Bed Bugs

Please be advised that this is my best advice on eradicating your bed bug problem. The information is offered free of charge, we gladly accept donations. Please understand that there is a charge for individual/private consultations.

Identification of bed bugs
How to know if you have bed bugs
Likely harbouring places for bed bugs:
Treatment against bed bugs
    1. Make your bed safe from getting bitten
    2. Barrier around bed and bed bug traps
    3.Clean areas to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs
    4. Clean Clothing and Bedding:
Useful Tips

Identification of bed bugs
Bed bugs are reddish/brown bugs that are oval in shape, very flat and about ¼ inch long or 5 millimetres long.). Bed bugs have a similar shape as ladybugs, only much flatter when viewed from the side.  Bed bugs hide away during the day in bedding, bed furniture and cracks; especially in bed frames and box springs and also wooden furniture close to the bed and baseboards.  
Bed bugs usually do not transmit disease. (So relax if you can.)

Sometimes you will not even see the bed bugs, especially early on during an infestation. Your family doctor may or may not be familiar with bed bug bites. Your family doctor (GP) may misdiagnose your bites as eczema or stress and not consider bedbugs the culprit. Travel clinics tend to be more familiar with bed bug bites and often identify them quickly.

size of a bed bug compared to a key

How to know if you have bed bugs:

·    Check at night for live bed bugs with a flashlight by checking in crevices around your sleeping area. Often bed bugs like to hide in bed frames and box springs. It helps to use a red light, some red paper in front of your light will do, and bed bugs won’t notice the red light the same way as they notice a regular light. 
·    Finding small bloodstains on your bedding - is definite proof of an infestation. You often do not see this until a larger bed bug population is established.
·    Dead bed bugs
·    Cast bed bug skins
·    Bed bugs eggs: they are small, white and easy to overlook
·    Being bitten at night is not always a reliable indicator for bed bugs. Consider the possibility of flea or mite bites.

the dark stains are bed bug debris in a wooden bed frame

Likely harbouring places for bed bugs:

In the seams of mattresses, between the wooden joints of box springs, curtain pleats, behind loose wallpaper, in the cracks of any wooden furniture, esp. the furniture close to the bed like night tables and dressers, behind mouldings, in clothes closets or laundry on the floor.
In some languages bed bugs are called wood bugs, because they like to hide in furniture, inside wood joints. Think dressers, wardrobes and nightstands, wood molding. Bed bugs generally do not like metal, as it is a good heat conductor. (So they get too cold/hot). Things to look for are the bugs themselves, and the light-brown, molted skins of the nymphs and eggs.
Dark spots of dried bed bug excrement along mattress seams or wherever the bugs have resided are another telltale sign. (That often shows up in a large infestation only.) Box springs (the wooden structure under the mattress) afford many places for bed bugs to hide.

If you can’t find bed bug evidence, they may be just hiding very well, but also consider that there are other possibilities for getting rashes, bites and welts on the skin:

·    Fleas: Most fleabites occur around the ankles, legs and feet, bed bug bites can be all over and are often clustered and in a straight line.
·    Bird mites
·    Rat mites
·    Cat mites
·    Mosquitoes
·    Allergic reactions to detergents or something else
·    Stress eczema

Treatment against bed bugs

Extent of treatment depends on severity of infestation. If detected early, often it is enough to just treat the mattresses and bed frames, because the bed bugs will usually stay close to you, their food source, and only spread out after some time.

1.    Make your bed safe to avoid getting bitten
               (Subtitle: “No more free meals for them buggers!”)

First, deal with your bedding (sheets, blankets, pillows and so on). If you see bed bugs, spray everything with a cleaning solutions (soapy water plus essential oils is nice), bag it and wash it or expose it to temperature extremes.
For treating beds and mattresses, a dust mite cover with a zipper on the mattress and box spring is the easiest way. The dust mite cover must extend all the way around; just on top is not enough. It is best to buy the dust mite cover for the box spring one size larger then the actual size of box spring, so it is easier to fit. Department stores and allergy stores usually have these. Phone ahead and make sure they are available to save you a trip. Insist on a dust mite cover that goes all around the mattress and has a zipper! Just elastic at the bottom is not enough. Once the mattress is enclosed in the zipper, put some strong tape where the zipper closes as a precaution so that no bed bug can ever escape.
Leave the dust mite covers on for a year, as bed bugs can live long.
You could also use heavy duty plastic (6 millimetres thick, used in construction) but you have to be very diligent to tape them completely shut, so no bed bug can escape and the plastic is also noisy when you move around on it. However, it is cheaper and if you need to encase a lot of beds, that may be an option to consider. Just use really strong tape.
There are also now mattress and box spring covers for sale made for bed bug control. They have a cover for the end of the zipper, but regular dust mite covers do a good job, too.

