Our experienced, professional cleaning team offer their Bed Bugs Pest Control services in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire.
Bitten by bed bugs? What are these nasty bedroom bugs anyway?
With all the news talking about bed bugs recently, you may think this is a new plague of the world. The truth is that bed bugs have been living along humans for over 100,000 years now.
Initially bed bugs were feeding exclusively on animal blood. When humans started living in caves and bringing animals with them, the bedbugs followed and quickly added a new dish on their menu: human blood. They have shown a preference to humans ever since. This is not by accident though. The environment and temperatures humans need to survive, are ideal for bed bugs to feed, reproduce and thrive.
What does a bed bug look like?
Bedbugs go through several stages in their lives. Have a look at the image below:
Bedbugs start their lives as eggs. After they hatch, they pass through 5 stages where they are still larvae, until they reach adulthood. The total period from egg to adult takes approximately 35-37 days. After that point, both males and females need to feed regularly.
As with all other insects, and contrary to mammals or birds or fish, bed bugs carry their skeleton outside of their body (which is why it’s called “exoskeleton“, which means “outside skeleton“). This means that, in order to grow bigger, they need to shed their exoskeleton. This process is called “molting” and it is important to know as it plays an important role in identifying the extent of infestation. More molted skeletons means more larva.
The process of growing to adulthood starts with taking a blood meal, then swelling and molting. This process is repeated another 4 times. The last time (the 5th), is when the bedbug reaches adulthood. Here’s a bed bug hatching from an egg:
The reason they are called “bed bugs” is because they are active during the night around beds where people sleep. You will very rarely see them during the day, as they are very capable of hiding in all sorts of holes and crevices. We have seen them in hiding in headboards, mattresses, bed frames, bedside tables and drawers, behind electrical outlet covers, around picture frames, bedside or wall lamp shades, telephones, curtains, gaps between the carpet and the skirting board, bed slats, hinges, and of course in their favourite spot, box springs. But when the night comes, they can detect two things that lead them to you: the CO2 you produce when exhaling, and your body heat.
CO2 helps them understand there is a human in the area. To bed bugs, this is similar to what you feel when your partner announces “dinner’s ready“! They can detect CO2 from several feet away. This can actually happen from quite a distance from where your bed is located, which is why when we come to perform a bed bugs pest control visit, we will look around the whole bedroom and any adjacent rooms as well, not just the area where your bed is located. When they sense CO2, they start moving in search of their food. Upon reaching approximately 3 feet from a human, they can detect the body’s heat, and that’s how they find their way to your bed and then your skin. As soon as movement on your bed stops and you settle nicely and start sleeping, dinner is served! This usually happens between midnight and 5am, unless they haven’t fed for days, in which case they become bolder and may appear even in broad daylight.
Once a bed bug finds its way to human skin, they start probing the skin with their mouths to find a spot from where blood can flow rapidly. This probing can happen multiple times until the bed bug finds the ideal spot. If you look at the photo further below in this article showing the bites, the bigger photo on the left shows the lines that are produced by this probing.
Feeding lasts around 5-10 minutes or until the bed bug is full. After that, it will return back to its hiding spot to begin the digestion. Digestion takes anywhere between 3-7 days and results in black faeces, which is essentially processed blood. This means that, on any given day, most of the bed bug population in an infested property is not feeding, but hiding in order to digest its food. That’s why we say that for every one bed bug you see, there are probably around 10 more that you don’t.
How quickly can a few bed bugs result in a serious bed bug infestation?
To understand this, we need to first understand their reproductive cycle. This will also help us explain why one disinfection visit is never enough and several are needed to get rid of the problem completely.
An adult female bed bug produces 5 eggs a day, and that’s for every single day of her life. It might not sound much, but let’s do some simple calculations here:
Say one female reaches adulthood and produces 5-7 eggs a day. Out of these 5 eggs, let’s say only two are females. These will become adults in 32 days. During this time their mother will keep producing 5 eggs a day (as long as she’s feeding regularly), so in only a month we will have a minimum of 30 x 2 = 60 females, all of which will be producing 5 eggs a day. That’s now 5 x 60 = 300 eggs a day, and all that from the initial assumption of only a single female. And if you think that one female cannot really produce that much offspring, think again. A single female can ride on your suitcase after you return from your holiday, having already mated with a male. Even without a male present, the female can easily mate with her own offspring after they become adults, which will result to a growth in population eventually.
As you understand, with such a reproduction rate their numbers can become uncontrollable within 2-3 months, after which we are talking about a severe infestation. If you buy any of these cheap “guaranteed” chemicals you find online, and if you somehow manage to find all the bedbugs in the house, you may kill the live adults and the larvae, but you won’t do anything to the eggs. That’s why you need to hire a professional who will have to do repeat visits and apply different treatments when they need to be applied depending on the level of infestation, the age of the bedbugs and the extent of coverage throughout the property.
