What do bed bugs look like?
Bed bugs are small brown insects, with an oval shape ranging anywhere from 1 to 7 mm long. They are a collection of species which live inside homes and love to nest inside bedding hence their name. There’s been an increase in bed bug infestations since the 1990’s, so keep an eye out in your home.
Since they are so small they can be hard to spot, so you can often find them by what they leave behind – itchy skin, along with small red marks. They stick close to their host, being found inside clothing, furniture and even cars in some cases. Bed bugs can feed off animals too, so be sure to check your furry friends for signs if they’re scratching a lot.
Habitat of bed bugs
These insects are originally from tropical climates, and hitch rides back to other places in people’s clothes, luggage etc. They feed on blood and will stay close to a source and nest there. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this means they won’t be there if you’ve just moved in, bed bugs store their food and can live for up to a year without a host in some cases.
While they are often found in wood, they can’t burrow into it themselves and will fit into pre-existing cracks and tears. They’re also very mobile despite not being able to fly, and will crawl along walls and ceilings to find the tightest of cracks to hide in, all without the homeowner noticing a thing. Infestations can keep coming back if you don’t root them all out.
Are bed bugs dangerous?
Bed bug bites are certainly nasty, but they cause little damage themselves, unless you’re allergic to them in which case they can cause anaphylactic shock, or are anemic, as they take your blood which will make the condition worse. The real damage comes from the side effects – itchiness, difficulty sleeping and, in some cases, even anxiety and depression.
In exceedingly rare cases someone can get anemia where they were previously fine, but that would only come from a very severe, long-term infestation.
How to prevent bed bugs
There are a lot of things you can do to control bed bugs that might come into your home.
- Wash, wash, wash
Thoroughly wash anything coming into your home from time spent away at a high heat (above 50 C / 120 F). Bed bugs are resilient and will resist washes at lower temperatures.
- Seal and cover
Bed bugs can hide themselves for months at a time, so giving them fewer options will cut down on infestations. Be sure to seal any cracks in wooden furniture, walls and ceiling, as well as a good coat of varnish or paint to stop wear and tear letting them in at a later point.
- Clean and scrape
Bed bugs move fast, so be sure to go over any areas where you were keeping things that came in from the outside before cleaning. Usually, a hoover will suck them right up, but scraping your furniture quickly will let the more stubborn ones be picked up, with the added bonus of leaving your home cleaner than ever.
How to remove bed bugs
Unfortunately, once bed bugs get rooted, they can be really hard to get rid of. There are a few non-chemical methods you can use yourself such as hoovering, scraping, or mopping affected areas, but unless you get right to the source of the problem they can just keep coming back. Common insecticides are mostly ineffective thanks to over-use and spreading resistance, and those that do work are often harmful to humans and animals, so we wouldn’t recommend you using them inside your home.
There are two types of bed bug control treatments commonly used – heat treatment and chemical treatment. Both methods will need you to vacate your home for a little while, as it won’t be safe for you inside.
- Heat treatment
This method involves heating up the areas affected to above 50 C / 120 F, ensuring that every surface and object gets a good dose of warmth. Bed bugs can’t survive in this heat, so they’ll pop right off just leaving a bit of cleaning up from what they leave behind. However, this must be done properly, or it may be a fire risk to your home.
You can also lower temperatures – anything below freezing will also kill them, but that carries the risk of damaging the surrounding structures they are in. It might work if you left all your windows and doors open in winter, but that wouldn’t be very pleasant to clean up.
- Chemical treatment
Chemical treatments can be very effective, especially in the early stages of an infestation. While some of the chemicals used can be hazardous, trained professionals can ensure that they’re all gone before you step a foot inside, so you aren’t at risk. This method means that any heat-sensitive material is safe and sound, free from warping or damage.
So there you have it, the two best ways of removing bed bugs. While you can do it yourself we wouldn’t recommend it – chemicals are nasty and difficult to get rid of unless you’ve been trained, and heating/freezing your home carries severe damage risk if you do it wrong.
The best way to get rid of a bed bug infestation is by calling your local pest control company (wow, that’s us!) so they can inspect your home and remove them for you. Our professional exterminators are up to the task no matter how daunting.
Contact Provincial Pest Control for a free pest control inspection in the Toronto Area!