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How to Kill Bed Bugs

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Bed bug picture -- a picture of bed bugs in mattress seam

Bed Bugs in a Mattress Seam

© University of Sydney Department of Entymology
Continued from page 4

It's tough to kill bed bugs on your own; learn some tips on how to avoid and kill bed bugs while traveling, and how to uninvite them permanently if they want to stay for dinner once you get home. Key: think professional exterminators before spending big bucks battling the buggers with sprays. Let's look at some of the bugs' habits before learning about how to kill bed bugs.

How They Travel

The bugs hitch rides in baggage, sleep sacks or sleeping bags. They jump from hotel to hostel to home on humans -- someone brought 'em to your lodging, albeit accidentally. And they all want to be exchange bugs and travel to new homes internationally.

A Bug's Life

You'll likely notice bites before and if you see the biters themselves, unless you see the telltale streaks on your sheets; the bugs are nocturnal and they hide out unless feeding.

And they're tough customers. According to the National Pest Management organization, they can live more than a year without eating; taking a vacation in hopes the bugs will then move out won't work. They can take the temps, too; the bugs are okay with freezing to Fahrenheit 113.

How to Avoid and How to Kill Bed Bugs While Traveling

If you see bug sign when you get into a hotel or hostel room, consider grabbing your stuff before bugs hop on and cruising straight back to the desk to ask for a new room, and tell 'em why. (Read more about what some desk clerks' responses to a bug claim may be.)

Even if you don't see sign, don't put your backpack on the bed or other furniture in order to lessen chances of the bugs hopping on. If the room has a suitcase stand, use it.

If you've got bites, or you know you've spent time in a room harboring the bugs, vacuum your suitcases, backpack, camera bag -- leave no seam unsucked. Wash everything you own in the hottest water possible to boil the little biters.

    How to avoid and kill bed bugs while traveling - a checklist

    • Look for bug sign in your room; ask for another room or leave
    • Don't put luggage on any furniture (yeah, the tub works)
    • Kill bed bugs by washing everything in hot, hot water and vacuuming your bags inside and out, including seams

How to Kill Bed Bugs at Home

The same rules on how to kill bed bugs while traveling apply at home: vacuum your living space relentlessly, including furniture, changing the bag outside (hatchlings can wiggle through a stitch hole). Wash or dry clean everything moveable (clothes, bedspreads, throw rugs) in hottest water. If one happy couple escapes, though, it's all for naught.

Baumann points out that people pay plenty trying various home remedies that don't go so well, and recommends that you bite the bullet and foot the bill for an exterminator to begin with.

    How Exterminating Works

    The exterminator will have instructions regarding jobs you should complete prior to his arrival.

    • You may have to:
        - Pile up furniture.
        - Remove light switchplates (the bugs hide back there).

    • You may want to:
        - Toss mattresses.
        - Caulk wall and wood cracks (they hide there, too) -- get caulk and a caulking gun at a hardware store and practice using a finger to smooth the goop flat against surfaces (easy).

    • Do:
        - Completely strip all bedding (get to bare mattress). Craft says to fold bedding in on itself to contain the bugs; wash it or dry clean at high temps. Interesting factoid: Craft says that in hot desert areas, folks with infestations often hang bedding and clothes in the blistering sun -- remember that temps over 113 kill bed bugs.

      Orkin exterminators will use hot, dry steam to kill bed bugs in places you touch; chemicals are used to kill bed bugs in other spots by flushing the bugs out for steaming.

    Lastly, don't open travel bags on home furniture, like beds, and store them away from furniture (like in an outside shed) and any bugs who've hitchhiked may not get the chance to move in.

The bugs now live in all 50 states -- you can certainly get them at home without having traveled, too. Craft says Orkin has exterminated the bloody beasts in all states but North and South Dakota.

Once the mass slaughter is over and you're bug free, don't let the bugs bite again by keeping an eye out for the little pests next time you travel, and use the tips above to keep them out of the house when you get home.

Add Your Own Advice

Had to murder these menaces at home? Add your advice on how to get rid of 'em!

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