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Natural Remedies for Bed Bugs


After a cozy night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn, the last thing you want to wake up to is a back full of unsightly welts and sores. No matter where you lay your head, the threat of a bed bug attack is a possibility. These small nocturnal insects wait until unsuspecting victims are asleep, where they then emerge to feast upon the blood of their hosts. Before you turn to professional assistance to solve a bed bug problem within your home, a rather thin list of natural remedies may help you approach the problem.

What are Bed Bugs?

Belonging to the Cimicidae family, the bed bug is an insect that needs blood to survive. This means that they are constantly in search of warm-blooded hosts (namely humans). The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is one of the most successfully adapted of the insects to human-dominated environments [1]. With a history that dates back to ancient times, the bed bug has been around for quite some time.

Throughout the world, temperate climates serve as the best surroundings for the insect, yet other species thrive in other regions. Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color, flat in appearance, oval in shape, and wingless. Under a microscope, tiny hairs are detected, which give it a banded look.

Despite popular belief, bed bugs are quite visible to the naked eye, as some mature specimens grow 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch in length. This means their body weight doesn’t allow them to escape as quickly when one is searching for their presence. Newly hatched bed bugs (called nymphs) are translucent and carry lighter shades of color. As they age, they become browner and molt – shedding their old skin. After reaching their full size, many resemble the size of an apple seed.

A bed bug waits until the night to feed because they are generally only active during this time. The prime time for an attack seems to take place an hour before dawn. While many believe bed bugs are attracted by filth and unclean living conditions, they are actually drawn to warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, which is found in the cleanest of homes and establishments.

The bed bug will hide in cracks and crevices, often seeking refuge in well-concealed locations. They are commonly found in the folds of bed linens, within headboards, inside desks, behind loose wallpaper, and under mattresses. Common signs of bed bugs include crawling insects, spots of blood, and the appearance of bug feces [2].

Humans are not the only ones to suffer the wrath of the bed bug, as there are species that seek out bats, poultry and other victims. In Florida, the Cimex hemipterus species is known to attack poultry and bats of the area. Other bat- and poultry- specific bed bugs are found in West Africa and South America.

Signs of Bed Bug Infestation

To pinpoint a problem with bed bugs, there are a variety of signs one should be on the lookout for. Below you will find some of the most common:

a) Bites:

While bites are a common sign of bed bugs, it is important to note that not all bites received in the middle of the night are the handiwork of the bed bug.

b) Dried Blood:

Also known as fecal spots, dried blood that appears along the seams of a mattress, the box spring, behind the headboard, and anywhere else around the bed is a telling sign of bed bugs.

c) Shed Bed Bug Skin:

The hollowed-out remnants of bed bugs are called “skin casts,” which are a result of the nymphal stage.

d) Eggs:

While difficult to see, some individuals have discovered the eggs of bed bugs, which are about 1 millimeter in length and shaped like rice.
Overall, the best way to become 100% sure that bed bugs have infested your home is to have a professional complete an inspection of your living space.

Bed Bug Risk Factors

If bed bugs find their ways into the tidiest of households, one of the biggest questions surrounding the invasion of the bed bug is – “how do they get into dwellings?” Often people acquire bed bugs when visiting motels, hotels, and B&B’s, where increased domestic and international travel has allowed these small nuisances to visit homes by hitching a ride in luggage. Sometimes, individuals accidentally bring pests into the home by purchasing used furniture, which may contain bed begs. This may also occur when bringing used clothing into your residence.

In the case of severe infestations, a bed bug may crawl onto the clothing of a visitor, which is then carried into a new home environment. When bed bugs attack multi-unit residences (condos and apartments), they sometimes travel through wires, pipes, walls, holes, and other crevices [4]. They are also carried into living spaces by infected pillows, moving boxes, mattresses, bed frames, and other objects.

