Developed a sore, heat rash-like mass of red spots on your face or body? We don’t mean to alarm you but unless you’ve just returned from a foreign holiday (damn those pesky mosquitoes!) it could well be bed bugs.
But before you start scratching your skin in horror and checking your sheets for any evident sign of the little critters (you won’t get far doing that by the way – they’re invisible to the naked eye) make sure you head our handy guide.
We know bed bugs are a problem for some of our customers, which is why we’ve put together this article. It’ll help you discover if you have more than just your family pets lurking in your sheets, as well as bring you all the hints and tips you’ll need for eradicating bed bugs today and every day. Read on…
What Are Bed Bugs?
Also known as cimex lectularius, bed bugs are small blood-sucking insects which live in the cracks and crevices in and around your bed. They’re attracted by carbon dioxide – and your body heat – and will bite your exposed skin and feed on your blood, given the chance. Nice eh?
While we don’t all suffer a skin reaction to the bites from bed bugs, some of us do. And if you’ve been a victim, you’ll develop red and itchy bumps up to 30 minutes after being bitten. These can last for several days, will look unsightly and feel pretty rubbish too.
You can be bitten anywhere from the face, neck to hands, arms and the rest of your body. Unlike mosquito bites, which appear in a random pattern, bedbug bites will show up on your face and body in straight lines, which is how you’ll be able to set them apart from other conditions of the skin.
How to Spot Bed Bugs
While they’re invisible to the naked eye, adult bedbugs look a little bit like lentils – just don’t put them in soup. Joking aside though, no one wants a bedbug infestation as it might mean you have to start from scratch and buy new bedroom furniture.
Can You See Bed Bugs?
Oval-shaped, flat and up to 5mm-long, bedbugs can be brown, red or dark yellow in colour, yet as we mentioned just before, they can’t be seen.
Laying up to 300 eggs over their lifetime, female bedbugs can wreak absolute havoc on your bed sheets, yet the white specks (eggs) that stick to your bed and its sheets are very difficult to notice.
That said, they can still do damage. Hatching around 10 days later, they form small, straw-coloured insects which take up to eight weeks to grow into adult bed bugs. Shedding their skin as they grow, they leave brown, mottled shells on your mattress and bed; but don’t panic, while they’re not exactly invited houseguests, they don’t bring along any human diseases and aren’t dangerous either.
Think you have bedbugs? It really isn’t worth messing around and waiting until the situation gets worse. Instead, get onto a local pest control company as soon as possible, as they’ll eradicate the problem quickly, smoothly and in a stress-free manner too.
When you consider that adult bed bugs can survive up to a year without feeding, it really is time to alleviate the problem before it escalates.
How to Identify Bed Bugs
While you can’t see bed bugs, you might still be able to identify an infestation by the lumps and bumps which might have suddenly appeared on your face and body. So you’re aware, bed bug bites are generally:
- Red and raised
- Found in a straight line
If you’ve got a red mass of spots on your body and you’ve ruled out chicken pox and acne, it could well be bed bugs. And because you can’t see bed bugs themselves, this might be the best way of determining if the little critters have moved into your home.
Not yet got a rash? Here are a few more ways of determining if you have a bed bug infestation:
- Are there black spots on your mattress? This could be dried bed bug faeces
- Can you see mottled shells? Bed bugs shed these onto your mattress or sheets
- Maybe you can see blood spots on your mattress? Perhaps you’ve rolled over and squashed a bug after it has fed – not a nice thought but worth looking out for all the same
- Unpleasant, musty smell in your room? That could be down to bed bugs.
What Causes Bed Bugs?
Contrary to popular opinion, bed bugs aren’t attracted to dirt. What that means, of course, is that they’re not a sign of a dirty or untidy home.
Crawling into even the smallest crevices or cracks, bed bugs can be difficult to spot. They also prefer fabric or wood over metal and plastic and will hide along the headboard or under the mattress – just call them the Sherlock Holmes of the insect world.
How Do Bedbugs Spread?
Spreading easily from room to room, once bedbugs have found their way into your home, they’re there to stay – that is until you do something about them.
They don’t jump or fly but can crawl quite fast – and they’ll find their way into buildings via pipes or holes in walls. They can also be transported into rooms in luggage or clothing, which is why they’re more commonly found in short-term accommodation like hotels and B&Bs.
How to Avoid Bed Bugs
So, you may have already dealt with a bed bug infestation – but how do you prevent it happening again? There are a few ways you can ensure you don’t have to put up with the little critters in the future – here’s how:
- Regularly inspect your mattress for the common signs mentioned earlier, taking action if needs be
- Don’t buy a second-hand mattress and be on your guard if you’re staying in furnished rented accommodation, hotels or B&Bs
- Always keep your bedroom tidy, removing clutter and litter from around the bed or under it. What this does is cuts down the amount of handy hiding places for those pesky bed bugs.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Bites
If you feel it’s too late and you’ve already been bitten by bed bugs (ouch!) there’s still plenty of time to do something about it before an infestation causes more bites.
Prevention is key, so you’ll want to tackle the problem and nip it in the bud before your skin becomes bumpier, redder and even more itchy. Here’s what to do:
- If you haven’t already, contact your local pest control team; they’ll visit your property and deal with the bed bug infestation quickly and efficiently. Pest control teams can usually get rid of an infestation in just one to two treatments, so it really won’t set you back too much money at all
- Consider buying a new mattress and give your house or apartment a good clean from top to bottom
- Head straight to the chemist, who will probably suggest something topical and soothing, like calamine lotion
Be aware that treatment will only be needed if you have a visible reaction to the bed bugs. After all, some people don’t develop any spots or sores at all.
If you do see a mass of red, itchy bumps on your skin though, make sure you head straight to your GP. If the problem persists, you may even need antibiotics to clear up a harsher bout of fluid-filled bed bug blisters.
How to Tackle Bed Bugs Yourself
Before you call out the professionals, it might even be worth having a go at tackling the issue yourself. Well, you never know…
Get the Washer On – First things first, remove all the infested bed linen and wash it at 60c. Make sure you follow this by drying on a hot setting for around half an hour
Dismantle Your Bed – Now this is quite a job but it’s definitely worth it. Take apart your bed and inspect every crack and crevice with a bright torch. Spot anything? Use the hose on a vacuum cleaner to suck up any bugs – or any sign of them – that you can see.
Grab Some Insecticide – Apply insecticide liberally on those remaining bugs but make sure you always read the label thoroughly before doing so.
If all else fails, don’t be afraid to simply throw away your mattress and buy a new one. You can pick them up so cheaply online and in places like IKEA today, that it might be worth you simply admitting defeat and starting afresh.
When to Call Out the Professionals
When it comes to getting rid of bed bugs, it can certainly be a long and drawn-out process. And if you haven’t had any joy alleviating the problem yourself – and your skin is getting even redder and itchier by the day – then it’s about time you said ‘enough’s enough’ and called out the professionals.
After all, do you really want a mattress scattered with brown, mottled bed bug shells? It doesn’t quite give off the impression you’re after when guests come to stay, does it?