Summer is almost here, and there is so much to look forward to! Of course, in summer we do tend to worry about keeping outdoor pests like mosquitoes and wasps from getting into our homes, using things like repellent sprays when we are outdoors and fitting meshes over open windows and doors. What we may not think about as much, is indoor based insect pests, like bedbugs. Bedbugs can strike and make their way into your house at any time of the year, but in summer, as we tend to come and go a lot more and may redecorate and buy new furniture, there can be more chances of getting infested with these domestic pests.
Here is what you need to know about bedbugs, and how to keep your home free of them while you enjoy your summer!
Just What Are Bedbugs?
We’ve all heard of bedbugs, and not just from the old goodnight greeting of ‘don’t let the bedbugs bite!’. Bedbugs have been becoming a lot more common in North America since the late 20th century, and nobody is really sure why that is. People are therefore becoming more aware that they are a pest they need to look out for, but there is still quite a lot of confusion about what bedbugs actually are, and how they are different from other domestic pests.
Firstly, bedbugs feed on blood. This is why they bite, and leave you with itchy marks. Because their food source is human blood, which we all have, rather than things like food waste or shed skin cells, this means bedbugs can and will live in even the cleanest homes – as long as there is somebody living there for them to feed off of. Bedbugs are not, then, a sign of a dirty home, and you won’t get them from leaving food around like you might get ants or cockroaches. Cleaning extra thoroughly is one approach to getting rid of the bugs, but having them in the first place is not a sign of poor domestic hygiene.
Secondly, bedbugs are visible – they just hide themselves well when they aren’t feeding. Some people get confused between bedbugs and dust mites. Dust mites are very tiny and can’t be identified with the naked eye. They feed on dust, so won’t bite you, but will cause problems for people with allergies. Bedbugs on the other hand are small, brown, oval shaped insects that you can see if you look in the right places. You can also see things they leave behind, such as their eggs, eggshells, and the skin that they shed. A bedbug sheds its skin five times while it is growing, and so this is something to look out for.
What Problems Do Bedbugs Cause if They Get Into Your Home?
Realistically, if you were to make a league table of domestic pests, bedbugs would be one of the most innocuous. They do bite, and the bites are itchy and unpleasant, but they do not spread disease, and they don’t tend to damage things you own because they don’t eat them or build nests, unlike things like moths or termites which can destroy your property. However, they do breed quite rapidly, with a mother bedbug able to lay hundreds of eggs in her lifetime, and while they do not fly, they can move quite fast so they have a real tendency to spread.
Additionally, bedbugs, when they have infested a home, do not form one central nest that you can destroy and end the infestation, as you can do with things like wasps. They instead hide themselves away in groups wherever they can find a good spot to remain unseen and lay their eggs. They hide away during the day, and emerge at night to bite and feed. The bites are painless while the bug is feeding, using its long beak to pierce the skin and eat the blood, but will develop into itchy, inflamed welts later in the night. This means that the bites don’t usually wake you up, and you’ll only notice they’ve been attacking you the next day.
Of course, for most people the worst part of having bedbugs is knowing that there are creepy crawlies sharing their sleeping space and using them for food. Bedbugs won’t make you sick or especially hurt you, but they may well cause you some sleepless nights and leave you feeling grossed out!
How Do You End Up with Bedbugs?
To understand how to best try and avoid bedbugs, you need to know where they typically come from. As we have said, they can come from the cleanest looking places, so you can end up picking them up at a friend’s house, or even at a hotel, school, or anywhere else where there is upholstery and furniture for them to live in and people to bite – with places where people sleep obviously being their favorite homes. Bedbugs can travel home with you from these places on your clothing or on luggage and bags. Because they lay so many eggs, you can quickly end up with an infestation just from a couple of bugs.
However, the most common way that people end up with bedbugs is bringing home things that already have a quantity of bugs on them, and this most typically happens with furniture, toys and upholstery. If you buy things from a secondhand shop, in a garage sale, or are given something like this secondhand by someone you know, there is a chance it could bring bedbugs with it.
Does this mean you should never take advantage of great secondhand bargains because of the risk of bedbugs? Absolutely not, but be sure to carefully inspect and clean things before introducing them into your home. Things like linens, curtains and soft toys can be treated quite easily, for example by putting them through a cycle in your dryer so the heat and action can shake out and kill bugs and eggs. Another good approach is to seal things in plastic for a couple of days to suffocate any bugs. Suffocating them is better than trying to starve them, because they can actually survive for weeks without food.
Checking for an Infestation
Even if you are careful, you can still find yourself with the telltale bites that come with bedbugs. If you notice these, it is important to act as quickly as you can because a minor infestation can quickly become harder to deal with as the bedbugs reproduce and spread.
You should start by checking your bed for signs of the bugs, looking in areas like on the underside of your mattress and the inside of your bed’s base for their hiding places. Your sheets may also reveal signs of bug activity, like tiny spots of blood, and dots of bedbug excrement. The scent glands of bedbugs will also leave a musty, unpleasant smell, though this may only be noticeable if you have a lot of bedbugs so it is better to look for signs you can see.
If you do find bugs or eggs, then you should begin checking the rest of the room to reveal the extent of the infestation. Every nook and cranny can be a hiding spot for collections of bedbugs, so be really thorough. You may then want to check the rest of the home to see if the infestation is limited to the bedroom, or has spread.
Beating the Bugs
If you can confirm you have a bedbug infestation, then you should arrange for a visit from a pest control firm like Go-Forth Pest Control of Raleigh straight away. While you can try and get rid of the bugs yourself by very thoroughly cleaning, they can be very persistent and it can be hard to ensure you got them all. It is better to have the assurance that the problem has been properly treated and resolved by a professional.
If you are still not sure after checking whether you have bedbugs or not, then it is also worth getting a pest control specialist in to have a look for you. They will know the best places to check and be able to confirm whether your problem is bedbugs or a different kind of pest, as well as tell you what the best plan of action is.
Another thing to bear in mind is that you should also tell anyone you may have passed bedbugs on to. If you have sold anything from your home or given any gifts since you think the infestation began, try and warn the recipients. Also, tell any house guests you have had and talk to your neighbors if you live in condos or apartments where bugs may have spread between properties. It might be embarrassing but you’ll be doing them a big favor by allowing them to check and treat their own problem as early as possible if the bugs have been transferred.
Bedbugs are an annoyance, but if you know what to look for and what to do, they needn’t ruin your summer!