Killing Bed Bugs

"Killing bed bugs involves multiple products and may require more than 1 treatment. The key to killing bedbugs is to be thorough in cleaning all services in the infested room. Apartment owners need to check adjoining apartments to determine the source of the bed bugs."  

In fact, in any room infested by bed bugs, studies show that approximately 85% are found on or near the bed so that when it is time to feed during the 1 out of 10 day feeding cycle, they are near the person they are feeding on. Bed bugs can be found anywhere there are people and need to be carried by the host from place to place, such as in luggage. They are not caused by filth or a lack of cleaning. Bed bugs usually only move within 20 feed of the location they are carried to.

Make Sure the Bugs are Bed Bugs - How to ID Them

Bedbugs vary in size depending on where they are in their lifecycle. You can mail a bed bug into Harvard University to have it checked. Killing bed bugs starts with knowing what they look like at each bedbug lifestage.

Eggs: Small pin head white specks. They attach to surfaces in bunches with a cement like substance. 1/32 inches. Females lay 1 to 12 eggs/day. Bedbug eggs hatch in 6 to 17 days.

Nymphs: Small colorless "bed bug babies". Adults and bed bug nymphs are similar in appearance. After being born they look for a host right away. A bed bug will "molt" (loose its skin) 5 times before becoming an adult. It takes approximately 21 days.

Adults: Adult bed bugs are dull red/brown in color and are approximately 1/5 of an inch (A). After eating they elongate in size (B). Adults live for 12 to 18 months. According the Ohio State University cooperative extension, 3+ generations can exist in 1 year. Bed bugs can survive for months between meals.

picture of bed bugs
Picture of Bed Bug Before and After Feeding

Killing Bed Bugs

Bed bugs feed at night and and bite the host for a period of 10 to 15 minutes in different places. They then go and hide until the need to feed again, which can occur in up to 10 days.

Killing bed bugs involves looking in the areas where they hide. This includes:

  • Mattress seams
  • Bed Frame
  • Window and door frames
  • Behind Pictures
  • Inside electronics and wall plates
  • On drapery seams and pleats
  • Wall and Floor Cracks
  • Clothes, shoes, toys
  • Newspapers/Magazines
  • Carpet edges and seams
  • Peeled wallpaper cracks
  • Moldings

Basically, anywhere there is a rough surface and that is near the bed, is a likely hiding place. Recent studies show that 85% will be around or near the mattress.

Look for the signs of a bed bug infestation including blood stains, dark spots from feces, shells from bed bug eggs (white shells) and a distinct odor (described as being sweet and musty).

Killing Bed Bugs in Your Home or Apartment

Multiple products and cleaning approaches will be needed for killing bed bugs. These may need to be applied several times. You can hire a professional bed bug exterminator or do it yourself with a Bed Bug control kit which includes everything you need such as the one offered by Dermisil for Bed Bugs.

Note that if you are in an apartment, you will need to check with the apartment above and below and rooms next to the infested room. Bed bugs could have traveled to your apartment from these places. Obviously, even if you remove the bedbugs from your apartment, they can travel back from others requiring all to kill bedbugs to be successful.

The key to do it yourself approaches for killing bed bugs is to look everywhere, use the right products and to be thorough. Even professionals often need to repeat treatments 3 to 4 times.

1. Inspection

Using the list above as a start, locate the areas where the bed bugs could be hiding. Look everywhere for signs of the bedbugs.

2. Sanitation (products can be purchased in a kit, see above)

  • Vacuum - Vacuum all surfaces thoroughly. Use the crevice tool without the brush to clean all cracks and seams. Bag, seal and dispose of the vacuum bag when done. A soft brush in the seams of a mattress may dislodge some of the bugs.

  • Spray (pyrethroids)- Use a bed bug spray product to spray the seams and cracks of the room. Bed bugs that come in contact with the spray will be killed. Check to make sure sprays can be used on sleeping surfaces. Let dry before covering mattress with a zippered cover. Do not soak spray into mattresses, a light mist is fine. Of course follow the manufacturers directions.

  • Repair - Fill in any wall cracks and repair walls.

  • Clean - Bag clothes. Move the bagged clothes (bagging keeps the bed bugs from dropping into other rooms) and wash in hot water. Wash all linens. Dry all in the dryer for 20 minutes on hot after washing.

    Bed bugs can also be killed if an object, such as sneakers are placed in a dryer for 10 minutes on hot. Be aware if items can be damaged.

    Bag and dispose of items such as magazines and newspapers, bedbugs can hide in between pages.

3. Trap

Buy a zippered mattress cover designed for trapping bed bugs. A low cost cover is offered by Dermisil . Wait for the mattress to dry from any spray. Cover the box spring as well. Trapped bed bugs will die. Those born from eggs you missed will also die when they can't feed. There is no need to throw out a mattress if it is covered.

It is very easy to miss bedbug eggs since they are small and cannot be killed by sprays. The only way to kill them is to:

  • Disinfect: with a strong liquid disinfectant such as PuraCleenRx. If you have carpet, add some disinfectant to the cleaner (test is an area to avoid carpet discoloring).

  • Steam: super heats the eggs and kills them (steamer available in the kit mentioned above).

  • Bed Bug Dust: Use a dust product and sprinkle around the room. When a bed bug is born, they will crawl over the dust and die.

  • Sticky Traps or Glue Boards: These will trap any bugs as they crawl toward the bed. it is not known how effective traps are, but can't hurt.

Professional Approaches to Killing Bed Bugs

It can take two pest control experts a full day to clean all surfaces and make sure that you are killing bed bugs throughout the room. Professionals will use a combination of the products listed above in addition to some techniques such as:

  • Super Heating a Room: With this approach a room is sealed and heated to 120 degrees for a day. All bed bugs and eggs inside will die under these conditions.

  • Nightwatch Bedbug Monitor: This device emulates the warmth and carbon dioxide given off by a human. When the bed bugs need to feed they approach the device and will be trapped. The device is new, but early tests are promising.

  • Dogs: As mentioned above, bed bugs give off a distinct set. Dogs are trained to find hiding bed bugs which can then be vacuumed, sprayed and removed.

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