Updated: May 25
Bed bugs! They're one of the most maligned and, quite possibly, most misunderstood creatures on the planet. We’re not arguing with the fact that these tiny pests are unpleasant and certainly unwelcome just about anywhere. But there are some myths out there.
In this post, we'll break it all down for you, explaining what bed bugs are, how you can tell if you have a bed bug infestation, how to get rid of them if you do and, last but not least, what results you can expect after applying a bed bug spray or otherwise treating for bed bugs.
Bed Bugs: Myth vs. Reality
But before we talk about ways to get rid of bed bugs, it’s important that we explode a few myths about these tiny interlopers. Why? Because knowing what is true ̶ and what is not ̶ about bed bugs can save you precious time and money when you have to eradicate them.
Here are few misconceptions about bed bugs:
You can’t see them. They live in dirty environments. They carry and will transmit diseases to humans. They won’t come out into the light. They hide if there’s a human present. The US government has funding available for those who need help controlling them. These are all falsehoods about bed bugs, and the truth is that calling the forgoing ‘misconceptions’ is too generous a term. Myths would be a more accurate word.
The Truth about Bed Bugs
First of all, you can see bed bugs with the naked eye; and no, they don’t live in dirty places. In fact, bed bugs are not particularly fond of dirt and grime. They are attracted to warm, cluttered places and, of course, carbon dioxide and blood!
Second, bed bugs do not transmit diseases. Period. However, that said, they do sometimes play a role in some public health issues. While severe allergic reactions to their bites are rare, they can cause secondary infections such as impetigo, ecthyma, and lymphangitis.
Third, bed bugs are not afraid of the light, or humans for that matter. They may prefer the darkness but keeping the light on at night won’t stop the little dears from biting you!
Finally, it is simply not true that the government, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, will disperse monies to help control bed bug infestations. It might be nice to hope so, of course, but it’s simply not true!
So What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs can be found the world over and, contrary to popular belief, they can be found virtually anywhere: homes, offices, hospitals, factories, retirement homes and prisons, to name but a few locations!
As we said earlier, you can easily see bed bugs when they appear. The adults are about 3/16-inch long and 1/8-inch wide, oval in shape, and brown to reddish-brown in color. It’s bed bug eggs that are hard to see with the naked eye, being only 1mm long (and pearly white in color). Immature bed bugs (or nymphs) are tiny and translucent or pale in color.
One of the biggest problems is that bed bugs can hide virtually anywhere: in the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions and in the folds of curtains; in household appliances, kitchen utensils, bookcases, even pictures and wall hangings. They’ve even been found in electrical sockets and laptop computers. This is one of the reasons that bed bug infestations can develop quickly and persist unless corrective action is taken. If you suspect you have a bed bug infestation, you need to know the signs to look for:
How Do You Know if You Have Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are elusive creatures and unless you are unlucky enough to experience a massive infestation, you will probably have to rely on secondary clues in order to track them down. For instance, when you’re cleaning or changing bedding, look out for reddish or rusty stains on the sheets or the mattress. Those, alas, are squished bed bugs!
Also, be alert for dark spots on sheets, pillows, along mattress seams, etc. Those spots are fecal droppings. You may also happen upon shed exoskeletons. Gross, we know, but true.
Unfortunately for us, bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, but the good news is that there is no evidence that they transmit diseases of any kind. For the most part, bed bug bites are painless. In fact, that's why they often go unnoticed ̶ at least until they start to itch. Reactions to bed bug bites can range from allergic aftereffects to nothing at all. It all depends on the individual ‘victim.‘ Bite marks usually manifest themselves the night after being delivered, usually as raised, flat red welts, appearing in rows of three.
Scabies vs. Bed Bugs: Telling them Apart
Unfortunately, the itching that usually signals the presence of bed bug bites is also an early sign of a scabies infection! These two pests, however, are very different. Scabies and bed bugs both feed on human blood, but one does it from outside the body, the other from the inside. Scabies tunnel under the skin to feed and lay eggs, while bed bugs suck blood from the surface of the skin. And, because they (unlike bed bugs) are microscopic, scabies can’t be seen with the naked eye.
We've written in the past about how to tell if you have bed bug bites from scabies. But here's the Cliffs Notes: Bed bug bites create minute raised red welts, whereas scabies is more rash-like in appearance. Scabies burrows look a lot like grayish-white, raised lines. They can rapidly change into reddened, distended bumps which can become infected. Even worse, scabies mites are highly contagious, so if suspect that you’re the victim of a scabies attack you should visit your doctor immediately.
How to Keep Bed Bugs Out
Unlike fleas and ticks, bed bugs don’t invade homes (or offices) from outdoors. They are almost always brought into a home by us unwitting humans! And they don’t even have to be transported from a highly infested environment. They can be picked up during travel (plane, bus, car – it makes no difference) or via guests or visitors. They can even find their way into the home on rented or used furniture. Whatever the means, the result is always the same: you have unwanted ‘guests’ that are more than happy to make themselves at home! And raise their kids there!
So how do you keep these pests out? First of all, try to avoid buying used furniture, and absolutely do not bring used blankets or bed linens into the house. If you happen to be travelling be sure to inspect any hotel or motel rooms before you take occupancy ̶ and be alert to the signs and indications of bed bugs.
Pro Tip: Don’t place your luggage on the floor of your hotel room. Store it on an elevated surface and be sure to check it thoroughly before you leave.
What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting Any More Bed Bugs
Strange as it may sound, you may still see bed bugs after you’ve gone through the necessary eradication procedures. The fact is that no one treatment ̶ either your own or that of a professional service ̶ will eliminate every bed bug. You may even see more bugs than you did before the treatment, but that will change with each ‘sweep.’ Certainly, by the third treatment all the bed bugs should be gone.
If you do happen to see the occasional bed bug, don’t panic. One bed bug is not necessarily proof that you have another infestation under way. Still, it’s best to be sure. Make sure that the odd bug is immediately killed and removed from the house (or office).
If you’re a tad squeamish you can always use a vacuum cleaner to remove live bed bugs. However, once you’re done vacuuming you should immediately remove the vacuum bag, seal it in a plastic bag, and discard it in an outside garbage bin. One very important point here: in order to capture bed bug eggs your vacuum cleaner should be equipped with a HEPA filter** which will trap bed bug eggs. Many of the less expensive machines on the market have filters that allow tiny bed bug eggs to pass through unfiltered and get blown back into the room. Also, do not, under any circumstances, keep the vacuum bag attached and continue to use the machine.
Here are a few tips to help you get rid of bed bugs and keep them the bed bugs away:
Remove any clutter, including stacks of paper or piles of laundry
Treat all affected areas with Sterifab bed bug spray
Clean all the affected rooms thoroughly
Vacuum beds, carpets, chairs, drapes, blinds and more
Wash all sheets and bedding in very hot water
In addition to helping eliminate bed bugs, Sterifab is also effective against a whole host of pests, including ticks, fleas and other insects. And, unlike many other similar products, it is:
Effective, convenient to use and doesn’t leave stains
Fast-drying and odorless
Totally clear and harmless to fabrics or carpets
A quick and effective sanitizer, and deodorizer
Want to Try Sterifab Bug Bed Spray?
**HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air (HEPA), filters are designed to remove (from the air that passes through) 99.97% of particles that have a size greater-than-or-equal-to 0.3 µm.