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What Are Bedbugs?
The ancient bedtime verse “sleep tight, and don’t let the bugs bite” may, in reality, be hitting the bull’s eye more than many people realize. These obnoxious and notorious “travelers” are a significant problem and although their incidence declined during the 20th century, they have been on the rise again since 1995. They can be transported inadvertently by innocent persons via luggage, bedding, clothing, furniture, etc.
Despite their small size, bedbugs are arguably the kings of their field. They can infest an entire apartment building or hotel, and they have been in the business of being a parasitic insect since ancient times. Bedbugs are mentioned in medieval European texts and classical Greek writings. 
Bedbugs are wingless insects of brownish color. Their sizes range from a quarter inch to a half inch in length, more or less similar to ticks in appearance. They appear flat and oval-shaped – like an apple seed.  They belong to a family of small parasitic insects known as Cimicidae, all members of which feed exclusively on mammalian blood. After a blood meal, their bodies bulge and their color changes from brownish to reddish.  Bedbugs are so named because of their distinctive taste to live nearby or inside of beds and beddings and to stay active at night to feed on their hosts – who are usually unaware of their presence.
Why Bedbugs Need to Be Eliminated
Bedbugs adeptly utilize their beak-like mouth to pierce human skin and, consequently, draw out blood for their nutrition. Nasty bedbug bites are among the reasons why bedbugs have gained their notoriety. Some people do not react to bedbug bites,  but for those who do react to them, bedbugs can be a terrible pest infestation.
Bedbug bites usually manifest as a swollen, white ridge or wheal on the bite location of the skin. They may be unnoticeable for others, whereas in some, they may be characterized by pronounced itching to the extent that severe hypersensitivity allergic reactions clinically manifest in the form of asthma, hives, and the like.
A few people suffer also from a form of anxiety disorder from bedbug bites, where they keep on imagining being bitten even when it is not happening, and this leads to their being anxious. Their anxiety in turn may result in sleeplessness, which could further affect their overall well-being.
Why Bedbugs Are So Hard to Eliminate
As mentioned earlier, there is more to these pests that meets the naked eye. They are so sturdy, extremely persistent, and tolerant to any constantly changing environment, that surviving for extended periods (a year or perhaps more) without feeding on a blood source can seemingly be a walk on the park for these arthropods. Taking their small size more likely as an advantage rather than a crippling weakness, bedbugs can easily hide in cracks and crevices and rarely come out from their hideouts in daylight. This entails utmost difficulty for those attempting to seek and exterminate these insects.
Bedbugs are wingless, so they cannot fly nor jump like fleas. However, they can move at astonishing speed and can crawl on floors, carpets, mattress seams, sheets, and furniture with ease. Furthermore, female bedbugs can lay up to 5 to 7 eggs (or more) per week (or 200–500 eggs in her life if fed). These eggs hatch in a short span of time, probably about ten days. This enables these insects to create a massive strong army of brown “bed criminals” in a very short time.
A strong chemcial insecticide is typically used by professionals to eliminate and control bedbugs, but there are several other effective ways to get the task done without the use of insecticides or any poisonous method. In addition, the use of pesticides can be very problematic: First, these intense chemicals may pose possible health risks for both people and pets, including cancer and acute neurotoxicity. Second, using pesticides repeatedly against bedbugs may produce pesticide resistance and dispersal of these insects.
17 Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Bedbugs
It is often advised to do as many of these as is feasible. This is a battle in which you want to do everything you can to win.
1. Physical Removal.
Isolating bedbugs, along with preventing these brown bugs from spreading further, is one good step to start with. Cracks and crevices of bed frames should be examined, especially if the frame is wood. It also pays well to inspect cracks and corners of dressers; seams, tufts, skirts, and crevices beneath cushions of upholstered chairs and sofas; cracks in wood molding; ceiling-wall junctures; and behind picture frames, switch plates, and outlets.
Bedbugs can (and should) be forced to get out from their hideouts. This can be done by using either a putty knife or a playing card. Once bedbugs have been forced out of their dwelling place such as cracks and crevices, one can catch them with a sticky packing tape or crush them in paper towels.
Another great tactic here is the use of special “climb up traps” for bed legs. The bugs climb into them and cannot get out. These are used (and praised!) by professionals to test for infestation plus catch the bugs – and are cheap. Amazon link.
