Bedbugs are small brown insects that are oval in shape and survive on the blood of animals or humans. They are flat in appearance and around the size of an apple seed but when they have fed, their bodies bloat up and turn a reddish colour with the blood.
Bedbugs don’t fly but can scuttle around the floor, walls and ceiling quickly. The female insect can lay hundreds of eggs that are no bigger than a speck of dust during her lifetime. The immature bedbugs are known as nymphs and shed their skin five times before they reach maturity. Each shedding needs blood to complete so if they have favourable conditions, can mature in around a month and start producing more offspring.
While being horrible, skin crawling little bugs that are very unpleasant, they don’t carry diseases the way some insects do.
How to find their hiding places
When you are trying to discover if you have a bedbug problem, you need to understand where they hide. They can enter the house through a whole range of means such as luggage, clothing and used furniture such as beds. They can fit into the thinnest of spaces due to their shape, no more than the width of a credit card and don’t have a nest like bees. Instead, they hide in places in groups, usually in mattresses, box springs, headboards and bed frames where they can venture out at night and feast. They can also move around the house and spread further afield given time.
Bedbugs feed on blood so therefore are not a sign of a dirty house – you will find them in the most immaculate homes or fancy hotel rooms if they have been able to gain access.
Signs of infestation
Bedbugs come out at night mostly and bite people when they are asleep. They piece the skin and withdraw the flood, feeing for up to 10 minutes until they are so full with blood they cannot ingest any more. Most of the time the bites are painless but later turn into itchy welts. They are different from flea bites because there is no red spot in the centre and are on areas of the skin that are exposed when you are sleeping.
Another way of recognising you may have a problem is when you wake on a morning with an itchy rash that you didn’t have the night before. Other signs include:
- Blood stains on sheets or pillows
- Dark, rusty spots on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes or walls that may be bedbug excrement
- Shed skins, egg shells or faecal spots where bedbugs are hiding
- A musty odour that comes from the bugs scent glands
To check if your suspicions are correct about an infestation, remove all the bedding and check for signs of the bugs. Take the dust cover off the bottom of the box springs and examine it as well as the seams in the wooden frame of the bed. You may also need to peel back fabric that is stapled to a wooden frame.
As well as checking the bed, check inside books, TV’s, radio and electric outlets for the bugs as well as the edges of carpets. Check clothing as they can attach to this easily. If you find signs of bedbugs, then you will need to start taking steps to eradicate them or call in an exterminator.
There are some important steps you can take to exterminate the bedbugs before seeking a professional exterminator. These include:
- Clean all bedding, linens, curtains and clothing from the room in hot water and then use the dryer’s hottest setting to dry them. For any items that can’t go into the washer put them in the dryer on the high temperature for around half an hour.
- Use a stiff brush to remove bugs and eggs from the mattress
- Vacuum the bed and area around it frequently and when done, put the bag into a plastic bag straight into the outside garbage bin
- Get a zippered mattress cover that encases the entire mattress to stop the bedbugs getting out. They can live up to 12 months like this so don’t remove it until after this period
- Any spots like cracks in plaster or peeling wallpaper, fix to avoid them being used as hiding spots
If this doesn’t work, you should consider contacting an exterminator who can use proper chemicals safely to eradicate the problem.