Negative Effects of Bed Bugs

While the bed bug may harbor pathogens in their bodies associated with plague or hepatitis B, there has been no concrete link to the transmission of any disease that causes a medical threat to humans [5]. Despite this lack of health risk, the bed bug is viewed as an unsanitary visitor and causes embarrassment in those suffering an infestation of their home. Additional outcomes include:

a) Infection and Scarring:

In some victims, the scratching of bed bug bites may result in skin infections and scars.

b) Stress:

Others react rather poorly to a bed bug infestation and may develop what is known as delusional parasitosis and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

c) Visual Concern:

The sight of red, itchy welts is cause for concern and unattractive to view, especially when clusters of bites decorate an arm or back.

d) Anaphylactic Shock:

A small percentage of people have experienced anaphylactic shock as a result of the allergens contained in the saliva.

e) Strong Odor:

A pungent odor is associated with the presence of bed bugs, as they are known to emit an oil-like liquid [2].

f) Financial:

Bed bugs are extremely hard to eliminate from a home, meaning a common cure is to hire professional assistance.

Natural Remedies for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are quite resilient – possessing the ability to withstand temperatures reaching 100 degrees for a period of time. When placed in a freezer, they are able to outlive the extremely cold temperatures as well. Some are known to live for up to a year without eating. Sometimes, it will take many different pest control treatments to finally rid a home of the pesky insect. This is why very few natural remedies help with a bed bug infestation. Below are a handful of suggestions to consider:

a) Herbal Remedies:

Many folks follow a range of natural herbal remedies to treat a beg bug problem, but very few have been successful in spraying lavender, thyme, tea tree, or eucalyptus on their sheets and other parts of the bedroom.

b) Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth:

While this is not an effective repellent for bed bugs, it has proven quite efficient as a “mechanical” destroyer. Many times, the entire bug problem is not solved, but insect numbers certainly decrease.

c) Heating and Freezing:

Some homeowners have used drastic measures as quickly changing the temperature within their home to eradicate bed bugs. This is a difficult remedy to follow and is not accomplished by setting a few space heaters in your room.

d) Black Walnut:

According to the National Park Service, the use of leaf teas containing black walnut is said to serve as a natural astringent and an insecticide against bed bugs [6].

e) Boric Acid Powder:

Spread boric acid powder where bed bugs are suspected to roam and hide, but never directly apply the remedy to mattresses. This may help control the migration of the insects.

f) Steam:

There are some pest control companies that offer steam treatments to eradicate bed bugs from mattresses and other upholstered items. It is important to know that this approach carries limited effectiveness, but is favored for treatments dealing with less than ½ inch of penetration. At home, one may use small steam cleaners to care for their bedding.

Natural Remedies for Bed Bug Bites

If you are being pestered by bed bugs and need quick relief from their bites, you should consider the following natural remedies:

a) Mud:

One of the oldest and simplest poultices in the world is mud, which soothes bed bug bites. Herbal tea and powdered white clay mixed with mud is considered highly effective.

b) Plantain:

This herb is commonly found in the wild and is known to possess properties to treat bed bugs.

c) Bland Starchy Substances:

The use of arrowroot powder, grated potato, mallow root, or finely ground grains like rice or oatmeal can ease the pain and severe itching of bites caused by bed bugs.

d) Fresh Herb Poultice:

Some people have chewed fresh herbs and applied directly to a bed bug bite. Some of the most popular selections include: Chickweed (Stellaria media); Comfrey (Symphytum uplandica x); Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum); Wild mallow (Malva neglecta); and Yellow dock (Rumex species).

e) Herbal Leaves:

When treating bed bug bites, turn to the leaves of willow, maple, oak or hazel trees.

Resources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_bugs
[2] http://www.bed-bug.org/
[3] http://www.thebedbugresource.com/bedbugfaq7.htm
[4] http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/bedbugs/#invade
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed_bugs#Health_effects_on_humans
[6] http://www.getridofthings.com/get-rid-of-bed-bugs.htm

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