Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, is the best known as it prefers to feed on human blood although other Cimex species are specialized to other animals, e.g., bat bugs, Cimex pipistrelli (Europe), Cimex pilosellus (western US), and Cimex adjunctus (entire eastern US).
The name of the “bed bug” is derived from the preferred habitat of Cimex lectularius: warm houses and especially nearby or inside of beds and bedding or other sleep areas. Bed bugs are mainly active at night, but are not exclusively nocturnal. They usually feed on their hosts without being noticed.
A number of adverse health effects may result from bed bug bites, including skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic symptoms. Diagnosis involves both finding bed bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms.
With news out today that a movie theater in New York City has had to close down to fumigate for bed bugs, bed bugs are again coming to the nation’s attention. With more than 25% of hotels in the US infected with bed bugs, as well as many offices, movie theaters and other public places, bed bugs are becoming a national problem. If you are unlucky enough to get bed bugs in your home and don’t want to use chemicals to get rid of them, you can kill bed bugs the natural no chemical way. Here’s how.
What Are Bed Bugs? – First of all, before you start trying to kill bed bugs naturally, you need to know what they are. Bed bugs are tiny dark brown insects, about the size of an apple seed. They mostly come out at night to feed on a human or animal host, but you can find them during the day if you look closely enough.
How Do I Know If I Have Bed Bugs? – The easiest way to find out is check your shoulders, arms and legs for bites. Bed bugs bite into you while you sleep, then spend a few minutes sucking your blood. If you have bed bugs, you’ll usually find itchy red bumps on your body, mostly on your shoulders, arms and legs. To see what a bed bug looks like, check out this National Geographic video.
Bed Bugs In Your Bedroom Or Your Entire House? – First of all, you need to figure out if you have bed bugs just in your bed room, which would be an early stage, or if they’ve migrated to your entire house. If in only the bedroom, just follow the cleaning steps to get rid of them naturally. If they’re in the whole house, you’ll have to follow cleanings steps in every room.
Dwellings can become infested with bed bugs in a variety of ways, such as:
- Bugs and eggs inadvertently brought in from other infested dwellings on a visiting person’s clothing or luggage;
- Infested items (such as furniture, clothing, or backpacks) brought in;
- Nearby dwellings or infested items, if easy routes are available for travel (through duct work or false ceilings);
- Wild animals (such as bats or birds) that may also harbour bed bugs or related species such as the bat bug;
- People visiting an infested area (e.g. dwelling, means of transport, entertainment venue, or hotel) and carrying the bugs to another area on their clothing, luggage, or bodies.
- Though bed bugs will feed on pets, they do not live or travel on the skin of their hosts, and pets are not believed to be a factor in their spread.
Bed bugs are elusive and usually nocturnal (peak activity usually occurs between 10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m.), which can make their detection difficult. They often lodge in dark crevices, and the tiny adhesive eggs can be nestled by the hundreds in fabric seams. Aside from bite symptoms, signs include fecal spots (small dark sand-like droppings that occur in patches around and especially beneath nests), blood smears on sheets (fecal spots that are re-wetted will smear like fresh blood), and the presence of their empty moulted exoskeletons.
Although bed bugs can be found singly, they tend to congregate once established. Although they are strictly parasitic, they spend only a tiny fraction of their life cycles physically attached to their hosts. Once feeding is complete, a bed bug will relocate to a place close to a known host, commonly in or near beds or couches in clusters of adults, juveniles, and eggs which entomologists call harborage areas or simply harborages to which the insect will return after future feedings by following chemical trails. These places can vary greatly in format, including luggage, inside of vehicles, within furniture, amongst bedside clutter, even inside electrical sockets and nearby laptop computers. Bed bugs may also nest near animals that have nested within a dwelling, such as bats, birds, or rodents. They are also capable of surviving on domestic cats and dogs, though humans are the preferred host of Cimex lectularius.
Bed bugs can also be detected by their characteristic smell of rotting raspberries. Bed bug detection dogs are trained to pinpoint infestations, with a possible accuracy rate of between 11% and 83%. A few companies are experimenting with high speed gas chromatography to detect bed bugs.
How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs Naturally – To get rid of bed bugs naturally, you need to follow every one of these steps – precisely and properly.
1. Remove all of your bedding – sheets, pillow cases, blankets, comforters, bed liners and mattress covers. Wash everything in extremely hot water and dry in a dryer. Do NOT put back on your bed until your entire bedroom (or house, if they’re everywhere) has been cleaned.
2. Any other fabric-type object in your bedroom, or other rooms in the house, should be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner using the hose, then put into plastic bags, sealed with tape and left for 3 days. This kills any remaining bed bugs. Items to do this to include soft toys, computer bags, pillows etc.
3. Inspect all your cupboards and drawers. If you find bed bugs or bed bug eggs in your cupboards and drawers, you will have to take out all your clothing and wash that in hot water too.
4. Now vacuum your whole room or apartment and use a vacuum hose in the nooks and crannies, paying particular attention to cracks and openings in the wall. Throw away the vacuum bag as soon as you’re finished.
5. If you have any cracks or openings in your walls, particularly at light sockets, outlet areas etc. use caulk to completely close the hole. This will stop any more bed bugs getting into your room.
6. Check your bed and mattress for bed bugs. More than likely you will find an infestation in your bed or in the box springs. At this point, it’s up to you if you want to get rid of the bed or keep it. If you decide to keep it, as it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress, even if you used chemicals which you don’t want to do, just about the only way to get rid of them is to buy a plastic mattress cover and a box springs cover. Put these covers on, zip them up and leave them on for a least a year. A year is how long the life cycle of bed bugs is, so you need to make sure nothing can get out of the mattress before the year is up.
7. Throw out your pillows. You can treat them with chemicals, but for a few dollars per pillow, it’s best to just throw them out and buy new ones.
8. Now, clean the entire room or house with a natural cleaner. One of the best cleaners on the market is a product called Kleen Free Naturally. It’s a product made specifically to clean insect-infested places, it’s natural and it’s biodegradable, so not harmful to you, your children or your pets. Make sure you clean every surface, behind every piece of furniture, inside every cupboard and drawer, along the baseboards, light fixtures, wall sockets – basically everything in your room or house.
9. Once everything is clean, you can safely put back all of your belongings, sheets, pillows etc.
10. Repeat everything on this cleaning list again in 10 days, again in another 10 days, and one more time in a third 10 days. Bed bugs are a nightmare to get rid of, either naturally or with chemicals, but if you make sure you keep cleaning (and follow all the steps!), you should be able to get rid of them naturally within a 30 day period.
This is the page on bed bugs