What Can be Done to Eradicate Bed Bugs?

Since the summer of 2010, countries across North America and Europe have been suffering from a renewed plague of bed bugs. These new bugs are reaching epidemic proportions, the likes of which haven’t been seen since they were all but eradicated in the 60’s. Additionally, they have proven resistant to treatment methods which normally eradicate a wide range of insects, including their 20th century antecedents. This has allowed for the rapid growth of their population, and has given rise to a snake oil industry, as fly-by-night companies come up with a wide range of ineffective products to get rid of these little parasites.

So, what can be done to actually eradicate bed bugs — safely, effectively, and affordably?

Keep an Infestation from Spreading

Put affected articles of clothing, linens, towels and bedclothes into plastic containers with sealable lids, and seal the containers with duct tape or a similar adhesive for good measure. This will allow you to store infested items until they can be treated. When vacuuming an area that is infested with bugs, change the vacuum after each use; simply vacuuming the bugs is unlikely to kill most of them. When changing the vacuum bag, seal the bag with adhesive, and dispose of it in an outdoor trash can. These insects are surprisingly poor climbers; they rely on having a colony established close to their food supply. Place the legs of any furniture items within an infected area in smooth, inverted cups, and put a shallow layer of water into the bottom of each cup. Your unwanted houseguests cannot fly; this will make it much more difficult for them to reach the tops of beds and sofas. Do not use bed linens that reach to the floor.

Try Affordable Remedies

There are some all-natural remedies which can work to help mitigate infestations by controlling the bug population. The application of heat, such as from a hair dryer, is effective in killing these pests, as is the use of cold — preferably sub-zero temperatures. This can be accomplished by placing affected items inside of a freezer. They may need to remain there overnight, due to the fact that you should not open the sealed containers in which you’ve stored them. Also, while a lot of the talk of all-natural bug killers is fraudulent (or, at best, inefficient), one of the few natural agents demonstrated to be effective at killing the bed bug is diatomaceous earth. This substance, otherwise known as DE, is a “dessicant,” meaning that it causes the bug to wither and dry out, losing moisture. This is something the parasite cannot simply adapt to, like it can with chemical pesticides, and it’s completely non-toxic: DE is even manufactured in forms designed to be included in pool water, or in food, where its use is admittedly far less well-defined. Such forms should be avoided when controlling parasites, however, as fine-grade DE can be harmful if inhaled. Use outdoor or garden-grade DE to control indoor pests.

Call an Exterminator

This is, and will likely always be, the most effective way of dealing with a bed bug infestation. These bugs are tiny, thinner than a credit card, and can hide virtually anywhere. They’ve been found inside of wall outlets, light switches, furniture joints, and the threads of screws, and one colony can establish itself in multiple parts of the same building. A pest management professional knows where the bugs like to hide, and is able to take environmental factors into account when tracking them down. Their efforts are expensive, and may require multiple treatments in order to take effect; they may need to use chemical pesticides which will require temporarily finding someplace else to stay. However, they remain the best option, due to their expansive knowledge of the pest — and of its vulnerabilities.

If you cannot hire an exterminator, the best way to eradicate bed bugs is to control them with best practices for stopping the spread of a colony, while simultaneously treating affected areas with products designed to dry out the bugs’ bodies. Be safe when selecting specific products to use in treating bed bug infestations, as there are a lot of toxic pesticides still available on today’s market — things not designed for indoor use in a home. Some people have had some luck with strong, plant-based extracts, such as mint and cedar oils; if these appear to work, there is no harm in using them, but they aren’t likely to have a high degree of effectiveness. They are best attempted in combination with measures to which the bed bugs cannot develop resistances.

See also: Top 10 Best Online Health Science Degree Programs