Professional and DIY Bed Bug Treatment
Bed Bug Treatment Warning
Getting rid of bed bugs yourself is a tricky, complex and time consuming process that requires a number of products to be purchased.
Although this article leads you through the process, our recommendation is that you engage a local pest control professional who will have the local knowledge, equipment and product to eliminate your bed bug problem as quickly and efficiently as possible.
There are 6 aspects to treating bed bugs in your home and each must be followed through to completion.
1. Identify. What do bed bugs look like.
2. Prepare your bedroom.
3. Treat the hiding places, mattress, base and the entire room.
4. Prevent future infestations.
5. Kill the live bed bugs.
6. Kill the next generation (requires several repeats).
What Are Bed Bugs and What Do They Look Like?
Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on blood. A warm human body in bed is their ideal target. Their bites cause rashes that are very, very itchy. Bed bugs love to hide in warm spaces, including the cracks and crevices of mattresses, furniture, and bedding.
It is important to identify what bed bugs look like before you begin treating for the pests, as there are other insects that can be mistaken for bed bugs that require a different treatment plan. Fortunately, bed bugs are large enough to be seen relatively easily, at least as adults.
Bed bugs vary in size based on their stage in the life cycle. Immature (nymph) bed bugs range from 2-5 millimeters in length while fully grown adult bed bugs are a quarter of an inch long or larger, generally the size of an apple seed.
Adult bed bugs have a flat, oval-shaped body, six legs each, two antennae, and do not have wings. Females are slightly larger and a slightly different shape from males. For example, females tend to have more symmetrical bodies and more rounded rear ends, while the males can be smaller with sharper, sometimes asymmetrical end points.
Female bed bugs must take a blood meal before they can lay eggs.
Nymph (immature) bed bugs are translucent in color. After feeding, a nymph will have a bright red translucent abdomen that will fade to brown and eventually black as it digests its meal. As nymphs mature into adults, they molt and become a darker brown. Adult bed bugs are a rusty red/brown color.
Bed bug eggs are a light cream color.
Prepare Your Bedroom
Before you begin your own bed bug treatment, you will need to prepare the room or rooms where bed bugs have been found. You should also treat any rooms that share walls with the infested room. Remove any items in the room that you absolutely cannot treat or that have already been treated. Cover items that will be removed from the room in plastic bags before moving to the next room to prevent any unseen bed bug from infesting another room.
Remove any paintings or art from the walls. Be sure to thoroughly check any item that is removed from the room to prevent bed bugs from being transferred from room to room.
If you have a mattress that is heavily infested, you need to cover it with a bed bug proof mattress cover before moving it. You will also need to cover your box spring or bed base with its own encasement.
If your mattress needs to be disposed of and replaced, be sure to cover the mattress with plastic before disposing to protect sanitation workers. Labeling a mattress or covering with "Bed Bugs" is an excellent idea.
Infested sheets, linens, and garments should be washed and then dried in a household dryer on high heat (over 120 degrees F), as the heat will kill bed bugs. Any garments that cannot be washed may need to be dry-cleaned or discarded as insecticides cannot be used on these materials.
If books, magazines or soft toys are infested, place those items in an air-tight bin along with vapor strips to kill the bed bugs.
Treat the Hiding Places
Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.
Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.
Once you've identified a few of the places where bed bugs are most likely to be hiding, blast them with a hair dryer set to high heat and then scrape them out by hand using a credit card or similar tool.
If you have a large number of bed bugs, you can carpet-bomb them with a cloud of pyrethrin- or pyrethroid-based pesticide approved for indoor use.
Some bed bug products cannot be used where others can. Also, bed bugs can build up a resistance to certain pyrethroids, making them difficult to treat. This is why using a variety of products to kill and control bed bugs will produce the best results.
Treat Your Bed Base and Mattress
To get rid of bed bugs in a mattress, use an aerosol spray labeled for bed bug treatment, such as Bedlam Aerosol Spray, and spray or mist the insecticide onto the mattress. Focus on the seams, tufts, and folds of the mattress and spray until the mattress is damp. Allow mattress to dry before remaking the bed with freshly laundered sheets that have been run through a dryer on high heat.
After treating a mattress or box spring for bed bugs, you should then encase each of them separately in a bed bug proof cover. This will prevent re-infestation and will make future inspections and treatments easier. Be sure any product that has been sprayed or applied to your mattress is dry before you cover the mattress with a bed bug proof cover. You can make the bed with your freshly laundered linens over a bed bug proof mattress cover.
After encasing, you will not need to re-treat your mattress or box spring further. If you haven't encased your mattress or box spring, you will need to reapply the aerosol spray every 7-10 days until you do not see any further bed bug activity.
Follow the initial aerosol spray treatment with an insecticide dust. Dusts are great for hard to reach areas like the corners of mattresses and where mattresses and box springs meet. Dusts also last for several months. Dust both your mattress and your box spring. Remove the dust cover from the bottom of the box spring and dust in corners and crevices.
Encasing your mattress and box spring to avoid having to re-treat is strongly recommended. If you engage a local pest control expert, they will do this for you.
High heat kills bed bugs. You can use a hair dryer on its highest setting (though be careful not to melt plastic fittings) but a bed bug steamer is better, A bed bug or bed bug egg must have direct contact with hot steam to be killed. The bed bug steamer can be used to steam your mattress, box spring, and other furniture.
