Bed bugs are those little insects that live in your mattress, sheets, and even your clothes. They are little vampires that survive off human blood, and if your mattress, sheets or pillows cases contain them, they will be dining on you. Most of us at some point in our lives have had to deal with bed bugs. Bed bugs can invade your home in any number of ways.
These hairy little hitchhikers can follow you home from vacation, catch a ride on second-hand furniture, or mysteriously come into your house from some unknown source. It can prove difficult to be rid of them. It takes persistence and perseverance to deal with bed bugs and the Organic Daily Post has discovered some natural remedies for bed bugs we feel you should know about.
Be Aware of Where You Are
If you do any travelling, hotel rooms can be a breeding ground for Bed bugs. When on vacation, be careful where you place your luggage in the room. Avoid putting your suitcases or clothes directly onto the bed. Instead, use the luggage rack (so that’s what that thing is) or the top of the dresser. Don’t hesitate to check out the mattress and pillowcases for any obvious signs of infestation like brown spots, red spots, dead bugs, and even live ones.
Once back home, rather than unpacking your clothes (clean or not) and placing them directly into your dresser, put all clothing straight into the washing machine. As an extra precaution, if you’ve stayed in a hotel or motel room, vacuum out your suitcase.
There are some proactive behaviors that you can also implement in your home even if you’re not traveling. Clear up clutter. Bed bugs don’t need a dirty home in which to thrive, but like spiders, they do love clutter. It gives them plenty of places to hide.
Additionally, carefully check any secondhand furniture you may bring into your home for signs of bugs; especially old cloth couches, chairs and mattresses.
Hot and Cold
Hot and cold treatments are often used for dealing with bed bugs. Steam cleaning will also kill them. Steaming works great for all those items that you can’t fit in the washing and dryer such as mattresses, couches, and upholstered chairs.
You can rent a steam machine at many retail outlets. Dry heat is another option.
Freezing cold temperatures is another way to kill them off.
Once you’ve gone through the process of dealing with bed bugs, you may want to invest in a set of mattress covers. These covers are created in such a way that they prevent bed bugs from being able to get through the material to live inside your mattress. Once you’ve cleaned and disinfected a mattress, by properly covering it, you’re creating a nearly impenetrable barrier making it difficult for them to return. Re-infestation is a real threat with Bed bugs, and mattress covers are an effective weapon in your arsenal to combat that problem
Our Top Recommendation
Almost regardless of which insect is infesting your home or yard, our top recommended solution is the same. Cedar oil is a safe, non-toxic and all natural solution for killing and repelling most insects.
Cedar oil does not harm beneficial insects like bees and butterflies, but it is a contact killer and effective repellent for most insects you’d want to get rid of. See this article to learn more about cedar oil or to see the full range of cedar oil products, click here.
Cedar oil is used to kill bed bugs by fogging the area. Cedarcide makes a home infestation kit specifically for this purpose, that treats up to 4,000 square feet of indoor space.
Tea tree oil and lavender oil are both essential oils that can be used as a natural remedy to treat bed bugs (buy it here). The pungent smell of tea tree oil will help drive them away from your mattress. However, the scent may be an issue for some people.
Lavender oil is great for sleeping and pulls double duty in that it can also help repel Bed bugs at the same time (buy it here). You can use either oil in this fashion or use dried sprigs of lavender flowers.
If your best efforts have failed, short of throwing the infested mattress away, it may be time to call in the professionals. Some companies use bug-specific pesticides when necessary but also steam and heat. Remember, in some parts of the country it’s illegal for homeowners to apply pesticides or insecticides themselves. Check your local environmental laws.
Use a Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuuming is another extremely effective way to get rid of them. Make sure that you use a brush attachment with your vacuum cleaner to dislodge the bugs from the surface and seams of the mattress. Keep in mind that any crack or crevice that you could slide a credit card into could be a potential hiding place. Vacuuming is a very effectual way to remove their eggs as well.