2. Diatomaceous earth. The powder of diatomaceous earth, a kind of soft sedimentary rock, can be used in a dry environment to control bedbugs. The dust-like powder of this rock can stay on the bedbugs’ outer layer of exoskeleton. This disrupts the layer and dehydrates the insects. Also, upon walking on diatomaceous earth, the bedbugs carry the diatomaceous earth along with them through their legs and they lick it off. The sharp silica damages their insides and kills them. Link to view: purchase diatomaceous earth on Amazon.
3. Kidney bean leaves. In Eastern Europe, kidney bean leaves are spread on the floor of a bedbug-infested room to “trap” bedbugs. The leaves are destroyed then after. The mechanism behind this practice can be attributed to the microscopic hooked hairs (i.e., trichomes) on the bean leaf surfaces that impale the feet of bedbugs. When impaled by the trichomes, the bedbugs are unable to free themselves despite their struggle.
4. Pyrethrum. Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide (extract) that can be obtained from the dried flower heads of plants Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and C. coccineum. These perennial plants are themselves called “pyrethrum” and have daisy-like flowers. The refined form of the “pyrethrum extract” is pyrethrin. Pyrethrin attacks the nervous systems of bedbugs and is thus toxic to them.
5. A fungus called Beauveria bassiana. Beauveria bassiana is a fungus that can act as a parasite to insects, thus killing or at least disabling them. Because of such, this fungus is considered a “natural insecticide.” It grows in soil and is environmentally safe to use for bedbug control. A 2012 US study from the Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, had determined that B. bassiana is virulent against bedbugs and causes the death of these insects at 3–5 days following short-term exposure to spray residues. This fungus has also some “pre-lethal” effects such as reduced feeding, mobility, and fecundity.
6. Essential oils. Essential oils like tea tree oil, manuka oil, or oregano oil appear to be effective in alleviating itching and swelling from bedbug bites. As bedbug killers, they are effective too. Essential oils “suffocate” the insects by blocking their spiracles (the external openings of the bedbugs’ respiratory system). Tea tree oil in particular can be combined with water into a spray bottle. Then, the mixture is used to lightly mist one’s furniture, sheets, pillows, or any areas where bedbugs have been spotted. Cedar oil and orange oil are natural remedies to eradicate bedbugs. These oils only work however upon contact on the insects (i.e., contact kill).
7. Heat treatment. Applying heat from blow dryers kills bedbugs after 30 seconds of continuous contact. Where blow dryers or washers are unsuitable for some items, these items can be “de-infested” by enclosing them in a plastic and keeping them outdoors in a hot, sunny area where the sun’s heat can toast the bugs. Try also airing the beds, mattresses, or moveable furniture out in the bright sunlight. Expose surfaces and hidden areas to the heat emitted by the sun to kill also the eggs. Sustained steam treatment can also eliminate bedbugs at all stages, but this method can sometimes be ineffective since the bugs are good hiders – and may not be suitable for all furnishings.
8. Cold treatment. Cold treatment is as cheap as heat treatment. Both heat and cold treatments are effective against bedbugs because these insects are susceptible to temperature extremes and require a stable temperature without airflow. A simple means to control bedbugs using cold treatment is just to situate a few desktop fans on the floor around the infested bed or area and to let airflow circulate continuously in the area for at least 3–4 hours daily. Alternatively, an air conditioner can be turned on to cool and dry the air.
9. Double Sided Tape. One of the more unusual tactics used against bedbugs is the use of double sided tape to create “bug free zones” – as they cannot cross the sticky barrier! Some ideas seen are to put the tape on the legs of beds and even around the edge of mattresses.
10. Clean and disinfect. Although bedbugs are not indicators of poor sanitation, eliminating all the clutter to minimize the possible places where they can hide can be a very good idea. If possible, all items suspected of having bedbugs should be washed in very hot water (140 °F) and dried for at least 20 min. When laundering is not efficient or possible, items such as bedding, toys, shoes, and clothing can be placed in a clothes dryer set at high heat (so long as this will not damage the clothing of course) for 10 to 20 min to kill bedbugs.
