Bed Bugs – What They Are, Inspection, And How To Get Rid Fast & Permanently
Bed bugs, scientifically known as Cimex lectularius, are small wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The adult has an oval-shaped structure and is reddish-brown in colour.
The upper surface of its body has a crinkled appearance and it is about 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. Its body is covered with short golden hair and its head is broad with a pair of prominent compound cone-like eyes.
The insect has 2 antennae segmented into 4 parts. It has weak flexible beak-like piercing mouthparts. It has 6 well-developed legs and simple claws to climb up rough surfaces.
It is very difficult to kill bed bugs and so a range of treatments is used to treat an infestation one of which is steam and heat treatments.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Fast & Permanently
Steam treatment using a portable steam machine is effective but time-consuming. You must place the nozzle directly over the infested surface and move it at a rate of 30cm every 1 to 15 seconds. The quality of the steam is crucial. The machine must produce steam of a low vapor flow and high temperature.
The recommended setting is dry steam with less than 5% humidity at 94°C applied at high pressure. Low vapour output prevents the treated surface from becoming very wet. The machine must produce a minimum temperature of 60°C (140°C).
The steamer should hold at least 50 ounces of water – enough to last for an hour of continual usage. After treatment, the treated surface should record at least 70°C – 80°C on the infrared digital thermometer.
Keep the steam flow rate at a minimum. Use a suitable nozzle to avoid distributing the bed bugs. Vacuum all bed bugs after applying the treatment. The surfaces you have to cover determine the length of time it takes.
It takes at least 1 hour to set up the machine and clean the mattress alone. Add extra time for plush furniture, carpets, rugs, and other appropriate surfaces.
- Steam kills bed bugs at all stages in the life cycle when applied properly.
- Steam flushes them out of the harbourage.
- Steam combined with other treatments can reduce a significant amount of the population.
- Steam can reach areas a vacuum cannot reach.
- Steam treatment is a cheap effective way to kill bed bugs.
- Steam treatment requires patience.
- Steam must be applied slowly and closely to the infested items for effective results.
- Steam treatment is a continuous process. Taking breaks between treatments gives the pests time to escape.
- Steam treatment on its own cannot eliminate the bed bug population.
- The treatment has no residual effect and there is no guarantee against re-infestation.
- Steam cannot penetrate the mattress and other materials.
- The treatment is not suitable for every surface.
- Steam can damage wood, electronic devices, paper and other items sensitive to water.
- Sometimes the treatment has to be applied multiple times to get the required results.
- If used inappropriately, the steam can blow away pesticide residue in the treated area. The towel over the nozzle may obstruct the release of steam pressure and prevents the steam escaping forcefully to kill bed bugs.
Steam is not the magic bullet to solve the bed bug problem. You must combine it with other treatments to kill the pests. If you choose to use a desiccant, wait until the treated surface dries before you apply the powder.
The use of mattress encasement after applying steam treatment is good.
Health And Safety Issues
Steam needs a minimum heat of 60°C. This exposes you to extreme heat. Moisture contributes to mould. And, using pesticides in an area that has just been treated with steam can be dangerous to occupants in the house.
Bed Bug Inspection In Bed
If you suspect bed bug infestation at home, one of the first things you should do is a thorough inspection. Bed bug inspection helps you to determine the source and extent of the infestation.
This information allows you to implement appropriate techniques and apply appropriate treatments to exterminate the pests.
Bed bug inspection always begins in the host’s resting area and gradually moves out to other areas. It is less likely other areas will be affected by low infestation because bed bugs tend to stay close to the bed.
Bed Bug Inspection Tools Include:
- Magnifying glass
- A bright flashlight
- Cotton wool
- A thin knife or probe tool
- Compressed air to flush bed bugs from the harbourage
- Paper towel
- Screwdrivers to remove the light switch and electrical plates
- Alcohol to test marks on bed linen and mattress
- Small tool kit to dismantle furniture
What To Look For During The Bed Bug Inspection Process
- Live bed bugs (juvenile and adult)
- Bed bug excrement
- Cast skin (exoskeleton)
- Blood stains
At the start of the bed bug inspection process remove sheets and pillowcases from the bed and pillows and examine them for blood stains and black spots (excrement).
Bed Bug Inspection For The Mattress
- Check the top and bottom of seams and along the piping, underneath the handles, and under buttons.
- Check between the mattress and box spring.
- Check inside seams and inside air holes
- Apply alcohol to a piece of cotton wool and gently rub it on spots on the mattress and bed linen. If it dissolves into a reddish-brown colour continue the search. This indicates the mark is a blood stain.
- Gently lift the mattress to avoid scattering bed bugs.
- Check the top and bottom seams, and under buttons, and check for rips in the vinyl cover on the mattress.
- Replace the cover if it has holes.
- Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame and carefully inspect the area.
Bed Bug Inspection For The Bed Frame And Headboard
- Use a crevice tool to force bed bugs out of joints in the bed frame
- Check along the edges of the bed frame
- Check underneath the bed frame
- Check along seams and areas where the material fastens to the frame
- Don’t overlook the screw holes
- Dismantle the bed (if it’s a wooden bed) and inspect the various parts
- Pay careful attention to the wood frame, especially in cracks where wood pieces join.
- Remove the headboard, check behind it, along joints, and on the wall
- Check between the mattress and box spring
Bed Bug Inspection For The Box Spring
- Check all spaces between the box spring and frame.
- Check beneath staples and tacks.
- Check on top of the box spring and inside folds of materials
- Remove the thin cloth layer on the underside of the box spring and carefully inspect
- Check along seams where the material attaches to the frame
- Chase bed bugs from hiding places with compressed air
- Place double-sided carpet tape on the underside of the furniture to catch escaping bed bugs.
You must be very careful not to disturb bed bugs when conducting a bed bug inspection. Bed bugs will scatter and move to new locations.
Bed bug inspection is very time-consuming. For successful bed bug control, you must be patient and you must invest quality time to do a thorough inspection.
Bed Bug Inspection – The Room
A thorough bed bug inspection is important for two reasons: to determine the extent of the infestation and it’s the best way to manage bed bugs. Adult and juvenile bed bugs can hide in very small spaces.
Move slowly to avoid disturbing the pests during a bed bug inspection. Throughout the bed bug inspection, especially in low infestation, keep in mind the bed bugs will stay close to the bed.
Items away from the host’s resting area tend to be at low risk of infestation. To focus inspection and treatment time on the most infested areas, determine and prioritize the risk of infestation on a scale of high or low.
To avoid injury from hidden sharp objects carefully observe the surface before touching anything.
You need these tools to conduct the bed bug inspection:
- A magnifying glass
- A strong flashlight
- Paper towel
- A probe tool (e.g. thin knife) to check cracks and crevices
- Screwdrivers to remove electrical plate and light switch
- A small tool kit to disassemble furniture
- A zip-top plastic bag to collect specimens
- Compressed air to flush bed bugs from cracks and crevices
- Alcohol and baby wipes to check stains on sheets and mattress
- Cotton swabs to check stains in crevices
- Sticky traps near or underneath the bed to monitor bed bug activity.
Some bed bugs wander to a new harbourage when the primary harbourage (the bed) gets overcrowded so check other areas inside the room.
Check other equipment and furniture inside the room. This includes a desk, closet, dresser, dresser drawers, chairs, nightstands, etc.
Remove and empty drawers in nightstands, dressers, and closets. Place contents in black bin bags and seal them tightly before transporting them to the laundry room.
Inspect inside and underneath the drawers paying special attention to cracks and crevices. Use the crevice tool to force bed bugs out of cracks and crevices in furniture.
Remove drawers from the furniture. Check the inside, top, and bottom joints, the underside, and in screw holes. Check zippers, seams, and tufts in cushions of upholstered furniture and frame.
Force bed bugs from other cracks and crevices inside the room with a putty knife. Use sticky tape to catch them or crush them in a paper towel, place the towel in a bag and seal it tightly and dispose of it in the outdoor garbage bin.
In addition to surface inspection, examine the underside of chairs, tables, sofas, underneath the legs of chairs, couches, and other furniture. Use the magnifying glass and flashlight to inspect between cracks and crevices.
Don’t overlook screw and nail holes. Place all equipment – e.g. clock, telephone, lamps, radio, remote control, etc. – in secure plastic bags and tightly seal the bag for further inspection.
Remove and check underneath the fabric that attaches to the frame of office-style chairs. Carefully examine staples and where the material is stapled to the frame.
Inspect the wood parts of the frames. Dispose of the furniture if it is severely infested with bed bugs. Using a flashlight, inspect cracks and crevices of furniture, windows, and door frames. Swipe a thin putty knife into cracks and crevices to force out bed bugs.
A blow dryer on a low setting can also do the job. Once bed bugs leave the harbourage crush them with a paper towel, place them in a bag, seal the bag and dispose of them in the garbage outside the building.
Use a thin putty knife to check paintings, posters, pictures, and mirrors. Check cracks in plaster and underneath peeling wallpaper. Visually inspect light switches and face plates of electrical outlets. Examine phones, smoke detectors, clocks, and toys.
Check behind the headboard, along the baseboard, behind drapes, behind wall sockets, and other fixtures and fittings in the room.
Bed bug inspection is time-consuming and it can be tedious. Be patient, persistent, and resolute in the search for bed bugs. Your decision to do the search will pay off in the end so don’t give up.
How Do Bed Bugs Get Into Your Home?
Remember Sly Cooper? – The thief raccoon enters detective Carmelita Fox’s office and takes a case file about him. Sly is agile. The raccoon sneaks around and pickpockets guards for their keys.
Guess what? Bed bugs are just like Sly Cooper. They subtly enter your home andÂ steal your peace, relationship, and comfort. Besides, they sometimes make you a public disgrace.
Ever had one parading on your clothes in public? Not good, is it?
The little critters enter your home in many ways. The flat structure of their bodies allows them to squeeze through tiny spaces to enter your home. Bed bugs can easily travelÂ from adjoining apartments into your home.
Bed bugs hitchhike on your stuff at work, in the bus, taxi, train, or airplane. They hang out in airports, train stations, hotel rooms, cinemas, and even in the shops. You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for these creepy crawlers to latch on to your stuff.
Missy Henriksen, NPMA vice president of public affairs, says retail stores have what bed bugs need to survive – people. Moving in and out of these places allows bed bugs to hitchhike on people’s stuff.
A night in an infested hotel room is all it takes to have these unwelcome housemates inside your home. They wedge themselves into small crevices in your suitcase at the bat of an eyelid.
That’s why the National Pest Association recommends that travelers vacuum their luggage as soon as they return home and store them in tightly sealed plastic bags just in case one of the little critters escaped the suction hose.
Bed bugs can also infest your pets so keep them away from old furniture and mattresses left on curbs.
It is unwise to buy used furniture or collect them from off the street because they are often infested with bed bugs. You should always check your furniture or beds before you bring them into your home. Upholstered furniture has many hiding places for bed bugs. If it’s possible, avoid buying them.
And, don’t forget the visitors. They accidentally transport bed bugs inside your home. Bed bugs are sly creatures so be careful when you travel. You can never tell when they’ll hitchhike on your stuff.