Use a Steam Cleaner
Steaming is a super effective way to kill bed bugs and their eggs without harming you or the environment. What’s great about using steam is that it’s powerful enough to kill the bed bugs and their eggs even when deeply embedded in the mattress.
Diatomaceous earth (die-uh-toe-may-shuss) is another natural method. DE as it is called (you can see why) is completely natural and composed of the fossilized remains of small aquatic organisms and is perfectly safe to use in your home. Highly magnified, one can see it has sharp and rough edges that cut open the exoskeleton of the insect causing it to dehydrate. Works great for fleas, fire ants and just about any insect with a hard exterior.
Research has shown using food grade DE can totally eradicate bed bugs within a couple weeks of use. Simply sprinkle the DE (it’s like white powder) in areas where the bed bugs live. Repeat that process every two to three days for 2 weeks.
Wash Your Bed Sheets & Clothing in Hot Water
How you kill bugs that are embedded into your clothing is quite simple. As you would your sheets and blankets, simply wash them in very hot soapy water.
Dry Everything on a Hot Dryer Setting
Additionally, dry your sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases, and comforters on the High Heat setting. Always check to make sure that your clothes and any fabrics or linens can be dried on High heat before doing so to avoid shrinking or damaging them. You can also use the freezer method with your clothes. This involves placing your clothes in plastic bags then putting them in the freezer for an hour or two. Personally…I couldn’t/wouldn’t do that. I’ll stick to the heat.
Make Tea Tree Oil Spray
Using essential oils can be a quite powerful treatment against bed bugs. Tea tree oil has some excellent, non-toxic, insecticidal properties that are really effective at getting rid of bed bugs (buy it here). All you do is put 15-20 drops of tea tree oil into a spray bottle, add some water and shake it a little. Spray that solution onto any suspect surfaces. Tea tree oil is a really effective ‘all around’ insect repellent as well.
Lavender oil is toxic to many insects, but is totally natural and safe for people to use in their homes(buy it here) . Lavender oil can kill bugs, destroy insect eggs, larvae, and repel them too. In fact, using lavender and peppermint oil together make an incredibly potent solution to kill and repel Bed bugs and many other types of insects.
Just take some lavender oil and/or peppermint oil (a half oz. of each?) and add to a spray bottle. Add some water and shake it up. It’s not rocket science. Just make it strong enough to work. Spray it over the surfaces you suspect harbor bed bugs.
Happy to Help
At the Organic Daily Post we are continually searching for and discovering new ways to make Life more productive, creatively interesting and more fun. All while looking out for Mother Earth.
Did you learn something new from this article? If so, please share this with a friend. If you have any questions or comments about natural remedies to get rid of bed bugs or any natural pest, please leave them in the comments section below.
Questions from Readers
Bed bugs are nasty little creatures that take on the role of unwanted houseguests. These disgusting little parasites inhabit our beds, bed sheets and pillow cases. One bed bug in particular (and one of the most common) is the cimex lectularius. This little monster has a real taste for blood, especially human.
The following twenty-five questions pertaining to these mini vampires are the most frequently asked by Organic Daily Post readers and we’re itching to get to them (see what we did there?). Let's go!
- Q: How do you check for bed bugs?
A: You shouldn’t have to check for bed bugs. If you have them you will know it. They are visible to the naked eye, congregate in groups, generally live in or directly around a bed (including the mattress and box spring) and leave their little bug droppings wherever they are. Additionally, their bite can cause swelling and itching at the bite site marked by a noticeable redness to the skin.
- Q: Do bed bugs like the cold?
A: In fact, they do. While bed bugs can go for 2 to 6 months without feeding when conditions dictate, at temperatures below 55 degrees F. the bed bug can go without a blood meal for up to one year, making starving them out a wishful thought.
- Q: Do bed bugs like paper?
A: The answer is no. While there are reports of finding bed bugs in old Library books and news papers, they more than likely came from infested homes that contained the books. The bugs found in these books are merely hiding out as they would in any crack or crevice awaiting an opportunity to feed.