Dry Steam cleaners like a Vaparetto (we rent these out to local customers) cannot always penetrate into the material and therefore I usually do not recommend them for mattresses or box springs. They can be very useful on furniture and can drastically reduce the numbers of bedbugs in a large infestation. They also can help with mite infestations if you can’t use Diatomaceous Earth. (Some people are sensitive to dust and will not want to use DE then.}
A word on vacuums: in a large infestation regular vacuuming can help, but will not get into the hidden spots like wooden joints and tackle the bed bug populations there. For smaller infestations I think it’s a waste of time, because the bed bugs will be hiding away in the cracks and vacuuming wont dislodge them. Use your time and effort for more effective techniques like steam cleaning, unless you can see bed bugs and bed bug eggs and then DO use the vacuum and discard the bag or freeze it afterwards. Another way to pick up visible bed bugs and eggs is a piece of sticky tape. Squash them after they got onto the sticky tape so they don’t have to suffer for long.

If you have an antique headboard on your bed frame, you can get a caulking gun and some weather stripping caulk. This caulk is designed to come off again when you want and so unlikely to damage your wood. Caulk all the wood joints; it is bed bugs favourite hiding spot. Or you can steam clean. Headboards that are attached to the wall HAVE to be moved; bedbugs are likely hiding behind the headboards. In a large infestation, you will want to check the baseboard moulding in that area as well.

2.Barrier around bed and bed bug traps
Once your bed is safe and clean, start making a barrier around the bed. Use:
·    Tape  (double sided carpet tape is best) or
·    Vaseline or Oil
·    Anything sticky

Double sided tape or carpet tape around the legs of your bed frame and/or putting the bed legs into a plastic container with double sided tape inside and out will prevent the bed bugs from coming up on the bed legs and feeding on you at night.
Oil (mineral oil or others) in a container also works, but may stain your bed legs permanently, unless you can put the bed on little blocks so the bed legs don’t touch the oil.
You have to make sure the bed and bedding do not touch the floor or wall anywhere else for this barrier treatment to work. You can make your own double-sided tape by taking wide tape and folding it from each outside towards the middle. However, because this tape is less sticky, the chance that the bed bugs are getting stuck on the tape is lower.  Carpet tape is stronger and might damage the finish on your furniture.
Alternatively, use duct tape with the sticky side facing out. Hold it in place with masking tape around the edges.
If there are no bed legs and the whole frame rest on the floor, set the frame onto wooden blocks to elevate it.
If the mattress is directly on the floor, consider getting a frame, because a mattress on a floor is not good anyways. It can’t air out properly and mold might start growing inside the mattress over time. You can put tape on the floor all around the mattress in the meantime until you can elevate the mattress from the ground.

 Keep pets off the bed, as bed bugs sometimes like to hitch a ride on them, esp. if said bed bugs are hungry. Especially if you took the time to get your bed free of bugs, if pets sleep on your bed and bring a bug with them, you would have to start the cleaning all over again.

Tip for bed bug trap: In some cultures, people put two pieces of wood together or drill small holes into a piece of wood and the bed bugs may crawl in between the wood pieces. In the morning you can check for bed bugs then. You can put these home made traps below the tape barrier and bed bugs are more likely to stay in them because it’s closed to their food source (you). So this can be a good way to catch the remaining bed bugs in the room, as they will be attracted to your sleeping area.
Disposal: Freezing or hot soapy water. If you are trying to avoid killing any bed bugs, put them outside (far away form any building structure). Do not rely on this method to completely get rid of bed bugs, but it can be useful for identifying a bed bug problem or if you live in an apartment building and the occasional bed bug straggler comes over from a different apartment.

3.Clean areas to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs

Cleaning surrounding area with steam cleaner will kill most bed bugs, but not necessarily all eggs, so it has to be repeated. In a large infestation you may want to check behind base boards if you find bed bugs or eggs, a good place to start is the base board close to the bed, esp. the header. Are there any fabric wall coverings or curtains? Check behind for bed bugs and their eggs.

If you have a wooden floor with gaps in between the planks the bed bugs may be hiding there. I suggest washing the floor with Borax and a citrus based cleaner, like Citrasolv. If possible steam clean afterwards to force the Borax into the cracks. Never put any cleaning agent into a steam cleaner, it can clog and break the machine.

When cleaning/dismantling a piece of furniture, it helps to put the furniture onto plastic or a white sheet so you can see any bed bugs that might try to get away. Work in good lighting for the same reason.

If you need to move bedding or furniture out of a room put it in plastic bags or wrap plastic underneath to avoid dropping little bedbugs/eggs into hallways or other places.

4. Clean Clothing and Bedding:

Use washing and drying or extreme heat or cold to kill off bed bugs.

Put articles in freezer or outside if cold enough. Temperatures of minus five degrees Celsius will kill bedbugs (12 hours) but not necessarily their eggs.

During a cold snap you can put beds, mattresses, clothes and wood furniture outside. This is cheap, effective and often the least labour intensive.
Temperatures of – 20 Celsius (-6 Fahrenheit) will definitely kill bed bugs overnight. Warmer temperatures may kill the adults but treatment should be repeated in a week to catch any eggs that may have hatched in the meantime.
This is assuming that you are moving stuff out of a heated place: the drastic change in temperature will kill of the bed bugs. If the temperature change is gradual it may be less successful.
If you are in a hot climate, you can make the heat work for you by wrapping clothing and furniture in plastic and putting it out in the sunlight. It will get quite hot inside the bags. Aim for 50 C (around 120 Fahrenheit) inside the bags. Your car is another place that can get quite hot when parked in the full sun on a hot day.
Clothing: bed bugs may be hiding in your clothes. If you put them in bags and into the freezer for 4 hours the adults and nymph bed bugs will die. You can then shake the clothing out (put a white sheet under to catch and see any bed bugs).
You can also just wash and dry (in dryer) everything. (Which is what is usually recommended.)

Now you are hopefully bed bug free AND you have a clean place!

All of this is a lot of work and if that is too labour intensive, you can just dust a very thin layer of food grade Diatomaceous Earth into cracks and crevices.  However, I find that DE does not give very good results in bed bug infestations, probably because the bed bug shell is very hard (sort of like fleas). So personally I think it maybe a good additional product to use AFTER thorough cleaning and putting up the barrier, esp. in large infestations. The food grade DE will have an effect on the younger bed bug nymph population but not so much on adult bed bugs. If you are using food grade Diatomaceous Earth for crack and crevices treatment, you could mix very small amounts (5%) of boric acid into this. Boric acid can be toxic in larger amounts and should therefore be kept away form children and pets. In very small amounts it is beneficial (anti fungal).

Useful Tips

·    To prevent the bed bugs from moving through the whole house, do not start sleeping in other bedrooms or on the couch. Bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide we give off when breathing and our body warmth. They will follow you to your new sleeping place, often within a week.  The infestation will then have been spread over the whole house, which means more cleaning for you!

·    Some people are grossed out and just end up tossing their belongings into the trash. (Rarely necessary.)  If you are one of them, mark it and put signs on it or deface it so other people do not pick up your infested furniture!

·    When moving bedding or furniture out of a room put it in plastic bags or wrap plastic underneath to avoid dropping little bedbugs/eggs into hallways or other places.

·    Put double-sided tape around the legs of your furniture that is NOT infested. Put it around the couch or sofa, for example and then you don’t have to clean that one. You could then even start to sleep on it and attract the bed bugs to this place as they can’t get up. Double-sided tape is also good on the legs of any upholstered furniture like an armchair/computer chair, so you know that you wont have to clean it later on. Or, if it is already infested, the infestation can’t spread any further. Always a good idea to put a bed bug trap beneath the barrier so you can catch bed bugs in there.

·    Soak materials with bloodstains in COLD water first so that the blood stain (protein) is washed out before a regular wash, otherwise the stain will set and can’t be removed later on.
·    Trying to raise or lower the temperature in your entire house or apartment will not work to kill the bed bugs.

If you need to travel, keep your luggage away from the bed to decrease chances of bringing home bed bugs. Also check your bed at night for bed bug evidence (blood stains) or live bugs. Check the room before unpacking and ask for a different room if you find bed bug evidence. Take a close look at the mattress for blackish/redish dots. Check the bedside table and any wooden furniture close to the bed for blackish/redish dots, bed bug nymph shells or actual bed bugs.

