Bed bugs have been stealing the limelight of late. What was originally reported as surging numbers of bed bugs in France is now making headlines UK-wide (1) with reports of sightings popping up across the country.
With this sudden panic surrounding bed bugs, at Bensons we’ve taken decisive action to combat the issue and put our customers minds at ease. Read on for our comprehensive guide to minimising the risks posed by bed bugs, what signs to look out for, and how to deal with an infestation in your home.
What are bed bugs and what do they look like?
Bed bugs (Latin name: cimex lectularius (2)) are small, flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals.
Blood is the only food source of this invasive insect and depending on the temperature and humidity conditions available, bed bugs can survive anywhere between 20 and 400 days without food (3). Typically, the older stages of nymphs are able to survive without a food source for longer than the younger nymphs. And adults have been known to survive without access to any food for over 400 days in a laboratory in lower temperatures (4). That’s over a year without consuming anything at all which is even more impressive when you consider that in general, the life expectancy of a bed bug is 7-12 months (5).
Bed bugs are a red-brown colour and tend to measure somewhere between 5 and 7mm in length once they have reached their adult stage (6).
Healthy female bed bugs have the ability to lay up to 500 eggs in their lifetime (7). These eggs usually hatch within 7-10 days of being laid and so, you can see how quickly an infestation can occur (8).
Do bed bugs only infest dirty homes?
Many of us associate bed bugs with unclean living conditions. But that’s simply not true. Unlike dust mites, bed bugs are not attracted to dirt or dust or dander. Instead, they are attracted to the single thing that they need to survive – blood.
Many other insects that need access to blood to survive, such as mosquitoes and ticks, can fly or simply live on their hosts instead. But bed bugs cannot. And so, in order to survive, they stay close to their food source (in this case that’s us) (9).
How do you get bed bugs?
Many people believe that bed bugs are only able to travel by riding on fabrics, furniture, or suitcases. But this is simply not true. While they can travel faster by hitching a ride, they’re also capable of moving on their own.
So, while they may not travel from one building to another independently, the risk of bed bugs spreading within a block of flats, an office building, or a row of terraces is very real (10).
Where do bed bugs hide?
When they’re not feeding, bed bugs hide. And they can hide in a wide variety of places. From the nooks and crannies in your bed frames, to the piping, seams and tags of your mattress or divan base, and even in the cracks and crevices of your headboard. So, if you suspect you have bed bugs in your bedroom, leave no stone unturned!
If your bedroom is heavily infested, the bed bugs tend to branch out further from their food source (i.e., you). You may even find that they’ve ventured further than just your bedroom. If you’ve already found evidence of their existence and want to know how far the infestation spreads, here are some of the other places to check:
- Soft furniture and furnishing. The chairs, sofas, and sofa beds in your home could also be housing bed bugs. Check between cushions, in seams, and even in the folds of curtains.
- Hard furniture. Check drawer joints, as well as cracks in shelving and cupboards.
- Sockets. Be it plug sockets or light switches, bed bugs aren’t fussy about where they’re willing to hide.
- Behind wall hanging décor. Don’t forget to check under the photo frames and paintings you have hanging from the wall. And any loose or peeling wallpaper are also a potential hiding place for bed bugs.
Remember, bed bugs are really small and so could squeeze themselves into the tiniest of hiding spaces (11)!
Bed bugs are also nocturnal. This means that they are rarely seen during the day and prefer to do their feeding after dark ( 12). That said, they will venture out from their hiding spots while the lights are on or during the hours of daylight if they haven’t eaten in a while!
How can I minimise the risks of a bed bug infestation?
As with most things, when it comes to bed bugs the prevention is better than the cure. If you’d like to minimise the risk of your home becoming infested with bed bugs, there are a number of things you can do. Here are our top tips:
Be cautious with second-hand furniture. If you’re purchasing or inheriting any second-hand furniture including beds, sofas, or even bedroom drawers, be sure to check for any signs of a bed bug infestation before you bring them inside your home. Check seams, cracks, crevices – the works!
