Bed bugs: what are they and how to get rid of them

by Joost | Updated on:  November 27, 2020

Bed bugs are disgusting, full of decay, and surrounding us when we sleep. There was a reason that our parents warned us about not letting the bed bugs bite!

The act of dealing with and seeing bed bugs is a frustrating one. When you find out you have been dealing with these little critters, it will make dealing with your bed so much harder in the future.

Just imagine that bed bugs suck on your blood while you sleep, so it’s absolutely essential that you get rid of them ASAP!

How to get rid of bed bugs

To help you avoid that mistake, we recommend that you take the time to look at what kind of bed bugs exist; and how to cope with them. In this post, we’ll help you identify them and share our tips for getting rid of them for good!

Top Bed Bug Treatments

While there are many chemicals and solutions to get rid of bed bugs, the best way to keep them away is prevention.

To prevent bed bug infestations, you need to clean regularly and ensure your bed and the surrounding areas are always clean.

  1.  Clean your bedding regularly (wash them on a high heat setting)
  2. Clean the curtains, drapes, fabrics, clothing, upholstery (use the vacuum cleaner and cleaning sprays and solutions)
  3. Use a stiff-bristle brush to wipe down fabrics and furniture, including the mattress and headboard. Scrub the mattress seams to remove the bed bug eggs, then vacuum them up.
  4. Vacuum at least once a week.
  5. Spray bed bug repellent scents
  6. Bed bug yeast trap

Scents bed bugs hate

You can use essential oils to keep the bed bugs away. Like most insects, there are certain smells they absolutely hate!

Most bugs are repelled by scents such as peppermint, lavender, and tea tree oil. You can find cheap essential oils and put a few drops in water to make your own bug repellent spray.

But there is one interesting thing to keep in mind. The bed bugs hate the smell of their own nymphs. These nymphs secrete pheromones and the adults are put off by it.

Bed bug heat treatment

This is a treatment performed by professionals. The people from pest control firms use this method to remove the bed bugs in one visit.

Basically, they use heat to kill the bed bugs in all life stages. So, that means the eggs, nymphs, and adults all die. The heat treatment is done in one home visit in a few hours, so it’s a one day job. It’s the easiest and most effective for you because the bugs are killed in a single day.

Vacuuming to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Infestation

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What’s Living in Your Mattress?

Inside-Bed

Vacuuming is very important to minimize or get rid of bed bugs inside your mattress especially if you spot possible signs of bed bugs already. Vacuuming is not 100% effective; however, it still helps to capture this annoying pest. T

Tips for Vacuuming a Mattress

There are many important tips that you must follow to ensure you capture this annoying pest and don’t spread the infestation.

Keep it extra clean

Vacuuming is indeed very important in keeping your home, especially your bed or mattress, free from annoying bed bugs. This will help you have a comfortable and safe place to live in.

How to get rid of bed bugs

There are many natural, DIY, and bed bug removal products. The most common products used are chemicals, insecticides, dessicals, plant-based products, and foggers It’s up to you to choose what works best for your home.

As mentioned above, the best way to remove bed bugs is with your vacuum cleaner. If you vacuum the whole area in and around your bed regularly, you can get rid of the bugs and all of their eggs.

What kills bed bugs instantly?

Rubbing alcohol is the best bed bug killer. It doesn’t kill the baby bed bugs and eggs, because it evaporates quickly. However, it kills all adult bugs on contact.

Use a spray bottle to spray rubbing alcohol on the mattress, headboard, and all the cracks and crevices you can find. Since this type of alcohol evaporates quickly, it’s not as dangerous to use in the bedroom.

How do I get rid of bed bugs myself?

There are so many popular natural DIY solutions for bed bugs. How effective they really are is up for debate. However, it doesn’t hurt to try them anyway, they might still kill a large part of the bed bug population in your room.

An easy DIY bed bug treatment is baking soda. You need to sprinkle the baking soda around all the areas where the bed bugs are hiding. Put it on the mattress, around the bed frame, headboards, and everywhere in proximity to the bed. Let is sit for a few days, then vacuum it all up.

You need to repeat the process again soon after.

Top Home Remedies for Bed Bugs

Below is a bullet list of the best home remedies you can try right now. Since you’re not using insecticides and chemicals, you can rest assured these are safe for the entire family.

