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How to get rid of BEDBUGS.

Updated on November 27, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

Globetrotter, author, and thinker with interests in environment, minimalism, health, dancing, architecture, décor, politics, and science.

Getting Rid of Bedbugs

Eradicating bedbugs is not easy. They can live without food for anything up to nine months. They breed quickly, so as fast as you get rid of one lot, six lots replace them. They're difficult to find because they can hide in places you didn't know existed.

Getting rid of them is a major operation, and, no, exterminators cannot get rid of them without asking you to move out for six months and encasing your house in plastic. Or something like that.

So here are the high points.

Good night. Sleep Tight. Don't let the beg bugs bite In the middle of the night. :)
Good night. Sleep Tight. Don't let the beg bugs bite In the middle of the night. :)

The Short Version of Getting Rid of Bedbugs

  1. Understand their life cycle, and kill newbies before they hatch.
  2. Heat kills them, so put everything you have in a very, very hot drier for an hour. They should be quite dead by then. When you take these items out of the drier, saran wrap them until you are sure that every last bug has left your home. That could be months.
  3. Anything that you can't put through the drier and you won't use for a year, saran wrap so that nothing can escape and pack it away. Bugs have been known to live for nine months without food, so if there are any eggs or living bugs in those items, they should die within a year.
  4. Check every piece of furniture, luggage, nooks and crannies you have. They hide, and they're good at it. Use a powerful vacuum cleaner in order to suction up any hidden eggs or live ones. You might have to throw out beds, cupboards, etc. once these are infested, unless you want to wrap them in saran wrap and put them into storage for a year. If even one of these bugs remain hidden, they lay eggs, and the entire cycle starts again.
  5. Invest in a steam cleaner for your floors. The steam will kill them. Steam your floors daily. Do the same with carpets. Heat is always your best option.

The Myths about Bedbugs

There are many myths about bedbugs. So...

Diaphanous earth does not kill them. Boric Acid will kill roaches, but it doesn’t’ work on bedbugs. Clean environments do not prevent an infestation. They do not transmit disease - their bites just itch. DDT does not work on these bugs - they developed immunity within a very short time. Pesticides not do not work on bugs, so save your money from buying something at the store.

How to get rid of bed bugs

Work with bedbug life cycle
Heat Kills them
They prefer cold climates
Rubbing alcohol kills eggs
Make a Carbon Dioxide trap
Use high heat in drier for 30 minutes or more
Wrap clothing in saran wrap
Use steam cleaner on floors and carpets
Get bed bug mattress cover
Put sticky tape around bed
wipe down furniture
brush bed to get rid of eggs
 
Use boiling water where possible
 

Symptoms of a Bedbug Invasion

If you've been bitten, it could have been a flea! To check if it's a bedbug...

  1. Check sheets. There will be blood and brownish garbage in your bed.
  2. Check around your bed and furniture for this brownish garbage. It's a result of molting. They molt five times before reaching maturity.

Photo of Bedbug. What a bedbug looks like.

Source

Bedbugs can live between three and nine months without feeding

While there's some disagreement here and some of the scientific community have claimed that bedbugs can live between nine month and a year, the general consensus is that bedbugs can live up to three months without a meal. This is dependent on a room temperature of 23 degrees centigrade. They can live up to nine months in colder climates.

As yet, there is no agreement amongst scientists as to how long a bedbug lives.

Number of eggs laid and frequency.

Bedbug lay between one and four eggs every day once they have reached adulthood. A bedbug is five or six weeks old before it is able to reproduce. However, it needs to molt once a week in order to reach the next stages (there are five stages), In order to molt, it has to feed once a week, so if it doesn't feed, then maturity is delayed.

Eggs are laid as close to the host as possible, and that might be the bed, the floor, the wall, or in items close to the bed. The eggs are the size of a pinhead and are a white color.

Your best scenario is that as it takes six weeks for the first batch to hatch, you need to find every single one of those eggs laid in order to prevent increasing numbers of bugs.

How to make a sticky tape that catches bedbugs

This is curled duct tape over masking tape. Put it around your bed so that when the bugs come visiting, they get caught.
This is curled duct tape over masking tape. Put it around your bed so that when the bugs come visiting, they get caught. | Source

Heat kills and so does boiling water.

Most instructions will tell you to put all your clothing, sheets, fabrics, etc. into a dryer and leave them there for an hour. That’s true. It will kill them. You can also, however, put the entire lot into a bath of boiling hot water. Death is instantaneous. You can also pour a kettle of hot water over a nest of eggs. Death takes less than a second,.

Bedbugs prefer a cold climate and do not remain on the human body because body heat is too hot for them. By the same token, if linen has eggs is left outside on a very hot day, the odds are that the eggs will die.

RubbingAlcohol Kills Bedbugs and Bedbug Eggs

A 91% solution of rubbing alcohol will kill bedbugs.

For fast use (bedbugs can appear at odd moments), organize in the following way.

  1. Decant into several smaller spray bottles
  2. Leave a bottle in each place where there are likely to be bedbugs.
  3. When you find eggs, spray until they are saturated. Remove eggs. Put into tightly sealed plastic bag or burn them.
  4. Bugs move slowly so you will have plenty of time to spray them as they walk.