Minimise the clutter. The more cluttered your home is, the more places there are for bed bugs to hide. If you want to reduce the risk of an infestation, we’d recommend keeping the clutter to a minimum – at least while this period of increased risk is at play anyway!
Vacuum frequently. Regularly vacuuming your home should eradicate any successful hitchhikers. Just remember to empty your vacuum cleaner diligently after you’re done. Vacuuming up bed bugs does not kill them and so, the could well make their way back out of the vacuum cleaner and back into your home if you do not (13).
Be extra vigilant when using shared laundry facilities. If you regularly use shared laundry facilities such as laundrettes or dedicated laundry rooms in multi-residence buildings, your diligence is essential. A dryer on a high temperature setting can kill bed bugs (14). Be sure to transfer your laundry from a dryer directly into bag and save the task of folding it for at home.
If you live in a multi-residence home or a terraced house, isolate your space. Adding door sweeps to the bottom of your door will discourage movement into your home from the hallways. Sealing any cracks or gaps in the skirting boards, light and plug sockets will help to prevent bed bugs from moving from one home to another through wall voids.
Be diligent while travelling. Whether you’re at a hotel or a holiday apartment, try to keep your suitcase on stand rather than placing it on the floor. And when you return home, wash all of your clothing – whether it was worn or not (15).
Check for bed bugs whenever you stay somewhere overnight . Hotels, hostels, and the guest rooms of family and friends all have the potential to expose you to bed bugs. Always check rooms you are going to sleep in carefully.
Clean and care for your mattress. It’simportant to keep on top of your bed hygiene routine. Regularly cleaning your mattress won’t actually prevent bed bugs. But it may help you to notice signs of their existence more efficiently so that they can be dealt with before your reach a stage of infestation.
Clean your bedding regularly. Changing and washing your bedsheets at least once a week can also help you to reduce the risk of infestation. For more information on how often we should be washing our bed sheets, check out our blog post .
Bed bugs: what are the signs of an infestation?
Bed bugs are tiny but, unlike dust mites, they are visible to the naked eye. But, being so small, it can be tricky to spot them at first. So what should we be on the lookout for? Here are the main indications that you could have a bed bug infestation in your home:
- Evidence of bed bugs. If the influx of news stories has you on pins, you can start by looking for the bugs themselves. Look for things like shed skins and black droppings within the seams of your mattress or the corners of your bed frames. Bed bug excrement are about the same size as the tip of a pen and could bleed into the fabric of your bed sheets (much like a felt tip pen would) (16).
- Bites. Unfortunately, at this time of year it’s not massively unusual to wake up with insect bites – especially if you sleep with your windows open. But if you find multiple bites in the morning, or if it’s recurrent, it could be a sign of an infestation. And at very least, it warrants a closer inspection of your sleep surface (17).
- Rusty coloured stains on your sheets. If you wake up and notice rusty, reddish coloured stains on the bed sheets or mattress, they could be the result of you crushing bed bugs during your sleep (18).
How to get rid of bed bugs
If you have a bed bug infestation, it’s a wise idea to seek help from a professional. Responsible pest control professionals have the experience needed to increase your chance of success while trying to get rid of bed bugs in your home.
If you do decide that hiring an expert is the best way forward, make sure it’s a reputable company request that they use an IPM approach. IPM (or integrated pest management) is a process that enables you to resolve pest infestations while minimising any risks to people and the environment (19).
Achieve a bug-free night’s sleep with Bensons
If you’ve had to wave goodbye to your mattress, bed frame or both as a result of a bed bug infestation, we’re here to help. Our diverse collection of beds, mattresses, pillows, and duvets cater for every sleep preference, style preference, and sleep need. Helping you to choose your bed, your way® , here at Bensons for Beds we combine expert knowledge with the latest sleeppro technology to make getting that all important rejuvenating night’s sleep easy.
For more information on how to get a good night’s sleep, visit your nearest Bensons for Beds showroom or give us a call on 0808 144 6160.