“Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” This phrase if so often said as we bid each other goodnight, but what is it we’re actually warning against? What are bed bugs, and how exactly do we stop them from biting?
What are they?
The common bed bug, or Cimex lectularius to give it its Latin name, is a small parasitic insect that can live in or around your bed, hiding in folds and crevices during the day and crawling out at night to feed on blood by biting exposed skin.
Adult bed bugs can be seen by the naked eye, and look a bit like lentils. You might discover that you have bed bugs because of unexplained rashes or itchy bumps on your skin, or you may notice black spots on your mattress, or the remains of their mottled shells. Having bed bugs does not mean your house is unclean, as they are not attracted to dirt.
Other than being a stressful irritation, bed bugs aren’t actually harmful, and they don’t carry any diseases or infections that can pass to humans.
How do they spread?
They can be transmitted from home to home via holes in walls and pipes, or in luggage, clothing, or furniture. In recent times the numbers of bed bugs have increased in certain parts of the world due to greater tourism and easier national and international travel.
It can be hard to find where bed bugs hide during the day due to their small size, and they can squeeze themselves into the smallest cracks and spaces in and around your bed. They can also be found in other places around the bedroom, including inside furniture, and under carpets – anywhere they won’t be disturbed.
How do you get rid of them?
It can be difficult to get rid of a bed bug infestation, but the best place to start is by informing your local council, or a reputable pest control firm (make sure they are a member of the British Pest Control Association, or National Pest Technicians Association). Pest controllers can usually get rid of bed bugs in a couple of treatments, depending on how bad the infestation is.
There are also things you can do yourself to help fight a bed bug infestation, including washing your bed clothes at 60 degrees, or putting them in the dryer for thirty minutes on the hottest setting. You should also dismantle your bed to check every joint and corner for them, vacuuming up any you find, and disposing of them in a sealed bag. Insecticides have become less effective as the bed bugs have become increasingly immune to them, so it can be hard to find a domestic one that will work. The best thing to do is contact the professionals.
You can find more information about bed bug infestation at the NHS Website.