.
We hope this article has made it a lot easier on you now that you know the different methods you can use against the bed bugs in your house.
And so, we’ll leave you with the saying.
Don’t let the bed bugs bite.