Our expert guide on how to get rid of bed bugs, and prevent them from returning

We understand how stressful it is to find you have a bed bug problem at home. Most people want to get rid of bed bugs as fast as possible. However, knowing how bed bugs live inside a home can help you from making mistakes in treating them. By not carrying out treatment effectively an infestation is unlikely to be resolved fully. Only a few bed bugs need to be left alive for the problem to return.

Our expert pest controllers have answered the most common questions they’re asked by people wanting to get rid of bed bugs.

A bed bug problem can be treated effectively. It’s important though that the correct steps are taken for the treatment that’s being used.

Pest controllers in London getting rid of bed bugs

How did I get bed bugs in my home?

Bed bugs can’t fly. They will usually enter someone’s home either by crawling or being transported there by someone.

If bed bugs crawl to someone’s home this usually happens from an adjoining property where there’s already an infestation. Structural voids as well as internal connections between properties, such as plumbing or electrical services, allow bed bugs to move easily.

Passive transport of bed bugs can happen. Firstly, when items such as second hand furniture are moved into a home. Or secondly, when someone has stayed in an infested property.

Bed bugs from hotels, hostels or other properties can inadvertently find their way into luggage. They get released into a house when the person unpacks. Transfer of bed bugs in this way is one reason why they’ve been so successful. They can be found in every country throughout the world.

How can I prevent getting bed bugs in the future?

If you’re moving second hand items into your home, such as furniture, checked it thoroughly beforehand.

Be aware if you’re staying overnight in a place where you’ve seen or suspect bed bugs. Care must be taken when unpacking luggage at home so bed bugs aren’t released. All items of clothing should be washed at 60 degrees, or placed in a plastic bags and tightly secured before having them dry cleaned.

Carefully check items of luggage before storing them. Spray them with an insecticide if you see or suspect bed bugs are in there.

Why do I have bed bugs, my home is clean?

The risk of bed bug infestation is not related to hygiene or cleanliness. Although the highest infestation levels are more likely to occur in homes with less regular or lower standards of cleanliness, bed bugs can still live in clean properties. Once they’ve found their way in, and found a food source they’ll become well established.

Is my dog or cat responsible for bringing bed bugs into my home?

Cats or dogs are unlikely to bring bed bugs into a home. The body shape of a bed bug usually prevents them from being able to feed on pets. Their flat, disc shape body makes it very hard for them to move through the fur of most mammals.

The body shape of a flea on the other hand, which is narrow, means they can move around on cats and dogs with relative ease.

What diseases can I get from bed bugs?

Bed bugs are not responsible for transmitting any diseases to humans. However, their bites can cause severe skin irritation in some people. Reaction to being bitten can result in lack of sleep and fatigue or reduced energy levels.

Why do only I get bitten even though I sleep with my partner?

It’s possible that one person sleeps very soundly, without making much movement, while their partner is more restless. Someone moving around in bed would disturb bed bugs so they’d be more likely to bite the person moving less.

In addition, people react differently to being bitten. While one person develops bite marks, someone else might be less sensitive and not react at all. Therefore, two people sharing a bed could both be getting bitten but only one of them shows signs of it happening.

What should I do if I find bed bugs in my home?

Bed bugs will not go away on their own. They can exist for many months without feeding. If conditions are right they will breed and the infestation will gradually become worse.

You’re strongly recommended to arrange for a professional pest controller to get rid of a bed bug infestation. Although chemical products are available, the success rate of DIY treatments is low and the infestation usually continues.

When bed bugs are discovered, disturbing them should be avoided as much as possible. Disturbing them is likely to encourage them to disperse. As soon as bed bugs are distributed widely throughout a property the pest control process becomes more complicated and they become harder to get rid of.

The easiest control process is when the infestation is recent and localised to a single place.

How fast will a bed bug infestation grow?

A female bed bug that has a food source, and a room temperature of around 18c, will lay 2 or 3 eggs every week. They take approximately 3 weeks to hatch. A newly hatched bed bug will reach adulthood in 3 to 4 months, when they will start breeding and begin laying their own eggs. Growth rate can be faster if the temperature is right. An adult female bed bug can lay up to 250 eggs in her lifetime.