Steaming is a great option in rooms and areas where the use of pesticides must be limited due to health or other concerns. When using the steamer, take your time and slowly move the steamer across the item you are treating for the best possible treatment. Follow up with an insecticide labeled for bed bugs in areas where it is permissible to do so. All steaming should be done prior to covering a mattress or box spring with a protective cover and applying insecticides.
Treat the Entire Room
After your mattress has been taken care of, it's time to treat the rest of the room or rooms where bed bugs have been found and the rooms that share walls with infected rooms.
Mix an insecticide labeled for use on bed bugs, such as Temprid FX, with water in a pump sprayer using the ratio found on the product label to create a bed bug spray. Spray onto baseboards, in corners, around door and window frames, around bed frames, and under furniture. Allow the spray to dry before moving on to the next step.
Here are some areas you need to pay special attention to:
Bed and Furniture Legs - Treat the wheels, casters, posts, and legs of all furniture as bedbugs may be lurking there.
Wall-to-Wall Carpets - Treat and spray along the edges of carpets and where carpets meet baseboards.
Door and Window Frames - Spray around all door frames, window frames, and thresholds.
Repeat as needed. Be sure to read the product label for how often you can safely re-apply.
Bed bug traps can be placed under the legs of furniture and bed frames to trap bed bugs before they can climb onto furniture. This is also a good way to monitor an infestation.
Once the insecticide mixture is dry, you can follow up with a bed bug aerosol spray. Bed bug aerosol sprays are insecticides that have fine particles that get deep into cracks and crevices. By using both a liquid concentrate insecticide mixture and an aerosol spray, you can treat bed bugs that may have built up a resistance to one product but not the other.
Bed bug aerosol sprays come with a straw applicator to make it easier to apply into the cracks and crevices of furniture and mattresses around the affected rooms. Don't forget to apply in drawers, picture frames, bed frames, and any other cracks you can find. Again, you will want to allow this part of the treatment to dry before moving on.
Some areas to pay special attention to:
Upholstered Furniture - Inspect and treat any furniture in affected rooms. Much like a mattress, any tufts, seams, or folds will require special attention. Pay careful attention to the furniture legs and dust liners. Spot test an inconspicuous area first before applying to the rest of the furniture piece.
Baseboards - Treat where the baseboard meets the wall, where the baseboard meets the carpet or floor, and any cracks in the baseboard. This will prevent bed bugs from crawling along or under the baseboard to access other rooms of the home.
The Entire Bed, Not Just the Mattress - Don't forget the box spring, bed frame, and headboard (especially if the headboard is fabric). Treat along the corners, seams, stapled dust cover, and internal area of a box spring. Voids and screw holes in bed frames are a common hiding place for bed bugs, so be sure to inspect each one.
Remove pictures and wall hangings from the wall and treat the back and corners of each. If needed, treat the cracks and crevices of any affected wall hangings. Wait until the spray is dry to rehang.
Prevent Future Infestations
After spraying with an insecticide and following up with a bed bug aerosol, the next step in eliminating bed bugs is to apply a bed bug dust insecticide. As the name implies, bed bug dust is insecticide in a powder form. Because the dust is a slow kill, it needs to be used with the other methods already described.
Bedbug dust can be applied with a hand duster into cracks, crevices, behind wall outlet covers or faceplates, and other hard to reach spaces. While the application of dusts in hard to reach spaces may be tricky, dusts are ideal because they last for months or even years, depending on the product.
Some areas to pay special attention to are:
Electrical Covers or Faceplates - Remove faceplates from outlets and dust the inside of wall voids.
Baseboards - Dust where carpet meets the baseboard, where the wall meets the baseboard, and in corners and cracks in the baseboard.
Between the Mattress and Box Spring - Dust where a mattress meets a box spring, paying special attention to the head and foot of the bed.
Headboard and Footboard - Remove the bed headboard from the wall and dismantle enough to access crevices, screw holes, and voids. Do the same with the footboard if applicable.
Drawers and Furniture - Remove drawers from dressers, nightstands, and end tables and treat cracks, crevices, inside corners, and edges. Don't forget to turn drawers over and treat the underside, and the underside of other pieces of furniture as well.
Wall Fixtures and Lamps - Dust beneath lamps and behind wall fixtures.
Kill Current, Live Bed Bugs
Steri-Fab combines a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide and isopropyl alcohol to kill bed bugs fast on contact. It also acts as a sanitizer and does not leave any residue, meaning it can be applied virtually anywhere. Simply shake well, then apply to desired treatment areas. Most bed bugs will generally die within 10 minutes of spraying.
Steri-Fab should be sprayed in all areas where live bed bugs are visible.
Kill the Next Bed Bug Generation too
You must repeat these processes (except for the mattress and box spring treatment if you have encased them) every 7-10 days until no one in the home has bed bug bites and there is no further evidence (live bugs, cast skins, or fresh blood spots) found. This is absolutely crucial! Depending on the severity of the infestation it can take a minimum of 7-8 weeks, including repeat treatments. Failure to be thorough can prolong the process of getting rid of bed bugs and can make it harder to eliminate them.