This is one question that is asked frequently when it comes to those who have experienced a bed bug infestation. People are curious to know if their bed bug problem from the summer will be resolved once the temperature begins to drop. Perhaps you woke up with some strange marks on your pillowcase - or you’ve noticed mysterious red welts on your arms. Maybe you’ve spotted them right there in your bed. Bugs!
According to Wikipedia, bed bugs are a type of insect that feed on human blood, usually at night. Their bites can result in a number of health impacts including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. Bed bug bites may lead to skin changes ranging from invisible to small areas of redness to prominent blisters. Symptoms may take between minutes to days to appear and itchiness is generally present. Some individuals may feel tired or have a fever. Typically, uncovered areas of the body are affected and often three bites occur in a row. Bed bugs bites are not known to transmit any infectious diseases. Complications may rarely include areas of dead skin or vasculitis.
Unfortunately, bed bugs can and do survive the winter. Bed bugs have spread rapidly over the past two decades, and the prospect of an infestation can strike fear into the most cool-headed of people. Hopper Termite & Pest understands the many concerns you may have, as we have battled bed bugs at a growing rate over the past several years. When we were researching our guide to the best mattress cover, we found a real lack of levelheaded, practical advice on what to do if you suspect a bed bug infestation at your home. Here are some next steps you can take.
1. Don't Panic
If you think you have bed bugs, don’t move furniture out of the room, don’t throw mattresses and other belongings away, don’t rip up carpet, and don’t use DIY pesticides on the bugs. All of this can spread the bed bugs further throughout your home. Even if you know beyond a reasonable doubt that you have bed bugs, remain calm and don’t do anything hasty. Bed bugs spread rapidly, may leave itchy bite marks, stain and soil bedding and furniture, are difficult and expensive to eradicate, and carry social stigma—all causing real psychological distress. But they don’t pose any immediate threat to your family’s health because they don’t transmit diseases. They are actually much less of a threat than other blood feeders like mosquitoes or ticks.
There are many bed bug look alikes, including carpet beetles, spider beetles, roach nymphs, and bat bugs. Study guides show the size and appearance of bed bugs throughout their life cycle. Bed bugs typically hide during the day and are active from nightfall until an hour or two before dawn, clustering near a food source (i.e., you). To spot them you can grab a strong flashlight and look for bugs, eggs, and cast skins in cracks, crevices, nail or screw holes, furniture joints, seams, and under any mattress tags, as well as on the bed frame and baseboards near your bed.
There’s nothing distinctive about a bed bug bite, so neither bite marks nor red or light-brown blood stains on your bedding are proof you have them. Look for their characteristic brown-black, dot-like fecal stains (digested blood) on your bedding, mattresses, box springs, or baseboards.
If you have bed bugs, you will find some visible evidence. Bed bugs, from eggs to adults, are visible with the naked eye. They are not microscopic, they do not fly, and they do not spontaneously generate.
3. Where You Should Sleep
If you try to sleep in a different bed, different bedroom, or even on the couch, you could easily make the problem worse. You might be grossed out by sleeping in the room where you found bed bugs, but if you can cope, it’s much better to stay put, even if it means a few more nights of anxiety. If you sleep in a different bed, different bedroom, or even on the couch, you could easily make the problem worse, because hungry bed bugs will search throughout the home looking for a meal. It’s easier to treat 500 bugs in one room, than 50 bugs in several rooms. It’s probably okay to sleep in another room for one or two nights, but eventually, the bugs will seek you out.
We know from experience that you’ll probably want to hide your bed bug problem, but if you live in an apartment building or attached house, part of an effective treatment is coordinating inspections and treatments with your neighbors. Bed bugs can move easily between dwellings that share walls, so it’s crucial to inspect adjacent homes, treat any neighboring infestations, and put down barrier chemicals to prevent them from spreading. It doesn’t matter if you’re the cleanest person in the world or the dirtiest or somewhere in between - if you have blood, they’re coming for you.
