One of the most unwanted visitors to NZ’s shores is the bed bug. Historically, bed bugs were rare, but the frequency of travel has made them a more common occurrence.
There’s always that moment when you see a bite on your skin. There’s nothing you want less than a red, itchy mark, left by some unknown bug. A mosquito? A flea? Lice? You start to itch just thinking about it.
So what is a bed bug, how can you identify them, and what should you do about them?
What is a bed bug?
There are two common bed bug species in NZ, the common bed bug and the tropical bed bug. Neither carries disease, but they are annoying and difficult to eradicate. They are flattish, have no wings, are a reddish-brown colour, and are 5-6mm long (although can become 10mm long when they’ve eaten a lot). The eggs are small, about 1mm long, creamy white, and slightly curved. Bed bugs are nocturnal and hide during the day. When the sun sets, they become active, appearing from their hiding places to feed on humans and get their blood meal. They can travel up to 30m looking for dinner, through AC ducts, behind walls, and along the wiring.
How can you tell if you have bed bugs?
Bed bugs live wherever humans do. Even clean, new homes (or hotels) can host these bugs, although older homes often have more places for them to hide.
Bed bug bites look—and itch—like mosquito bites. They tend to be in a series, as the bug wanders along their meal source, snacking as they go. It can be a number of days until the bites show up.
If you suspect you have bed bugs, check your bed thoroughly for any bugs or signs of the bugs. Check for eggs, cast-off skins, or their faecal stains, which are small black or dark brown marks. Check pillows, the mattress, bed heads, and the carpet too. While bed bugs don’t have nests like bees or ants do, they do hang out together in their hiding places.
How do you remove bed bugs?
There are a lot of theories floating around the internet about how to remove bed bugs. If you have minor bed bug problems or have caught them in your luggage, washing everything in scalding hot water will do the trick. Anything more than just a few roaming around requires more effective treatment.
First, you need to find the infestation. This could be in or around the bed, in the carpet, walls, bed board, or in other soft furnishings nearby. Then, you need to use a pesticide to kill them. There are eco-friendly products too, but ensure you use a bed bug targeted product. Conventional repellents are not effective (and, why wearing mosquito repellent won’t help to deter the bugs while you sleep). Insecticide bombs do not work either, and may just spread the bugs further.
Before treatment, remove clutter from the room. Toys, furniture, and other items lying around give the bugs lots of hiding places to lay eggs and evade pesticides. Before removing anything from the remove, ensure it is free from bugs and eggs or you risk making the problem more widespread. There are a range of ways to control the infestation, including traps, heat treatment, physical bug barriers, and insecticides. Some people also opt for disposing of the bed altogether, when the bugs are obstinate and keep returning (although the bed should be treated first to avoid the infestation travelling on to someone else).
Get the professionals in
Bed bugs can be incredibly difficult to eradicate. Consider getting the professionals in for two reasons. One, the problem may not be bed bugs. There could be a few stray cockroaches and a bit of mould that looks like ‘spotting’. A professional can easily identify the problem and prevent you from treating a problem that doesn’t exist. The other reason is that bed bugs are difficult to get rid of, even if the problem seems minor.
Go hard, fast, and save yourself a lot of time, money, and worry.
There are a few strategies a professional may suggest, depending on the type of problem you have:
- Cryonite ‘snow’ which layers over the affected areas at -78oC and kills the bugs
- Bed locks which sit under the bed legs and prevent re-infestation
How to prevent bed bugs?
The best cure for bedbugs is prevention.
It’s most likely you’ll pick up bed bugs when travelling. They’ll stow away in your clothes and hitch a ride back to your place. They quickly establish themselves, with a female bed bug being able to lay up to six eggs a day, although usually, she lays only five to seven a week.
To avoid bringing home this unwanted backpacker, check beds and bedding when you arrive at a hotel. Look out for the bugs themselves and their faecal stains. Don’t put your luggage or clothing on the bed or floor, always use the provided suitcase rack.
If you think you found a bed bug, immediately wash all your clothing in the hottest wash you can. Vacuum your suitcase inside and out, and then throw out the vacuum bag, sealing it first.
Also, try to avoid buying second-hand beds and mattresses and bedding.
Got bed bugs? Contact us
If you live in Christchurch, Wellington, Marlborough or Nelson, contact us at TechClean. Call 0800101234 for a chat about the options we have available. We can eradicate your bed bug guests, and giving you a peaceful itch-free sleep.