Bed bug Yeast Trap

The following DIY is meant to attract bed bugs if you want to see if you have a bed bug infestation. A yeast trap does not KILL the bed bugs, but it alerts you to them. After all, early detection is the key to a bug-free home. All you need to do is to set up a yeast trap.

Here’s an easy method recommended by National Geographic:

Take an upturned small plastic bowl. Inside it, place an old coffee cup you aren’t using anymore. Then fill it with 150 grams of sugar and 30 grams of yeast. Then, add 1.5 liters of water. The bed bugs are attracted to the scent and you’ll see them drowned inside the liquid.

Spray for bed bugs

Many of the DIY solutions take some time to make and apply. But what if I told you that there are simpler options? There are some excellent bed bug sprays on the market. These are clear, and you can spray them on the bed and the surrounding area to kill the bugs immediately. Imagine that you can just spray a good bed bug killer and voila, they are dead and gone!

Check out the Raid Bed Bug Foaming Spray, For Indoor Use, Non-Staining:

Raid Bed Bug Foaming Spray, For Indoor Use, Non-Staining

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Check the price on Amazon

Bed bug Mattress Protector: SafeRest Premium Zippered Mattress Encasement

Bed bug Mattress Protector: SafeRest Premium Zippered Mattress Encasement

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Mattresses are the bed bugs’ favorite breeding ground. Once they get into the mattress, you’ll get bites all night. Did you know you can protect your mattress against bed bugs by using a bed-bug repellant mattress cover? This is a preventive solution to stop the bed bugs before they get comfy in your mattress.

Some mattress covers and protectors are very efficient at keeping the pests away. This particular model is made of high-quality cotton material so that the bed bugs can’t penetrate their way into the mattress. Yes, you’ve read that right, the material is bite-proof so these pests can’t ruin the mattress cover.

Also, you can have extra protection because this mattress cover has a great zipper guard, which seals the cover tight so the bed bugs can’t get through the cracks. Cheaper

The SafeRest is made out of waterproof and hypoallergenic material. It is breathable so it won’t feel uncomfortable as you sleep on it, and it doesn’t cause you to overheat during the night.

Check the price on Amazon

Bed Bug Powder: HARRIS Bed Bug Killer, Diatomaceous Earth

What’s commonly called bed bug powder is in fact diatomaceous earth, which is a natural earthy remedy – a sedimentary powdered rock. The bed bugs hate this earth! The reason this powder works is because it gets deep into the fabric, and those tiny cracks. We recommend this type of natural bed bug powder because it’s not full of harsh chemicals and safe for use.

Check out HARRIS Bed Bug Killer, Diatomaceous Earth.

Bed Bug Powder: HARRIS Bed Bug Killer, Diatomaceous Earth

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The bottle has a puffer tip applicator, so you can scatter the product easily without getting it all over the place. It is very effective against bed bugs as long as you keep the powder and the surfaces dry. The effects are long-lasting, so you don’t need to constantly apply more.

For the best and fastest results, use alongside a protective mattress cover for a completely bed-bug free home.

Check the price on Amazon

Bed Bug Fogger: Hot Shot 95911 AC1688 Bedbug & Flea Fogger

In case you’re unfamiliar with foggers, they are devices that spread insecticides in a fog form. Therefore, the chemicals spread out into the room and effectively kill all the bugs. A fogger is best for killing bed bugs at all stages of life and preventing the hatching of future generations. We recommend the Hot Shot fogger if you’re struggling to get rid of the bed bugs with more natural solutions, and you want to be sure the pests are killed for good!

The Hot Shot is an effective long-term solution if you’re dealing with bed bug infestations.

Bed Bug Fogger: Hot Shot 95911 AC1688 Bedbug & Flea Fogger

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This fogger contains a chemical called nylar, which is also effective against lice, fleas, and ticks, so your room has complete protection from these pesky critters. The product also prevents infestation for about 7 months after use.

You can treat an area up to 2000 cubic feet with this fogger solution. The reason why this is such an effective product is that you can use it everywhere.

It works on furniture, in apartments, baseboards, garages, boats, cabins, and even kitchens. It has the power to reach the bed bugs in any place they might be hiding, hence why it’s such an effective product.

If you want to make sure the bed bugs all die, you need to use the fogger several times.

Check the price on Amazon

Ultrasonic Bed Bug Repellent: Ultrasonic Pest Repeller Plug-in

Plug-in pest repellents claim to repel all types of insects and pests such as mice, spiders, bugs, and even bed bugs. This kind of device uses ultrasonic and electromagnetic waves to keep the pests away

. It doesn’t kill the pests, but it can make them stay away from your home. So, how is this device going to help you?

