“Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
Most of us have heard something like this at some point in our lives, but we usually don’t really take the time to check for bed bugs or take any real precaution against them. We tend to think of bed bugs as something you would find in a cheap, disreputable hotel or, frankly, places that we would never willingly sleep in.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are proving quite adept at spreading to new territories, and it is entirely possible to find them in clean, comfortable, Vancouver modern facilities where we might not even think twice about looking for them.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. They are so-named due to their preference for finding homes in or near beds, bedding and other sleep areas. While they are not entirely nocturnal, they tend to be active mostly at night, venturing forth to feed on their prey, usually without being noticed.
Bed bugs are not known to carry disease; however, their bites may cause skin rashes, blisters, allergic reactions, and in some cases, may even result in psychological effects.
Bed bugs have been our unwanted companions for thousands of years, and while they were at one point nearly eradicated in the developed world, they are growing in numbers again, due in part to international travel and bans on effective pesticides.
What to Look For
The appearance of bites or rashes might be the first warning sign of bed bugs, but they are not conclusive. To be sure of whether or not an actual infestation exists, beds and surrounding areas should be visually inspected.
Bed bugs may exist singly, but tend to congregate and will remain in the proximity of a known host. They may take shelter in beds, couches, picture frames, wallpaper, animal bedding and even electrical sockets and nearby laptop computers. They are also capable of travel in backpacks and luggage.
Visual clues as to the presence of bed bugs include fecal spots and blood spots, eggs, discarded skins and, of course, the bed bugs themselves, which are 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) long, six-legged insects that range from mahogany to reddish brown in colour. Broad and flat when unfed, they become swollen and elongated when engorged after a meal.
The actual bedbugs may be difficult to spot, as they will retreat to a place of safety for 5-10 days after feeding. During this period in their adult stage, they will digest the blood they have consumed, mate and lay eggs.
A non-visual indicator of their presence is their smell, which is reminiscent of rotting raspberries.
Preventing an Infestation
As mentioned above, there was a point at which bed bugs were believed to have been nearly eliminated in the developed world, but their numbers are now steadily growing, with some Lower Mainland cities fighting significant infestations.
With the growing Vancouver population of bedbugs, there has come an increase in the numbers and types of methods to combat them, ranging from store-bought sprays to homemade repellants, as well as mechanical means.
Some tips on preventing or overcoming an infestation:
- Use commercially-available covers that encase and protect mattresses and box springs, helping to eliminate hiding spots on the bed. Their light colour also helps to make the bed bugs more visible. Be sure to use a high-quality one that would be resistant to tears, and check it often for holes.
- Reduce clutter, especially around the bed, as this removes another potential hiding spot.
- Vacuum frequently. Vacuuming your mattress is an effective way to remove the bed bugs when found.
- When going on vacation, carefully inspect beds, furniture, drawers and any other likely areas before settling in.
- Upon returning home from vacation, vacuum your luggage.
- Before bringing any second-hand furniture into your home, inspect it thoroughly.
- Use a flashlight to inspect beds and furniture.
- Seal cracks and crevices in your baseboards and around electrical sockets and lighting fixtures to help prevent travel through the walls.
- Door sweeps at the bottom of doors help discourage movement between rooms and into hallways.
- When using shared laundry facilities, transport all items to be washed in plastic bags. If you currently have an infestation, bring separate bags to bring the clothes home. A dryer on high heat can kill bed bugs, so avoid potential “hitchhikers” from the laundry room by placing clothes from the dryer directly into bags and fold them at home.
- Portable heating units are available that can be used to treat any items that you suspect may be infested.
- Hot steam kills bedbugs, so a steamer may be used to clean mattresses and box springs, or other places suspected of housing bed bugs.
Sprays are useful for killing bed bugs in hard-to-reach places such as cracks and crevices, or the joints of furniture. If you wish to avoid store-bought sprays, there are home remedies that have been found to be effective.
Tea tree oil has repellant qualities. A natural insecticide spray can be made by adding 20 drops of tea tree oil to a spray bottle filled with water. Shake well before each use and spray generous amounts in any locations that you suspect may house bed bugs. Do this daily until all signs of bed bug activity have disappeared.
Tea tree oil may also be used as a natural remedy for itches caused by bed bug bites.
Another potential homemade insecticide is a mix of lavender and peppermint oils. Lavender oil is toxic to bed bugs, but completely safe for humans. It is frequently used in aromatherapy for relaxation, so spraying your bed serves a dual purpose. Peppermint also has strong repellent qualities.
To make your own lavender- peppermint bed bug spray, add 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil and 10-15 drops of peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water. As with the tea tree spray, shake well with each use, apply liberally wherever needed, and use daily until no signs of bed bug activity remain.
Bed bugs may be a growing problem, but with enough care and awareness, you should be able to avoid your own infestation. Being aware of what to look for and remaining vigilant will cost you nothing, but may well serve to keep unwanted guests out of your home.
For all your bed bug furniture removal needs, call us today!