The bed bug problem is on the rise, and it can happen to anyone. These minuscule pests can hide out in the tiniest of crevices in furnishings or clothing. Bed bugs are easy to pick up in public places such as movie theaters, doctors’ offices and any other place where multiple people occupy the same piece of upholstered furniture, one-after-another in the course of a day.
When bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) hitch a ride to your home upon your person, they waste no time setting up shop in your upholstered furniture and bedding. Bedbugs thrive in warm settings. They prefer to stay in soft, porous materials such as:
Bedbugs can hide almost entirely in the crevices and seams of mattresses, sofas, chairs and other porous items. They can also hide in the tiny gaps between non-porous parts of various types of furnishings.
If you see signs of bedbugs in your home, you must act quickly to eradicate them. In this article, we will share useful information on the use of safe, affordable food-grade diatomaceous earth powder to kill bedbugs. We will also share some tips to help you avoid having bedbugs re-infest your home. Read on to learn more.
How To Tell If You Have Bed Bugs?
The first clue of a home infested with bed bugs often show up as personal symptoms such as:
- Welts or blisters on the skin
- Itchy, inflamed bug bites
- Itchy, inflamed rash
- Skin infection
Bedbugs are blood-suckers, and naturally, they like to have a steady supply of food. That’s why you’ll often find them in beds and bedding. Sleeping victims ensure a good, long feeding time for bedbugs. If you wake up with any of the symptoms listed here, you should take quick steps to determine whether bed bugs are the cause of your problem.
Begin by examining your mattress for tiny black flecks – bedbug fecal matter. It may also be little flecks of your blood. Use a flashlight to examine the seams in your mattress and other places where bed bugs might hide.
Be sure to look in the joints of your bed frame, in your box springs, in rugs and carpets and other furnishings and objects around your bed. If you have a bedbug infestation, you are likely to find them hiding. Bedbugs resemble apple seeds in size, shape, and color. They tend to cluster together in warm, dark places.
You may find them in your bedding, in your pets’ bedding and sofas, upholstered chairs and the like. They can also hide in very unlikely places such as behind switch plates and electrical outlet covers and other dark gaps, crevices, and cracks.
Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
Luckily they are not especially dangerous. Bed bugs do not spread any known infections or diseases at this time; however, being bitten by bedbugs is not a desirable experience. Having an infested mattress causes lack of sleep and lots of discomfort along with a general sense of revulsion.
It’s vital that you address any signs of infestation immediately and aggressively before your problem gets out of control. Bedbugs mature and reproduce very rapidly. The time span from hatching to adult bed bugs is approximately a month. The bugs live about a year or a year-and-a-half and lay eggs on an ongoing basis.
Females may lay one or two eggs a day throughout their lives. Translation, one, single female bedbug could leave a legacy of over 500 offspring. It’s easy to see that if you don’t get the situation under control quickly, you could be overrun with biting bugs in no time.
Bed Bug Life Cycle
Bed Bug Pest Control – What To Do
Luckily, getting rid of bedbugs is not extremely hard, but it does take quite a bit of tenacity and determination. Diatomaceous earth products are especially useful in bed bug control and keeping them away from your home and your bed.
These pests are also very sensitive to extremes in temperature, so both heat and cold can be very helpful in eradicating them. They are also repelled and killed by essential oils such as:
It’s smart to make a simple, natural insecticide to kill them and repel them. (See the recipe at the end of this article.)
Diatomaceous earth makes a powerful centerpiece for your eradication program, but it’s important to use all of the natural tools at your disposal as no single product will entirely do the trick. By combining the strengths of a variety of natural treatments, you can take a multi-pronged approach to eradicating bedbugs and preventing re-infestation.
Entomologist at Virginia Tech explains:
“When bed bugs walk through the dust, it clings to their exoskeleton and absorbs their wax layer, causing them to die of dehydration, Miller said. “We treat the perimeter of the apartment to isolate infestations in one unit and not allow them to spread. It is a lot less expensive to treat one apartment than every unit in the building.” [source]
8 Steps To Eliminate Bed Bugs
1. Locate your problem. If you suspect bedbugs, carefully examine all soft surfaces and potential hiding places in your home. Be sure to look at both sides of your mattress, examine the seams and explore all the areas in your bedroom and other areas of the house where bedbugs might hide.
Other oddball hiding places include:
- Inside electrical devices (e.g. your alarm clock)
- Beneath loosened wallpaper
- Behind baseboards
- In drawer joints
2. Seal off entrances. When you have located your problem, seal off crevices and cracks that may be allowing bedbugs to enter. Remember that these may also provide the bugs with an escape hatch while you are working to eradicate them. Sealing off these weak points will prevent bedbugs from beating a hasty retreat to get away from your efforts and then returning the moment you are done.
3. Remove all soft items such as:
- Sheets, blankets, comforters
- Throw pillows
- Bed pillows
Hot wash and dry all of these items while you are vacuuming. Getting rid of bed bugs at once will help ensure success.
