How to Get Rid of Those Pesky Bed Bugs

How to Get Rid of Those Pesky Bed Bugs


Photo credit: CDC/ CDC-DPDx; Blaine Mathison


The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) has long been a pest – feeding on blood, causing itchy bites and generally irritating their human hosts. Bed bugs are a public health pest. Fortunately, however, they are not known to transmit or spread disease.

They can, however, cause other health issues (and they’re disgusting), so it’s important to pay close attention to preventing and controlling them.


Identifying Bed Bugs

Knowing what to look for is the first step in identifying and controlling bed bugs. There are many bugs that look like bed bugs so an accurate identification is a critical first step to avoid costly treatment for the wrong bug.

The types of bugs that look like bed bugs will vary somewhat depending on your region of the country, but these photos and descriptions will give you some good guidelines.


Two adult bed bugs in a petri dish – Photo Credit: Kim Jung


Adult bed bugs, in general, are:
  • about the size of an apple seed (5-7 mm or 3/16 – 1/4 inch long);
  • long and brown, with a flat, oval-shaped body (if not fed recently);
  • balloon-like, reddish-brown, and more elongated (if fed recently);
  • a “true bug” (characteristics of true bugs include a beak with three segments; antenna that have four parts; wings that are not used for flying; and short, golden-colored hairs); and
  • smelly, with a “musty-sweetish” odor produced through glands on the lower side of the body.


Young bed bugs (also called nymphs), in general, are:
smaller, translucent or whitish-yellow in color;
and if not recently fed, can be nearly invisible to the naked eye because of coloring and size.


Bed bug eggs, in general, are:
  • tiny, the size of a pinhead;
  • pearl-white in color; and
  • marked by an eye spot if more than five days old.


Actual size of a bed bug
Actual size of a bed bug
The life cycle sizes of a bed bug is shown in the photograph  to the right. 
During its lifetime, a bed bug will go through the following stages (Starting from the top left, moving counterclockwise):
Eggs (1mm).
1st stage nymph (1.5 mm).
2nd stage nymph (2 mm).
3rd stage nymph (2.5 mm).
4th stage nymph (3 mm).
5th stage nymph (4.5 mm).
Unfed adult female.
Unfed adult male.





Paying For an Exterminator


Unfortunately, bed bugs are the hardest insect to get rid of without calling an exterminator. It’s less about killing the bed bugs (which can be easy) as it about finding them, which is hard.

They smell chemicals coming and run deep into crevices, and even sideways. Because it can take up to four visits from an exterminator before your bed bug infestation has been solved, bed bug extermination can cost into the thousands of dollars. 

If you rent your home (and since bed bug infestations happen more often in apartment buildings, this is often the case),  the good news is that your landlord is probably financially responsible for the cost.  So contact him or her immediately if you believe you have a bed bug problem. If they refuse to pay, you may even be able to deduct the cost of the exterminator from future rent payments.



Thoroughly Getting Rid of Bed Bugs


If you just have a mild infestation, you might be able to tackle bed bugs on your own. You’ll need a powerful vacuum–the plug-in canister kind work well, but something battery-operated or upright usually won’t do the trick. Vacuum all carpet, baseboards, switch plates, wallpaper creases, appliances, and any cracks you can find. Wash the vacuum canister with hot water to kill any eggs that may be there.


Example: Prolux Tritan HEPA Vacuum With Powerful 12 amp Motor


Next, hit up these same areas with a substance called diatomaceous earth, which you can find in pet stores or gardening stores.  Diatomaceous Earth (often referred to as “DE”) is an off white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton.

When sprinkled on a bug that has an exoskeleton (such as bed bugs, ants or fleas) it compromises their waxy coating so that their innards turn into teeny tiny bug jerky. But it doesn’t hurt mammals. We can eat it. We do eat it! It’s in lots of grain based foods because lots of grains are stored with diatomaceous earth to keep the bugs from eating the grain!


Example: Safer Brand Diatomaceous Earth


All we really need to know is that it dehydrates the bed bugs and thereby kills them (but it’s safe for humans and pets), so sprinkle it or smear it everywhere you think the beg bugs may be living, including on the floor near your bed, all over your bed frame, and in any cracks in the wall near your bed.



How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Your Mattress


Now it’s time to tackle that soft, comfy home that gives bed bugs their name: your bed. To get bed bugs our of your bed, first strip it of all bedding and wash and dry it on the highest heat setting available.

Then thoroughly vacuum your mattress and box spring, focusing carefully on every crease and crevice. This means taking the fabric sheeting off of the box spring and getting inside of it.

When done, seal the mattress and box spring inside bed bug–proof mattress covers. It’s recommended that you leave the bags on for an entire year, simply putting the sheets and any mattress pads right on top of the bags.


Example: Allerease Zippered Bed Bug Barrier Mattress Protector



How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Clothes


Even if you don’t think your clothes have been infested, it’s important to wash all of them to make sure you’ve gotten rid of bed bugs permanently. Wash and dry clothes, bedding, blankets drapes, cushions, pet beds, and seat covers in the hottest heat settings they can stand. (110º is recommended to make sure the bed bugs die.)

For fabrics that absolutely can’t stand the heat, you may be able to freeze bed bugs and their eggs to death. However, the EPA advises that temperatures need to get as low at 0ºF (quite low for most home freezers), and you should keep the fabric at that temperature for at least four days to make sure to kill the bed bugs.



How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Car


As you’ve realized by now, bed bugs can get anywhere. That’s why it’s important to make sure you kill the bed bugs in your car. The process is similar to everywhere else in your home–first wash anything you can, including floor mats and removable seat covers. Give the car a thorough vacuuming, paying special attention to crevices and seams. Then sprinkle diatomaceous earth and leave for as long as possible before vacuuming again. If you suspect your car is infested, cover your seats in plastic for at least a month.



Final Thoughts

Avoiding bed bugs in your home can be difficult, since a bed bug infestation has little to do with sanitary conditions. Bed bugs can even be carried by birds and animals living outside and can enter through an open window!

To minimize your risk of bed bugs, you can buy encasements for your bed and box spring—this won’t prevent bed bugs from entering your home, but it will make the problem way easier to fix if they do.


You can also buy the ClimbUp Interceptor, which prevents bugs from climbing into your bed from the floor. Just note that the interceptor is kind of ugly, so you might want to hide it beneath a bed skirt (just don’t let it touch the floor).

ClimbUP Insect Interceptor


Other good tips:

  • After you buy  new or used clothes, throw them into a high heat dryer.
  • Limit clutter so bed bugs have fewer places to hide.
  • Inspect luggage and clothing after a hotel stay. You might want to wash clothes when you arrive home (and put in a high heat dryer) just to be safe.

Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that you won’t get bed bugs, but if you follow these tips, you’ll hopefully be saving your family from these persistent blood suckers.


Green Bean Pest Control


Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some practical information on getting rid of bed bugs (and keeping them away!).

I welcome your comments below.





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