It has been a long hot summer, but the weather is finally turning. Now is the time for all the creepy crawlies that have been happy outside to look for homes for the winter. Your homes.
We thought they were gone. A daily fact of life in the middle ages was reduced to “Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” by the middle of the 20th century. Whole generations grew up without even knowing they were real. It can throw people off to hear that bedbugs actually exist.
While the Center for Disease Control hasn’t found any real health risks associated with bedbugs they are annoying and can cause a lot of irritation. So what are they? Simply, think of them like fleas. They’re small, oval and brownish until they get a good meal of blood. Adults have flat bodies and are generally about the size of an apple seed. They can’t fly, but move quickly over walls, floors, and ceilings. The females lay hundreds of eggs each year, all about the size of a speck of dust. If the conditions are right, like in the warmth of a bed, their little babies can be all grown up and having eggs of their own in as little as a month.
Clearly, an infestation can happen rather quickly. They first gain entry by clinging to things like clothing, used furniture like beds, and luggage. Their flat little bodies allow them to hide in tiny spaces, and since they don’t nest like ants, they can be harder to spot. Initially, they will congregate in dark places that affords them easy access to a blood source. So expect to find them in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards. Once the infestation is established however, they will expand into any nook or cranny.
It can be a lot harder to know when you have an infestation, but there are a few warning signs you can look for. Since they tend to feed on sleeping people, check for tiny bloodstains on sheets and pillowcases. And if the sleeping person they’re feeding on is you, you will have itchy areas in the morning with tiny blood spots in them. There might also be dark, rust color spots on the mattress, sheets and walls because of their excrement. If you do find a cluster of blood stains, fecal spots and egg shells then you have most likely just found one of their homes. You can also use your nose. Bedbugs release an unpleasant musty odor.
Once you’ve discovered that you have a few uninvited guests, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them. Your first reaction to learning that you have blood sucking insects in bed with you will probably be to wash everything in hot water. Good. Include the bedding, linen, all of your clothing, and don’t forget the curtains. Most importantly, dry them on the highest setting your dryer has. Even items that can’t be washed should be put in the dryer on high for 30 minutes. Scrub all the mattress seams with a stiff brush before you vacuum the bed and all surrounding areas. If you can, just get rid of it, but make sure you debug the rest of your house or you’ll just end up in the same situation soon enough. And of course, get rid of the places they can hide. Remove clutter from around your bed, repair cracks and peeling wallpaper.
The last step is to call in a licensed exterminator. You don’t want an amateur messing around with poisonous chemicals where you sleep, and it’s unlikely that you have the equipment or know-how for heat treatments. Let a professional take care of it and make sure to follow through on all of their suggestions to keep the little parasites from coming back.