How do I know I have bedbugs?
Unless you actively and carefully inspect your mattress, bed and surrounding area every day, the first sign you will notice is small blood spots on your bed sheets and bite marks on your skin. The bite marks look like these:
Usually these bites are not itchy and there are no known studies or evidence to say bed bug bites can cause serious health issues and they don’t carry any pathogens. The main issue is more of a mental health one, rather than a hygienically dangerous infestation such as those by fleets, cockroaches or rats. People tend to associate bed bugs with dirt, but this is not the case as we’ll explain further below.
Will I feel the bite?
No, you most probably won’t. That’s because bedbugs will inject an anaesthetic when they bite you, and then add some anticoagulant to it to ensure the bite wound won’t close until they have finished feeding.
Checking for bed bugs in your house or hotel room
Recognising bed bug faeces, eggs, larvae and adults is a vital part of addressing an infestation. Here’s what an infested mattress looks line:
Bed bugs are masters at hiding. Here are the places to look at home:
- Check your bed and mattress. Get real close, and definitely carry a magnifying glass and a flashlight with you, because you are looking at places that are usually quite dark. The eggs are the size of a pin head, so that magnifying glass will come handy even if your vision is 20/20. The adults are like apple seeds, so they are easier to trace.
- Check all the furniture and furnishings near your bed. That includes bedside tables, wardrobes, night stands, drawers, chairs etc. Don’t just open and close the doors or drawers, remove the contents and inspect all the corners carefully. Turn chairs upside down and look into the corners of the chair where the fabric attaches to the frame.
- Check the light shades, telephones, wall sockets, pictures or TVs mounted on the wall and curtains.
- Check the carpet corners and especially the areas where the carpet meets the skirting board.
I keep my house extremely clean, how did I get bed bugs?
That’s a very common misconception and one that needs to be debunked. Contrary to common belief, bed bugs presence has absolutely nothing to do with how clean a house, a hotel or a B&B is. In fact, did you know that odours released from bleach, fabric softener, perfume or scented candles can actually attract bed bugs? You can have the cleanest house in the world, you can visit the cleanest, most expensive and luxurious hotel on the planet, and still get bed bugs.
It is true that they are also attracted to dirty laundry, urine or sweat, but not because they like smelly dirty things; it’s because these items smell of CO2, which signifies the presence of humans.
It is important to remember that there is no need to feel ashamed if you get a bed bug infestation. It can happen to anyone, and it is categorically not a sign that your house is dirty, or that you are not good at keeping yourself and your place hygienic and clean.
So how did they come in my house then?
They hitchhiked. And you picked them up! Really!
Bed bugs are nature’s best hitchhikers. They can travel long distances on suitcases or second-hand furniture. It is no coincidence that every year there is an increase during the late summer months, as this is when people who travelled during the summer holidays start noticing the symptoms. We can also confirm this if we notice the significant drop in reports during the Covid pandemic, when travel came to a standstill.
What to avoid
Here are a few things you need to know to prevent bringing these bugs to your house. It’s always better to stop an infestation from happening in the first place, rather than trying to control it after it happens:
- When you visit a hotel, never put your suitcase on the floor or on your bed. The best place to put it is on a dedicated luggage stand that is away from the wall, but you still need to check the stand before using it as they usually hang out on its underside. Bed bugs find it very hard to climb on metal, so bonus points if the luggage stand has metallic legs. Also, they can’t fly or jump, so keeping the luggage stand away from the wall minimizes chances of them attaching to your luggage. Many people suggest that you place your suitcase in the bathroom, as there are significantly fewer hiding places for bed bugs there. Do it if it’s practical.
- Inspect the bed, the mattress and the underside of the bed before you start unpacking. Check carefully around the mattress edges and seams, the box springs, the mattress cover and the bed frame. If you find bed bugs, ask to move to a different room and make sure it’s not the adjacent one (preferably move to a different floor). Remember, finding bed bugs in a hotel room does not mean the hotel is bad, dirty or irresponsible. The hotel has a duty to do regular inspections for bed bugs, but these are often missed due to the speed in which housekeepers need to prepare the rooms for new guests arriving. A little due diligence from your side can help you avoid bringing them back home.
- Prefer to hang your clothes instead of placing them in drawers. This will make it almost impossible for bed bugs to reach them, if they exist in the room. You get extra points if you keep your clothes in bags. Experienced travellers use zip lock bags.