- Q: Do bed bugs like wood?
A: We don’t know if they like wood or not but they certainly don’t eat it. People find bed bugs on wooden beds and assume they are dining on the wood. Not true. They are bloodsuckers and as such, a blood meal is their staple.
- Q: Do bed bugs prefer a certain blood type?
A: No. Can you imagine a bug passing up a meal because they’re waiting for an A Positive to come along? Us either.
- Q: Do bed bugs like light or dark?
A: As with many insects, bed bugs prefer the darkness when feeding as it lessens their chance of discovery, but a well-lit room is no protection. Bed bugs do what they do be it light or dark. Like us, they eat when hungry.
- Q: Do bed bugs like water?
A: Not from we could learn. At least not in the same way a mosquito does. Considering they can go months without food (blood) makes it unlikely they would need a drink of water to wash down their blood meal. Moreover, where would they get it?
- Q: Are bed bugs affected by humidity?
A: Not really. Studies have shown that neither high nor low humidity levels have any appreciable affect on bed bugs so you can forget the humidifier or dehumidifier.
- Q: Do bed bugs eat leather?
A: No. Bed bugs do not eat leather. Just as they don’t eat paper or wood or books. They are parasites that dine on the blood of mammals, especially humans.
- Q: Do bed bugs like hair?
A: I wish your question were more specific. If you mean do they like to nest in hair the answer is no. Bed bugs are affected by heat and avoid coming in contact directly with humans such as clinging to the skin like lice do. The temperature of the human body is a bit high for them so they prefer to keep their distance. You will find them in shoes and other areas where they can be near their host but not in direct contact with the skin until feeding time.
- Q: What's the difference between bed bugs and carpet beetles?
A: Good question as people tend to get the two confused. The answer is simple though. Bed bugs belong to a class of insects known as Cimicidae whereas carpet beetles are Dermestids. The bed bug has a mouth designed to pierce flesh and suck blood while the carpet beetle’s mouth is geared for chewing fibrous material…like carpet. Carpet beetles actually prefer to eat nectar and pollen but once inside the home can wreak havoc on carpets, rugs, fabrics, furniture and more. They are harmless to humans though.
- Q: Are bed bugs and ringworms the same thing?
A: Not even close. Ringworm is not a worm or even an insect. It is a common fungal infection of the skin that appears as a red, irritated circle on the skin. Tinea pedis is a form of ringworm commonly known as Athlete’s Foot. Another form is tinea cruris, also known as Jock Itch.
- Q: Are head lice and bed bugs the same thing?
A: Hardly. A head louse (singular) is a wingless insect that lives out its life on the human scalp feeding solely on human blood while bed bugs climb aboard only to feed.
- Q: Do I have bed bugs or fleas?
A: Fleas are quite distinguishable from bed bugs. Fleas are small, black insects with powerful hind legs and can be seen jumping about day or night. They feed on the blood of dogs, cats and most any mammal including humans. They live on their hosts while bed bugs only climb on for a meal. While they do bite and drink blood, they are very different creatures than bed bugs. Flea bites generally occur around the ankles.
- Q: Do I have bed bug bites or Chicken Pox?
A: If you aren’t sure you’d better see a doctor immediately! Vericella, also known as chicken pox, is a highly contagious disease caused by the Vericella zoster virus (VZV). It produces small blisters on the skin that itch like crazy and eventually scab over. You should be able to easily tell the difference between a bed bug bite and having chicken pox. If you can’t, find someone who can as soon as possible.
- Q: How can I tell if I have bed bugs or termites?
A: People often confuse termites with ants but seldom termites with bed bugs. Nevertheless, the differences are quite obvious. Termites are winged creatures (that shed their wings) resembling ants and like ants, swarm in the spring. They are fast moving on the ground and do billions of dollars in structural damage each year due to their voracious appetite for wood. Bed bugs are much smaller than termites, have no wings, and feed on human blood exclusively.