5. Bring in the (Right) Help
You shouldn’t try to fight bed bugs on your own. Hopper Termite & Pest do not recommend any DIY treatments that would be safe and effective as a stand alone treatment. Bed bugs have developed resistance to many DIY insecticides. Spraying bed bugs with insecticides you buy at a hardware store or online will likely kill only some bugs and scatter the rest, making your problem significantly worse. Today, proven professional methods for killing bed bugs include using heat and steam (adult bed bugs, nymphs, and eggs die at temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit), spraying growth-inhibiting chemicals, and dusting powders that physically injure the bugs. Recently, an insecticide that infects bedbugs with a deadly fungus has shown promising results. All these treatments require professional-grade equipment and training.
Effective treatment requires a multi-pronged approach, including initial inspections and subsequent treatments at two-week intervals. Avoid hiring an exterminator who schedules treatment without inspection or who provides proof that you actually have bed bugs. Also beware of a pest company that tells you to throw away your mattress or other belongings. The National Pest Management Association, a nonprofit organization that sets standards for pest control companies in the US, states that in almost all cases, it’s never necessary to discard these items because treating them is part of the pest control company’s job.
6. Bed Bugs Can Survive Cold Temps
Unless you live in Antarctica, you can still have a bed bug infestation during the winter. While bed bugs are not a fan of the cold weather, they can survive extremely cold temps. A study conducted at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities discovered that bed bugs can survive temperatures as low as -13°F. In order for the bed bugs to actually die, they need to be exposed to temperatures lower than 3°F for at least 80 hours.
Tips For Getting Rid of Bed Bugs in the Winter in Arkansas
Here are some methods and tips that may be helpful, that will work if used in conjunction with professional bed bug treatment. Even if you have to wait a while for professional treatment, there are some things you can do in the meantime and are things you can do year-round as an ongoing regiment.
- Clean infested areas. Wash any bedding, towels, or objects that can safely go in the washer with your washer set on the hottest water setting. When you get ready to dry the items, dry them on the highest temperature setting. Heat-treat bedding, clothing, and other textiles in your dryer will kill bugs and eggs. The dryer becomes your best friend. Every bug that you find and remove is reducing the population.
- You can pick up bugs with tape or a sticky lint roller, or vacuum them up. Remove the vacuum bag immediately afterward, and seal it in a plastic bag for disposal, to prevent any bugs from escaping.
- Encase mattresses and box springs in close-fitting, impermeable bedbug-proof covers. Mattress encasements should cover all six sides of the mattress, and have a zipper that won’t easily open to let bugs in or out. If you think you have an infestation, leave the covers on mattresses and box springs for 12 months.
- Since bed bugs die after being exposed to severely low temps for at least 80 hours, many people have used their freezer as a way to get rid of the bed bugs lurking in their bedding and pillows.
- Vacuum areas that may be infested with bed bugs and their eggs. Make sure you get to areas such as your mattress, the bed frame, baseboards, and headboards.
- Place small, rimmed saucers dusted with talcum powder beneath the legs of your beds, chairs, or couches to trap bed bugs trying to climb up or down.
- Remove other bed bug pathways by moving your bed away from walls and curtains, and don’t let bedding drape onto the floor.
- Take your infected items outside and leave in the cold for a few days. However, since the temp outside rarely hits below 0°F for three days straight in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, this method doesn’t always work.
How to Keep From Spreading Bed Bugs
To prevent sharing your bed bugs with co-workers, friends, family, and the public at large, you should limit what you carry out of the house, and inspect those items carefully. Go minimalist (temporarily) and carry just a single bag in and out of your home. Before leaving, look over the bag’s exterior to make sure there are no insects on it. It can also be helpful to keep a clear, plastic bin with a lid near the front door and seal your belongings in it when you return home.
Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite!
The tips above only get the process of removing bed bugs started, and will not completely solve your problem. The easiest way to get rid of bed bugs and keep your sanity is to call a professional pest and bed bug exterminator such as Hopper Termite & Pest, Inc. We employ some of the most educated and highly trained technicians in the state. In fact, Hopper Termite & Pest, Inc. is the only company in this area to be NPMA QualityPro Certified.
Whether you are experiencing a bed bug infestation in Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale, Bentonville, Mountain Home, Bull Shoals, Yellville, Mountain View, Flippen - or any area in between, Hopper Termite & Pest, Inc. can help. We are also certified to manage your bed bug infestation in Missouri. Don’t wait until your bed bug problem becomes overwhelming. Give us a call today and let us take care of you, your family, and your bugs.