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How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

March 02, 2021

We’ve got all the expert advice you need to recognize these pests, send them packing and never let them get a leg (or six) up on you again.

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Don't Panic

If headlines and horror stories are to be believed, Cimex lectularius (as it’s known to scientists — that’s the common bed bug to us) is your worst nightmare. Not so, says Brittany Campbell, an entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). “While bed bugs are alarming, it’s important to note that they do not spread disease. They can be troubling because of possible reactions to their bites and there is some evidence they can even cause respiratory allergies.”

“It may be impossible to fully prevent getting bed bugs,” she continues, “but the best prevention is attempting not to bring them home in the first place. Learn what bed bugs look like and the signs of an infestation and then inspect the places you visit and items you bring into your home to limit the introduction and spread of bed bugs.”

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How to Rest Easy

“Listen, bed bugs happen,” says Jeffrey White, director of technical content for BedBug Central and host of Bed Bug TV. “Not commonly, not a lot of people deal with them, but they do happen, and we don’t always know how we got them."

“But even if you get them, if you identify the problem as early on as possible when there’s only a handful of bugs there, it’s actually very straightforward to get rid of that problem. Early detection makes things so much easier and so much cheaper to deal with, so knowing the signs and symptoms, knowing that if you’re participating in behaviors that might increase the chance of picking up bed bugs, products like monitors and encasements are a great idea, and doing periodic inspections of your home will all take the stress out of the whole topic of bed bugs.”

Ready to learn the ropes? Read on.

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Identify Signs of Bed Bugs

When inspecting your home and belongings for evidence of bed bugs, “you are specifically looking for the bugs themselves, tiny eggs, the shed skins from bed bugs that have molted and black, ink-stain-like fecal spots,” Campbell says. (We’ll spare you a large-scale illustration right now, but you can see reference photos here and here.)

“One of the number one myths about bed bugs is that you can’t see them,” White says. “You absolutely can. The adults are about a quarter inch long; when they first hatch they’re very small, about the size of a letter on a penny, but typically if those bugs are around, there’s going to be adults somewhere. The number one indicator of bed bugs is the fecal spotting; when they go to the bathroom they leave little black spots behind.”

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Bed Bug Bites

“Bites are sometimes the first indicator that someone may be experiencing bed bugs; however, they should never be used to confirm or dismiss a bed bug infestation,” Campbell says. “People react differently to bed bug bites: some may have itchy, red welts, while others have no reaction at all, depending on their immune system.”

“Research has suggested that up to potentially 30% of the population doesn’t react,” White notes. “Any time you’re reacting to something and you can’t figure out what it is, it’s always a good idea to do an inspection and try to figure out if you have bed bugs.”

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