For most homeowners, finding bedbugs, even one in your house can really mess with your head. What if you have an infestation? Are they in every room?
Well, you’re not wrong to be worried. While it’s possible to pick up just one or two bedbugs that are yet to lay eggs, you can never rule out the possibility of an infestation.
The good news, however, is that there are solutions you can try to eliminate the bedbugs and ensure they don’t spread throughout the house.
Before you freak out and declare code red in your house, you need to be sure that the bug you’ve spotted is indeed a bed bug. The United States Environmental Protection Agency describes a bedbug as:
- A small parasitic insect the size of an apple seed (Around 5-7mm long)
- When unfed, it’s long, brown with a flat, oval-shaped body
- When fed, it’s reddish-brown and balloon-like with a more elongated body
- It’s also smelly and produces a ‘musty-sweetish’ odor.
Younger bed bugs may appear translucent or whitish-yellow and tend to be quite smaller than an adult bedbug. When unfed, they can be almost invisible to the naked eye.
Bedbug eggs will generally pearl white in color and may appear in clusters. They’re tiny and can have a dark ‘eye spot’ if older than five days.
Where do they come from?
If you’re sure that what you’ve seen is a bedbug, your first step will be identifying where they came from. Bedbugs have a superpower of hiding, sometimes in plain sight, and so, determining where they came from should be able to tell you whether there’s an infestation.
Keep in mind that bedbugs can survive for more than a year without feeding. So, you can’t rule out that night you spent in a hotel a year ago.
Hotel rooms, hostels, and motels are usually the most common culprit because many people may have stayed there, and one of them dropped the bug.
However, other places that be the source of your bedbugs include:
- Public transits like buses, taxis, and trains
- Cruise ships and planes
- Outdoor campsites
From all these places, the bedbugs could have clutched onto your suitcase or onto your clothes, and you brought them home with you.
Signs that you have bedbugs
The fact that you’ve spotted a few bedbugs is your first indication that you might have a bedbug infestation. However, this isn’t the only sign you can look for. Other signs that could be useful for you include:
Red, itchy spots
If you’ve recently noticed some red itchy spots on your skin, that could be an indication of bedbug bites. However, this may not be evident for everyone. Some people don’t react to bedbug bites and hence the need for regular inspection.
Bite clusters on your skin
If you don’t experience an itch on your skin but you notice a cluster of bite patterns on your hand or skin, this could be the sign you’re looking for. Bedbugs, usually bite in a straight line unlike mosquitoes and other bugs, which don’t follow any pattern.
Bloodstains on your sheet
Once a bedbug bites you, the point of the bite usually bleeds for a while and this is evident on your bed sheet. If you always wake up to unexplained blood stains on your beddings, the bedbugs could be the culprit.
Bedbugs have an odd and distinct musty smell. Whenever you notice a mysterious odor coming from some parts of your house, that could be an indication of an infestation.
Dark spots of fecal matter
Another key sign could small dark spot on your mattress, beddings, or carpets. While they may look like paint or pen marks, they’re actually bedbug feces.
Where do bedbugs hide?
Bedbugs can hide anywhere in your house. When they’re not feeding on you, they’ll retreat to any spot where they can’t be seen. However, since they can’t fly and don’t walk for longer distances, they’ll hide close to the host.
Among the most popular hiding spots for bedbugs include:
- The mattress – Check the buttons, tufts, and folds
- Bed frame – This includes the headboard,
- The box spring
- The bedding
- Couch cushions
- Seams of chairs and cabinets
- Drawer joints
- Curtain folds
- Under loose wall hangings and wallpapers
- Cracks in your wood trims
- In carpets
- Under electrical switch plates and in light switches
These aren’t the only areas where bedbugs could hide. If you have an infestation, bedbugs could even be in your appliances. So, check every corner, furniture, crevice, and joint in your house carefully.
How to get rid of bedbugs
Getting completely rid of bedbugs may be hard but it’s not impossible. If you don’t have a full-blown infestation, there are several inexpensive remedies you can apply to chase away these blood-sucking bugs for good.
Among the most effective ones in use today include:
Cleaning your beddings and clothes
If you noticed bedbugs in your bedroom, the first and easiest step should be to conduct a thorough cleaning. Wash clean all your beddings, curtains, clothes, and linen in hot water then dry them under the highest temperature in the dryer.
You should also place any items that can’t be washed like stuffed animals, shoes, etc., in the dryer under a high-temperature setting for around half an hour.
If you don’t have a dryer, wrap the infected items in plastic bags, then leave them under the sun for a few months until the bedbugs are killed.
Vacuum your bed and mattress
Your bed and its surrounding area are massive hiding spots for the bedbugs. Therefore, vacuuming around those can drastically reduce the population of the bugs in your house.
Be sure to thoroughly scrub the seams and crevices of your mattress before vacuuming to also get rid of the bedbug eggs.
After vacuuming, ensure you place the vacuum cleaner bag into a tight seal plastic bag then immediately dispose of it in an outdoor garbage can.
Encase your mattress and box springs in a zipper cover
Doing this prevents bedbugs from coming in or escaping out. Based on their lifespan of around a year without feeding, you’ll need to keep that cover for around the entire year before changing it.
Repair any cracks and crevices
Small cracks on your walls can be easily repaired or filled with plaster to prevent the bedbugs from getting out. If you have wallpaper, you should also glue it down over the crack to reduce the hiding spots for these notorious insects.
Monitor your affected areas
Once you’ve completed the cleaning, your most important step will be to monitor the affected areas. Since bedbugs can reproduce quickly, it’s hard to get rid of all of them in one try.
Just when you think you’ve eliminated them, you’re likely to wake up to a bedbug bite the next day. Therefore, inspect your affected areas at least once a week for six months to ensure they’re completely gone.
When do I need to call a pro?
If after doing all the cleaning and vacuuming you still can’t seem to control your bedbug infestation, it might be time to call a professional exterminator. Experts use insecticides and chemicals that are very effective in killing bedbugs.
If you try to use the insecticides yourself, ensure you check that they’re harmless and safe to use on your beddings. However, it’s always better to let the professionals handle the chemicals.
If you live in a shared space or an apartment, work with the landlord and other tenants to ensure they aren’t affected. Otherwise, you’ll kill the bedbugs in your house, but they’ll just crawl back from your neighbor’s place.
Important: Before hiring an exterminator, ensure you get quotes from several contractors, (at least three or four). But don’t always go for the cheapest. Seek reviews from people who’ve worked with the contractor before to ensure you get the best person for the job.
What do I do if I still only find a few bedbugs?
If after turning your house upside down and inspecting every crack and crevice you still find the one or two bedbugs you saw earlier, you might just be out of the woods.
However, it’s not an all-clear sign, you should still conduct a thorough cleaning of your beddings, carpets, curtains, and all other washable materials in hot water.
After this, maintain a clean space and conduct bed bug inspections regularly for a few months. If after six months nothing pops up, then your house is clean.
While spotting one or two bedbugs doesn’t mean you have a bedbug infestation, it is more often than not a clear sign of an infestation. Therefore, you can’t dismiss it.
To be safe, you better conduct a thorough inspection or contact an exterminator to help out.