Although bed bugs are normally considered a summer pest problem, with the ability to lower the freezing point of their bodily fluids bed bugs do have a high tolerance for cold and thus present a problem even during winter months.
Everyone’s first reaction to a bedbug infestation (let alone their bodily fluids!) is one of disgust. But surprisingly bedbugs are not attracted to dirt and grime. Instead, they love warmth, blood and carbon dioxide. Bedbugs can enter your home through luggage, used furniture or bedding.
Why are bedbugs so hard to eliminate?
Because they have become resistant to common pesticides. Just as strains of bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, bedbugs have built resistance and are now harder to kill with a typical pesticide. They can live up to three months without food. Also, they reproduce fairly quickly. A female bedbug can lay between one and five eggs a day.
How do you know when you have bedbugs?
There are two major signals for a bedbug infestation. One is insect-like bites on your arms or legs. Since they like warm areas, bedbugs usually hide in the seams and crevices of mattresses. Being nocturnal, they feed off the blood of humans and pets while you are sleeping. Another sign is small black dots on your sheets. This is the fecal matter from a bedbug. It will not flake off but will leave a black smear when you try to remove it. Having said this, the only real way to know if you have bedbugs is to see them with your own eyes.
How do I get rid of bedbugs?
The key to remove bedbugs is to catch the infestation early. Bedbugs hide in tight places like behind and between baseboards, wallpaper and peeling paint. Some people recommend using treated mattress covers that will kill the bedbugs, but those chemicals will be in contact with your skin while you sleep. Another solution is to use a fogging bomb filled with a pesticide. These may kill some but not all the bedbugs. The only proven way to really remove an infestation is with “structural fumigation”. This process is expensive, intrusive and time consuming – your home must be vacated, fully shrouded by tarp and gassed with a pesticide – a process that can take several days and in some cases is just not possible.
What are some home remedies to treat bedbugs?
• Research has shown that rubbing alcohol will kill and repel bedbugs. Put straight alcohol in a spray bottle and spray on your mattress, especially the seams, a few hours before going to bed.
• Tea Tree oil is also known to kill and repel bedbugs. Add a few drops to your spray bottle of rubbing alcohol for a “two for one” treatment. Remember that Tea Tree oil is extremely potent so more is NOT better.
• A steam cleaner can do a great job killing bedbugs. The hot steam gets into the tight places where bedbugs love to hide. This approach will kill them without using toxic chemicals. Look for a steamer that has a pointed attachment to shoot the steam into the seams of a mattress or into the cracks of furniture.
• Diatomaceous earth is a great weapon against bedbugs, especially in carpeting. Diatomaceous earth is a natural powdery substance with very sharp edges that cut the bedbugs causing them to die. Spread some of this “dirt” on the carpet and let it sit overnight. Just vacuum the carpet in the morning. Continue to use this process each night until the infestation is gone.
With these methods it is possible to detect and treat a bedbug infestation on your own, but my advice is to call a professional and let them remove those “little buggers” professionally. Better to be safe than sorry when it comes to bedbugs.
For more green cleaning and green living information, check out Leslie’s website.
For other winter health tips, read these blogs: