Bed bugs are an insect which has performed an almost miraculous resurgence in the last 10 years. Manchester Pest Control went many years without even seeing a bed bug but in recent years they have returned and are now found in any sort of dwelling from the poshest hotel to the humblest home.
There are a lot of fallacies and misconceptions about bed bugs, one of the biggest urban myths is that every bed has them. This is simply not true! Every bed has dust mites which feed on human skin, these are not bed bugs!
Bed bugs are visible to the naked eye and are surprisingly large, especially after a meal of blood! Adult bed bugs are about the size and shape of an apple pip and can move quite quickly when disturbed.
Bed bugs feed on blood, simply that and preferably yours!
They prefer humans but they will bite your cat, dog or other pets as well.
They are nocturnal and typically will emerge in the early hours of the morning when their target is in a deep sleep. They sense their target by detecting the carbon dioxide in exhaled breath and when close in on their meal they switch to infrared detection of body heat.
They inject their prey with a fluid which is both anaesthetic and anti-coagulant which stops you feeling the bite and keeps the blood flowing. They need to feed about once every seven to ten days.
For these reasons bed bug bites tend to be concentrated on the upper torso, bites on the ankles and lower legs suggest fleas, a cheaper and easier pest to deal with
If you think you may have bed bugs the first thing we are going to tell you to do is DO NOTHING until you have had them positively identified.
If you live in our operational area we can call out to you to do an inspection. If you live anywhere else in the world we obviously can’t do a treatment for you but we can do an insect identification for you over the internet if you can send us a decent quality digital photograph of the insect or evidence that you have found.
You would be utterly amazed at how many times we turn out to an infestation which is ‘definitely bed bugs’ according to the customer, but which turns out to be something totally different, easier and cheaper to treat on inspection.
Professional Bed Bug Treatment
Another urban myth is that bed bugs are confined to beds and that burning the beds will solve the problem. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Bed bugs live anywhere within around fifteen to twenty feet of where a person normally sleeps, which in most cases means the entire bedroom. This is why eradicating bed bugs is so difficult as they are not only in the beds but everywhere in the room, in the beds, under the carpets, in furniture, picture frames and even inside electrical sockets and switches.
You must call in a professional. Bed bugs are a difficult pest to eradicate even for the pros! The treatment is time consuming and exacting but your pest controller will guide you in every stage of the procedure.
There are preparations you will have to make before the treatment, so that your pest controller can access every possible hiding place and there are several dos and don’ts, to ensure that you don’t spread the problem further around your house.
There are many different preparations available to your contractor but he will use an insecticide which is licenced for the purpose in your country.
If he is doing the job efficiently he will treat everything in the room, undersides of drawers, inside box springs, backs of wardrobes, picture frames etc. He should also dust the insides of switch boxes and sockets.
The insecticide used will probably contain a cocktail of chemicals including an insect growth hormone which will prevent any eggs which survive from developing.
Your contractor should then finish off with a precautionary spray treatment of stairs etc in case any bugs have been dropped during the washing process.
In situations where the preparations and the treatments have been carried out diligently it should only rarely be necessary to carry out a repeat visit but it should be established beforehand if any second treatment is included in the price or would require a second payment.
We wrote the following section as a handout for our own customers as a guideline on how to prepare a property for a bed bug treatment but it contains many useful pointers which you may find interesting.
Dos and Don’ts
Broadly speaking you will need to take the following steps.
Involve any neighbours in any form of attached property. If you live in any form of communal housing, terraced house, semi-detached, apartments, condos or flats then you MUST involve your neighbours. Bed bugs spread like wildfire in these properties and you risk the fact that the bugs have already spread. Worse still, they may have COME from your neighbours’ and unless they take action you will constantly be re-infested. We will refuse to carry out treatment in these properties unless a full inspection and monitoring programme is carried out in every property, as we know that we would be wasting our time and your money!
Your professional pest controller will identify with you and your neighbours (if appropriate) the extent of the infestation and will quote you a price for the work, if that has not already been agreed.
Burn, destroy or otherwise remove your bed/mattress. We can probably save the bed and you will only spread the bugs throughout the house whilst moving it. If you transport the old bed to a tip, refuse dump etc. you risk contaminating the vehicle you transport it in.
Buy a new bed or mattress. It will be infested on the first night.
Use any sprays, bleaches, powders or potions, you will make it more difficult for the professionals.
Sleep in another room, downstairs on the couch, or worse still go and stay with a friend or relative. The bugs smell your exhaled breath and they will follow you to other rooms in the house which may not be currently infested, thus making the task harder for your contractor and more expensive for you. If you stay with a friend or relative you risk transporting the bugs with you.
Do not carry dirty linen unbagged through the house, you risk transporting the bugs.
