It’s an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes bugs and pests can invade our homes. When it comes to bed bugs though, infestations can quickly become out of control and spread around your house. They could be hiding in mattresses, cupboards and soft furnishings.
While bed bugs aren’t known to spread diseases, they can quickly become out of control as their numbers increase. As their main diet is mammalian blood, they have garnered a reputation for being particularly nasty pests. In this article, we’ll break down what bed bugs are and what promotes their infestation, how to detect them in your home, and how to treat an infestation if you do discover one.
Bed bugs — what are they and how to control them
Bed bugs are tiny, flightless insects that feed on the blood of mammals to survive. Adults appear light brown in colour and have flat, oval-shaped bodies around the size of an apple seed, which can become swollen and darker in colour after feeding. Their eggs are small and white and will often be found in the crevices of furniture, corners of rooms, seams and folds of mattresses, soft furnishings and bed linen.
Bed bugs are nocturnal and usually prefer to feed at night, often retreating into the discreet mattress crevices during the day. They require regular blood feeds to mature into adults and lay eggs.
While bed bugs may feed on any mammals, they prefer humans. Generally, their bites can become red and itchy like a mosquito bite — they may even be mistaken for them at first, allowing the bed bugs to go undetected for even longer. However, they’re usually smaller and appear in denser clusters, resembling a rash more than the typical individual bites of mosquitoes. Some individuals can experience an allergic reaction and even anaphylactic symptoms when bitten.
While bed bugs rely on blood meals to develop and grow, they can survive for months without feeding, and eggs can still hatch and grow, even if the entire adult population is wiped out. For this reason, it’s important to thoroughly remove all traces of them once you identify an infestation. Without doing so, you risk the chance of eggs hatching and the cycle repeats.
What causes bed bugs?
While bed bugs can’t fly, they’re very good at hitching a ride in handbags, luggage, and even second-hand furniture to their next destination. Bed bugs may be found in hotels, apartments, boarding houses, public transport and even movie theatres as they prefer to live in warm areas where there isn’t much movement.
Pro tip: Never, ever take a mattress off the side of the road home.
Bed bugs are often found in messy and unkempt areas- while the cleanliness of your home doesn’t make a difference in discovering bed bugs, regular cleaning is key to finding their hiding places as bed bugs are adept and skilled hiders, often hitching rides with travellers to find new homes to infest.
How to check for bed bugs
Early detection is key if you suspect you may have bed bugs in your home. With a smaller number of insects, it’s a lot easier to exterminate them. If you’re not sure whether bed bugs are in your place, here are a few areas for consideration:
- Mattress seams, bed linen and sleeping bags — Bed bugs love to find small spaces to hide in, especially around the bed. Check thoroughly along the edges of mattresses, in the seam lines and folds for their moulted skin, white eggs and the reddish-brown bugs themselves. The folds and seams of bedding sleeping bags should also be checked.
- Carpet — Though bedbugs won’t necessarily be living throughout the carpet, they may congregate in spaces where the carpet meets the wall in your bedroom. Close inspection of these areas can sometimes reveal blood excretions or even the insects themselves.
- Nooks and crannies in furniture, room corners and cracks in plaster — While bedding and upholstery make good homes for bed bugs, they’re not just found in soft furnishings. Do check the gaps between the headboards and bed bases, the corners of rooms and any cracks in the cornices or plaster, including the small cavities around wall outlets and light switches, which may be warmer spots for the bugs to congregate in.
- ‘Spotting’ and dark brown or black stains — Even if you can’t see any bugs, spots of dark brown or black dried bloodstains on bedding, mattresses and pillows are a good sign bed bugs may be present. Blood can also appear on your pyjamas in unusual places, such as the chest or arms.
- Bites in rows along exposed skin — Because bed bugs use anaesthetic when they bite, you may not notice them feeding, especially if you’re asleep. What gives bed bug bites away is that they will be on areas of your skin that are exposed while you sleep and will often appear in straight rows and triangular shapes along the skin. This is distinct from mosquito bites which tend to appear as lone bites or in more random patterns.
How to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress
While bed bugs are very hardy and skilled at hiding in homes, they will die if exposed to temperatures over 45°C and by rapid freezing below 0°C. By washing bed linen in a hot 60°C cycle and putting them through a dryer cycle, you’ll quickly eradicate the bed bugs. Smaller, non-washable items can be put in the freezer overnight to kill off bed bugs too.
Mattresses are, of course, a little trickier. Here are some steps and options to take to remove a bed bug infestation.
Step 1: Thoroughly vacuum both the mattress itself and the surrounding area, especially behind bed heads, into any corners of your bed frame and the floor underneath the bed. Be sure to remove the vacuum bag and incinerate or otherwise dispose of it to stop the spreading of bugs or eggs.
Step 2 (optional): Use a steamer on both hard and soft surfaces around your bed, as the vapour would kill both the bugs and their eggs.
Step 3: Chemical treatments from a licensed pest controller offer an effective final step to ensuring all eggs and bed bugs have been destroyed.
Take note that it is essential to clear the infestation completely and thoroughly, otherwise, there will be a high chance of recurrence.
It might be time for a new mattress
Of course, the best way to ensure your mattress is free of pests is by investing in a new one. If it’s time for you to make the switch to a brand-new mattress, take a look at our SwissAire mattresses. In addition to being premium quality mattresses that will give you a great night’s sleep, no matter what kind of mattress you like best, they are also designed to limit bed bug infestation. Talk to us today about making the switch to a brand-new mattress.