- Q: Are bed bugs and scabies the same thing?
A: No. Confusing bed bugs with scabies is understandable though. However, there is a distinct difference. Scabies is not an insect. It is an intensely itchy skin condition caused by the microscopic worm Sarcoptis Scabiel. This human itch mite bores into the skin causing severe itching and rash. Scabies are so small they cannot be seen on the body and are highly contagious being passed on through handshakes and hugs. Bed bugs are parasites that live outside the body and feed on blood. Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye and picked off. Scabies cannot.
- Q: Is it bed bugs or a spider bite?
A: Most times, bed bugs bite their victims at night and on exposed areas of the skin like the legs, arms, and the neck but will feed anytime they are hungry. Since bed bugs can’t jump or fly, their bites tend to be centrally located. While most spider bites are harmless, some can be very dangerous and even fatal. Often, a single bite mark can be found. If you have only one bite, it may be from a spider. If you feel nauseas, dizzy, begin to sweat or feel increasing pain at the site of the bite get medical help immediately.
- Q: How does a bed bug bite differ from having Hives?
A: Hives is a medical condition (and not an insect) that produces red and itchy welts on the skin and is often triggered by an allergic reaction to certain foods, medicine and even stress. The medical name for hives is Uticaria.
- Q: Bed bugs or mites?
A: Mites are tiny arthropods and are related to ticks. Most mites live outdoors and are of little concern to humans. There are those however that do live indoors and bite people. This can cause much discomfort leaving red, itchy patches on the skin. Scabies and Demodex can be symptoms of mite bites.
- Q: Bed bugs or roaches?
A: One should have no trouble distinguishing between bed bugs and cockroaches but since you asked; roaches are fast moving insects that qualify as super bugs. They range in size from a half an inch to three inches long. They can run, jump and swim, are brown or black in color, and can be seen easily with the naked eye. They like dark places and usually come out at night to feed.
- Q: Are bed bugs and ticks the same thing?
A: No, they are not the same. While ticks are also blood sucking parasites, there are distinct differences. Ticks are small (but larger than bed bugs) arachnids that are referred to as ectoparasites feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and humans. They are disease transmitting machines. Ticks are large enough to be seen and attach themselves to their host. Dogs, cats, and those who spend time outdoors are most susceptible to tick bites.
- Q: Mosquito bites or bed bug bites?
A: Mosquito is a Spanish word meaning "little fly." They are winged ectoparasites (feeding on the outside of a body) that drink the blood of their host by inserting their straw-like proboscis (nose) into the skin. They like wet areas but can and do live practically everywhere. Mosquito bites cause a single itching bump to occur on the skin after they have fed.
- Q: Can you have bed bugs without seeing them?
A: Yes, you can. That said, if you believe you have bed bugs you need to inspect your mattresses, box springs and headboards to be sure. Bed bugs like to hang out in groups and often, even if you don’t see the bugs themselves, you will see signs of their presence in the form of excrement…also known as bug poop.
- Q: What does it cost to exterminate bed bugs?
A: Many factors come into play when estimating the cost of bed bug extermination. It ain’t cheap and costs are commensurate with the degree of infestation. Generally speaking though, you can expect to pay a professional exterminator anywhere from $500 to $1500 to effectively eradicate bed bugs from your home. However, there are effective products available you can do yourself to kill them off for far less money. Do your homework.
- Q: What temperature is needed to kill bed bugs?
A: For heat treatment, exposure to a temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit for ninety minutes will kill bed bugs. However, raising the temperature to 118 degrees will kill them in twenty minutes. The eggs also require 118 degrees for ninety minutes in order to totally destroy them. If you’re talking cold temperatures that can get a little tricky. You aren’t going to kill them in the bed so you must mean if they have infested your clothes or other household items. Placing the infected items in a tightly sealed plastic bag and putting them in a freezer with a temperature of at least 0 degrees or colder for 3 days will kill them but do you really want to put bed bugs in your freezer?