Bed bugs can go without food for several months. Some sources believe that in cool conditions bed bugs can live for up to 2 years without feeding.

Can I get rid of bed bugs myself rather than calling a pest controller?

A fully trained and experienced pest controller is strongly recommended be used to get rid of a bed bug infestation. The knowledge gained from treating bed bug infestations in a wide range of properties is an essential part of a successful treatment. A good, qualified pest controller will provide a detailed assessment of the problem, give suitable treatment options and clearly outline the steps to be taken by the homeowner or tenants to assist the process.

The primary risk of homeowners, or tenants, attempting to treat a bed bug infestation themselves is that unless the treatment is completely successful, surviving bugs are likely to disperse from the area that’s treated. By finding new hiding places, where they can breed, the infestation will continue. Encouraging bed bugs to disperse throughout a property makes it harder to treat as the infestation grows.

Trying to save money by not using an experienced pest controller at the start of the process could increase the cost of engaging them in the future.

There are no rules that prevent someone from attempting to treat a bed bug infestation themselves with an appropriate insecticide. However, the success rate of DIY bed bug treatment is known to be low. DIY insecticides are far less concentrated to those available to professional pest controllers.

In most cases only a well-informed and thorough control effort will be effective against bed bugs.

How many rooms need to be treated if I have bed bugs?

The number of rooms that need to be treated to eradicate bed bugs is dependent on the extent of the infestation. For example, a recent and localised problem could mean that only one room needs to be treated. However, a well established and widely distributed problem is likely to mean several rooms need to be treated.

As a general rule bathrooms and kitchens are much less likely to need treatment, especially if they have a hard floor rather than being carpeted.

An experienced pest controller will assess the extent of the problem and assess the likelihood of bed bugs dispersing and find new hiding places in other rooms.

What’s the best treatment for getting rid of bed bugs?

There isn’t a universal best treatment method for bed bugs. The treatment that’s required will depend on the type of property, the extent of the infestation, as well as the available budget. There are different treatments available, including insecticides and bed bug heat treatments. A combination of chemical and non-chemical treatment can also be effective.

The treatment itself isn’t necessarily the most important factor when determining how effective it it. Arguably the most important factor is the way the treatment is carried out specific to the extent of the infestation that’s present. This is why treatment by a professional pest controller is strongly recommended.

With our specialist heat treatment an infestation takes a couple of days to eradicate. The amount of time it takes is dependent on the size and condition of the property.

Chemical treatments take much longer to be fully effective and tend to disrupt people’s lifestyles a fair amount. They require up to 5 weeks to be fully effective. During this time people living in the property must commit to a strict washing and storage regime.

Find out more on the chemical and heat treatment options we provide.

Are chemical treatments for bed bugs hazardous to children or pets?

The chemical treatments used by professional pest controllers in the UK to treat bed bugs are non-hazardous to humans and pets, as long as they are applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. The insecticide treatments we use have been tested and are regulated by the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) and are approved for use by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) and National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA).

It isn’t necessary to vacate a home when we carry out a chemical treatment. Chemicals are sprayed only where bed bugs will hide, such as mattresses, bed frames and the perimeter of a room. The insecticide will remain on treated areas rather than being suspended in the air where they could otherwise be inhaled.

Non-chemical heat treatments can be provided if a homeowner or tenant has concerns about the use of insecticides in their home.

If I get rid of bed bugs, how likely is it for them to return?

As long as the infestation has been treated correctly and all bed bugs have been eradicated it should stay bed bug free for an extended period of time. However, if the treatment is not thorough there’s a very good chance that any remaining bed bugs will reproduce and reestablish themselves.

In the case of bed bugs returning to a home soon after treatment, and when adjoining homes are suspected of being the source, an organised assessment and treatment of all connected homes will be needed.

The other thing to consider is that bed bugs could be reintroduced to a home in the same way they arrived in the first instance. If the original source is known, or suspected, then care must be taken to avoid the same passive transport. Friends or family members should be encouraged to seek professional help if their property is suspected of being the source of bed bug transfer to your home.

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