As a kid,you may have found the nursery rhyme “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite” endearing. That is probably because you didn’t know bedbugs were real and could be hiding in your mattress. These tiny critters may go unnoticed until bed time when they steal out of cracks, crevices and the folds of your mattress and bedding and head for the nearest warm body for a tasty meal. Bedbugs bite humans, and animals, to obtain blood so they can lay eggs and continue their species. If just the thought of bugs in your bed and furniture sets you skin to crawling, you need to know how to identify bedbugs and how to get rid of them.

What are the signs of bedbugs?

The first sign that you may have bedbugs is waking up with mysterious bites on areas that are exposed during sleeping. Initially the bites appear as tiny, painless, red dots that later turn into itchy welts. They resemble flea bites, but flea bites are typically localized to areas around the ankle, while bedbug bites can be found in any area where your skin is exposed during sleeping.

Although you may not see bedbugs in your home because they typically hide away in dark crevices and cracks during the day, they do leave behind some distinct signs. Watch for these signs of bedbugs in your home.

  • Red spots or specks on bedding. These are from tiny drops of blood released when the bedbug is crushed.
  • Tiny dark spots the size of a period. (.)These are bedbug excrement and are often visible on light-colored sheets and bedding.
  • Tiny white or yellowish skins shed as the bedbug enters a new nymph stage.
  • Live bugs that scurry for cover in the light.

Signs Your Home Has Bedbugs

Bedbugs do live in mattresses and bedding, giving rise to the name bedbug, but that isn’t the only place you will find them. Bedbugs can be found in furniture, in carpets, in stuffed animals and other fabrics. In a severe infestation they can even be found hiding under wallpaper, behind the molding or window trim or evening piles of paper.

Watch for signs of bedbugs in all area of your home, especially if you have traveled to a location that is known to have bedbug problems. Bedbugs can be introduced to your home via luggage or even clothing that has been in an infested area. Other suspect items include used furniture.

How to Identify Bedbugs

Adult bedbugs are small, oval insects about the size of an apple seed. They range in color from light to dark brown and may appear swollen and red if they have fed recently. Eggs and nymphs are much smaller and more difficult to see, but can often be spotted with a flashlight and magnifying glass. Eggs are white or nearly translucent and the size of a sesame seed. The bugs go through several nymph stages before they reach maturity, getting larger and darker in color at each stage. Knowing how to spot and identify bedbugs in each stage is important as an infestation typically contains bedbugs in all stages of growth.

Best Way to Get Rid of Bedbugs

The best way to get rid of bed bugs depends in part on how serious an infestation you are dealing with. If bedbugs are isolated to one piece of furniture or item of clothing that has recently been brought into your home the job is much easier than if bedbugs have lived and bred in your mattress for weeks or months undetected. Try these methods of getting rid of bedbugs on your own.

  • Vacuum the area thoroughly making sure to get into all cracks, crevices and hiding places. Remove the bag, seal it tightly in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the outside trash. Clean your vacuum cleaner to make sure there are no remaining bedbugs.
  • Wash the infected item or clothing in the washer set to the highest wash temperature. Dry it in the dryer for at least 30 minutes on the highest heat setting.
  • Place small items such as pillows, clothing or stuffed animals that are infested with bedbugs in a plastic bag and seal it tightly. Place the bag in the freezer at 0 degrees for at least 4 days.
  • Use a steam cleaner to clean mattresses, couches and other furniture using care to get into all seams and folds where bedbugs can hide.

The best way to get rid of bed bugs in a serious infestation may be to call in the professionals particularly if your home efforts have failed. While you could try pesticides specifically labeled for bedbugs, these remedies may pose a risk to young children and pets if they are not handled properly and may not provide a long-term solution to your issues with bedbugs. A professional has the experience and expertise to banish bedbugs from your home for good.