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Gardening in Washington State

How to Recognize and Eradicate Bed Bugs

Whether it is spring fever or the opening of the Master Gardener Clinic in Yakima County, March and April tends to bring out the worst in bed bug sightings.  Since bed bugs are household pests, there should be little or no seasonality to bed bug abundance.

The saying “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” is not just a quaint bedtime rhyme, but also a reminder that bed bugs do exist, and they require human blood meals to survive and provide for their offspring. In today’s highly mobile society, bed bugs have reestablished themselves as household pests. Bed bugs are not known to transmit human diseases, but they can cause skin welts, local inflammation, and contribute to insomnia.

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Bedbug getting up close and personal with an Extension Entomologist (Photo Credit: Michael Bush)

Bed bugs have been found in homes, apartments, rental units, and even hotels throughout Washington with increasing frequency. Cimex lectularius is the most common species that feed on humans.

Management Strategies:

1) Avoid introducing bed bugs into your home. Homeowners should not acquire second-hand mattresses and upholstered furniture without first quarantining them.

2) Remove or replace any infested furniture, including mattresses, box springs, couches, and upholstered chairs, whenever possible.

3) Clean and vacuum furniture and mattresses and wash bedding weekly. This will reduce, although not eliminate, bed bug infestations.

4) Establish a barrier or space between the bed and the floor to further discourage bed bugs from climbing onto the bed (remember bed bugs are wingless and cannot fly).

5) Obtain pesticides labeled for indoor use against bed bugs. Look for an annually revised listing of these products on the WSU Pestsense website at http://pep.wsu.edu/pestsense/.

6) Inspect sleeping areas in rooms adjacent to the infested area since these surprisingly mobile, yet wingless, bugs can move into surrounding areas.

The incidence of bed bugs is on the rise in North America, so precautions to avoid introducing them into your home are prudent. Bring any bugs found during a home inspection or captured on sticky traps or cards to your local Extension office for identification. While there are management strategies that homeowners can take to reduce the incidence of bed bugs in an infested household, the best management strategy is to cooperate with a local pest control professional to eradicate the problem.

For more information on Bed Bugs: Recognition and Management go to http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS070E/FS070E.pdf

Submitted by: Michael Bush, April 8, 2014
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8 comments on “How to Recognize and Eradicate Bed Bugs”

  1. Verlene Dawson said on September 16, 2015:

    How to get rid of bed bugs in your home:

    First, learn as much as you can about bed bugs so you can tailor a plan that will kill all of them in the shortest amount of time without harm to humans, and be inexpensive and easy to do.

    I’m sure glad they can’t fly and they don’t transmit diseases with their bites.

    They hide in places as small as the thickness of a credit card, inside appliances, electronic equipment, electrical outlets, furniture and wall cracks, mattresses, bedding, clothes, inside walls etc. They like to be close to beds and couches, but as their numbers multiply, and nests become crowded, some of them move further away.

    They usually stay hidden during the day and emerge to painlessly bite sleeping people during the night, then retreat back to their hiding place.

    They are resistant to many of the chemical sprays, which do kill some of them. Poisonous chemicals are harmful to humans. The chemicals have to make contact with the bugs, so it doesn’t kill the ones hiding. The other problem with spraying chemicals is it causes the surviving bugs to leave the area and go deep into walls or scatter to other rooms other than their preferred bedroom hideout or wherever you sit still, like the couch. It can take a longer time to get rid of them if you use sprays.

    The same holds true for killing bed bugs with steam. It only kills the ones hit by the hot steam. Anything that disturbs the bed bugs can make them scatter and hide. They can hibernate for as much as eighteen months or any time sooner.

    Removing the bed, furniture, rugs, clothes can scatter the bed bugs, It’s a lot of work and expensive to replace those items.

    Trapping bed bugs can get a few of them, but the trapped victims seem to warn their friends somehow. Anyway trapping doesn’t catch them all.

    Creating physical barricades with plastic mattress covers, motes around the bed legs etc. so hungry bed bugs can’t crawl onto the bed doesn’t really solve the problem, either. There are stories of bedbugs crawling up the walls to ceilings and dropping down to their sleeping victims. If they can’t bite at night, they will do it during the day.

    Extreme cold kills bed bugs, but you have to put them into a freezer for several days, ALL of them to do a complete kill.