Ultrasonic Bed Bug Repellent: Ultrasonic Pest Repeller Plug-in

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Well, it’s best for preventing the initial best bug infestation. When you plug the device in, it emits ultrasonic waves which the pests hate. It can control an area up to 1100 ft2.

Best of all this device is safe for use even if you have pets because it doesn’t have any negative effect on cats and dogs.

The flame-retardant body of the device prevents overheating, so it’s not a fire hazard and you can leave it plugged in non-stop.

If you hate seeing the dead pests all over your home and bed, then you don’t need to worry. This device makes them go out of the home, it doesn’t kill them.

Check prices on Amazon

What are bed bugs?

Far from a folk tale, bed bugs are true insects. They are commonly misconceived as Arachnids, such as dust mites and ticks. If only!

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Belonging to the family Cimicidae, bedbugs are blood-sucking insects that primarily feed on humans and other warm-blooded animals. The bed bugs biting really is a thing, after all!

The species garnered its name bed bug from its common practice of infesting homes and especially the sleeping areas of humans.

The bed itself is the perfect location for them to fester, for reasons we’ll go into below.

They usually attack at night but are not exclusively nocturnal. While seeing them in the day is rare, if you do it will make you want to burn your bed down!

The immature and ‘baby’ bed bugs are called nymphs. They shed their skin about five times before they reach adulthood.

But the scary thing is that they must feed on blood before each shedding, so they will feast on your blood for about a month while they grow.

Then as adults, they continue to feed on human and animal blood on a daily basis.

How to identify bed bugs

In this image, you have an overview of the bed bug’s life cycle.

Bedbug-Life-Cycle

Adult ‘bed bugs’ are wingless, oval-shaped, and reddish-brown in color. According to WebMD, the bugs are flat in shape and about the size of an apple seed.

The young (nymphs) are translucent, to begin with. Thus, they are hard to see, with the naked eye. They become darker in the shade as they reach maturity.

In adulthood, they are a reddish-brown color because they are full of blood. At this point, their bodies also swell, so they are easier to see.

They communicate with each other by utilizing kairomones and pheromones to identify locations of feeding zones, which leads to reproduction and nesting.

Sadly, one of the best places they love to reside is inside our beds.

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There are different kinds of bed bugs. However, they all look mostly the same. Telling them apart can be quite tough, actually. The main difference is that all are found on beds, despite the name.

Did you know that the female bed bugs lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime? Unfortunately, this means many generations (at least 3 per year) of nasty bugs.

Also, the eggs are so small, you can’t really see them, so they may be lurking in your mattress without your knowledge.

Do bed bugs fly?

Many people mistake bed bugs for fleas. The fleas can fly, whereas bed bugs can’t. That’s because they don’t have wings, but they can move very quickly.

They mainly move over walls, fabrics, mattresses, headboards, and even ceilings. So, just because they don’t fly, it doesn’t mean they can’t move from room to room.

When do bed bugs feed?

Bed bugs are tiny nocturnal vampires. They feed on human and animal blood. They come out at night while people sleep.

The large majority of bed bug bites occur while people are asleep. The bugs pierce the skin and withdraw blood with their long beaks.

A feeding lasts between three to ten minutes before the bug goes back into its hiding place.

Luckily, doctors agree on one thing: bed bugs are not thought to transmit diseases. 

Bed bugs don’t like heat, so they don’t stick to the scalp or skin. Thus, they don’t stay in your hair.

Does a bed bug bite hurt?

Bed bug bites look like tiny little red spots on the skin. Initially, the bed bug bites are painless and you might not even notice them.

After a while, the bites become sore and itchy. Usually, they are grouped in small clusters and are easily mistaken for mosquito bites, though they are smaller in size.

The bites don’t have a red spot where the blood was drawn like mosquito bites.

Bed Bug vs Mosquito Bite

In some cases, the bites look similar.

Here’s what a bed bug bite is like according to Healthline.com:

Here’s what mosquito bites are like:

Bed bug allergies

Some people are allergic to bed bug bites. If you get bitten and you’re allergic, your bites can become blisters. You may also experience some hives and very intense itching all over the body, or near the bites.

However, bed bug allergy is not very common, and most of the time the bites aren’t a cause for serious concern.

Are bed bug bites similar to hives?

In some cases, you may mistake bed bug bites for hives but these are different. Hives can have a pale color or dark red and everything in between, while bed bug bites are small red spots.

But both bites are bumpy, meaning they are raised from the skin so you can have a hard time telling them apart.

Bed bugs vs Chiggers

Chigger bites are similar to bed bug bites. But, the pattern between the bites is different. Chiggers tend to bite the legs and sometimes in a random pattern.

The chiggers actually stay on your body, so you can actually be a carrier. This results in more frequent bites as they feed on you non stop. Like bed bugs, the chiggers spread all over the home.

Bed bugs vs Fleas

Fleas are smaller than bed bugs and they can jump very quickly, while bed bugs just crawl around. The fleas bite just like bed bugs and suck blood.

However, fleas love to live in pet hair, so your cats and dogs can become infested quickly.

Flea bites are way itchier than bed bug bites and fleas can also transmit diseases.

They look like small red bumps and spots and they tend to be concentrated on the legs and ankles.

Bed Bug Species

Poultry Bugs 

Poultry bugs, also known as Haematosiphon inodorus, is a specific and commonly found type of bed bug. These are commonly found in crevices of fences, farmhouse structures, and pens.

They primarily feed on the blood of chicken and other types of domestic fowl hence their name.

But, humans may also be bitten by these insects if they spend too much time in the poultry, especially at night time when these insects get the most active.

If you are someone who owns poultry, watch out for these little monsters at night; their bites can sting.

Chimney and Swallow Swift Bugs

These insects normally feed on the birds from which they have received their names. Since they are found in the nests of swallows and chimney swifts, they are most commonly found in areas where these birds settle.

If you aren’t around birds on a regular basis, then it’s unlikely that you’ll ever come across this type of bug.

Common Bed Bugs 

Cimex lectularius is the most common type of bed bugs, and are found all over the world.

This includes most homes in U.S cities like Baltimore and Catonsville – they are more or less global.

Although they are commonly found in temperate climates, these insects are found everywhere in the world.

Their universal ability to survive regardless of conditions makes them really stand out.

Cimex lectularius name is commonly used to signify these bugs because these insects have a habit of hiding in crevices of soft surfaces.

This makes them perfect targets for resting in places like bed linen and mattresses – hence how they become bed bugs!

Bed bugs mainly feed on human blood, but they may even feed on the blood of other animals. These insects have a life span of 4-6 months and the female lays approximately 500 eggs in her lifetime.

With such rapid productivity, you can see how they come to be in such massive volumes and numbers.

Bed bugs are a constant reminder to unlucky homes that sometimes we are not alone in our homes.

Dealing with them is an irritant, and is usually best dealt with by using the right kind of cleaning agents to help remove as much opportunity for bed bugs to be attracted and fester as possible.

Although the number of infestations has drastically been reduced over the past few decades, it is careful not to forget these insects.

Remember to be wary of little bumps you might find on your body and always keep up a clean sleeping area. The cleaner your bed is, the less chance that they will be attracted to it.

Regularly vacuum up and clean, and change the sheets as often as you can.

Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Where do bed bugs hide?

The most common problem is that you just don’t know how bed bugs enter your home. People always wonder, where do they come from? How did I bring them inside?

Most of the time, bed bugs move from home to home through travel. Since they’re so tiny, the traveler doesn’t even notice he is the host.

In most cases, the bed bugs come into the home undetected. They usually hitch a ride on luggage, used furniture, old mattresses, clothing, and other second-hand items.

Their small flat bodies allow them to fit into the tiniest little cracks.

Bed bugs live in groups, but they don’t have nests like some other insects.

They like to search for a comfortable hiding place such as a mattress, box springs, headboards, the bed frame, and even carpets.

As long as they have access to blood at night, they live comfortably in their hiding spot.

The bad news is that even though they hide in beds and mattresses, they can move to other rooms and infest those too.

They like to scatter into new crevices. Through a host, they can also reach nearby apartments and cause even more infestation.

Bed bugs hide in memory foam mattresses and pillow too! So, make sure you disinsect those too.

So, what is the main cause of bed bugs?

When it comes down to facts, the most common cause of bed bugs is travel. As a traveler, you don’t realize that you are picking up bed bugs on your travels.

You can pick them up in hotel beds, or on your luggage and clothing on the road. The bed bugs stay on your belongings, and thus they get moved from one property to another.