11. Vacuuming. Carpets, floors, furniture, any crack or crevice, bed frames, or any place that appears to be a bedbug hideout should be vacuumed – even as often as every day. One of the things that make bedbugs detestable is that they and their eggs can be very hard to dislodge, so be certain that the end of the suction wand should be moved and scraped along infested places. Note that the vacuum contents should be disposed of in a sealed trash bag or the vacuum or seal should be emptied outside the house.
12. Sealing cracks and crevices. One technique to get rid of a pest is to destroy its hiding place. Apply caulk to seal crevices and joints in baseboards and gaps on shelving or cabinets, and repair cracks in plaster. Tighten and fill the cracks in the house.
13. Disposal of infested furnishings. Most of the time, items or furnishings need not be thrown away. Discarding items such as a mattress or a couch is of course costly. However, heavy bedbug infestation necessitates so, especially if the item is with bugs and eggs in already hard-to-reach areas and the item is in poor condition.
14. Scented dyer sheets. The scent from scented dryer sheets is reported to have a repelling effect against bedbugs. Spread scented dryer sheets over sofas and mattresses. Have around eight to ten scented dryer sheets between box springs and mattress, and put the same amount of dryer sheets on the surface of the mattress.
15. Cleaning agents, bleach, and lavender. As mentioned earlier, diatomaceous earth is abrasive in nature against bedbugs. Certain cleaning agents contain diatomaceous earth and can kill bedbugs by dehydrating these insects. The regular use of strong bleaching agents to clean the floors and walls can work too. Lavender sachets have become popular nowadays; lavender scent repels bedbugs and thus keeps them away.
16. Alcohol. The use of sprayed isopropyl alcohol on walls, floors, mattress, and furniture can be effective against bedbugs. It kills bedbugs upon contact and dehydrates the eggs. Remember that alcohol can stain and damage wood surfaces finished with lacquer or varnish such as in furniture. Because of this, it is advisable to test first a small portion of the furniture to evaluate if alcohol reacts to it unfavorably.
17. Sealing Your Mattress And Box Spring In A Special Bedbug-Proof Cover. This is a key tactic. A properly sealed mattress cover will prevent the little monsters from getting in or out. Even if you don’t have bedbugs, it is advisable to do this because then if you have a house guest who inadvertently picked them up at a hotel, your mattress will be protected. I’ve researched these mattress covers and picked out one that got really great 5-star reviews on Amazon. You’ll also need one for the box-spring and I’ve located one that got top reviews here.
FINAL THOUGHT: ISOLATE YOUR BED
A good approach to getting rid of bedbugs is to think first about isolating your bed and turning it into a “bedbug free zone”. A good approach to this might be
1. Thoroughly wash and dry all bedding on high heat if possible.
2. Vacuum the mattress and box spring thoroughly and encase in bedbug-proof cover. If these are badly infested, consider buying new and encasing immediately.
3. Vacuum / clean with alcohol the bed frame.
4. Place climb-up traps under bed legs.
5. Replace bedding, taking great care for none of it to touch the walls or floor.
After this, you can move on to the other treatments for the rest of the house.
If these remedies are not sufficient for getting rid of bedbugs, professional pest control is of course advised – but this will almost certainly involve chemical treatments – leaving a low-level toxic residue in your home. You want to get rid of the bugs without harming yourself.
Do you have any other tips on bedbug removal, or experiences to share? Please let us know in the comments!
 Potter M. F. (2010). Bed bugs. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://www2.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef636.asp
 Preventing and getting rid of bed bugs safely: A guide for property owners, managers and tenants. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf
 Bed bug. Wikipedia. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_bug
 Bed bug control techniques. Wikipedia. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_bug_control_techniques
 Szyndler M. W., Haynes K. F., Potter M. F., Corn R. M., & Loudon C. (2013). Entrapment of bed bugs by leaf trichomes inspires microfabrication of biomimetic surfaces. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 10(83). doi: 10.1098/rsif.2013.0174. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/83/20130174
 Pyrethrum. WebMD. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-387-PYRETHRUM.aspx?activeIngredientId=387&activeIngredientName=PYRETHRUM
 Barbarin A. M., Jenkins N. E., Rajotte E. G., & Thomas M. B. (2012). A preliminary evaluation of the potential of Beauveria bassiana for bed bug control. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 111(1): 82–85. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2012.04.009. Retrieved 3 July 2013 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22555012
Article by Dan Ablir for herbs-info.com © 2013
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