September 6, 2017 by admin
“…Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!”
We’ve all heard that seemingly innocuous little rhyme. It was uttered in a sing-song manner as our parents kissed us goodnight, and sounded so harmless and cute that we never stopped to consider what meaning could lie behind the innocent façade. So do we really know what bed bugs are? And what harm or damage are they causing to our homes or health?
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are parasitic, wingless insects, around 5-9mm in length and brown and oval in appearance. They live on the blood of humans, though they’re quite happy to clamber onto your household pets too.
After mating, females lay tiny, white oval eggs into cracks and crevices – a single female can lay up to 250 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch in about 6 to 10 days and the newly emerged bed bug nymphs seek a blood meal.
Immature nymphs molt five times (they shed their outer exoskeleton in order to grow) before reaching adulthood and an adult bed bug lives for about 2 to 4 months.
How Do You Get Them?
The most common way for these little creatures to enter your home is via you. If you’ve been staying in an infested space, then your clothes or bags can easily pick up eggs (or the bugs themselves) as they hitch a ride back to your pad. Since they are mostly a nocturnal insect, you usually won’t encounter them in the daytime. However it’s still worth giving your temporary abode a once over by checking in crevices, in cracks in floor boards, along the seams of mattresses and any other dark, tight hiding places. The eggs are only a couple of millimetres in length so you’ll be needing a keen eye.
Another way they can enter your house is via second-hand furniture as, again, they can be hiding in the joins or any cracks in the wood. They’ve even been known to take up residence inside electronics that have once been present in an infested home.
How Do You Know if You Have Them?
The biggest indicator of bed bugs is of course their bites. Often it’s at the point a host starts to notice a number of them on their body that it becomes apparent that these little trouble-makers have made it into your home. When they do bite, they tend to go for the most exposed parts of a body and so you’re less likely to get nibbles under your pyjamas but most likely on your neck, arms, legs and feet.
While not always the case, bed bug bites are often grouped together in a small area or they may occur in a line or a zigzag pattern. Bites normally look like small, flat or raised areas that may become inflamed, itchy, red or blistered. Bed bug bite reactions don’t always appear immediately after you’re bitten and may take a few days to begin causing symptoms. But not everyone reacts the same. Bed bugs pierce the skin using their long beak and inject an anticoagulant so that they can feast unhindered. It’s this anticoagulant that people react to and, as with many allergies, an antihistamine can be taken to lessen any symptoms.
The good news is, bed bugs don’t carry infection and so they’re not injecting anything too nasty into our bodies but they can cause a loss of sleep. This in turn can of course lead to a variety of health issues, including depression, irritability, loss of appetite, anxiety, difficulty focusing and psychosis in extreme cases.
Another clue that you have bed bugs is the gifts they leave behind. You may often see small, black spots on your sheet from blood or faeces and this can also often by found on flooring or skirting-boards under beds. It’s quite sticky and so doesn’t come off easily with a quick rub. Because they shed their exoskeleton so often through their life-cycle, you may also come across discarded skins in or around the bed.
How Do You Get Rid of Them?
If after reading all that, you aren’t already scratching yourself raw and running off to the medicine cabinet for your favourite allergy tablets, you’ll be wanting to know how to get rid of these vampire-bugs.
Thorough a regular cleaning of your house is essential. A high powered vacuum cleaner will help suck the hiding bugs out of nooks and crannies and a thorough dusting will help swipe eggs off surfaces and into a cloth which can be then washed at a high temperature to kill them all off. If you have a steam cleaner, it is worth using this on a regular basis to go over carpets as well as upholstery.
If you have a heavy infestation, then it may be time to call in the professionals. They will carry out a very detailed clean, taking things apart where possible and steaming and vacuuming them away. Professional help will often be able to get rid of an infestation without using chemicals. But if things have gone too far South, then they’ll be pulling out the big guns and zapping every inch of the room with insecticide. This is of course the last resort.
Our good friends at Sunflower Maids KC recommend a good natural repellent for keeping bed bugs at bay by putting a few drops of lavender oil and tea-tree oil in a squirty bottle, diluted with some water. Spraying this liberally around a room will make them think twice before sharing your bed and will also leave the space smelling beautiful.
So next time you hear someone chant, “night night, sleep tight…” hand them a vacuum cleaner and then run for the hills.