Bedbugs are often found in box springs, mattresses, chairs and couches. These pests can make life miserable when they are present in large numbers. Bedbugs often bite humans and multiply rapidly, making them difficult to control. Light infestations may be controlled with do-it-yourself strategies, but heavy infestations almost always require professional treatment.
Bedbugs are tiny, flat insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans. The common bedbug is known as Cimex lectularius and is most often found where humans are present. Bedbugs do not have wings and cannot fly, but move rather quickly on floors, furniture, walls and ceilings. After hatching, the nymphs shed their skin five times before reaching maturity. After each shedding, nymphs must feed on blood. Bedbugs prefers human blood, but will feed on animals, rodents and birds if necessary. These pests are difficult to control, as they can live for extended periods without feeding and produce at least three generations each year.
Vacuuming areas infested with bedbugs can help eliminate the pest. Concentrate on areas where bedbugs hide, such as the edges around your mattress, couch or chair cushions and around baseboards. Place a suction wand on your vacuum cleaner and scrape the wand along these areas to dislodge eggs and remove adult bedbugs. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in a sealed trash bag and place outside.
Renting a commercial steamer is relatively inexpensive and can eliminate light bed bug infestations. Steam cleaning your couch cushions, mattress surface and chair cushions may reduce bed bugs and their eggs. This method is effective in killing bed bugs and their eggs on contact, but it must be repeated because it does not offer protection against newly hatched nymphs.
Washing items infested with bedbugs can kill them. Garments, stuffed toys and bedding should be placed in a washing machine with hot water and dried in the clothes dryer. Temperatures must exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit for this method to be effective. Items that cannot be washed such as backpacks, toys and shoes can be placed in the clothes dryer at a medium to high temperature setting for 20 minutes. Heat will kill bedbugs and their eggs at all developmental stages. Items may also be placed in a sealed plastic bag and placed outdoors in the summer. Temperatures inside the bag must exceed 120 degrees to kill bedbugs and their eggs. Cold temperatures are also effective in reducing bedbug infestations. Items must be placed in a freezer inside a sealed bag, with temperatures 32 degrees or below, and remain there for several days to kill bedbugs. It is not possible to kill bedbugs by raising or lowering your thermostat inside your home.
Preventing bedbugs in the first place is the best course of action. Always inspect secondhand items before bringing them indoors. Toys, mattresses and furniture should be inspected routinely for bedbug infestations. The Environmental Protection Agency also recommends checking your luggage and clothing for bedbugs when returning from a trip. Heavy bedbug infestations are difficult to control and usually require professional help.