Bed bugs are annoying and multiply quickly. To get rid of the parasites, do not use insecticides and bed bug spray without professional help. Bed bugs can take up residence in your home and become unwelcome roommates. There is no reliable prevention, but there are ways to get rid of the annoying animals. For this, you should definitely contact professional pest controllers.

How do you catch bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) belong to the flat bug family. You may have brought the pests in suitcases from vacation. You can also bring bed bugs or their eggs into your home through old pieces of furniture or clothing that you buy at flea markets or on the Internet. In addition, bird nests are true breeding grounds for bed bugs. Since they can crawl along house walls, they may be able to enter your home from a nest or even from an attic inhabited by domestic pigeons.

Not only in bed: Tracking down bed bug hiding places

Preferred dwellings of bedbugs are beds and mattresses. At night, they are attracted by the warmth, smell and breath of the human body. “Bed bugs mostly move in and near the bed. Only when the infestation is very heavy does it spread,” explains pest controller Tesmer.

Then the bloodsuckers also hide behind pictures, wallpaper, baseboards, light switches and in cracks and crevices of furniture. Sockets, electrical appliances, blinds and curtains are also popular places for the pests to live, as the Federal Environment Agency explains.

Most people do not recognize an infestation until they have been bitten by the parasites. This is because bed bugs are nocturnal and hide during their rest periods. They only migrate to other rooms when there is no longer a source of food. But the UBA warns: Bed bugs are able to starve for several months. Therefore, rooms that have been unoccupied for a long time and have not been properly sanitized can also be infested with the bed bugs.

Other signs of bed bugs

There are signs you can use to tell if bed bugs have taken up residence in your home.

  • Bed Bug Road: if you have been bitten by bed bugs, a row-like arrangement will be visible, also called a bed bug road.
  • Blood trails: If a bedbug bites, blood usually comes out. A few drops may also get onto the bed sheet or bed cover.
  • Fecal traces: Small black dots may be bed bug feces.
  • Dead bed bugs (nymph skins): In addition to live bed bugs, dead animals – bed bugs live between six and twelve months – or dead nymph skins may indicate an infestation.

Treatment for bed bug bites

“Bed bugs don’t transmit diseases,” explains Tesmer, a pest control specialist. In most cases, bites can be treated with over-the-counter ointments or medications. Depending on the severity of the itch and the type of reaction, agents such as cortisone or hydrocortisone can be used. If in doubt, contact a doctor. If the affected areas are swollen, cause severe itching and form wheals, an allergic reaction could be behind it: The ingredients from the saliva released cause these symptoms. In this case, contact a doctor.

Note: Even if it is very unpleasant, you should not scratch the itchy areas. Because in the worst case, a small wound could appear, in which bacteria cause inflammation.

Bed bugs control: how to get rid of them?

It is advisable to contact a professional pest controller. This is the only way to ensure that the animals are completely eliminated and that there are no eggs or larvae left in your home. The females lay about twelve eggs per day – up to 200 in their whole life, so the spread of the parasites is very fast.

If you have the feeling that bed bugs may have taken up residence, Tesmer therefore recommends talking to an exterminator as a first step. This clarifies whether it is actually bed bugs and what measures are necessary. You can find out how a sniffer dog detects bed bug infestations here.

  • Insecticides

“We recommend spraying treatment with insecticides. Due to the long-term effect of the agents, we can thus destroy all stages of the bed bug. One problem, in fact, is the eggs of the bed bug: we can’t destroy them directly with any agent at the moment. With insecticides, we simply wait until the bed bugs hatch. They poison themselves when they come into contact with the agent,” explains the Berlin pest controller. For humans and vertebrates such as cats and dogs, the insecticides are not toxic, he says. However, allergic reactions such as coughing, and sniffles can occur.

Insecticides, even those advertised on the Internet, should not be used on your own, warns the Federal Environment Agency. Only professional pest controllers can apply them adequately. Incorrect application could even be harmful to health under certain circumstances.

  • Temperature method

As bedbugs, like other pests, are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides, pest controllers are using the so-called heat method as an alternative against the insects. This involves filling the infested room with air heated to around 122 degrees. Laboratory tests conducted by the Federal Environment Agency in Washington have shown that bed bugs die off after just 20 minutes at 113 degrees. The reason for this is that the protein compounds in the enzymes denature (convert) at this temperature and stop the metabolic processes. The animals also do not survive temperatures below -0.4 degrees.

Treatment with heat or cold is difficult, however, if it is carried out in inhabited rooms. In addition, structural damage has already occurred in old buildings when heat systems are used, the expert explains.

  • Carry out supporting measures yourself

To support the professional pest controller, you can perform small measures yourself. You can vacuum up bed bugs, for example, by vacuuming the infested bed. You should then seal the vacuum bag or collection container in a plastic bag and freeze it in the freezer.

Clothing and bedding can be washed at 140 degrees or tumble dried, also at 140 degrees, to rid them of parasites. Items such as books that should not come into contact with insecticides can be placed in the freezer for three days.

Preventing bed bugs: how to keep the parasites away

It’s difficult to prevent bed bugs. There is no guaranteed way to protect yourself from the pests. However, you can take some precautions to reduce the risk of infestation.

  • Before you check into a room at a hotel or hostel, check it for signs of bed bugs and request alternate accommodations if necessary.
  • Don’t acquire used furniture until you can rule out bed bugs at work in it through a thorough inspection. To be on the safe side, you can also put the furniture outside for two days in winter when it is freezing.
  • Do not place your suitcase on the floor or near the bed in a hotel room and keep it locked at all times.
  • Store clothing worn while traveling in airtight bags or special storage containers. Bed bugs orient themselves to human scent and therefore often nest in worn clothing.
  • Also, wash your clothes at least 140 degrees after your vacation. Proceed in the same way if you buy used clothing on the Internet or at a flea market. Anything that cannot be washed at 140 degrees in the washing machine can alternatively be frozen for 48 hours.