8 Tips for Dealing with Bedbugs

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Not going to lie here: combating bedbugs is absolutely terrifying. They are insidious and take very hard attention to get rid of. If burning down your home isn’t an option, no problem: There are other techniques you can put into practice to eliminate them.

Where do bedbugs come from?

Perhaps the seventh circle of hell. These insects (simex lectularius) have been plaguing warm-blooded creatures for thousands of years, possibly with as much enthusiasm as they do today. In fact, scientists recently excavated a 77,000-year-old settlement in South Africa and found evidence of bedbugs in the sleeping mats they discovered.

In all seriousness, these things have been around forever and can lurk just about anywhere. You may be perfectly meticulous about keeping your house neat and tidy, but one of your kids will pick up a bed bug on the bus. Or you can pick one up at a cafe. Honestly, they can be absolutely anywhere and ride all over the world.

If humans are not around, they will also feed on your pets or wild birds and rodents (although there are bedbug species that mainly feed on animals rather than humans).

If bed bugs appear in your home, it does not mean that you are a poor homeowner. It simply means that these shocks are really effective.

Symptoms of Bedbugs

You’ll know you’re dealing with bedbugs if you wake up with a persistently burning, itchy insect bite. They will often appear in groups or rows of three bites, but this will only happen if a single bug is biting you. If you have several feasts at once, you can have multiple rows or groups.

These insects are not confined to your feet, ankles, hands or groin. If they hide in your pillow they will sneak into your PJs or bite your face and neck. Inspect your bedding carefully to see if you can find insects or excrement left by them. Even one bed bug can lay enough eggs to make your life hell for months.

Bedbugs are about the size of a lentil and are dark red-brown in colour. You can’t see them because they are small, but keep an eye out. They tend to live in groups. They are mostly nocturnal and can live up to 10 months.

how to deal with them

The key to dealing with (and hopefully eliminating) bedbugs is to attack them on two different fronts. Aim to destroy those currently feasting on you and prevent the next generation from maturing. This means you need to target adults as well as eggs and larvae.

Adult bedbugs hide during the day and come out at night to suck your blood. As a result, you’ll need to check every possible place they can hide during the day. It also includes:

  • cracks and crevicesCheck for: between floorboards, along/below baseboards and crown molding, cracks in walls, joints in furniture, etc.
  • Bed: Look under the mattress (especially along the seams), inside pillowcases, between sheets.
  • shreds: Remove anything hidden under or near the bed. This can include stacks of books, purses and backpacks, slippers, shoes and robes.
  • bookshelf: Bugs can slide to lurk in book spines or between pages.
  • inside the head of screws
  • in the space between light switch covering and walls

2. Tape Up Cracks

Use masking or packing tape to seal up cracks in that room as well as all around it. It includes everything mentioned above. Place small pieces over the screw heads, taping any gaps in the wallpaper. Take the poster or picture frame down and examine them thoroughly. Tape off any holes left over from previous nails or screws etc.

If you want to be fanatical and more enduring about these efforts, give yourself some precautions. Use it to fill in any gaps or cracks. This will really go a long way towards avoiding future infections.

3. Pack everything in a plastic bag

Get yourself several packages of black plastic garbage bags and pack whatever you have in them. Set aside a few changes of clothing that are safe to go through a hot dryer cycle. You will need to use the hottest cycle available in your machine and continue it for 30 minutes to kill all the adults, larvae and eggs.

If you’re dealing with bedbugs in the height of summer or the dead of winter, some luck is on your side. Extreme heat or cold will kill bedbugs, so keeping plastic garbage bags full of clothing outside can kill most of them.

However, they would need a constant temperature for several days for this to happen. We’re talking either colder than 0°F/-18°C or hotter than 95°F/35°C to kill them.

At the very least, these temperatures can slow them down until you can keep your various clothing items on that aforementioned super hot cycle through the dryer. If that isn’t an option because the item is cotton or wool and will shrink in the heat, there is an alternative. Get yourself some large freezer bags, and freeze each clothing item for 72 hours. Keep these in sealed plastic bags and/or bins in a separate room until you settle the bedroom.

4. Make Your Bed an “Island”

Bedbugs can’t jump, thankfully, so making your bed an isolated “island” is a great way to deter them. After applying a bedbug-proof cover to your mattress and box spring (if you use one), move your bed at least 6 inches away from the wall and any furniture. That way, anyone who isn’t trapped inside those zippered bed bags won’t be able to climb anything to get to you.

If you have feet in your bed, get some bedbug interceptors for yourself. These bugs are trapped before they can make their way into your bed. Alternatively, if you have a concrete block bed base instead, wrap double-sided tape around the base. Insects will stick to it when they try to climb up.

Check them daily to see if they have caught anything. It’s a good idea to keep these around for about six months, monitored and maintained regularly.

5. Vacuum like a maniac

Go full-on neat freak mode and vacuum everything in your entire house. Empty your vacuum or replace the bag every time you do this, just in case the bugs leave the machine and make their way elsewhere.

If possible, get a steam cleaner and use it on all your furniture and carpets. The high temperature in the hot steam should also kill the eggs, larvae and most adult bedbugs.

6. Scatter Diatomaceous Earth

Between vacuum sessions, apply diatomaceous earth (DE) around your bed and along the perimeter of your room. Be especially generous in the corners. If you have carpeting instead of hardwood floors, you’ll probably need quite a bit of this stuff. An applicator can help you draw fine lines of the earth instead of just clouds and dirt.

Remember to apply this soil along window sills, around the inside edges of drawers, around doors, and behind appliances. Although having a pile of this stuff around may sound unsightly, it’s incredibly helpful for clearing up a pest issue. As a bonus, it’s a non-toxic natural insecticide that won’t hurt any of your animal companions.

*Note: Just before vacuuming, pour a little into your vacuum cleaner. If you suck up any insects, DE will kill them before they have a chance to escape and wreak any further havoc.

7. Call the Experts If You Get Overwhelmed

If your efforts don’t matter and you find that you’ve still been battling bedbugs for several months, it’s time to call an exterminator. They’ll use special equipment to inspect places you never thought possible, and they’ll have strong insecticides that will take care of the problem.

The good news is that they’ll all be able to pass on those bugs to John Wick, and they’re unlikely to come back. On the other hand, you’ll have to evacuate the house for about a week for the chemical treatments to destroy them. Perhaps longer if you are sensitive to chemicals and/or you are concerned about small children and pets inhaling or swallowing them.

8. Remember self care too!

When you are making sure that your home is cleaned and maintained, remember to take care of your health and well-being as well. Being bitten by bedbugs is no fun, and those bites can cause itching and burning for several days. They can get worse if you are allergic to them.

Calamine lotion, jewelweed salve or topical Benadryl can help reduce itching. Take a lukewarm bath or shower instead of a hot bath, and if there’s an antihistamine medication you rely on, that may help as well. I have used wild cherry bark tincture and Amish drawing salve to treat various insect bites. Still, it’s important to check with your own healthcare provider before taking any type of medication—herbal or otherwise.

If you find that you struggle with insomnia because you’re paranoid about being bitten at night, get yourself a silk sleeping bag liner. Tuck yourself into it, and even on a subconscious level, you’ll feel a lot more secure about not getting bitten while you sleep. Alternatively, if you can, book yourself a hotel room for a few nights.

Most importantly, remember that you haven’t done anything “wrong” to be worth dealing with these bugs. Like mosquitoes and fleas, they have been here longer than us and have learned to see us only as a food source when convenient. They are manageable, and with diligent care, they are unlikely to return.

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