4. Hot wash and dry all fabric items and seal them up in plastic.
Wash all of your bedding, clothing and other washable items in very warm or hot water with a generous dose of laundry detergent. Dry the items at the high heat setting. Once dry, put the cleaned items into sealed plastic containers or bags. Sealed containers will kill any fleas, cockroaches, bedbugs and other crawling insects that have managed to survive. Plastic bags are also very helpful in reducing chances of re-infestation.
5. Vacuum! Start by sucking up as many of the little beasts as possible with your vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming is an easy way to get rid of significant numbers of the bugs and their eggs.
Be sure to vacuum everything. Your vacuum should have a hose attachment. Don’t use a bagless vacuum for this job. You need to be able to dispose of your bag full of bedbugs completely and quickly.
You may wish to vacuum once and then go back over your furnishings and the seams with a stiff brush before vacuuming again. Take your furniture apart and vacuum all areas where bedbugs may be able to hide. Spray the seams and joints of your dismantled furniture with a natural, essential oil insect control spray and repellent.
Be sure to dispose of your vacuum cleaner bag promptly and correctly to avoid having the bugs re-infest your home before you can get rid of them. Remove the vacuum cleaner bag carefully from the machine. Seal the bag up inside a plastic bag and set the bag in a very hot or very cold place (e.g. in direct sunshine, in the snow or the freezer) until it can be picked up by the trash collector.
6. Steam clean all soft surfaces. Rent a steam cleaner and/or carpet steamer to steam clean mattresses, upholstered furniture, drapes, and carpets. Temperatures higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit over a sustained period will kill bedbugs.
7. Once you have thoroughly vacuumed and steam cleaned your home, dust diatomaceous earth all around the infested area. Leave the bed bug powder in place for at least 24 hours and then vacuum again. Be sure to use a shop vac rather than a household vacuum because the diatomaceous earth will ruin the motor of a standard, household vacuum cleaner.
To apply the fine powder of diatomaceous earth dust, you can use a shaker and/or a powdered pesticide applicator or bulb duster. Follow these steps to apply DE:
- Use a bulb applicator to spray it into crevices and cracks
- Sprinkle it lightly behind and underneath appliances
- Apply a thin line along windowsills and door jambs
- Sprinkle DE in drawers and closets
- Treat moldings and baseboards
Be sure to remove switch-plates and wall socket covers and use your bulb applicator to spray a mist of DE into the areas behind them.
Use your shaker to sprinkle DE all over soft furnishings, mattresses, and carpets. Brush it in using a soft bristled brush.
8. Allow the diatomaceous earth to sit for 24 hours and then vacuum it away. Be sure to vacuum very thoroughly using a shop vac. Since bedbugs reproduce so quickly and abundantly, leaving even a few adults, larvae or bed bug eggs could result in very rapid re-infestation. Vacuum all soft surfaces, between all seam and joints, in all crevices and hiding holes.
You can also sweep DE up with a broom, but because it is so very finely ground, it may be hard to control it dry. You can mist it lightly with a spray bottle before sweeping to get a little more control of it. Follow up by wiping the area down with a damp cloth or mopping.
Even though food grade DE is not a hazardous material, it can be irritating when inhaled, and it is not pleasant to touch. Wear goggles and a dust mask to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and throat. Wear disposable plastic gloves to protect your hands from excessive drying and possible irritation.
Why Use The Diatomaceous Earth Last?
Although it may seem that applying DE first would be a good idea, the fact is you are better off physically removing as many blood-sucking intruders as possible initially. If you shake DE all over your home, to begin with, it may have the effect of driving the little devils into deeper hiding, which would ultimately make your task more difficult.
Physical removal should be your first step, followed by DE as ultimate insurance and regular applications of DE as ongoing maintenance.
Take A Whole-House Approach
Even though you may have only noticed the infestation in one area of your home, it is wise to give your entire home the bedbug eradication treatment. Follow the outlined steps in every room of your house.
Inspect, vacuum thoroughly and apply DE as needed a couple of times a week until the bugs seem to be gone, and then repeat once every month to six weeks as maintenance. Use DE on an ongoing basis in out of the way places as a deterrent to bedbugs and other pests.
Be Sure To Use Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Food grade diatomaceous earth kills a wide variety of pests because it works by destroying their protective outer membrane and absorbing the oils and fats that lubricate their joints. DE causes immobility and massive dehydration within 2-4 hours of the original application.
It is important to choose the food grade product and not DE used in swimming pool filters. Food grade DE is easy to apply around your home and safe to use near food, pets, and children. Pool filter DE will have no effect on pests and can be hazardous if ingested or if your skin comes in contact with it.
Food grade DE is a safe, natural powder that is harmful to insects but safe for use around pets and children. Although the initial wave of bugs affected by DE will become evident quite shortly, this light powder stays strong and effective against pests for a long period.
