Preventing bed bugs: Here are 10 tips to keep the pests away

STATEN ISLAND, NY — If you’re feeling itchy, have small red bite marks and smelling strange odors — you likely have bed bugs.

There are many tips to keep bed bugs away from your home, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here are 10 tips to prevent or control bed bugs, according to the agency.

1. Make sure you really have bed bugs

You can compare your insect to the pictures on EPA’s website. You want to make sure the bugs are not fleas, ticks or other insects that would require other control or prevention actions.

Adult bed bugs, in general, are:

  • About the size of an apple seed (5-7 mm or 3/16 – 1/4 inch long);
  • Long and brown, with a flat, oval-shaped body (if not fed recently);
  • Balloon-like, reddish-brown and more elongated (if fed recently);
  • A “true bug” (characteristics of true bugs include a beak with three segments; antenna that have four parts; wings that are not used for flying; and short, golden-colored hairs); other
  • Smelly, with a “musty-sweetish” odor produced through glands on the lower side of the body.

Young bed bugs (also called nymphs), in general, are:

  • Smaller, translucent or white-yellow in color; other
  • If not recently fed, can be nearly invisible to the naked eye because of coloring and size.

2. Don’t panic

It can be difficult to get rid of bed bugs, but it’s not impossible, the EPA says. So don’t throw out all of your things; most of them can be treated and saved.

Throwing things out is also expensive, can spread bed bugs, and can cause more stress.

3. Think through treatment options

Don’t immediately reach for the spray can to eradicate bed bugs. Try other options first, the EPA says.

Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques may reduce the number of bed bugs and limit your contact with pesticides. If pesticides are needed, always follow label directions or hire a professional, according to the agency.

4. Reduce the number of hiding places

The next step is to clean up the clutter, because a messy home provides more places for bed bugs to hide. It makes locating and treating them harder.

“If bed bugs are in your mattress, using special bed bug covers [encasements] on your mattress and box springs makes it harder for bed bugs to get to you while you sleep,” the EPA states. “Leave the encasements on for a year. Be sure to buy a product that has been tested for bed bugs and is strong enough to last for the full year without tearing.”

5. Regularly wash and heat-dry your bed sheets, blankets, bedspreads, clothing

The EPA says this reduces the number of bed bugs. The pests and their eggs can hide in laundry containers and hampers too, so remember to clean them when you do laundry.

6. Do-it-yourself freezing may not be reliable

While freezing can kill the pests, temperatures must stay very low for a long time. Therefore, home freezers may not be cold enough to kill bed bugs. Putting things outside in freezing temperatures could kill bed bugs, but there are many factors that can affect the success of this method, the EPA notes.

7. Kill bed bugs with heat

If you try this method, be very careful. Raising the indoor temperature with the thermostat or space heaters won’t do the job — so special equipment and very high temperatures are necessary for successful heat treatment of bed bugs.

Black plastic bags in the sun might work to kill bed bugs in luggage or small items if the contents become hot enough. To kill bed bugs with heat, the room or container must be hotter than 113 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding

8. Don’t pass your bed bugs on to others

Bed bugs are good hitchhikers that travel from one place to another. So if you throw out a mattress or furniture infested with the pest, slash it or destroy it in some way so that no one else takes it and gets bed bugs.

9. Vacuum bed bugs

Thorough vacuuming can get rid of some of your bed bugs. Try to carefully vacuum rugs, floors, upholstered furniture, bed frames, under beds, around bed legs, and all cracks and crevices around the room.

You should change the bag after each use so the pests can’t escape, and place the used bags in an outside garbage bin.

10. Turn to the professionals

The EPA says hiring an experienced, responsible pest control professional can increase your chance of success in getting rid of bed bugs.

If you hire an expert, be sure it’s a reputable company and request that the IPM approach is used.

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