Before The Bed Bug Treatment
Preparing for a bed bug treatment is a daunting task as EVERYTHING other than the furniture must be removed from the infested bedrooms.
It is somewhat akin to moving house in scale.
We suggest that you tackle it in the following manner.
Obtain a large supply of good quality bin/garbage bags in two different colours.
Bag up all bed linen and personal clothing in the bedroom, do not transport unbagged items as you risk the bugs dropping out all over the house.
Pre-sort those items which can be washed from those that can’t.
Those items which can be washed should be transported to your washing machine in sealed bags and washed on a high temperature **(above 50 c). This will kill any bugs or eggs. If your tumble drier can achieve these sorts of temperatures then tumble drying for ninety minutes will kill bugs and eggs.
Those items which cannot be washed or tumble dried can be bagged and placed in a chest freezer for 5 days. It may be worth buying a second hand chest freezer for the purpose. Put the freezer on its coldest setting.
Place all newly washed items in a different coloured bag and store away from unwashed items. Do not use the same bags you transported the unwashed items in, hence the idea of using different coloured bags.
Empty all wardrobes and drawers in the room of ALL personal items and store in sealed bags. Those items which will not be damaged by freezing should go in the chest freezer **.
You must leave in the room any paintings or mirrors etc.
If possible unfasten any fitted furniture from the walls to enable the backs to be treated, this is absolutely essential in the case of fitted headboards.
Take down and wash or freeze any curtains.
When you have finished your bedrooms should look as if you were moving house with the exception that the beds, stripped down to mattress level, should remain.
The house is now ready for the treatment.
After The Treatment
Your contractor should advise you to stay out of the house for a period, usually around four hours after which you can start to put your house back together.
The following steps are essential.
Pull the bed away from the wall and fit bed bug moats and bed bug proof mattress covers. Some insects will have survived the treatment but as they cross the treated zone to get to you they will touch the insecticide and die. Any bugs inside the mattress will not be able to get out and bite you and will die.
DO NOT vacuum carpets or mop floors for a period of 28 days after the treatment. If you do you will remove the insecticide.
DO NOT sleep in another room, any surviving bugs will attempt to get to you and will only die in the process in a treated room.
We recommend leaving the bed bug moats in situ permanently, as much for your peace of mind as for detection and prevention.
Other Types Of Treatment
In recent years other forms of bed bug treatment have become available usually involving extremes of temperature.
One such method is to heat the entire property to around 140F at which point the bugs and their eggs cannot survive. Another method involves using freezing carbon dioxide.
Whilst we feel that both of these methods may have their uses in specific situations they both have one major drawback. There is no residual effect. As soon as the house returns to normal temperature it is safe for the bugs.
If just one single female bed bug survives then you have wasted your money!
By all means investigate them but we would strongly recommend an insecticidal method to give longer lasting protection.
We fully understand that many people do not like the idea of using insecticides in their homes and especially in their beds but all modern preparations are highly safe, licenced and fit for purpose, with extremely low mammalian toxicity.
More about Bed Bugs
People often assume that only dirty people get bed bugs, not at all! Some surprisingly upmarket hotels are fighting a losing battle with these pests and some very famous people have suffered.
Bed bugs do not live in dirt and squalor, their diet is YOU and they are the ultimate in having no prejudices, white or black, rich or poor, young or old they will bite you!
People often ask, ‘How did I get bed bugs?’ Well, it’s very difficult to say as they are so very easy to get these days. Maybe you stayed in a hotel or guest house that had them. Maybe you sat next to the wrong person on a bus, tube or train, transport-related cases are booming these days. If you live in an apartment or terraced row, any building in fact with attached neighbours, then maybe they just walked in under the door!
Bed bugs spread like wildfire in any form of communal building, apartments, terraced rows, condos etc.
Bed Bug Life Cycle
They evolved from bugs which feed on bats (Cimex pipistrella etc) and probably evolved around the times when human beings started living in caves.
Bats would only live in the caves for half the year round whereas human beings would inhabit the caves all year round, thus providing a better opportunity for a regular meal.
However, because the bugs historically had to endure long periods without feeding, modern day bed bugs can survive for extended periods without a meal, up to a year or more in fact.
For many years they were practically extinct in many areas, the invention of highly effective insecticides such as DDT and the removal of much of the slum dwellings where they were prevalent saw pest controllers dealing with very few infestations during the middle and later part of the twentieth century. However, during the last few years they are back and with a vengeance.
To say they have reached plague proportions is not stretching the matter too far.
Unlike flies and many other insects they have an ‘incomplete metamorphosis’ which means that they do not go through a larval or ‘maggot’ stage in their development, but the young hatch from eggs as a complete but smaller version of an adult and then grow by shedding their skins.