Bed bug prevention is a lot like tick prevention: you know you should do it because you don’t want to encounter bed bugs in your entire life, but you probably aren’t doing it as often as you should.
The truth is, prevention is the best medicine.
Here are six tips to help you keep these disgusting pests out of your home.
1. Know the Basics of Bed Bugs
In order to avoid a bed bug infestation, you should know a few basic facts about bed bugs.
Bed bugs are small, flat, oval-shaped parasitic insects that can get as large as the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny when mature. They feed solely on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep.
They get their name because they like to hide in beds. This is for an obvious reason: they feed when their host is asleep, so a mattress or somewhere near a bed would give them easy access.
When it has easy access to a host, a bed bug will typically feed every few days and can take up to six times its body weight in a single feeding event. They’ve never been shown to transmit human diseases, but you can get an allergic reaction to bed bug saliva at the bite site.
There’s some debate as to how long bed bugs survive without food. It depends on the temperature and how recently they’ve fed. At room temperature (23 degrees Celsius), a bed bug can survive two to three months without food.
However, bed bugs are cold-blooded and their metabolism slows down in colder climates, so they can survive up to a year without food in colder climates.
The moral of the story: starving them out isn’t effective.
2. Reduce Hiding Places and Clean Your Home
There’s a common myth that filth attracts bed bugs.
That’s not true. Bed bugs are parasites that feed on warm-blooded mammals–the only thing that attracts them is body heat.
However, bed bugs do thrive in cluttered homes because there are more places to hide. The more places they can hide, the harder it is to treat an infestation.
If you want to reduce your risk of bed bugs, the best place to start is by reducing clutter. Clutter against the walls is particularly attractive to bed bugs since they can travel in the walls if necessary.
You should also spend quality time cleaning your home. Vacuum your floors, furniture, and mattress often. Pay special attention to where the floors and walls meet. When you’re finished, put the vacuum bag in a sealed trash bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash bin.
3. Check Your Pets (and Yourself)
Bed bugs are talented hitchhikers. If you want to keep your home pest-free, make sure to eliminate their routes indoors.
Whenever your pet comes in from outside, make sure to check them for bugs and give them a quick flea and tick treatment. You should also bathe and brush your pets regularly to check for signs of bug bites.
Don’t forget your pet’s bed, either.
Remember, bed bugs like to feed when their host is asleep. That means your pet’s bed is just as much a candidate for bed bugs to set up shop as your own bed. To keep them out, regularly inspect your pet’s bed and areas around it.
If possible, wash your pet’s bed regularly on the highest heat and dryer settings.
4. Protect Your Mattress (and Other Furniture)
The easiest way to keep bed bugs out is to prevent them from getting in.
To that end, it’s wise to invest in a mattress cover as soon as you get a new mattress. A mattress safe cover or similar encasement should do the trick nicely. Look for a zippered cover that encases the entire mattress. There should be no folds around the zipper or anywhere else–bed bugs can hide there.
Keep in mind that coverings won’t keep bed bugs from biting if they’re already in a mattress. The point of a covering is to prevent bed bugs from getting inside the mattress in the first place.
You should also make sure to clean and vacuum your bed and other furniture regularly. Remember, bed bugs will hide anywhere they can find, so don’t assume your other furniture is safe.
5. Think Through Treatment Options
If you do get a bed bug infestation, it’s time to kick things up a notch.
If you look into treatment options from providers like CustomBedBug.com, it’s important to think through all of your treatment options before you reach for one. You want to eliminate all traces of an infestation, not just the obvious parts.
To that end, don’t just reach for a spray can. Find a provider that will do an integrated approach.
If you can, try to limit your contact with pesticides, as this can ruin your furniture even if it kills bugs. However, if your exterminator determines that pesticides are necessary, make sure to hire a professional to handle it for you.
6. Don’t Panic!
Finally, if you get a bed bug infestation, don’t panic.
For most of us, bed bugs rank with ticks on the scale of bugs we never want to encounter ever. So it’s tempting, when you get an infestation, to immediately throw away the infested item.
Throwing out an item isn’t actually helpful. Bed bugs may be hiding in other areas of your home, and if you leave an infestation untreated, it’s only going to get worse. Plus, if you dispose of an item improperly, those bed bugs may travel to someone else’s home.
More Tips for Bed Bug Prevention
Knowledge is power when it comes to bed bug prevention.
That’s true of other pests too. If you need more tips to keep your home free of insect squatters, check out these tricks to pest-proof your home this summer.