Natural Tools to Combat Bedbugs
Cimex lectularius, commonly called bedbugs, are nondiscriminatory human parasites. Bedbugs don't care what your house looks like, nor if you are rich or poor. Bedbugs just want your blood. Though bedbugs prefer human blood, they will look for their next meal on an animal or bird if they can't find a human host. These fast-moving insects are called bedbugs because they stay close to their human hosts, in the bedding, mattress and headboard, as well as in cracks in the floor or furniture, and generally feed in the early hours, just before dawn. Though bedbug bites are said to itch horrendously, sometimes a bitten individual isn't aware of the bite until morning. But sometimes the bite site will immediately turn red, itch and swell. When that happens, it usually means the individual is allergic to the bug's saliva. If this all sounds gross, that's because it is. The good news is that while bedbugs often carry disease, they do not appear to transfer disease to their human hosts. The bad news is that this insect is extremely difficult to get rid of once it has taken up residence in your home or business.
Detecting Bedbug Activity
First of all, don't freak out if you think you have an infestation. Not all bites on you skin will be from bedbugs. Bites may be from mosquitoes, spiders or fleas. The idea of having bedbugs in your own home is disgusting, but it is not your fault, and chances are there are others in your circle of friends who either have the same problem, have already dealt with the same problem, or know someone else who has, but who are not talking about it because of the social stigma attached to it. If you travel, you may unknowingly come into contact with these critters. You may even bring them back home in your suitcase. For this reason, it is advised that you inspect the bedding before the suitcases are even brought into the room. Remove the bedding and linens and check for tell-tale dark spots of dried fecal matter (blood) on the mattress pad or along the seams of the bedding. Because the bugs tend to be social and congregate in the same areas, you may also find egg cases, shed skin, dead bugs or body parts, or rusty spots where the bugs have defecated. If you detect anything that remotely looks like a bedbug is in residence, do not bring you suitcases into the room. Notify the staff and find a new hotel. It's hard to detect a slight bedbug infestation as the bedbugs may only come out once a week or every couple of days. However, if you have bedbugs, within a month or so you will know it. A female bedbug can produce up to four eggs per day. It takes from six to nineteen days for the eggs to hatch, depending on the temperature in the room. Bedbugs can live for up to 18 months. To check for bedbugs, keep a flashlight by the bed and check for activity just before dawn. To check for fleas, put a lamp on the floor and place a dinner plate filled with water beside it. Leave the lamp on overnight and check the plate in the morning. If there are fleas in your house, they will be attracted to the warm lamp and some will have landed in the water.
How to Get Rid of Bedbugs Naturally
The least expensive and most eco-friendly way to get rid of any bug is without the use of pesticides, of course, and in the case of the bedbug, pesticides don't even appear to work anyway. But diligence and perseverance both come into play when battling this parasite. The following methods have been used with success:
- Seal the mattress in a mattress bag. Do not remove for up to 18 months.
- Keep rooms clean. Don't give bedbugs additional cover.
- Keep the room brightly lit (bedbugs like dark areas).
- Vacuum daily with a vacuum that has a removable bag. Do not move the vacuum from room to room as you may transport the bugs to another location. Do remove the bag each time you vacuum, double bag it in a plastic garbage bag and place it into the trash can. If possible, burn the vacuum bag (do not burn plastic).
- Place the legs of the bed into empty cut-off half-gallon milk containers. Smear Vaseline on the outside and inside of the milk containers (this will capture some of the bugs and make it difficult or impossible for them to reach the bed).
- Pull the bed away from the wall and do not allow bedding to touch the floor. Run a line of sticky tape just above the floor molding to capture bugs that try to climb the walls. (Keep a look out for bedbugs crawling the wall and dropping onto the bed.)
- Keep the room clear of any additional clothing.
- Dust the room with Diatomaceous Earth, a natural form of dirt found in ancient sea beds. Diatomaceous Earth kills by drying out the insect's exoskeleton and absorbing its body fluids. Diatomaceous Earth does not breakdown, evaporate, or disappear. It also works on other insects such as roaches and ants (follow instructions on the package).