What shouldn’t I do when trying to eliminate bed bugs?

February 4, 2014 by Doug Moore

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Do I have to throw out my mattress and furniture?

Don’t panic. Although bed bugs can be annoying, you can get rid of them if you adopt a well-considered strategy.

Don’t put the legs of the bed frame in kerosene or coat them with petroleum jelly. Bed bugs have been known to climb on the ceiling and drop down onto the bed. Plus, kerosene is a fire hazard.  Use a bed bug monitor under your bed legs.

Don’t depend on thyme oil. Thyme oil may discourage bed bugs, but it won’t kill them. Chances are it’ll spread, not fix, the problem. Same with cinnamon oil, clove oil, yadda, yadda, yadda………..

Don’t leave the home unoccupied through a winter as a control measure. Bed bugs have adapted to the unpredictable habits of humans. If given time to go dormant—for example, in a vacation cabin that slowly gets cooler, then cold over fall and winter—bed bugs can survive, living without a meal for many months while waiting for humans to return. The quick penetration of killing heat is the most effective way to kills all life cycles of bed bugs.

Don’t turn up the heat. Exposing bed bugs to 120 ºF or more for hours will kill all life stages—and whole-structure or “container heat treatments” do work. But the caution is similar to using cold. High heat must be maintained at every point in the building: the outer walls, deep in the sofa, etc. for the full time. Professionals use wireless thermostats to monitor the temperature and thermostatically-controlled electric heaters to ensure that it reaches the right temperature. Click here for more information about heat treatment for bed bugs.

Don’t sleep with a light on. Bed bugs feed when hosts are inactive. Usually that’s when it’s dark—but they’ll feed under lights if they’re hungry.

Don’t sleep in a different room. Bed bugs will move to a neighboring room if they can’t find food. And they can live months between meals. Sleeping in a different room, staying at a hotel, or moving in with friends won’t solve the problem. And the chances of carrying the bugs to a new place are good. Keep sleeping in your bed. If you have awful reactions to the bites, try to get someone else to sleep in the bed.  Think about using a passive or active bed bug monitor on the headboard or box spring.

Don’t throw a bed bug-infested mattress away and buy a new mattress. Buying a new mattress won’t solve the problem. Bed bugs hide in more than just mattresses. New mattresses might be transported in the same trucks that pick up used and possibly contaminated ones. If you need a new mattress, wait until the infestation is eliminated before buying a new one. (Remember: A bed bug-proof mattress and box-spring encasement kept in place for years will starve them to death. Inspect often for torn spots in the encasement (and evidence of bed bugs).  

Don’t dispose of good furniture. Infested furniture can be treated. Placing infested furniture (particularly mattresses) into common areas or on the street could spread bed bugs to other peoples’ homes. If you’re getting rid of infested furniture, deface it: make it less attractive to other people. Paint a picture of a bug on it and write “bed bugs” or “chinches.” Building managers should make sure disposed furniture is in a dumpster or taken to a landfill or waste facility right away.

Don’t wrap items in black plastic and leave them in the sun: it needs to get hotter than that to kill bed bugs, and heat needs to evenly penetrate the entire item.

Don’t move infested items out of the room without wrapping them in plastic. Bed bugs or eggs could be knocked off into an uninfested area.

Don’t apply insecticides unless you fully understand what you are applying and the risks involved. You are legally liable if you misapply an insecticide or apply it without a license to the property of others—including common spaces in apartment buildings. In most cases, landlords, owners and building managers cannot legally apply insecticides unless they are licensed to do so. Typically the insecticides you buy in big box stores are ineffective and may actually cause the bed bugs to spread.

Your best bet is to contact a pest control professional and seek their help.

For more information about bed bugs, heat treatment, and canine bed bug scent detection, click here.

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