So…you think you might have bed bugs? Maybe you’ve been feeling itchy in bed, or strange bites have begun appearing. We’ve got three pieces of good news for you:
- You might not have bed bugs. Unless you’ve confirmed that you do, in fact, have bed bugs, it’s possible that something else is biting you or causing you to itch.
- You can conduct your own inspection to determine whether or not you’re dealing with actual bed bugs.
- There are safe and effective extermination methods, such as heat treatment.
A two-fold word of caution: It’s possible that you have a small and localized bed bug problem. If you move too fast through your inspection or try to treat the problem yourself, you might cause the bugs to scatter, exacerbating the situation. Instead, move slowly during your inspection and call a professional if you discover evidence of bed bugs.
The first thing you need to know when looking for something is what you’re looking for.
- The bugs themselves: They range from young, translucent nymphs to older, reddish-brown adults. They are flat and oval-shaped, not longer than a quarter-inch in length or an eighth-inch in width.
- Casings: Bed bugs molt as they move from one life stage to the next, so they leave behind casings which look like an empty bed bug shell.
- Eggs: You can find these very small, light-colored eggs amidst droppings or in harborage areas.
- Droppings: These are dark colored and present as stains on cloth or as bumps on hard surfaces. If you rub a suspected dropping with alcohol or baby wipes, it will dissolve into a reddish-brown spot.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, arm yourself with a magnifying glass, a powerful flashlight, and a zip-loc-like plastic baggy (for keeping any bugs you find). You can also fashion a plastic probe for yourself by cutting a long triangle out of something like a playing card.
Unless you think you’ve seen bugs elsewhere, the first place you should look for bed bugs is your bed. They got their name by hiding near where people sleep, so that’s the first place to look. When you inspect your mattress, check along the seams, the piping material, under handles, in air holes, and inside all folds of material. Check between your mattress and box spring, under any fabric of the box spring, and inside any crevices.
If you’ve started sleeping on a couch or armchair since suspecting you have bed bugs, there’s a good chance they’ve followed you there. You should thoroughly inspect all sleeping areas, being careful not to cause the bugs to scatter.
If you think you’ve found evidence of bed bugs, call a professional. Do not try to treat the situation yourself. Even organic, green insecticides possess repellent properties which can cause bed bugs to scatter and find new harborage sites. If you’ve already applied insecticide, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just be sure to tell your exterminator what you’ve used and where, so they can provide comprehensive elimination of your problem.