- When you remove dirty clothes, do not throw them on the floor. This will allow bed bugs to climb and hide on them, and they will do so very quickly because dirty clothes smell of CO2 and bed bugs can detect that from a distance. Put the dirty clothes in a plastic bag, seal it well (not just fold it) and place it in your suitcase. This way, even if there are bedbugs in the room, they won’t hitchhike on your dirty laundry.
- Check the bed linen. Normally, when you first check in, these should be nice and fresh. But if there is an issue with bedbugs, you may notice blood stains on the sheets the next morning.
- When you return from your holiday, avoid just carrying your suitcase straight into your home. Instead, try to inspect it outside, to ensure nothing is there. The perfect place for this inspection is on a non-carpeted area, preferably slippery, which you can wipe with a wet cloth so if there are any bugs around they won’t be able to escape quickly.
- Once you have inspected your luggage, do not empty all your clothes straight on the floor inside your house. Take the suitcase next to your washing machine, and empty the clothes directly there to be washed. Don’t clean just the used clothes, clean everything. Use a high temp cycle of at least 60 degrees Celsius to kill anything that may have hitchhiked, and ideally dry the clothes in the tumble dryer. The high temperatures there will ensure nothing will stay alive. Ideally you can also wash the suitcase itself, but if that’s not possible, steaming it will kill any bugs present.
- Leave shoes and any other items that were in your luggage outside for a few days. The cold will kill any bed bugs. Leaving the luggage itself outside is a great idea, the longer the safer. It’s better to leave a suitcase outside in the cold for a few days, than to pack it straight away and provide any hitchhikers a good dark cosy home to start their new life in. Ideally pack your suitcases in plastic bags, seal them and store them away from any bedrooms. Left on their own in a sealed bag, bed bugs will eventually starve to death, if they were there in the first place.
I’m seeing news from France about bed bugs and how quickly they are spreading there. What’s happening?
Nothing unusual. It is important to understand that news are often “inflated” or overstated. We are not saying there isn’t a problem; we are only saying it’s not as serious as it is portrayed. The media love to present the issue with Parisas a huge deal because France will be the host of the 2024 Olympics and that produces views and clicks. Want proof? Here’s the graph about Google searches related to bed bugs since 2017. As you can see there is a seasonality in the public’s interest, clearly shown from these ups and downs in the graph. Notice how the peaks are always in mid to end summer months.
There is indeed an increase in reports, but this has been happening in the last 20-30 years and on a worldwide basis, not just France or the UK. The first reason for this is the effectiveness of our pest control measures and the role of natural selection. After the end of WW2, the most known insecticide was the infamous DDT. This worked wonders with bed bugs and mosquitos and creepy crawlies and such, but was carcinogenic (amongst other things) so it got banned. Although bed bugs were almost completely eradicated back then because of DDT, some survived because they had strong resistance to chemicals. These survivors are the ancestors of today’s bed bugs, and that’s why they are much harder to kill.
Another reason for the increase of bedbugs worldwide is that humans have progressively killed more and more of their biggest natural predator: cockroaches. In the Western world, even minor infestations are dealt with very efficiently. The diminishing number of cockroaches over the years has allowed bed bugs to increase their numbers in areas where they wouldn’t survive as easily in the past. We are not saying we should allow cockroaches to roam free, we’re just saying that we shouldn’t consider outbreaks like that as “plagues” or the disasters the media are trying to portray them.
A third reason is that bed bugs are quite resilient insects. Studies have shown that they can live for approximately 12 months without food, which is another obstacle
The last thing to note here is that in less developed countries, bed bugs are part of everyday life. It’s only in the Western world that we consider such infestations as “plagues”.
So how do I get rid of bed bugs?
There are two options here. One is household remedies, some of which may work and some not. The other is a professional bed bug pest control company, such as 1st Commercial Cleaning!
Household remedies rely on some basic characteristics about bedbugs, such as their habits and tolerances on temperatures. You can kill bedbugs by exposing them to temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius for more than 4 days (for example by adding clothes to a bag and placing it in a freezer), or instantly if you expose them to a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius or more. Although this may sound a great solution to a potential infestation, the problem is not the process, but finding all of them. Killing only the ones that are visible or only the ones that you can find does not guarantee complete elimination. And, as we saw earlier, even one bed bug can create a colony in a short time, which means the problem will reappear later.
When to get professional help for a bed bug infestation
If you recognise any signs of an infestation, we strongly recommend that you get in touch with us ASAP. Bed bug infestations can take a long time to sort out if you let them evolve and early treatment will be cheaper, more effective and easier. Do not let ads of cheap disinfectants or “amazing solutions that cost only a few pounds” fool you, bed bug infestations require professional treatment by someone who knows what they are doing. This is a specialised treatment that requires repeat visits at specific intervals and very careful inspections. Left alone, it can become a serious problem that will affect you both financially and mentally.