Over the last few years it has become fashionable to buy second hand furniture. This may be due to the increase in garage sales or the ‘recycling’ culture that we now seem to have embraced. If you do buy second hand furniture, you may find that you are getting more than you bargained for in the form of little hitch hikers that will love your new home, just as much as you do. These uninvited guests could in fact be bed bugs! You may have thought that these creatures had been consigned to the Victorian age of a Charles Dickens novel. Well, like most things these days, bed bugs are making a come back tour and it could be to your house. As a result of this, you would be very wise to carefully inspect any second hand items that you buy, especially if you are not sure about their origin. This is the only way to ensure bed bugs prevention in the home.
This is not the only way that bed bugs can get into your home. Bed bugs are found wherever people sleep in a property. They can be carried into the home on luggage brought in after a stay in an infested hotel. In rare cases they can also be brought in on a person’s clothes. Bed bugs are nocturnal and spend most of their time hiding in areas such as floor cracks, under carpets and behind loose wallpaper or pictures, loose skirting boards and door frames, and any other structures found in infested rooms. They usually appear in the seams, piping and buttons of bed mattresses. Modern buildings unfortunately allow bed bugs to easily move between joined houses and apartments. This spreads the problem away from the original infestation. Key to examining your furniture is being able to identify if bed bugs are present. Bed bug identification requires knowledge of what bed bugs look like.
A picture of bed bugs can help here. They are wingless, flattened oval shaped insects that are about 6 mm long. They are pale brown in colour if they have not eaten, but after eating blood they become a more reddish brown colour. There are large antennae on the head and the mouth parts are specially shaped for piercing the skin. Young bed bugs are called nymphs. They are basically small versions of the adult, which grow by shedding their skin and expanding in size. This can happen up to five times before it becomes an adult.
Young nymphs are nearly colourless but become brown in colour as they mature. An interesting fact is that bed bugs can crawl up vertical surfaces such as wood, paper and plaster but cannot climb smooth polished surfaces. Bed bugs only feed on blood. They usually feed every three to four days and generally only when it is dark. They prefer human blood, but it has been found that they can live on blood from other animals such as rabbits, rodents and even dogs and cats. Unfortunately they can survive up to a year without feeding, which adds to the difficulty in eliminating them.
Seeing bed bugs in your room is the usual way that people identify that they have a problem. Other signs of bed bugs are the insect’s faeces on bed linen and bed frames as well as near cracks and crevices. If there are large numbers of bed bugs in the room there is also usually a rather unpleasant smell of almonds. The standard bed bug treatment for infested houses is the use of an insecticide approved for use against bed bugs. The treatment needs to be very thorough. The insecticide needs to be applied to all cracks and crevices where bed bugs might be hiding. You can dilute the insecticide with water for spraying onto mattresses.
Insecticide dusts should not be applied to beds. All bed linen should be washed at the hottest temperature that the material will allow. You should then avoid vacuuming for several days. It is important to check for several weeks after to ensure that the treatment has been successful. Hopefully your bed bugs extermination will be complete.