Can You Self-Treat for Bed Bugs?

There are pest infestations, and there are bed bug infestations. If you’ve ever battled these insidious beasts, you know it’s a life-changing commitment that goes on for months. If you catch them early enough, you may stand a chance of controlling their spread, and possibly even winning the war, but the problem is that bed bugs are usually all but invisible until the infestation is already well established. The short answer is that you can self-treat for bed bugs, but your chances of success are pretty low.

Bed bug hatchlings are tiny enough to penetrate the weave of a mattress, so they’re nearly invisible to the naked eye. Even the adults are excellent at concealing their presence, and most people don’t realize they have a problem until they start noticing they’ve been bitten. At this point, the pest is probably well established in your home, hiding its main population in deep cracks and recesses that are almost impossible to reach with over-the-counter pest remedies.

If you already have bites, or you’re seeing other signs of bed bugs, it will take a lot of work to get rid of them, and you’ll probably need professional help.

What are the Signs of Bed Bugs?

Mature bed bugs are less than a quarter inch long, about the size of an apple seed, and they can flatten their bodies to hide in remarkably thin spaces. They’re red-brown in color, except right after a feeding, when they’re bright red with blood. Look for signs of them in:

Although much harder to spot, you may also see eggs, which are white and about a millimeter long.

Feces spots on mattresses and bedding are usually easy to find, if you pull back folds and seams. These small, dark spots are usually an indication of a well established infestation. You many also smell a mild, rotten fruit odor from bedding.

Illustration of a pillow on a neatly made bed. Tiny Bed bugs have congregated on the pillow to spell the words "Bed Bugs"

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Whether you plan to call a pest control professional or self-treat for bedbugs, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Think of bed bugs as a disease that can spread by physical contact from one part of your home to another. You’ll have to “quarantine” each area you clean, to keep the pests from coming back, and to prevent their spread into other areas.

Bedrooms are the obvious place to start; bed bugs are looking for blood, and if they can’t get to you while you sleep, they can’t eat. Here’s the battle plan:

The strategy here is to keep getting rid of the bugs you find, and to isolate the rest from their food supply; namely, you. Starve bed bugs, and they’ll eventually die off, but the bad news is that they can live for six months or more without a meal, so unless you can kill the hidden adults, eggs, and hatchlings, you’re probably in for another fight in the coming weeks or months. If you’re extremely diligent with your cleaning procedures, it’s safe to assume your home is bed bug free after a year of monitoring.

Do Over-The-Counter Bed Bug Pesticides Work?

EPA-approved bed bug pesticides and other treatments are available at any hardware store, but it’s difficult to apply these chemicals in all the deep places bed bugs hide. The EPA warnings for these treatments are stern and comprehensive because people who misuse pest treatments often find themselves with much bigger problems than bugs.

If you buy chemical treatments, use them only as directed. And don’t pull out a spray can every time you see a bed bug; cumulative concentrations of insecticides in your living areas can make you very, very sick. Don’t use any pesticides labeled for outdoor use, and don’t spray pesticides on mattresses, pillows, furniture, or anything people will touch.

One way to self-treat for bed bugs is to sprinkle pesticide-grade diatomaceous earth on the floor in areas of visible bed bug traffic. This powder is made of fossilized microbes that have very sharp surfaces. When the bugs walk over the powder, it destroys the oily, protective layer that covers their exoskeletons, and they die of dehydration in a matter of hours. WARNING: Don’t use diatomaceous earth that is not a registered pesticide product. Other types use different types of microbe skeletons that can be hazardous to breathe.

Don’t get creative with bed bug treatments. Yes, a space heater next to the wall could “bake” the bugs that are hiding there, but it can also burn the house down. A few of these fires are reported every year. The same goes for treating with rubbing alcohol; it’s extremely volatile, and a stray spark can set your home ablaze.

Foggers can be effective at reducing infestations, but they usually don’t penetrate the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide, so don’t get your hopes up. If you decide to try this, employ extreme caution, follow all instructions to the letter, and use common sense. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 3,000 cases of fogger related illnesses over an eight year period. Four people died, and twenty other cases were life threatening. This is bad stuff, and it may not even work.

Self-Treat for Bed Bugs Vs. Professional Bed Bug Extermination

If you have an infestation, you can self-treat for bed bugs but the outlook is not great. Fortunately, pest control technicians have a much more effective arsenal at their disposal. They use specialized tools to apply chemicals into the deep recesses where bed bugs hide. They also have other treatments and application methods that you can’t buy at the hardware store. If you seek professional help for bed bug treatment, just be sure the pest control company guarantees their work. This is one pest you probably won’t defeat on your own, but they can.

Thanks for reading Go Green Pest Control’s blog, “Can You Self Treat for Bed Bugs?”. If you live in Wichita, Manhattan, or Junction City, Go Green can help. Give us a call at (316) 733-0687 in Wichita or (785) 377-0687 in Manhattan and Junction City. Let’s put this bed bug problem behind you!