What Causes Bed Bugs?

We all know that bed bugs are a major annoyance. Luckily, the internet is full of resources and ideas on how to get rid of them. But what is it that brings these pests into our homes in the first place? What causes bed bugs and how do they actually end up in our households? Let’s find out!

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small insects that feed on human blood, as well as the blood of cats, dogs, rabbits, reptiles, and even birds. Before it feeds, an adult bed bug is about a quarter of an inch long and brownish in color. After feeding, however, they grow in size and get a reddish shade. They can neither fly nor jump, but they are very fast crawlers. 

During the day, bed bugs usually hide in hard-to-reach, dark spots where they won’t be easily detected. At night, they come out to feed. Although they are nocturnal, it’s not uncommon for them to switch up this cycle if the host (the person they feed on) works during the night and sleeps during the day. 

How to Recognize a Bed Bug Bite

The bite of a bed bug is not difficult to spot because, much like mosquito bites and flea bites, it is annoyingly itchy. They appear as red bumps and might have a red dot in the middle – the actual spot where you got bit. There will often be several bites arranged in a straight line. They are generally harmless to humans, but some people can be allergic and get blisters and hives.

Signs Your Home Is Infested With Bed Bugs

These pests might be great at hiding, but they still leave a trail of evidence of their presence all over the place. Some signs you have bed bugs in your home are:

  • You keep waking up with new bites,
  • There are little red (blood) and brown (feces) spots on your bed, floors, or walls,
  • You’re finding eggshells and shed skin around your home, especially in darker corners that are hard to reach,
  • There is a moldy odor in your home that you can’t find the cause of.

What Attracts Bed Bugs Into Our Homes?

So what causes bed bugs to move into our homes and try so stubbornly to stay despite all our efforts? Perhaps you’ve heard that they’re attracted to dirt or food that’s been left out, but this is actually not true. Bed bugs are more common in untidy environments, but it’s not because they like grime and dust. It’s because tidy places have fewer places they can hide.

What bed bugs are attracted to is their food. Since they feed on blood from animals and people, they are actually attracted to us. More precisely, the primary factor that attracts them is carbon dioxide (which is what we exhale), while the secondary one is warmth (which we emit). In short, the reason bed bugs stick around your home is that you (and your pets) are there.

How Did Bed Bugs Get in My Home?

Since bed bugs are attracted to their hosts, they tend to attach themselves to our clothes and bags. It is very likely that you unknowingly carried them inside this way. If you had guests shortly before you noticed the infestation, it is also possible that they brought them in.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine for sure where exactly you picked up these insects. However, places with a lot of people tend to be infested more often, such as:

  • Hotel rooms and vacation rentals,
  • Public transportation vehicles, stops, and stations,
  • Airports,
  • Schools and kindergartens.

If you’ve recently been to any of these places, chances are that that’s where you picked up the bed bugs.

How to Get Rid of a Bed Bug Infestation

Now that you’ve established that you have bed bugs in your home – and how they got there – it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Killing bed bugs is a lengthy and tedious process. There are different methods you can use, but heat seems to be the safest and most effective solution. 

The first thing you want to do is identify all areas where the bugs are hiding. Make sure to check all the hard-to-reach places – underneath and behind furniture, around electrical sockets, behind loose wallpaper, and any dents and crevices you can find. 

The next step entails washing all the sheets, clothes, and other fabric that might be infested. Do this at the highest temperature setting, and then run a cycle in the dryer, too. If there are items that can’t be washed, put them in a plastic bag and tie the bag shut. Leave these items either in a really hot place (outside in the sun) or a really cold one (the freezer) for at least a month. 

When it comes to furniture and carpets, steam cleaners are a great solution. You will need one that produces steam at 200° F to ensure the temperature is high enough to kill bed bugs and eggs without damaging furniture. You will need to repeat this process at least 2-3 times.

Over the following weeks, closely monitor the areas you identified in the first step and actively look for signs of bed bugs. Don’t be surprised if they come back – they are stubborn pests and it might take a while to effectively get rid of them.

Consider Hiring a Bed Bug Exterminator

Getting rid of bed bugs can be borderline impossible if you have little or no experience with this insect. They are among the most difficult pests to get rid of, which is why hiring professionals to do it for you might be the right way to go. That way, you can be sure that the bugs are actually gone. What’s more, you won’t have to worry about accidentally damaging your belongings with steam or even endangering your health with chemical insecticides. Whatever you decide, we wish you good luck in getting bed bugs out of your home.

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

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