How to get rid of bed bugs

Know your enemy

Cimex lectularius – the common bed bug

In the early 1940s bedbugs were nearly eradicated in the developed world, but since 1995 they are seeing a resurgence. This is due to a number of reasons including bed bug resistance to pesticides, bans on effective pesticides and increasing international travel.

They prefer to feed on human blood, although they have been known to feed on other animals as well. Bedbugs are nocturnal so will usually feed at night. Feeding can take from 3 – 12 minutes and takes place every 14 days. If bedbug bites become itchy antihistamines can help, a pharmacist should be able to recommend a treatment.

While it is distressing to find bedbugs they are not known as transmitters of disease. Bedbugs are not attracted to dirt or dirty people. They can be found in any type of home and are expert hitchhikers.

Bedbugs can live up to 12 months. In that time female bedbugs can lay 200-500 eggs. Bedbugs have several life stages: egg, nymph and adult. Bedbug eggs cannot be killed using any home treatment chemical. This means that at least two treatments of your home may be necessary as eggs present when you did the first treatment hatch.


Although called bed bugs, these pests do not live exclusively in beds. Bed bugs will happily travel 5 – 20 feet from where they can feed to their hiding place. This includes mattresses, bed frames, sofas, draws and cupboards, skirting boards and floorboards, cars, luggage and even electrical sockets and devices/appliances.

bed bug lifecycle

How to Spot Bed Bugs

Early detection and treatment of bedbugs makes eradicating them much easier. The larger an infestation gets the harder and more costly the treatment will become.

The best way to detect bedbugs is to look in areas where they could be hiding. It is a good idea to check for bedbugs at home when changing your sheets and also if you are staying away from home. It is useful to have a bright torch when looking for bedbugs.

What to look out for:

• Rusty stains on the sheets

• Bed bug excrement – a small, dark spot

• Eggs, eggshells and pale yellow nymph skins which are shed by juvenile bedbugs

• Live bed bugs – adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple pip

• A sign of bed bug infestation can be a smell of squashed raspberries or almonds in the room or around the mattress.

Where to look:

• The bed – a good place to start looking is around the bed. Check piping around the mattress edges, seams and labels sewn on to the mattress, the headboard and bed frame.

• Check draw joints, especially in bedside tables.

• Walls – check any gaps around the skirting board, under loose wallpaper or wall hangings.

• Sofas and chairs – check seams, frames and under cushions.

• Electrical receptacles and appliances

Bedbugs are about the width of a credit card, so they can hide in very small spaces, even in the head of a screw. If you can slide the edge of a credit card into a crack, a bedbug could be hiding there.

Sometimes the first sign of bedbugs is noticing bite marks on the skin. They look a bit like mosquito bites and are found on any skin that is exposed while sleeping. The bites are usually in a straight line. Everyone is effected differently by bedbug bites. While some people show almost no sign of being bitten others come up in painful rashes and blisters (part of an allergic reaction).

bed bug
Bed Bug. By Content Providers(s): CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack. Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
bed bug bites
Bed bug bites. By James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

How to kill bed bugs

Treating bedbugs properly is a long process which needs patience and persistence. Although chemical treatment is effective (such as smoke bombs and sprays),there are also secondary actions that should be taken to aid the process.

Early detection and treatment of bedbugs makes eradicating them much easier. The larger an infestation gets the harder and more costly the treatment will become.


Check for signs of bedbugs in all rooms the house. Infestations can spread from room to room and it is important to treat every room that is affected. Bedbugs will crawl 5 meters to a regular food source, so make sure to check everything within a 5 meter radius of the bed, chairs or areas where the infestation could be centred.


Critterkill Bed Bug Smoke Bomb

Critterkill bed bug bombs are a great way to control and remove pests from inside your home. The insecticidal smoke from the smoke bombs will kill any insect on contact making them an ideal solution for large or difficult to reach areas.

Previously only for professional use, these bed bug bombs are now available to the public. Ideal for use in the home, storage areas, commercial properties and small animal housing.

Please read all warnings, precautions and directions before using the smoke bomb.


Critterkill Bed Bug Spray

Spray them Away with Critterkill Bed Bug Killer Spray.

APPLICATION: Thoroughly spray all hard surfaces around the bed bug infestation. Ensure that no areas are missed such as small cracks and crevices where bed bugs could be inhabiting. Generously apply at a ratio of around 50 ml of product per square meter upon surfaces, or spray short burst directly at bed bugs.


Secondary actions

• Clothing and bed linen should not be treated with chemicals. Wash at 60°c or put in the dryer set to hot for 30 minutes

• Items that cannot be put in the dryer can be put in the freezer. Make sure the freezer is set to -18°C or colder and the items are left in the freezer for at least four days.

• Vacuuming can help to remove bugs (although you will not get the ones that are hiding). Make sure to vacuum crevices and seams in mattresses/furniture where bedbugs like to hide. Empty the vacuum as soon as you are done into a sealed bag and dispose of immediately.

• After treatment check for bedbugs at least every seven days.

• Treatment needs to be repeated at least twice to eradicate bedbugs. This is because the eggs are so resilient; they need to hatch before they can be killed.

Safe and Effective Furnishing Removal: Avoiding Bed Bug Spread

With the right treatment process you can save thousands and avoid replacing expensive furnishings. Carrying mattresses and other furniture out of an infected area poses a high risk of bed bugs dropping or falling off the item in other areas of the home. If you feel it is necessary to discard furniture completely, wrap the item using large wide stretch wrap usually found in the moving section of your local hardware store or inside air-tight plastic bags. Alternatively, using the resources already within the home or available at the local store, cling film can be used to help wrap and transport to a local waste site. Please be cautious that mattress bags have small holes and bed bugs will crawl out.

Monitoring and Prevention of Bed Bugs

Prevention can be difficult as bed bugs can be easily transported without being noticed. Here are a few tips for reducing the chances of a bed bug infestation:

• Inspect mattresses regularly for signs of bedbugs, this is the area they are likely to show up in early on.

• Avoid buying second hand furniture, especially mattresses or beds. Any second hand furniture that is bought should be thoroughly inspected before being brought into the home.

• If using a shared washing machine/dryer area take clothes there in a plastic bag. Once washed clothes should then be put straight back into the bag to be folded at home. If taking bedbug infested clothes to the laundromat use a different bag to take your clean clothes back home.

• De-clutter your home. Reducing the hiding places for bugs will make them easier to spot and make any future treatments much easier.

• Monitor bed bugs with the Critterkill Sticky Insect Trap

Sources:  | >  |  |