Heat steam carpets and floors

You will need to vacuum both floors and carpets at least every second day. It’s preferable to do so every day. The vacuum suck up both eggs and bugs hiding in carpets or floorboard cracks. Also use vacuum attachment to vacuum all soft furnishings.

For your floor, use a steamer. The heat from the steamer will kill both eggs and bugs. Use hot water to clean carpets.

Storage for other fabric items

If you have an extra towels, sheets, clothing, or anything made of fabric, wash them in hot water, dry them at a very hot temperature for an hour, and then wrap them in plastic (clingfilm, gladwrap, seranwrap). Then store them for a year. Anything that was alive will no longer be in that state.

Plastic wrap is best bought from movers as they use vast quantities to wrap furniture and other goods when relocating their clients.

You will need a lot of plastic wrap.

Invest in plastic wrap. Best bug container.

Pratt Plus ST.I-15V.20 Polyethylene Standard Bundling Cast Stretch Wrap, 2000' Length x 15" Width x 8.1 microns Thick, Clear
Pratt Plus ST.I-15V.20 Polyethylene Standard Bundling Cast Stretch Wrap, 2000' Length x 15" Width x 8.1 microns Thick, Clear

This is probably your best weapon (outside heat) to defeat bedbugs. When I relocated (I have a habit of skipping from one continent to another), I wrapped everything to make sure nothing was alive when I opened everything 18 months later! It's been two years now. Not a peep!

 

Wiping down furniture|

Generally you can see bedbug eggs when you know what you are looking for. They are a white, creamy color, about the size of an old fashioned pinhead. They tend to burrow into the same space so that makes it easier to spot them, but still use a torch when you are looking for these guys as they are difficult to see. Use hot soapy water to wash down every nook and cranny of furniture. If you see eggs. Spray them with alcohol (unless your furniture is lacquered which will harm the lacquer), and then remove them, put them into a tightly closed plastic bag and discard.

Professional assistance

This costs anything from about $300 for a one bedroom apartment up. So far, nobody has discovered any chemical that kills them so it’s a moot point that they can do anything you can’t. But it’s worth asking them exactly what they will be doing and what chemicals they will be applying. Do yourself a favor and google whatever they tell you.

Carbon Dioxide Trap

Bedbugs find you because they follow the carbon dioxide you breathe out. So if you use dry ice which exudes carbon dioxide as it 'melts,' you can set up a trap.

Take a bowl, put some dry ice in it, and then surround the bowl with double sided sticky tape. The idea is that as the bedbugs gravitate towards the carbon dioxide looking for a meal, they walk on the sticky tape and can't move forward.

Example of bedbug trap using Carbon Dioxide - Dry Ice

Mortal Enemies of the Bedbug is the Roach

I kid you not. Roaches eat begbugs. Of course, you might not want to live with a roach infestation either…

A mattress cover will prevent further infestation

Because bedbugs can live for nine months to a year (warm climate 3 months and cold climate 9 months), and because beds are expensive to replace, you might want to buy a bedbug cover which encases your entire mattress. Once it is closed, the bedbugs cannot escape, and a year later, you should be clear of the infestation.

As an extra precaution, I would also plastic wrap the mattress before putting on the bug cover.

JT Eaton 80FULBOX Lock-Up Total Encasement Bed Bug Protection for Full Size Box Spring
JT Eaton 80FULBOX Lock-Up Total Encasement Bed Bug Protection for Full Size Box Spring

This is highly effective if you can't afford to get rid of your bed. Just be sure that you keep it on for a full year before removing.

 

If you have to get rid of your bed...

Depending on how bad your bedbug infestation is, you might have to get rid of your bed. If so, you can’t donate it – not with good conscience anyway. That said, many places are now refusing beds precisely because bedbugs have returned with a vengeance. Obviously buying another bed is just an open invitation to any of these devious insects to move into a new home. If you’re single and you’re not entertaining nightly visitors, buy a camp bed or sleep on an air mattress until you’re certain they've permanently vacated your premises.

Bedbug Register

If you live in an apartment, report it to the landlord. Some states have laws where the landlord has to take care of it; others do not. In California, it’s a grey area. You might consider posting the address on the bedbeg register so that other unwary tenants to do not move into that apartment unless they have an assurance from the landlord that there are no bedbugs, and if there are, that he takes care of all expenses. Eradicating these small vampires can be a costly operation.

Downsizing

It might be good opportunity to get rid of excess. It’s true that the more you have, the more room they have to breed. If you have enough bed linen to house the local hotel, then after washing in hot water and drying at a high heat for an hour, wrap in plastic and donate. Someone else will be very happy and you will have one less item to worry about. And if you can get the bedbugs to be homeless, this is not a bad idea.

Academic sources for further information.

The University of Kentucky has a highly detailed page on bedbugs, their habits, and eradicating them. it takes a bit of reading, but it's well worth the effort.

The Virginia State Department has an outstanding PDF document on the lifestyle of the bedbug. Again, well worth spending half an hour reading through it. It comes with a diagram for easy assimilation.

Dr. Barb Ogg of the University of Lancaster also has an excellent article on managing bedbugs.

Poll for bedbugs

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End of Bedbug story

That’s it. It’s a tiresome job. Apparently, if you hire professionals, they come very month for a year to make sure nothing is left behind. Now you know why. An adult which lives for nine months can breed again, and if even one egg goes undetected, the entire problem will rise it’s ugly bite again…

© 2014 Tessa Schlesinger

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