If you got bitten while travelling and/or suspect that you may be bringing bedbugs home with you, leave your luggage outside and treat it. Options:
-  Leave everything in a car or van in the full summer sun with windows closed.
-  Leave everything outside if temperatures are under zero degrees Celsius, quick changes in temperature are harder for all bugs to handle.
-   Put everything in plastic bags and use dry ice (from party supply store, you need thick gloves to handle the dry ice.).
-   Clean and wash everything before bringing it in.
-   Remember that bed bugs nymphs and adults will die before the eggs die, eggs are always hardier.

Bed bugs are host specific, which means they like to stay on humans and can’t reproduce without feeding off humans. However, if they can’t feed off humans, they can survive and feed off your pets, like dogs and cats. If your pets stay on the bed or couch, you may need to inspect them and wash them or have them groomed.

Here are some scenarios for a bed bug problem to start:

-   You or someone in the household returns from travelling. During traveling you stayed with relatives and/or in hotels. Hotels often end up with bed bug problems because of the high turnover rate.
-  You have recently brought in furniture from another place. That could be a nice antique from the curb. Could be a futon or mattress from a bedding store. Sometimes people just buy new beds from the store and hope that it will solve their bed bug problem. When the bed bugs are still around, some people then just return the new furniture! (Please don’t ever do that! It will not solve your bed bug problem and will just make someone else miserable, because now the new furniture likely has some bed bugs, too.)
-  You are living in an apartment building or any other multiple dwelling unit and bed bugs are coming over from adjacent units to set up camp in your home.

Mite problems are sometimes confused with bed bug problem. Food grade Diatomaceous Earth works very well on any mite, like rat mites or bird mites. However, I found it not effective enough on bed bugs (because of their hard shell). If you suspect mites (not dust mites) you can clean with borax and water and then apply a very thin layer of food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) under mattress and around bed. (You can also only use DE for mite problems; it will work.) Use a zippered dust mite cover for the mattress. Use some sticky tape to tape over the end of the zipper, because mites are very small.
If it is a louse or mite problem, include your shoes into the treatment, also anything else that you frequently touch, like purses. Freezing/and or a little food grade DE will work. So will the dry steam cleaner, however it is more work then DE because you may need to repeat it, as steam cleaning leaves no residual protection.
If applying food grade Diatomaceous Earth in the house, dust only lightly and keep the DE away from heating or cooling ducts so it doesn’t get blown around. Food grade DE is non-toxic and non-staining; however avoid breathing the dust over an extended period of time.  However, never use swimming pool DE, it is dangerous to breathe in.
If you are buying the DE form a garden or hardware store, make sure it has no toxic additives in it. Chemfree is a good brand to use.
The reason I like to recommend using DE against mites is that you do not need to reapply it, as long as it stays dry, it will work against mites. If you can’t use the food grade DE, you can implement the bed bug treatment, it will work against mites also, but is more labour intensive.

Other pest infestations
If you have birds, bats or rodents like mice, rats or squirrels in the house, that should be taken care of as well, so the bed bugs don’t get any free meals. Mites can originate from these pest populations as well. There is such a thing as bat bugs, too, so do make sure no other pests are living in your home.

Where to buy some of the supplies:
Borax; in the laundry isle of most grocery stores
Citrasolv or any truly orange based cleaner; grocery store or health food store
Cleaner: soapy water with 30 to 40 drops of essential oils per spray bottle makes a good cleaner
Food grade Diatomaceous Earth (for mite problem or louse problem or for a large bed bug infestation): garden centre, building supply store, feed store or farmer co-op.
Steam cleaner (Vaparetto); we rent them out (in Ottawa) or building supply stores often sell them. Some vacuum cleaner stores rent them out as well.

There used to be a very good, safe bed bug spray on the market that was called "Thwart". Customers told me that it did work very well for them, even in bigger bed bug infestations that had gone undetected for a while. It disappeared from the market. It contained 2% tea tree oil and a combination of non-toxic polymers with deterrent enzymes. I don't know why it's off the market, but always thought, how hard can it be to recreate that?

Here is what the University of Nebraska -Lincoln has to say about pesticides:
“Bed bug resistance to pyrethroids has been documented in a recent study by researchers at the University of Kentucky (2007). Most insecticide products that can be used in the home belong to this class (Table 1). But, because we cannot predict which bed bug populations have resistance, these products still must be used, because they are the only choices we currently have.
Insect growth regulators, which interfere with insect molting and reproduction have been effective tactics for managing a number of structural insect pests, including cockroaches and fleas. However, a recent study showed that bed bugs were not adversely affected by hydroprene (Precor).”

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