Don’t let the bedbugs bite!
A lovable phrase your parents used to say before tucking you in at night has now become a fearful reality for many. In recent years, Canada has seen an increase in the number of bedbug reports due, in part, to increases in international travel. Anyone, anywhere could experience a bedbug infestation, and is not necessarily associated with poor living conditions.
Bedbugs are small, flat, wingless insects with six legs that feed on blood from animals or people. They range in color from almost white to brown, but they turn rusty red after feeding. The common bedbug doesn’t grow much longer than half a centimeter. They multiply quickly and travel easily. Bedbugs get their name because they like to hide in bedding, mattresses and box springs. Other sites where bedbugs often reside include curtains, the corners inside dressers and other furniture, cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed), and inside the spaces of wicker furniture. Bedbugs are found worldwide, but are most common in developing countries, often in hotels, hostels, shelters, and apartment complexes where lots of people come and go.
Bedbugs usually feed on humans during the night, with peak biting activity just before dawn. They can obtain their meal in as little as three minutes, after which they are engorged and drop off the host, then crawl into a hiding place to digest their meal. Bedbugs can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.
How do I prevent bedbugs from entering my home or apartment?
Sometimes even the cleanest homes and apartments can have bedbugs. Performing regular inspections and house cleanings, including vacuuming your mattress, can help prevent or assist in discovering an infestation in its early stages. Keep rooms clean and free of clutter to help reduce the number of places bedbugs can hide. This also makes inspections easier. Seal cracks and crevices with caulking, even if you don’t have bedbugs. This will help prevent bedbugs and other pests from entering your home or apartment.
When travelling, before unpacking anything, inspect your hotel room and furniture to look for blood spots, droppings or live insects. Ask to switch rooms if you find evidence of bedbugs. Upon returning home, and preferably before you bring anything into the house, inspect your luggage. Make sure to wash clothing in the hottest water possible followed by 30 minutes at the highest dryer heat immediately after returning from your trip.
Always be cautious when buying used furniture, clothing, or other items. Make sure to inspect the item before bringing it in to your home. Never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, upholstered furniture or electronics into your home. These items may be infested with bedbugs.
How will I know if bedbugs have entered my home or apartment?
Amazingly, these sneaky little bloodsuckers dine on you without waking you. You don’t feel their bite because they inject a numbing agent into your body, along with an anticoagulant to keep your blood flowing as they suck. After feeding, they poop, creating telltale brown stains of your clotted blood. You typically won’t see the bugs, as they are fairly small and can scurry quickly, but you will see the stains on your sheets, mattress or box spring.
The first sign of bedbugs may be itchy, red bites all in a straight row on the skin. Most bedbug bites are initially painless, but could turn into large, itchy skin welts. Some people have no reaction at all. Most bedbug bites eventually go away by themselves and don’t need treatment. A local antiseptic lotion or antibiotic cream or ointment may help with secondary infections, usually from scratching.
How do I get rid of bedbugs if they’ve already entered my home or apartment?
There are various non-chemical methods to help in getting rid of bedbugs including vacuuming carpets, floors and furniture, cleaning fabric items at high temperatures, covering mattresses and box springs with plastic covers, and repairing household items.
Ensure that you vacuum all crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards and any objects close to the bed. It is essential to vacuum every day and empty the vacuum bag immediately.
Wash all your clothing, bed sheets, blankets, mattress pads, pillows and their cases in the hottest water possible and place them in a hot dryer for 30 minutes.
Remove all unnecessary clutter. Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, floors and walls with caulking. Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers, and seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into your home (pay special attention to walls that are shared between apartments). Dispose of infested items that cannot be cleaned. Seal all items tightly in a plastic garbage bag and discard, making sure to label that items contain bedbugs.
It is advisable to hire an experienced pest control company that can employ various methods in controlling your bedbug infestation. This ensures that you rectify your bedbug problem completely.
See Safety Canada – July 2011 for more information.