Penn State Department of Entomology shared:
Inorganic materials such as silica gel, boric acid, and diatomaceous earth will provide long-term control, provided they are used in an environment with low humidity. These inorganic materials have very low repellency, a long residual life, and can provide good control if thoroughly applied to cracks and crevices. [source]
When bugs walk through the powder, it adheres to their legs to be carried into their hiding places and spread among the other bugs. The bugs will take this natural insect killer deep into very hard to reach areas. Once there, it keeps on killing off bedbugs at a steady rate. In fact, with patience and diligence, you could eradicate 80 percent of all bed bugs in about a month and a half.
Bedbug Control Video From Purdue University
How To Prevent Bed Bug Infestations
Even if you do not have a bedbug infestation now, following the steps outlined here is a good idea. By keeping your home scrupulously clean and disrupting potential bedbug habitat on a regular basis, you can completely prevent infestation. Follow these steps on a regular, ongoing basis to prevent infestation or re-infestation.
1. Check your mattresses and soft furnishings frequently for signs of infestation such as dark spots or actual bedbugs in the seams.
2. Vacuum frequently and thoroughly.
3. Whenever you take a trip, be sure to examine your luggage and vacuum it thoroughly before bringing it into the house. Wash all of the clothing and other soft items you may have taken on your trip.
4. Whenever you stay in a motel, examine the mattresses and soft furnishings with the aid of a flashlight. If you see signs of bedbugs, check out immediately.
5. If you purchase used furniture or items from a thrift store, yard or garage sale, be sure to examine them thoroughly before bringing them into your home. A good vacuuming, steam cleaning, and spraying with essential oil pesticide is a smart idea.
6. Vacuum frequently and thoroughly. Remember to use your shop vac to clean up DE.
7. Hot wash and dry clothes and bedding. Always use the hottest water your clothing and bedding will stand when washing. Dry on the highest possible temperature setting. Ironing with a hot iron is also a good idea for killing off bedbugs and their eggs.
8. Use a hair dryer to blow hot air into crevices and cracks where bedbugs may lurk. A hot hair dryer can also cause bed bugs to flee from a hiding place. You can blow hot air into a suspected bedbug lair and then suck the bugs up with your vacuum cleaner when they emerge. Follow up by spraying DE into the hidey-hole.
9. Steam clean on a regular basis. It’s a good idea to steam clean upholstery and mattresses on a seasonal basis for good hygiene and to prevent and/or eradicate bedbug infestation. Steam will kill off bugs and eggs even if they are lurking deep in the stuffing of your mattresses and soft furnishings.
10. Keep your mattresses and pillows covered with bedbug-proof casings. You can purchase very tightly woven mattress, box-spring and pillow cases designed for the purpose of keeping bedbugs out of your bed.
Conversely, if bedbugs are lurking deep in the stuffing of your pillows, mattress and box springs, these covers will trap them inside where they will gradually starve to death. Be advised that this death is very gradual indeed and not entirely trustworthy.
11. Put bedbug traps under the legs of your bed. These ingenious devices prevent these little pests from being able to crawl up your bed legs and into your bed.
12. Freeze small items that may be infested. Stuffed toys and other small items that may not be washable can be placed in the freezer or outside in freezing temperatures to kill off bedbugs. The temperature must be 1 degree Fahrenheit or less, and you must leave the item at this temperature for at least 24 hours.
NOTE: Bedbugs can tolerate very cool temperatures. In fact, they can live for up to a year in a dormant state without food if isolated in a cool area. They will not reproduce during this time, but if returned to a warm setting where food is available, they will spring to life and begin making up for lost time very quickly. While it is possible to kill off bedbugs by placing infested items in sealed plastic bags in very cold or very hot areas for a year or more, this is an uncertain and impractical method.
13. Create essential oil sprays to treat and prevent bedbug infestation.
Natural, essential oil sprays will repel and eradicate bedbugs from hard to reach areas and from large expanses of fabric or carpet. Good choices in oils include:
- Oil of Lavender
- Tea Tree Oil
- Lemon Oil
All of these are good choices to repel bedbugs and many other pests naturally. To make an insect repellent spray, you’ll need a spray bottle, essential oil, and warm water.
Add the oil to warm water at a rate of 1/3 teaspoon or 20 drops per 8 ounces of water. Don’t make a lot of this in advance as it will lose its potency if stored. Use a small spray bottle and only mix up as much solution as you need at time.
Spray this light, natural spray liberally over upholstery and in areas where bedbugs may lurk. If spraying on soft furnishings and mattresses, it’s a good idea to turn a fan on for even drying. The oil will stay in place and remain effective after the water has dried.
You can combine these oils as you like to suit your preferences for scent. Oil of lavender is especially effective because it not only repels and kills bed bugs, adult, larvae and it also destroys bedbug eggs.
You can also apply tea tree oil to itchy spots caused by bed bug bites. It will relieve the itching and help prevent infection.
Bed Bug Eradication Is A Lifestyle
The main takeaway regarding bed bug eradication is that it is not a one-off. If you want to eliminate bed bugs and/or keep them out of your house, you’ll need to develop a lifestyle of regular, thorough, careful cleaning. Vigilance and persistence are your best weapons against bedbugs.