We talk a lot about how NOT to get bed bugs. By now you know to take precautions when traveling – ask hotels before booking if they’ve had a history with bed bugs, check for signs of bed bugs after check in (around mattress edges most common), and don’t leave luggage or clothing sitting on beds that aren’t your own. You also know it’s not a great idea to bring your luggage into your home right after a trip. Instead, leave in your garage and wash all the clothing before bringing inside, if possible. Store suitcases in an outdoor closet if available. Even if you’ve done all of the above, bed bugs are great travelers and CAN find their way into your home – maybe in that second-hand piece of furniture you recently purchased, from overnight house guests’ luggage, or even your kids returning home from college with a few extra “friends”. Bed bugs are made to survive in the most extreme conditions, making it hard to get rid of them once they’re in your home.
Finding and identifying bed bugs doesn’t have to be hard, though. Typically they like to live only a few feet away from their food source – any living person or pet in your home. So most likely you’ll find them in and around your bed. So how will you know when you have bed bugs? The most obvious sign is bites. You may see them on your skin or experience itchiness. Or you may not feel or see bites at all. In this case, bed bug infestations can worsen since you don’t know they’re there until it’s too late. To avoid this, check for bed bugs often. When changing bedding, check for signs – dark spots (fecal matter) on mattresses, box springs, pillows, on bed skirts, and headboards. You may also see bed bugs if you’re heavily infested, in any of their life stages – from eggs to nymphs to adults. In the adult stage, bed bugs are relatively flat, small, round, and a reddish brown color (this coloring is darker after a feeding). You can see the different life stages of bed bugs in the photo below.
So now what? While it may be hard to stomach, continue sleeping in your bed until the bed bugs have been eliminated. Moving to other areas of your home, such as a guest bedroom or the sofa, could cause the bed bugs to travel with you and infest other areas. If you want to change your bedding, wash everything in hot water. Bed Bugs can’t survive in extremely hot conditions so this will kill any hiding out in pillows, comforters, etc. While some exterminators may suggest otherwise, it’s usually best to leave everything else as is until you’ve had a professional inspection. Again, you don’t want the bed bugs to migrate to other areas of the house.
Next, call a pest control company that specializes in bed bug treatments. There are several methods of treatment available and an experienced exterminator will know which solution is best for your situation. This will also ensure you’ve correctly identified bed bugs. In the meantime, while waiting for your inspection, resist the urge to throw beds, bedding and furniture out. This will only worsen the infestation, since they could be in areas of your home you’re unaware of, therefore will infest any new items your purchase. And you also risk spreading the pests to others, by leaving infested furniture untreated.