Years ago, bed bugs were a persistent problem, and many people were familiar with what they looked like. Eventually, their prevalence began to decline. Many people in today's developed countries have never seen a bed bug, but that doesn't mean they're not around. In fact, they are on the rise in developed countries due, in part, to worldwide travel.
The first step in discovering how to get rid of bed bugs is learning what they look like. A bed bug is a brown insect that does not have wings; most bed bugs are around 1/4 to 3/8 inch (6.35 to 9.53 millimeters) in size, but their size varies, depending on how long ago they've eaten. A bed bug that has eaten recently will appear larger than one that hasn't fed in a while. The upper body of a bed bug appears papery and fragile; it looks wider when it is unfed and becomes longer and swollen when it has eaten. Likewise, bed bugs change in color when they are fed, going from brown to a reddish color.
Bed bugs feed on the blood of human beings. They have long beaks that they use to pierce or prick the skin and gain access to their blood meals. They inject saliva into their victims, which reduces pain, as it has an anesthetic effect. Bed bug saliva also contains an anticoagulant that encourages the blood to continue flowing. Some people have no reaction to bed bug bites while others experience skin irritation and inflammation.
It can be very difficult to get rid of bed bugs. This is due, in part, to the fact that they hide in very small places, crawling into the tiniest cracks and crevices and making it hard to locate them for extermination. They are rarely seen in the daylight, preferring to come out at night, which makes them even harder to detect and get rid of. Additionally, these bugs can stay in their hiding places for one year or longer without eating, traveling in a person's luggage, clothing, or even inside of vehicles and airplanes. Even worse, they lay many eggs at one time; the female can produce 300 eggs, which hatch in just 10 days.
Sprays and pesticide dusts can be used to get rid of bed bugs in corners and crevices, but bed bugs frequently take up residence in a person's bed and clothing. Using spray insecticides in such places can actually pose a health hazard to the unfortunate person who has them. Instead, many experts suggest things like vacuuming them up and disinfecting mattresses; they also suggest brushing them into boiling water. Bedding and clothing should be laundered at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.88 degrees Celsius) in order to get rid of bed bugs. Many experts suggest getting rid of infested mattresses, as simply disinfecting them may not be enough to get rid of persistent bed bugs.
To get rid of bed bugs that have found their way into smaller items, a person might try putting the bugs in tied plastic bags and leaving them in the sun for a few days. It also helps to put them outside when the temperature is below freezing. However, they must be left outside for at least two weeks in order to kill them altogether. A vacuum can be used to get rid of bed bugs that are on walls and in carpets. Then, it's best to get rid of the vacuum bag by placing it in a sealed trash bag and putting it outside.