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10 Tips for Dealing with Bed Bugs

The familiar bedtime saying, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” might be a cute little rhyme from our childhood. But when a home actually has bed bugs, there’s nothing cute about it.

Bed bugs feed on blood and cause irritating bites. It’s also a myth that these pests only live in dirty places; in fact, they can be transferred into a spotless home by humans or bug-infested items, such as second-hand furniture. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind in the unfortunate event that your home gets bed bugs:

  1. Make sure they’re bed bugs. If you think you have bed bugs, ensure the insects aren’t fleas, ticks or other bugs. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and look balloon-like and reddish-brown if fed recently. They also have antennae and produce a “musty-sweetish” odor. Compare your insects to pictures of bed bugs on reputable websites.
  2. Don’t panic! Eliminating bed bugs can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Don’t throw out all your things, because most of them can be treated and saved. Throwing stuff out is expensive, may spread the bugs to other people’s homes, and could cause more stress.
  3. Explore treatment options. Try other approaches before reaching for the spray can. Integrated pest management techniques may reduce the number of bed bugs and limit your contact with pesticides. If pesticides are needed, always follow label directions or hire a professional.
  4. Reduce clutter. A cluttered home provides more places for bed bugs to hide and makes locating and treating them harder.
  5. Regularly clean all bedding and clothing that touches the floor. This reduces the likelihood or number of bed bugs.
  6. Avoid DIY freezing. While freezing can kill bed bugs, temperatures must remain very low for a long time and home freezers might not do the trick.
  7. Kill them with heat. Special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment. Black plastic bags in the summer sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items, if the contents become hot enough. Bed bugs die when their bodies reach 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Don’t spread them. Bed bugs are good hitchhikers. If you throw out a mattress or furniture that has them in it, slash or break it so no one takes it and gets bed bugs.
  9. Vacuum thoroughly to reduce bugs. Vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture, every part of the bed, and all cracks and crevices around the room. Carefully throw out the vacuum bag after each use so the bugs can’t escape.
  10. Turn to professionals, if needed. Hiring an experienced, responsible pest control company can increase your chance of success in getting rid of bed bugs. If you hire a pro, be sure it’s a company with a good reputation.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency