Fix-It Chick: Eliminating bed bugs

With an increase in international travel and a universal ban on highly toxic pesticides, such as DDT, bed bugs are fast becoming one of the more difficult pests to control and eradicate.

An integrated pest management system is the most effective means of getting rid of these light brown, apple-seed-size, blood-sucking parasites.

Step 1: Bed bugs, though not isolated to beds, tend to cluster within eight feet of beds and other areas where people sleep. Telltale signs of bed bugs include brown or red spots on bedding, as well as clusters of bites on arms and other exposed areas of skin. Use a flashlight at night to search for bugs in bedding and other potentially infested areas.

Step 2: If bugs are found, kill them instantly or suck them up with the wand of a vacuum. Vacuuming up bed bugs is effective only if the vacuum contents can be sealed in plastic and disposed of properly. Bugs may get caught in vacuum brushes and crevices, allowing infestation to spread to other areas of the home.

Step 3: Place all bedding and clothing items in tightly sealed bags. Wash bedding in hot water and heat all items in a hot dryer for a minimum of 30 minutes. Do not reuse the bags. Instead, reseal them and dispose of them properly.

Step 4: Eliminate clutter and remove dust ruffles and other fabrics that touch the floor. Pull beds out away from walls to create effective “islands.” Encase mattresses and pillows in zippered coverings to trap existing bugs and eliminate hiding opportunities for new bugs and eggs. Continue to inspect and monitor area for further bed bug activity for several weeks.

Step 5: Seek out bugs hidden in cracks and crevices. Use caulk and other means to seal cracks around baseboards and trim where bugs can hide.

Step 6: Minimal use of sprays and powders is acceptable. Pesticides are only effective against bed bugs upon immediate contact. Once dry, pesticides lose their effectiveness and potentially encourage resistance in bugs.

Use pesticides recommended specifically for bed bugs and follow the manufacturer’s instructions unconditionally. Pyrethroids, such as Pyrethrins, Permethrin and Neem Oil are the only pesticides on the market today effective against bed bugs. Diatomaceous earth is effective, but takes up to two weeks to work.

Step 7: If bed bugs persist, call a professional exterminator to address the issue.