    Commercial high heat treatments to the whole house do the job, but it’s very expensive, and might damage some of the items inside. Some people have tried to use high heat–it has to be high–themselves and burned down their home. Got rid of the bugs.

    Bed bug eggs hatch in about 14 days. The tiny transparent babies have to feed to survive. They bite, grow, and shed their skin five times before they are adults, and then keep feeding and breeding during their lifetime.

    In the summer of 2009 there was a thick infestation of bed bugs in my house and they weren’t even hiding anymore, but crawling all over the place. It was horrible. I thought the bites were from mosquitoes at first.

    I didn’t know what to do, so I stayed up all night and searched the internet for information. I found out about FOOD GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE) and read some encouraging stories from people who got rid of their bed bugs by using it.

    Bed bugs can’t live without blood. The little vampires have to bite to survive. I used this fact to lure them to their death! I was the bait in a DIY bed bug trap of DE.

    I stripped the blankets and sheets off my bed so there would be no bedding hanging over the edge or touching the floor for bed bugs to travel on. Then i put a sleeping bag in the center of the queen size mattress.

    Next, I painted, with a cheap soft brush, a very thin, nearly invisible layer of powdered FOOD GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE) all around the edge of the mattress, being careful not to let it cloud up into the air. (It’s harmful to lungs.) Bugs will walk around thick piles of DE. I wanted them to walk through the DE..

    I really hated going to bed in that sleeping bag, knowing the bed bugs were going to bite me. By that time there were bed bugs hiding in the computer chair also and biting me, so I dusted it, too.

    (There are people who charge a fee for sleeping in beds infested with bed bugs while the owner moves out. They get rid of the problem for their clients.)

    In about two weeks or so the weather turned cold and my bedroom was cold. I thought that the bed bugs were inactive because of the temperature, I never got anymore bites and didn’t see any more bed bugs at all during the winter. When it warmed up the next summer, there were no bed bugs. They were completely gone.

    Apparently, at night the bed bugs had crawled out of their hiding places, walked through the DE and got it on their bodies. They had their last blood meal and traveled back across the powdered DE again, then died because the DE is a desiccant that dries them up. They died. THE END.

    • Verlene Dawson said on September 16, 2015:

      Eggs hatch in 14 days, so this is about how long it takes, if they haven’t been disturbed, to kill old and new bed bugs with this DE method.

  2. Janice Daugherty said on January 2, 2017:

    I have a picture of a live bug I took that was under my bed. I am getting itching with red bumps on my body . Is there anyone that will identify the bug in my photo, if I send it to you?

    • Chalker-Scott, Linda K said on January 2, 2017:

      I would suggest sending it to Jenny Glass at the Plant Diagnostic clinic. She will be able to direct it to the right person. jennyglass@wsu.edu

  3. VideoPortal said on March 21, 2017:

    Use a bed frame to elevate your mattress and box spring off the ground and put the legs in containers with any type of oil. This will help keep them from climbing in and out of your bed. Store away any bed skirts. Keep sheets and blankets from hanging from the bed to the ground until the infestation is gone.

  4. Brianne said on May 19, 2017:

    Continue to inspect for presence of bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remained.

  5. Tammy sexton said on August 8, 2017:

    Last winter I spent 6 to 8 weeks spraying and steaming every inch of my home, I through out hundreds of dollars, getting rid of infested cloths,furniture,blinds,bedding,airlumes,picture frames,and home decoure this morning my sister was bit by what she thought was a beetle. No, it is a full grown bedbug. What can or should I do?

  6. Mike Bush said on August 18, 2017:

    The best solution to eradicate bed bugs is an integrated pest management plan that utilizes multiple strategies to control bed bugs. A very important strategy typically involves hiring a professional pest control specialist to apply pesticides in a fashion that targets the bed bug in a way that minimizes the risk of humans and pets to pesticide exposure. The measures that you have done above will help reduce the numbers of these household nuisances, but may not eradicate them. Other strategies like reducing clutter in the sleeping area, elevating the mattress off the ground, using coasters with soapy water, keeping bed sheets, blankets, comforters, and bed skirts from touching the floor (or wall) (please note bed bugs do not have wings and do not fall from the ceiling), mattress covers are all strategies that must be performed to eradicate bed bugs. One important tip though, always call several pest control specialists and get quotes. You will find some pest control specialists actually specialize on bed bugs eradication and quotes may vary in expense and experience. Good luck in your endeavors!

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