Bedbugs: Detect, Fight And Prevent

If your whole body starts itching all at once and the annoying stitches get more and more from night to night, caution is required. There may be uninvited guests lurking in your bed, who will come at you like a vampire at night: Bedbugs.

And not only that – all of a sudden it crawls in your clothes, on the wooden shelf or even in the whole house. Because bedbugs spread like wildfire and getting rid of them is like an odyssey.

In this article we would like to help you to detect bedbugs and fight them effectively. You will also learn how to prevent the bedbugs. So don’t despair, but get started as soon as possible!

The most important facts in brief

  • Bedbugs are insects about five millimetres in size and feed on blood. Their bites cause severe itching, blisters, rashes or wheals.
  • During the day they hide in cracks, holes and crevices. They are quite difficult to find. But they leave traces like excrement or eggs, which indicate bedbug infestation.
  • Effective methods against bedbugs are, besides pesticides, especially strong heat or extreme cold.

Definition: What are bedbugs?

Bedbugs are small insects and classic parasites that feed on blood.

They are specialized to live in sleeping places of warm-blooded animals or humans. There the bedbugs are almost permanently at their food source.

Due to their maximum size of half a centimetre, they are masters at hiding and are difficult to find at first sight.

They are also nocturnal and hide in small cracks or crevices during the day. This is why bedbugs remain undiscovered for a long time.

Adult animals have only the thickness of a sheet of paper and grow between 3.8 and 5.5 millimetres long.

If they are soaked, they can be up to nine millimetres thick. The colour of the bedbugs is brown, or reddish brown, and on closer inspection you can see that they are even hairy.

A bug can survive for about 6 to 12 months, sometimes even without food. However, females produce up to 12 eggs daily, from which new bedbugs hatch after about two weeks.

Therefore, if a bug infestation is suspected, action should be taken as soon as possible.

The symptoms of a parasite bite usually appear a few days later. Then red patches appear on the skin, which can be a mosquito’s…

The most common symptom after a bite is therefore severe itching, sometimes also allergic reactions.

Backgrounds: What you should know about bedbugs

A bedbug plague can be pretty annoying. Once they have made themselves comfortable in your bed, you have to work very hard to get rid of them.

It can take several weeks or even months before your home is free of these bedbugs again.

That’s why rule number one is bedbugs: Act as quickly as possible! Otherwise the infestation could spread to your clothes or other rooms in your house.

What do bedbug stings look like?

The stings or bites of bedbugs are usually the first indication of an infestation. They look like red spots on the skin, similar to a mosquito bite.
It can take several days before such bites become visible. There are some clues that can help you distinguish between bites from different insects.

The bites can also develop into large blisters and wheals, which often cause severe itching.

The special thing about bedbugs is that the stinging points are usually very close together. In some cases even like in a line. This shows that the bedbug was looking for hair vessels in a row.

Only by means of a bite or a sting can it not be clearly identified whether they are bedbugs, ticks, fleas or mosquitoes.

In order to be able to determine the insect unambiguously, one has to go on a search for traces and find the little animal itself or signs of its existence. Every person reacts differently to bites from bedbugs.

Some people do not feel itching despite red spots, others may experience severe skin reactions or allergies.

What are the causes of bedbugs?

An infestation of bedbugs can have various causes. We have listed the most common causes for you:

From vacation: hotel, hostel or hostel
Purchase of antique or second-hand furniture
move into an infested apartment
From public transport

Most of the time bedbugs are dragged from the vacation into your own four walls. They nest, for example, in clothing or in a suitcase and are thus unknowingly transported from A to B. Therefore never put your suitcase on the bed!

It becomes difficult to get rid of bedbugs in old furniture or a new apartment. Used furniture should be thoroughly checked for bedbugs beforehand and, if suspected, sprayed with a spray intended for this purpose.

Find out before moving in whether a bedbug infestation exists or has already existed. If this is the case, you should clean the apartment thoroughly before moving in to avoid infestation of your furniture.

There have also been cases where bed bugs have been found in public transport. Airplanes are said to be the most frequently affected.

How can I recognize and find bedbugs?

Bedbugs are very small, masters in hiding and are also nocturnal.
Therefore, it is very difficult to spot bedbugs. During the day they sit in small cracks, crevices or holes.
The easiest way to find them is by looking at their faeces and eggs. How you do this and which signs still apply, you can see in the table.

Fair enough. But where are the bedbugs now? As I said before, they like to hide in cracks and holes.

