Have you seen the reports of bedbugs invading high-end department stores, hotels, and theaters this past year? Does the thought of sleeping in a bed with hundreds of tiny parasitic creatures give you nightmares? If so, it may be time to take preemptive action to reduce the odds that your home will provide the next great dining experience for these minute blood suckers. If you are chosen as their main course, it is difficult, but not impossible, to get them to move on without using commercial strength pesticides. However, the following ideas are eco-friendly and should be tried first:
Discouraging an Infestation
Making new habits may decrease your chances of becoming a bedbug victim. The following are practical green methods of discouraging bedbugs from settling into your home:
• Put every piece of clothing or any linens brought into the home into the dryer for thirty minutes because bedbugs and their eggs can be killed with sustained heat.
• Wash and dry reusable shopping bags regularly.
• Vacuum carpets and mattresses thoroughly, especially after overnight visitors who may have unwittingly carried bedbugs into your home.
• Keep beds positioned away from the walls and place sticky pest strips around all four legs.
• Do periodic checks by inspecting the seams of upholstered furnishings, curtain hems, and mattress corners. Check out bedbug photos online so you know what signs to look out for.
• Buy a zippered mattress bag for every set of bedding in the house to protect them from becoming a bedbug habitat in the future.
Dealing with a Bed Bug Invasion
Once bedbugs have decided that the residents of your household are a tasty meal, it takes some serious action to convince them to depart. While herbal sprays, such as neem or peppermint, may send them into hiding and prevent them from biting quite as often, these only kill these voracious critters if applied directly to their outer surface. Since bedbugs are some of the best hiders in the insect world, getting a shot at every member of the horde is next to impossible. The following green methods of extermination might work much better:
• Mist mattresses and carpets with a solution of rubbing alcohol and water. The alcohol content should be at least 70% to be effective, and this may need to be done several times for successful results, and it is important to remember that alcohol is flammable.
• Use a steamer on mattresses, bedding, household linens, curtains, carpeting, and upholstered couches and chairs.
• Sprinkle a powdery, non-toxic substance called diatomaceous earth on household surfaces. When bed bugs are exposed to diatomaceous earth, they dry up and die.
Ridding a home of bed bugs using natural methods is hard work and not for the faint of heart. Persistent effort, however, will mean that your family does not have to be exposed to toxins that might later cause health problems, so it is worth the effort to try these eco-friendly measures before calling a pest control specialist.
This is a guest post from Karen Barnes, who tries to find a green solution for every problem. She believes people should use eco-friendly methods to fight bedbugs without resorting to using pesticides in their homes.
Bedbug image via mindfuldocumentation on flickr
As a “green” pest management company owner, I took interest in this article, but thought I might give a few hints:
Alcohol will not kill bed bugs unless it contacts them directly. Also, being highly flammable, it’s not the best thing to use. Try the EcoSmart brand bed bug spray for mattresses. Focus on the seams and tuffts, where they will hide and lay eggs, and not on the entire surface. If you use Diatomaceous Earth, make sure you use the food grade DE, NOT the pool filter grade DE. There is a huge difference, and you DO NOT want the pool grade used in your home. Place the DE in cracks and crevices, as that is where the bed bugs will hide.
Also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, but mattress and box spring encasements for every bed. Be sure to get those with a BugLock seal – they have been tested and are guaranteed not to let bed bugs out or in if used properly.
I applaud your efforts to provide green tips designed to control a bed bug infestation and would like to add to the information and clarify some points. Dryers are an excellent method to kill bed bugs – in particular bed bug eggs. Do make sure that it is high heat (120 F) and if the item is thick, e.g. comforter, increase the length of time in the dryer on high. Mattress encasements must be labelled for ‘bed bugs’ – as some zippers on encasements for dust mites are not small enough. The nymphs are able to climb right between the tines of the zipper. Alcohol is a contact killer only – there is no residual effect, so spraying your carpet or furnishings will kill the live bed bugs if sufficient quantity lands on the bug. It will not kill the bed bug eggs. Application of diatomaceous earth (DE) requires safeguards – air tight eye protection and proper respirator (HEPA filters). Please do not sprinkle on household surfaces – the dust will be airborne and you will breath it in. Correct application is a ‘blushing’ in crevices where movement will not kick the dust into air. Bed bugs are bad enough – be good to yourself and do not jeopardize your health with your treatment methdos. One last point – along with education about the signs of bed bugs (fecal stains and cast skins) – early detection is the most important factor to limit the money and time it takes to rid your home of these pests. Thank you for allowing me to add my voice. Ken. Disclaimer: I own and operate a bed bug dog service, Bed Bug Mutts, in Maple Ridge BC Canada.