How to check for bed bugs

Either you have excellent vision, or you’re going to need your best glasses for this task. But the best way to check for bed bugs is to conduct a thorough investigation of your bedroom.

The first place to look is around the bed. This includes carefully checking both sides of the mattress. Also check the piping, the seams, and mattress tags to ensure to bugs aren’t hanging around there.

Check the box springs and the bed frame. Look for any cracks where the bugs can hide. It’s best to take the bed apart if possible.

Then, move on to the headboard and look at the carpet closely.

Don’t forget about the couches or other furniture in the room. Always look at both sides of cushions and pillows.

Next, check the curtains – especially between the folds.

But did you know bed bugs love warm places? Check under the bed too, and always look for tiny specks of blood – these are an indication of bed bugs.

And finally, you must check the carpets, including the edges of the carpet and the baseboards. Go around the perimeter of the room and look closely.

Can bed bugs live in wood?

Technically, yes bed bugs can live in wood, but they don’t burrow there. They can find holes in the wood and they can live there for a while. However, bed bugs prefer softer hosts, such as mattresses and sofas.

FAQs

In case we haven’t answered your questions thus far, check out our list of the most frequently asked questions and you might find it here.

Should I throw out my mattress if I have bed bugs?

When you first see those bed bugs, it’s enough to make you cringe. I know the first instinct is to get rid of the mattress but it might make things worse. So, no, you shouldn’t panic and throw away that mattress. When you have a bed bug infestation, it’s best to leave the furniture where it is, so don’t throw it out.

Don’t use pesticides and don’t try to rip everything out. If you move the furniture and belongings you are spreading the bed bugs into the other rooms.

Try the natural methods first and then if it’s still a problem, call the professionals.

Why do bed bugs bite some and not others?

In general, bed bugs will bite everyone in the same bed. However, some people might not have a reaction to the bite. Thus, the sores and bites may not swell and you might not realize them.

Bed bugs are attracted by the scent of blood, so there is no real reason why they wouldn’t bite one person yet bite the others.

Will bed bugs die on their own?

Like any living thing, a bed bug dies, but the infestation doesn’t go away on its own. Actually, an infestation gets worse by the day. The bugs keep reproducing and more keep appearing as the days go on. Even if they don’t feed these bed bugs can live in the hiding spot for up to a year. That’s quite scary, so you need to exterminate them ASAP.

So, yes bed bugs can survive without a host for a long time. The nymphs die off in less time without a host, but adults can survive given the right circumstances.

Will bed bugs come out into the light?

The light doesn’t scare the bugs off too much. They come out during the day or when the light is on if they need to feed on blood. So, although they prefer to be active during the night, you can see them in the light too!

Will bed bugs die in the washer?

Washing kills many of the bed bugs, but not all. So beware of washing, and if you do, use very hot water. What does kill them is the heat from the dryer. If you want to kill the bed bugs, then wash the clothing and bedding in hot water and dry them using a high heat setting in the dryer. This is an effective method to disinfect your clothes and bedding.

How can I get rid of bed bugs on the carpet?

Bed bugs love to hang out in lush carpets. They are the perfect hiding spots for them. Therefore, make sure to vacuum the carpet and then spread diatomaceous earth all over the carpets. The earth penetrates the fibers and kills the bugs. Another option is to use a steam cleaner to deep clean the carpets and rugs.

Do bed bugs die in a hot car?

Yes, if the temperature reaches 100+ degrees Fahrenheit, the bed bugs are killed. This usually happens when you leave your car out in a parking lot where the sun shines on it directly. When the temperature reaches 125 F, then all stages of bed bugs are killed.

Do bed bugs live on cats and dogs?

Bed bugs are not like fleas and ticks and they don’t like to live on cats or dogs. However, if there is no other blood source, the bed bugs bite and feed on your pet. So, make sure to keep pets away from bed bug-infested rooms.

Can bed bugs live outdoors?

Yes, bed bugs can survive outdoors for a while, but they must get inside or they do die. So, they find a host to take them indoors in most cases. Mostly, they live in the grass in parks when outside.

The Bottom Line

Now that you’re informed about all things bed bugs, you can begin to identify their hiding spots and take the next steps to remove them once and for all. If you prefer DIY methods, make sure to repeat them. If you can afford professional help, go for it because it can eliminate the problem much faster. But the main takeaway is that you can get rid of bed bugs yourself through inexpensive methods. And don’t forget that there’s no need for panic, bed bugs aren’t lethal – but they sure are annoying!