So be sure to take a look inside your bed drawer, mattress seams, drill holes, sockets, cupboards and wooden floorboard gaps.

How long do bedbugs survive?

The average life expectancy of a bedbug is between 6 and 12 months.
However, the high birth rate of these parasites makes things even more difficult. A single female lays up to 200 eggs in her lifetime.
Even in isolation and without food, bedbugs survive for several months. The adult animals can survive periods of hunger of up to 8 months.

What possibilities are there to fight bedbugs?

There are several ways to get rid of bedbugs. In the case of a severe infestation, most of those affected call an exterminator. But this is not necessary in every case.
How does an exterminator combat bedbugs?
An exterminator usually kills bedbugs by heat. To do this, he attaches special equipment in the infested room, which heats the room to about 55 degrees Celsius. Larvae and bedbugs die at these temperatures.
In some cases, it is not possible to heat the room to 55 degrees Celsius – for example with sensitive floor coverings or special carpets.
Then the exterminator heats the room up to 35 degrees Celsius to mobilize the bedbugs and lure them into traps with insecticides.
The use of an exterminator only takes a few hours. But this service is quite expensive.
A normal operation costs between 100 and 150 euros. In case of particularly severe infestation, the exterminator must come more often. This can add up to 500 Euros.
How can I fight bed bugs without an exterminator?
In the case of low infestation, it is not necessarily necessary to call an exterminator. You can also fight bedbugs with a few simple tricks and means that will save you money.
There is no such thing as the perfect solution, but you can combine different methods, such as vacuuming, using insecticides or heat treatments.
However, you should be patient and check the situation regularly. Care is especially important in this situation.

What health consequences can bites from bedbugs have?

Itching, wheals and rash
The most common reaction to stings from bedbugs is severe itching around the red spots.
The itching is annoying, but the symptoms usually go away after a few days. At least when the infestation is gone.
Some people also have some kind of allergic reaction, where the stings can turn into wheals and larger rashes.
In the long run, a permanent itching also results in a lack of sleep.
Vision problems
Visual disturbances as a result of the stitches are rather rare. This reaction occurs, similar to rashes, as a symptom of an allergy.
If you suffer from visual disturbances after stitches, this could be an indication of an allergic reaction.
Fever
Some people react to stings from bedbugs with fever.
This is usually accompanied by large wheals on the skin and a strong feeling of discomfort or illness.

Asthma

Asthma, asthmatic attacks or other respiratory problems usually only occur when bedbugs are chronically infested.

If the parasites rage in your home and on your skin for several months or years, you could be affected.

Can diseases like Q-fever, Chagas, hepatitis or HIV be transmitted?

Bedbugs are suspected of being able to transmit various pathogens. This is mainly due to the fact that they have relatively long contact with humans when sucking blood.

Over 40 different pathogens have been found in the parasites so far, including for Q-fever, Chagas, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and even HIV.

However, several sources as well as experts of the medical journal confirm that there has not been a single proven infection via normal bedbugs. However, transmission cannot be ruled out in principle.

When should I go to the doctor for bedbugs?

In case of allergic reactions to stings from bed bugs, it is recommended to consult a doctor. These include large wheals, severe rashes, vision problems, fever or asthmatic attacks.
The doctor may prescribe ointments or medication to relieve your symptoms. But most importantly, in such a case, you should eliminate the bugs as soon as possible.

What to do about bedbugs: With these measures you kill the parasites

Once you have determined that your mattress or your home is infested with bedbugs, you should act.

There are different methods for this, which you can best use in combination with each other.

In the beginning, most people first carry out a basic cleaning. That means: tidying rooms and disposing of rubbish.

Then you can use a vacuum cleaner with a bag to help you and vacuum all the holes, cracks and slits in your room. Then the actual treatment can begin.

Don’t forget: Everything in your room could potentially be bugged. Therefore, dispose of all rubbish and the vacuum cleaner bag in an airtight plastic bag.

Use insecticides and chemical products

The term “pesticides” covers various insect sprays or no-pest strips.

These chemical agents effectively kill bedbugs when used correctly. You can buy such products either in a hardware store or online.

Insecticides have long been considered the best way to control bedbugs. Over time, however, some types of bedbugs have developed resistance to common pesticides such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane.

If one lists today the common agents according to their effectiveness, the following order results: λ-Cyhalothrin, Bifenthrin, Carbaryl, Imidacloprid, Fipronil, Permethrin, Diazinon, Spinosyn, Dichlorvos, Chlorfenapyr and finally D

Caution when using biocides and pesticides. Always read the label and product information before use!

