Bed bugs also known as Cimex lectularius are tiny, wingless insects. Active mostly at night, they are very small (about the size of an apple seed), are oval and rusty red in color. After feeding on human blood, they become bigger and easier to see. They are often hiding in places like cracks in furniture, floors and walls, behind headboards, in mattress seams, along baseboard cracks and in other bedroom items including window/door casings, pictures, moldings and cracks in plaster or loose wallpaper.
In North America, cases of bed bugs were rampant before World War 2. Post war, thanks to collective efforts and new pest control techniques they ceased to exist. However, their reappearance is thought to be a result of the bugs being inadvertently carried into North America from other countries.
How do bed bugs get into homes?
The bugs get carried into their homes without people knowing it, in items such as luggage or clothing. They can be picked up in “high-traffic” areas like hotels, boarding houses, airplanes, ships and buses. Be aware that second hand furniture including mattresses may also carry bed bugs into your home.
Signs that your home has bed bugs include:
- Large, itchy rash on skin
- Small linen or mattress bloodstains(crushed bugs) and
- Seeing the bed bugs themselves
How to handle bed bug bites
If you or a child have/has been bitten by a bed bug, clean your skin and keep it clean to prevent infection. Try not to scratch the bite. If it is itchy, antihistamine (anti-allergic) medications may be recommended by your doctor or pharmacist.
Getting rid of bed bugs
Here are some important steps:
- Using a stiff brush, remove bed bugs (and eggs) from mattress seams.
- Vacuum sleep areas frequently. Pay special attention to carpets, mattresses, bed frames, furniture and wall or floor cracks. Seal the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and dispose of it in an outdoor container.
- Steam-clean all carpets (not mattresses).
- Repair loose wallpaper and cracked plaster and any fill other cracks in your home.
- Place infested items in a tightly sealed plastic bag place in an outdoor container.
- Do not re-sell or donate infested furniture or clothing.
- Note that sometimes it is difficult get rid of bed bugs on your own and you may need a licensed pest control specialist.
Preventing bed bugs from entering your home
The best way to prevent bed bugs in your home is to:
- Wash and inspect clothing and luggage immediately after every trip and
- Never bring discarded furniture into your home; “Buyer beware!” at second-hand furniture sales.