How to Detect and Treat a Bed Bug Infestation

As the old saying goes, sleeping tight is much easier when you don’t have to worry about the bed bugs biting. The past several decades have seen a strong resurgence of these harmful pests, and many homeowners and renters alike live in anxiety with the chance of picking them up on their travels.

A bed bug problem, however, can be handled quickly and efficiently with the right steps and precautions. Since travel is the most common way to pick up an infestation, there are also plenty of methods to keep yourself safe from bed bugs, even when you hit the road. 

We’ll outline all the facts you need to know about bed bugs so you can identify what bed bug bites look like, signs of bed bugs around your home, and methods for keeping the problem from coming back in the future. If these talented home invaders have made their way into your comfortable living space, use these tips for either a DIY or professional treatment approach to eradicate bed bugs from your home as quickly as possible.

Quick Facts About Bed Bugs

If you’re just dealing with bed bug worries for the first time, there are some basic tips to keep in mind as you get acquainted with the pests.

  • Bed bugs are very small—often undetectable—insects that live off the blood of warm-bodied animals like humans
  • Bed bug bites often appear in lines, since they can bite one host more than once in a short time
  • Bed bugs often enter homes after someone has traveled
  • Bed bugs typically burrow in furniture where they will have access to prey at night, most notoriously in the mattress or bed frame
  • Bed bugs can lay hundreds of eggs and take 35 days to mature
  • Bed bugs can live up to a year, making it difficult to catch the entire infestation

Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation

The biggest question everyone wants to know is: how do I know if I have a bed bug infestation? First of all, it can be hard to spot a bed bug itself. Not only are they quite small, but they are also stealth hiders. Bites can be deceiving as well. Many other insect bites can manifest in similar ways, such as mosquito and flea bites. Still, there are some very common distinctions about finding bed bugs in your home.

Sign #1: Telltale Bed Bug Bites

As we mentioned above, bed bug bites often appear in lines, one after another, but this isn’t the case across the board. Typically, one bed bug may feast on a single host several times in a row until they are full. Bites are nearly always the first sign of a bed bug infestation, so do not hesitate to contact a doctor at the first signs.

Do Bed Bug Bites Hurt?

Bed bug bites rarely hurt at the moment, making it even harder to detect that there is a problem right away. These clever insects use a minute amount of anesthetic to hide their presence, so you often will not find the bites until the next morning or even later in the day.

What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?

The size, itchiness, and pain level of the bite will depend on your body’s individual reaction. While some people experience large welts or rashes around the site, others will only experience small bites with minimal itching.

How Long Do Bed Bug Bites Last?

Depending on your body’s reaction, bed bug bites typically last anywhere from 1-3 weeks. For most people, the healing process will be complete on the shorter end of this range. Talk to your doctor about how long bed bug bites last and over-the-counter methods for keeping the bite clean and safe as it heals.

Sign #2: Leftover Bed Bug Indicators

Bedbugs are excellent hiders and often only come out when it’s dark and safe. This makes it all the more difficult to spot them in person.

However, bed bugs are notorious for leaving behind different things to indicate that they were in the areas. For example, you make be able to spot:

  • Discarded exoskeletons, shells, and skins
  • Bloodstains from bites
  • Fecal stains on bedding and in the seams of mattresses and furniture

The easiest place to spot these items is in spots where bed bugs typically hideout waiting for hosts. These include mattresses, bedsheets, bed frames, couches, and other seating, as well as suitcases and garment bags.

Bed bugs can also live in wooden furniture, especially if you just purchased something second-hand, but it is often harder to spot these small indicators on solid objects.

Sign #3: The Bed Bugs Themselves

So, what does a bed bug look like? Bed bugs are relatively uniform, though they will greatly vary in size depending on their age. Bed bugs:

  • Grow between 1 and 7 millimeters long
  • Are reddish-brown
  • Have flat, oval-shaped bodies
  • Have two antennae
  • Have six small legs
  • Do not jump or fly, but can move quickly on the ground

It’s important to note that bed bugs can stay dormant for days or weeks at a time before biting their hosts. If you cannot trace your bites back to a recent trip, look back a bit further and you may have your culprit.

How Do You Get a Bed Bug Infestation?

Ending up with a bed bug infestation can feel bewildering, especially if you’re been cautious to avoid one. Bed bugs can latch on to your clothing, suitcases, or even new furniture in many scenarios. Even a few hours in a hotel, theatre, or home with a bed bug infestation could send you back to your own space with bed bugs ready to lay their eggs.

The majority of bed bug infestations come from traveling out of town. As travel has increased in the past several decades, bed bug issues have seen an uptick across the country.

It is also possible to bring in bed bugs from second-hand clothing, luggage, and furniture— particularly mattresses. Large cities prone to bed bug infestations will often require mattress covers to even discard mattresses to protect other areas from infestations. 

Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?

In general, the CDC does not consider bed bugs to be particularly dangerous home pests. They are not known to carry disease and only occasionally cause severe allergic reactions when they bite.

However, bed bugs can spread and bite at such a high frequency, that it is impossible to ignore an infestation when one begins. Bed bugs will bite for months at a time, eventually spreading and nesting deep within individual pieces of furniture, rugs, and clothing.

Severe bed bug infestations can be quite costly since removal and even the disposal of infested items add up very quickly. Bed bugs should not be taken lightly and should be addressed as quickly as possible, preferably by a professional.

How to Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation

Defense against any infestation begins with a strong prevention plan. Remaining alert of any new bed bug bites as well as your surroundings when you travel is the best way to protect yourself. Here are a few tips for avoiding bed bugs.

Travel Tips for Avoiding Bed Bugs

Let’s start outside the home. Whenever you leave for a trip, both in the country and abroad, follow these tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Only choose hotels or rentals with high cleanliness ratings
  • When you arrive at your room, check the seams of your mattresses and bed sheets for signs of bed bugs
  • Keep your suitcase and clothing off the floor of your hotel room. Opt for the suitcase carrier or closet.
  • Avoid putting clothing in the provided drawers; hanging clothing in the closet is safest
  • When you return home, transfer your clothing into the wash immediately
  • Check your suitcase when you return and store it elsewhere for a day if possible

Home Tips for Avoiding Bed Bugs

In other cases, bed bugs may find their way on your clothing or bags from something far simpler—like a trip to a restaurant or gym. Keep a few tips in mind if you’re worried about bed bugs:

  • Address possible bed bugs immediately, if you are unsure about the type of bite, speak to a doctor without delay.
  • If you do suspect a problem, check the seams of your bed and bedding when you wake up each morning.
  • Never bring second-hand furniture in from off the street without treatment or reassurance the item is clean.
  • Cover your mattress or furniture with a protective covering.
  • Keep your home clean and void of clutter to catch bed bugs before they spread.
  • If you use a laundromat, be sure to keep your items separate from communal spaces of other customer’s clothing.
  • Use a mattress bed bug liner on your mattress and box spring.

How to Stop a Bed Bug Infestation

If you find yourself in the thick of a bed bug problem, do not panic. There are many efficient treatments and affordable professionals that can take care of your issue with discretion and speed.

Start Small

The moment you suspect an infestation, wash your clothing, bedding, and any suspected washable materials in hot water and run through the dryer on high. Keep these items separate from the rest of your clothing as much as possible during the cleaning process.

Address Your Mattress

Bed bugs often make their way to your mattress, and can even hide inside the mattress itself if there are rips or tears. Store-bought insecticides can salvage a mattress or box spring from having to be thrown away, especially if used in tandem with a bed-bug proof cover.

Chemical Bed Bug Treatments

Bed bug treatments often come in the form of dust, sprays, or residual aerosols. Many products will recommend a combination of the treatments around your home, but be sure to diligently read the instructions to ensure the safety of yourself and your pets.

Insecticides should be applied throughout the infested room, not just throughout the bedding but also in corners, furniture, closets, and woodworking.

Plant-Based Bed Bug Treatments

You can also opt for natural bed bug treatments and even a few that can be made from common home materials. Solutions of rubbing alcohol can kill bugs on contact, as can silica gel, and diatomaceous earth. It is important to use these tactics in tandem with preventive measures like heavy vacuuming, steam cleaning, and even discarding infested items to protect the rest of your home.

Professional Bed Bug Treatment

For many homeowners, getting rid of a bed bug infestation as quickly and quietly are always the two top priorities. Not only are infestations uncomfortable and frightening, but they can lead to costly repairs or even lower the value of a home if you’re in the process of selling your home. 

At Terminix, our local team will respond to your request promptly and professionally, putting you and your family’s minds at ease as quickly as possible. 

When you do call a professional for bed bug treatment, they will typically take these steps to ensure bed bugs are gone for good. For example, at Terminix, we will:

  1. Inspect your home and trouble spots for signs of bed bugs, confirming you have an infestation or providing peace of mind that the issue has passed
  2. Immediate removal of bed bugs with today’s top technology and products while keeping your home, family, and pets safe
  3. Quick and discreet care that does not interfere with your busy schedule
  4. Reassurance from our Bed Bug Guarantee, a promise that we will treat and pre-treated room for free within 30 days if bed bugs return
  5. This guarantee even extends to 90 days should you purchase mattress covers for treated beds

Even the smallest bed bug infestations can be terrifying, especially if you’re already getting bit each night. Once you learn how to prevent a future issue and find a treatment method you can trust, bed bugs can be kept at bay with confidence. 

Call the Terminix team today even if you suspect that you may have an infestation at your home. They offer free inspections and a customized bed bug plan for your unique situation without delay.

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