5 Ways to Prevent Bed Bugs from Becoming a Problem

5 Ways to Prevent Bed Bugs from Becoming a Problem

Prevention is the key. The problem with bed bugs is that most people don’t think about them until they are a problem. And if you wait until you have bed bugs, well that’s a problem.  Bed bugs are difficult to eradicate.  You may want to run away from home, but they will just hide; waiting for your return and their next meal.

Just like in sports, the best offense is a good defense.  That means thinking like a bed bug; understanding what they want and how they go about getting it.  Here’s some insight into bed bug behavior and ways you can keep bed bugs at bay.   

What a Bed Bug Wants  

What a bed bug wants is a blood meal.  The varieties commonly found in our homes prefer human blood, but they will settle for any warm blood.  If it isn’t readily available, they are patient.  They can survive up to a year without a blood meal.

Bed bugs will patiently hide in cracks and crevices waiting for a meal to come along. When you go to bed, they come out and feed.

Bed bugs insert two tubes into your skin. One tube injects a substance to keep your blood from coagulating. The other tube draws in the blood meal. Yup, it's most certainly disgusting. Bed bugs are generally brown except immediately after gorging on blood. Then they turn red.

Once the bed bug finishes the meal its time to hide again until the next meal. Hiding is important. They want a small place to hide. They want to be close to the food source. Cracks, crevices, behind electrical outlet plates, baseboards, and bed rails are all great places to hide.  When not eating and digesting, they want to reproduce. Yes, bed bugs want to have fun too.

One female can produce 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime.  She can carry sperm around for 4 to 6 weeks. Female bed bugs are more mobile and they tend to travel by hitchhiking. This is important to remember.

If you want to keep bed bugs out of your home, don’t offer them a ride.  Avoid hitchhiking bed bugs. 

Stop Hitchhiking Bed Bugs

Any time you leave your home you are at risk of giving a bed bug a ride.  While they’ve been found in movie theaters and the dressing rooms of department stores, this isn’t where you are at the greatest risk.

Your greatest risk is traveling with other humans.  As people started to get more mobile, bed bugs got mobile too.  These hitchhikers can be found in hotel rooms, convention centers, rental cars, and the cargo hold of airplanes.

Since traveling is your greatest risk of encountering a bed bug you must travel wisely.  

Rental Cars:  Don’t put your luggage in the trunk of a rental car.  The last suitcase to have been in that trunk could have harbored a bed bug in the seams, hitching a ride.  When you place your suitcase in the trunk of a rental car you are increasing the risk of picking up a bed bug from another hotel or suitcase.  Your suitcase is safer in the front or back seat of the rental car, particularly on the floorboard.  Most people won’t put their suitcase in these locations, so you reduce your exposure to bed bugs.  

Hotel/Motel Rooms:  This is where you are going to encounter the greatest risk of picking up a bed bug.  Before you bring your suitcases in, make a quick inspection.

Pull sheets off of the bed and check the bindings and seams of the mattress at the corners. You are looking for brown spots, bugs, and flecks of blood. Don’t be afraid to use the flashlight app on your cell phone to get a good look. It doesn’t hurt to run the edge of your credit card or room key in the mattress corners to see what might be hiding. Be thorough, check all corners. Then check the surface of the mattress for signs of bugs. Once you make the bed and it looks all clear, bring your suitcase inside and set it in the bathtub.  

Never place your suitcase on the floor in a hotel room. Never. Ever.   

Check the upholstered furniture for bugs. Pay particular attention to the seams. Then check the draperies and curtains. Check folds and seams. This is another time that the flashlight app on your phone will come in handy.

Once the room passes inspection you can remove your suitcase from the bathtub. It’s always best to keep your luggage on a table, the luggage rack provided, or the bathroom countertop. It is never a good idea to place your clothing in the drawers or your suitcase on the floor or on the upholstered furniture.

Airlines:  Bed bugs travel by air as well. A luggage hold is a prime place for bed bugs to transfer from one bag to another. There are only two strategies to deploy here. The first is to purchase hard-sided suitcases. This style of luggage has a hard case exterior. They aren’t as flexible as softside counterparts, but they also don’t provide as many places for bed bugs to hide. The second strategy is to only travel with carry-on luggage.  There is still risk with carry-on bags, but it is reduced. If you can’t totally eliminate risk, reduce it as much as possible.  

Don’t Invite Bed Bugs Inside 

When you return home, never bring your suitcases inside without a thorough inspection. Never.

Outside Until Inspected. If you have a house with a garage or carport, store luggage in those outside locations until you can inspect. Never unpack without a complete inspection. If you don’t have a garage or carport, store suitcases on the balcony. If you don’t have a balcony, the safest place in your home is the bathtub or shower. Any bug leaving your luggage will be obvious on a backdrop of porcelain and tile.

Inspect and Launder. While your luggage is still outside, remove your belongings and inspect them carefully for signs of bugs. Remember you are looking for small brown bugs and rust-colored spots. Once the clothing is inspected it goes immediately into the washing machine. If you need to wash multiple loads, keep it outside until the machine is ready. Don’t bring a possible bed bug-infested article of clothing into the house until it can go immediately in the washer.

Take a flashlight and inspect the seams and linings of your suitcases. Remember to think like a bed bug and look for the smallest cracks and crevices. Once your suitcase has been inspected you can safely store it until you are ready to use it again.  By the way, it’s still never a good idea to keep your suitcase and your clothing in the same closet.

Protect a Bed Against Bed Bugs

Make sure your mattress cannot be infested with bed bugs by encasing it in a bed bug proof zippered cover.

This type of cover completely surrounds your mattress and make it impervious to bed bugs. Once this cover is on your mattress and zipped tight you are protected. No bed bug is getting breaching your barrier. If you had a bed bug (or dust mites) in your mattress it is trapped for good.  

Bed bug covers are not expensive and won’t change the feel of your mattress. However, you will sleep better knowing your mattress is protected.

Keep bed bugs at bay by thinking like a bed bug, traveling smarter, and diligently checking for hitchhikers when you get home. If you want additional information on how to kill and get rid of bed bugs in a mattress you can find it here.

Wishing you the best of health

The Allergy Store