Bed bugs, known in the scientific world as “cimex lectularius,” are the fastest-growing pest control emergency in the developed world. One in five Americans either has had the uninvited guests, or knows someone who has, which means the problem isn’t going away. Before you begin to hermetically seal your home and burn all your belongings, there are little-known facts about these blood suckers that can help us exterminate them — at least from your home.
In SciShow’s video, “7 Things You Should Know About Bed Bugs,” host Michael Aranda explains the blood-feeding insects survive on the blood of mammals and insects, but they prefer human blood. A colony of bed bugs can have thousands of individuals, and we can be host to them without knowing it. Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed once they’re fully grown.
To identify one, we must know where they hide — just about everywhere. The adult bed bug is five millimeters long, and as narrow as a piece of paper, crawling up to 100 feet in a night to find a meal. This means bed bugs will hide behind light switches on the wall; underneath peeling paint and wallpaper; or in the gap between the walls and baseboards. They can ultimately be just about anywhere else — they’ve even been found living behind a prosthetic leg.
A cool bedroom is an ideal sleeping environment, and also an ideal space for bed bugs. Eggs and adults will die in under ten minutes if they’re exposed to temperatures about 115 degrees fahrenheit. Decades ago, beds with janky metal frames were popular because you could rub them in kerosene and light them on fire. This would essentially take care of any bed bugs living inside of them.
Bed bugs can still be killed, to a certain extent, via steam treatments. Hot steam will kill bed bugs and their eggs, but the steam needs to come in direct contact with the bugs to kill them first. This can be a challenge if they’re living inside your mattress. Bed bug-proof mattresses are available, which will allow you to wrap your bed in airtight plastic, and starve out the bugs, but that can take up to a year.
Other methods include sealing the cracks and crevices where bed bugs like to hide. This will cut down on the number of locations they can lay their eggs. Also, placing linens and furniture in the freezer for a couple of weeks can freeze the bugs to death.
If you think you have bed bugs, or are currently dealing with an infestation, it’s best to call your local pest control expert to properly assess the situation.