While bed bugs were once a thing of the past, they are currently a growing issue in North America. The first time bed bugs arrived on the continent was over 3,000 years ago when the early colonists came over. These travelers carried the bed bugs with them and they became a nuisance. By the 1950’s, bed bugs were nearly extinct. With the effectiveness of pesticides wearing down, bed bugs began a return. Bed bugs began their return around 1995 and each year the number of reported infestations rise.
If you suspect bed bugs may be in your home or another space you occupy, you may have questions rolling through your head. What attracts bed bugs? How do you exterminate them? What can I do to prevent an infestation? Where do I look for signs of these pests? Below you will find information you will need to determine what is drawing the bed bugs to you, and how you can get rid of them effectively.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small bugs that measure about ¼ inch in length and are reddish-brown in color. Generally they are flat, unless they have just finished a meal which leaves them slightly engorged. These pests feed on blood, generally from humans. Several of them can feed on the same host, which is usually how a bed bug infestation is discovered. Although humans are their choice for a meal, bed bugs have been known to feast on mice and rabbits as well. There have been no reported cases of bed bugs transferring diseases to their host through bites.
Where do bed bugs hide?
During the day it is nearly impossible to spot bed bugs unless you are looking around the places they typically hide. Below you will get information on where to look and what to look for when trying to spot a bed bug problem.
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- Mattresses and box springs. Check the edges of the mattress and box spring. Also look along the seams for any signs of molted skin or dirty spots where the bed bugs could have been present. Look under the box spring as well. Sometimes the bed bugs will hide in the underside.
- Behind the headboard. This is an ideal place for bed bugs to hide because it usually gets overlooked. If you aren’t trying to find something you may have dropped or aren’t cleaning, why would you even look behind there?
- Upholstered furniture and couches. Bed bugs love seams. They generally gather at the corners of seams or along the lines of the couch. Check under the furniture because they could easily be hiding there as well.
What attracts bed bugs to your home?
It was originally thought that dirt attracted bed bugs. This is absolutely not the case and even the cleanest of houses can become infested with them. Back several decades ago bed bugs were associated with less than ideal living conditions and while that does help to hide their presence, it isn’t the cause. These are a few things that bed bugs are attracted to and why.
- Carbon Dioxide. Because this is what we exhale, bed bugs are attracted to humans. This is something they crave and will actually seek out. This is also why they sometimes feed on other things besides humans.
- Warmth. At night when humans are fast asleep, their bodies create heat when regulating their temperature under the sheets. It is a gold mine for bed bugs when two people are sharing the same bed because the warmth increases a great deal.
Those two things are what will primarily attract bed bugs. There are myths that will lead you to believe that having dirty clothing on the floor will attract these pests. That is not the case. In fact, the amount of dirt that is or is not present means absolutely nothing when talking about a bed bug infestation. Sure a cluttered house makes it easy for bed bugs to hide, but they will find a place in even the cleanest house.
How can you get bed bugs?
There are various ways your home may become infested. Some of them can be avoided while others cannot. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone who has bed bugs knows they do. Sometimes they go several weeks or months without realizing there is an issue. Below you will find the possible ways you may end up with bed bugs.
- Guests in your home. This is probably the most innocent way to obtain bed bugs. If you are having a get together or invite someone over for coffee, they could potentially bring these pests into your home. Usually they don’t even know they have an issue and when they find out, it is too late.
- Buying used furniture. Whether it is at a garage sale, estate sale, or a buy/sell/trade page on social media, you are taking a chance. Unless you know who the stuff is coming from, you can never be sure what you are actually getting. If you can avoid buying used items, you should.
- Buying gently used clothing. If you are buying second-hand clothing, make sure you are bringing it into your home in a sealed bag. Take it directly to the washer and dryer and wash and dry it in the hottest possible water.
- Staying in a hotel. If you are in a hotel where there are bed bugs, it is easy for you to carry them home with you. Be sure to check your room and mattress before agreeing to stay in that room. If there is anything suspicious, ask for a room change immediately.
Tips for avoiding a bed bug infestation
- Don’t buy used furniture. If you can avoid it, the chances of being infested lessen.
- Place furniture legs in clear dishes. The smooth surfaces don’t allow bed bugs to climb. This will eliminate infestation in upholstered furniture and couches.
- Use mattress protectors and pillow protectors that zip closed. Ideally this should be done anyway, but many people don’t do it. If you have a bed bug problem you will likely be aware of it almost immediately.
- Vacuum a lot. Vacuuming is said to disrupt bed bugs and be efficient in sucking them up. Every other day is a good routine, but it should be done daily if you are trying to keep an infestation from coming back.
- When traveling and staying in a hotel,keep your things guarded. When you enter the hotel room, make sure you keep your things off the bed. The further away from the bed and other furniture, the better off you are. When it comes to your personal hygiene items, keep them in a sealed bag in the bathroom area. These steps will help safeguard your items and lessen your chances of bringing home bed bugs.
- Clean out the clutter. Having a home that is cluttered does not contribute to having bed bugs, it just simply hides them better. If you get rid of the junk, places for them to hide disappear.
By learning what attracts bed bugs, you can make a “trap” of sorts to investigate whether or not you have a bed bug problem. Using dry ice is suggested because it produces carbon dioxide which the pests love. Place the contraption near furniture or near the bed where activity is suspected. You should try to have it near warm spots, because that is another thing the bed bugs are attracted to.
Dealing with bed bugs is a messy job. They aren’t easy to get rid of. By knowing what attracts bed bugs, you are already one step ahead. If you build the trap and find evidence of them in your home or personal space, you can immediately start the removal process. Calling an exterminator is the best way to go, but it is also the priciest. Remember though, getting rid of the entire problem is essential because if you miss just one, you will be at another level of infestation pretty quickly.