According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many countries including the United States and Canada are seeing a large increase in bedbug infestations. With their long life span and ability to go months without food, getting rid of them can be challenging. There are many products on the market that claim to protect you from these little bloodsuckers. How effective are they?

Mattress Covers

There are covers available that will completely encase your mattress. Any bugs already in your mattress won’t be able to get out to feed, and those outside won’t be able to get in. Unfortunately, bedbugs can live for over a year without feeding, so if you may want to cover the encasement with a washable mattress cover, which can be removed without fear of releasing trapped bedbugs. This will certainly take care of any bedbugs living in your mattress; it is likely, however, that if you have an infestation they are tucked away in cracks in your plaster walls, behind rips in wallpaper, in your bed frame or even behind electrical outlets. In other words, mattress covers are only one small part of the solution.

Traps

With bedbug infestations being regularly reported in the news, it isn’t unusual for people to assume that their bites are the result of bedbugs. It is impossible to tell just by looking if a bite was caused by a bedbug, mosquito or any other number of blood-sucking pests. Because dealing with bedbugs requires a great deal of work, you’ll want to be sure that it is, in fact, bedbugs that you’re dealing with. Sticky traps won’t eliminate the problem, but they may catch one of the culprits for identification.

If the sticky traps fail to turn up anything, you may want to invest in a bed leg trap. Bedbugs climb into these dishes so they can climb up to their lunch (you). Once inside, however, they can’t navigate the slippery surface and are trapped. Bedbugs are attracted to both heat and carbon dioxide; they are also more active at night, so whatever type of trap you use, make sure you locate it close to where you will be sleeping.

Cold and Heat

Both extreme heat and cold will kill bedbugs. Unfortunately, the temperature must be very low (freezing or below) or very high (over 140 F) for several hours, preferably days. These temperature extremes can damage household contents, are difficult to maintain and may not kill all bug eggs. As part of an integrated approach with other methods, however, heat and cold can be quite effective for linens and clothing. Commercial hot-steam machines can also be used to kill bugs and eggs in cracks and crevices. Steam cannot be used on electrical outlets or appliances.

General Cleanliness

Bedbugs feed on humans, not dirt. You can scrub and disinfect all you like, but as long as you are there to feed on, the bedbugs won’t budge. Removing clutter where bedbugs can hide, however, can be helpful. Regular and thorough vacuuming can also help to rid yourself of both the bugs and their eggs, but only if you empty the vacuum completely after each use. You must also make sure that the filter and attachments are completely bug- and egg-free or you will actually spread the infestation each time you vacuum. Placing all the attachments in a plastic bag and putting the bag in the freezer for several days should kill any remaining bugs.

Pesticides

If the above nonchemical measures have not eliminated your unwelcome visitors you may want to turn to insecticides. Unfortunately, these remedies are not foolproof either. Bomb-style foggers will not work against bedbugs since they do not penetrate the cracks and crevices in which they hide.

Pyrethrin sprays are the most commonly used insecticide to eliminate bedbugs and have historically been very effective when applied by professionals. Although there is evidence that some bedbug populations have developed resistance to pyrethrin, it is quite effective in most cases as long it is diligently applied to every spot the bugs may be hiding. The nontoxic diatomaceous earth is also quite effective when it comes in contact with the bedbugs but since it is in a powder form, it is difficult to get into every crevice.

Being thorough is the key to dealing with a bedbug infestation. Treating one room in a building will not be effective, nor will treating only the rooms and not the contents. But, with a combination of treatments and methodical application, bedbugs can be eliminated from your home.