Bed Bug Basics

18th October 2023

A guide to identifying, preventing, and eliminating bed bugs

With mounting concerns about a potential bed bug invasion in the United Kingdom, it is essential to arm oneself with comprehensive knowledge about these troublesome pests. Bed bugs, though small in size, can wreak havoc in households and establishments, leaving behind a trail of discomfort and anxiety. To effectively prepare and protect yourself, let's shed light on these elusive creatures and help you regain control of your sleep sanctuary.

What do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bugs are small, flat, reddish-brown insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They are usually nocturnal, making them more active at night and thus, their most common hiding spots are often close to their human hosts. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers, spreading from one place to another by latching onto luggage, clothing, and other personal items. They are commonly found in areas where people sleep, such as beds, mattresses, and couches, but can also hide in cracks and crevices around the room.

One of the first signs of a bed bug infestation is often the appearance of itchy, red welts on your skin. These bites are typically in clusters or lines and are frequently located on exposed areas like arms, legs, and the neck.

Bed bugs feed by piercing the skin with a stylet and withdrawing blood. After a feeding, they may leave behind small bloodstains on your sheets or mattress cover.

Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, while young ones can be as small as a poppy seed. They have a reddish-brown colour and an oval, flat shape. You may spot them in the seams of your mattress or in cracks around your bed.

Bed bugs reproduce by laying small white eggs, often in clusters. You might also find shed skins, as nymphs go through several molts as they mature.

Some people describe the smell of a bed bug infestation as musty or sweet. If you detect an unusual odour, it could be a sign of a significant infestation.

Bed bugs can infest your home for various reasons, and preventing their presence requires diligence and awareness. Here are some common causes and preventive measures:

Causes of Bed Bugs:

Travel: Staying in infested hotels, hostels, or using public transportation can expose you to bed bugs. They can easily latch onto luggage, clothing, or personal belongings.

Used Furniture: Bringing in secondhand furniture, especially mattresses, couches, and bedding, can introduce bed bugs to your home if the furniture was previously infested.

Shared Spaces: Living in multi-unit housing, like apartments, dorms, or condominiums, increases the risk of bed bug transfer between units.

Clutter: Bed bugs can hide in cluttered areas, making it harder to detect and eliminate them.

Preventive Measures:

Inspect Your Accommodations: When staying in hotels or other people's homes, inspect the bedding, mattress seams, and nearby furniture for signs of bed bugs before settling in.

Used Furniture: If you acquire secondhand furniture, thoroughly inspect it for any signs of bed bugs, such as small reddish-brown bugs, tiny white eggs, or dark fecal spots. Consider professional heat treatment before bringing it inside.

Reduce Clutter: Regularly declutter and clean your living space to minimise hiding spots for bed bugs.

Seal Entry Points: Seal cracks and crevices in your home where bed bugs can enter. Use caulk to fill gaps around baseboards, pipes, and windows.

Wash and Dry Bedding: Wash your bedding, curtains, and linens regularly in hot water and dry them on high heat to kill any potential bed bugs or eggs.

Use Mattress Encasements: Cover your mattress and box spring with bed bug-proof encasements. This can help prevent infestations and make it easier to detect them if they occur.

Be Cautious While Travelling: Keep your luggage off the floor in hotel rooms, and consider using bed bug-proof luggage liners or packing cubes. When you return home, inspect your luggage and wash your clothing immediately.

Regular Inspections: Periodically inspect your home for signs of bed bugs, such as bites on your skin, small bloodstains on bedding, or visible bugs.

Professional Pest Control: If you suspect or confirm a bed bug infestation, it's crucial to contact a professional pest control service. They can assess the extent of the infestation and provide appropriate treatment.

Remember that early detection and swift action are essential in preventing a full-blown bed bug infestation. If you believe you have a bed bug problem, it's best to consult with a pest control expert for effective eradication.

How to get rid of bed bugs

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, isolate the affected area to prevent further spread. Avoid moving infested items to other rooms.

While it can be distressing, panicking won't solve the problem. Stay calm, and remember that bed bugs are a common issue and can be effectively dealt with.

Vacuum the infested areas, including the mattress, box spring, bed frame, and surrounding areas. Empty the vacuum cleaner immediately into a sealed bag and discard it.

Wash all bedding, curtains, and clothing in hot water (at least 130°F or 54°C) and dry them on the highest heat setting for at least 30 minutes.

Bed bugs are notoriously challenging to eliminate. It's often best to seek professional pest control services to ensure the infestation is properly treated.

After treatment, continue to monitor your home for any signs of bed bugs. Be cautious when bringing in used furniture, clothing, or other items that may be infested. Regularly inspect and vacuum your living space. Learn about bed bug prevention and signs of infestation to help avoid future problems

What mattresses are best for preventing bed bugs?

Memory foam and latex mattresses offer unique advantages when it comes to reducing the risk of bed bug infestations due to their construction and design. Here's an expanded explanation:

  1. Fewer Seams and Crevices: Memory foam and latex mattresses typically have a more uniform and solid surface compared to innerspring mattresses. Innerspring mattresses have coils and padding layers, which create seams, crevices, and cavities where bed bugs can hide and lay their eggs. These small spaces provide ideal hiding spots for these pests, making it easier for them to evade detection and treatment.

  2. Dense and Smooth Surfaces: Memory foam and latex mattresses have dense and smooth surfaces that are less accommodating to bed bugs. Their uniform structure lacks the nooks and crannies that bed bugs seek for shelter. As a result, bed bugs have a harder time finding suitable hiding spots on these types of mattresses.

  3. Reduced Entry Points: Innerspring mattresses may have gaps and entry points in the fabric or seams, which can allow bed bugs to infiltrate the mattress. Memory foam and latex mattresses, on the other hand, typically have sealed and uniform surfaces that minimize potential entry points for bed bugs.

  4. Easy to Inspect: Due to their smooth and continuous surfaces, it's easier to visually inspect memory foam and latex mattresses for any signs of bed bugs. You can quickly check the surface, seams, and corners, making it more likely to detect an infestation in its early stages.

  5. Mattress Encasements: While these mattresses are more resistant to bed bugs, adding a bed bug-proof encasement can provide an extra layer of protection. Encasements seal the entire mattress, making it virtually impenetrable to bed bugs and trapping any existing pests inside.

While no mattress material or type can guarantee complete prevention of bed bugs, certain factors and mattress choices can make it more challenging for these pests to infest your sleeping area.
Uncertain about which mattress is the perfect fit for your needs? Explore our comprehensive mattress buying guide for a wealth of information. Additionally, if you're in search of a mattress for your child, we offer a dedicated kids' bed buying guide to assist you in making the ideal choice!
Remember that dealing with bed bugs can be challenging, and it often requires professional help. Quick action is essential to prevent a small infestation from becoming a larger, more difficult problem. It's also important to avoid using pesticides on your own, as improper use can be dangerous and may not effectively eliminate the infestation. Consult a pest control expert for the best approach to tackling bed bugs.