Heat treatment and hot washing of clothes

Since bugs die from a temperature of 55 degrees, you should wash infested fabrics and clothing at 60 degrees.

Heat or hot water is also a good way to get rid of bugs for other items. Provided they can tolerate strong heat.

However, you should keep your clothes away from the wardrobe until the end of the treatment, because it is a popular hiding place for bugs. Instead, you can store clothes in airtight plastic bags or plastic boxes.

In addition, bedbugs prefer to nest in clothing that has already been worn, rather than in freshly washed clothing. This means: regular washing and hygiene are a must!

Freezing parasites in the freezer compartment

For clothes and objects that can’t be treated with heat, you can simply resort to the exact opposite: cold!

Place heat-sensitive items in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator or a large freezer for three to seven days at minus 18 degrees. By then, all eggs, larvae and adult bedbugs should be dead.

If you suspect that you have dragged the bedbugs home via your suitcase, it is worth leaving it in a freezer for a few days. Otherwise you could face the same fate on your next trip.

Disposal or quarantine

If neither hot washing nor shock freezing is possible, quarantine is often the only solution. This means storing your items airtight and packed in plastic in a safe place.

However, bugs can survive up to eight months even during periods of hunger. So think about whether it is not better to dispose of some things.

Especially with older mattresses, treatment or extensive quarantine is hardly worthwhile. We recommend that you invest in a new one instead.

Natural agent kieselguhr

Unlike pesticides and chemical killers, diatomaceous earth is a natural agent against bedbugs.

This is a powder that you can scatter at entrances, hiding places and paths of bedbugs. Because of its white colour it is often called mountain flour or pebble powder.

The functioning of diatomaceous earth is quite simple. The powder contains tiny, sharp shell fragments that damage the chitin armour of bedbugs. This ensures that the parasites slowly dry out.

Kieselguhr is not harmful to humans or animals. Nevertheless, you should not inhale it and wear a mouthguard when sprinkling it.

Afterwards we have a video for you in which the most important facts about bedbugs are explained again.

A professional pest controller will also give you helpful tips.

Trivia: What else you should know about bedbugs

If your home is infested with bedbugs, you will probably panic at first. But there are some important things to think about in such a case. Also, a few simple tips can help you avoid bedbugs.

How can I prevent bedbugs?

To avoid suffering from a bedbug plague in the first place, you can prevent an infestation. There are various possibilities for this, which we have listed for you:

  • Spray backpacks and suitcases with No-Bite Sprays when travelling
  • Buy an airtight protective cover for clothes and rucksack before the trip
  • Never put your suitcase and rucksack on the bed in a hotel or hostel
  • Check furniture and bedstead in the accommodation for bedbugs with a flashlight
  • Unpack luggage in the bathtub
  • Wash used clothing at 60 degrees
  • Put old used books in a freezer bag in the freezer for a few days at minus 18 degrees
  • Check new apartments for bedbugs before moving in
  • Thoroughly examine used furniture before purchase

If you follow these tips, it is very unlikely that you will have to deal with bedbugs in the future.

Special care is actually only required if you sleep in other people’s accommodation while travelling or if you buy used items.

Are bed bugs notifiable in Germany?

No. In Germany there is no obligation to report bed bugs according to the Infection Protection Act (IfSG). Therefore, there are no exact figures on the occurrence of bedbugs.

However, the situation is different in many large American cities. There, infestation by bed bugs must be reported. It is hoped that this will help control the rising incidence of bedbugs.

Does the landlord pay for the removal of bedbugs?

The legal situation is complicated. Most of the time, however, it boils down to the fact that the tenant must pay for the costs of an exterminator himself. After all, bed bugs are usually introduced by the tenant himself.

An exceptional case is when you move into a new apartment and notice bedbugs there after a very short time.

Then there is a defect for which the landlord must pay. Assuming your old apartment wasn’t also affected by bedbugs.

Conclusion

As you have no doubt noticed, it is not easy to get rid of bedbugs. An exterminator costs a lot of money, while a treatment of your own is long and costly. Either way, you have to act quickly to prevent the little beasts from multiplying.

Even though bedbugs do not actually transmit dangerous diseases, they still cause annoying symptoms: Itching, rashes, blurred vision, or breathing problems.

We therefore recommend that you always carry out a detailed bedbug check when travelling and especially when buying old furniture, clothes or books. Because in a little bed it simply sleeps better alone!