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Bed Bugs, How to Find Them and How to Fix Them

July 2015 Bed Bugs.jpg

These annoying little critters are certainly on the march if news reports coming from the US about infestations in trains, theatres, old folks’ homes and hotels are to be believed.

And although for most of us they provide just a pesky itch in the morning, the idea of sharing our beds with a bunch of ugly bugs is enough to make your skin crawl and give you sleepless nights.

You’ll soon know if you’ve got bed bugs because they leave behind a series of itchy bites similar to a mosquito – apart from being flightless and hence not buzzing you at night, you can tell if the bites are from bed bugs and not mozzies because the little blighters bite as they crawl and tend to leave their marks in a line.

According to the Ministry of Health, a few Kiwis could be allergic to bed bugs’ saliva and react badly to the bites, which cause swelling, pain, and in extreme cases a severe allergic reaction which may require a 111 call. But for the vast majority of us, their only calling card is an annoying itch.

Bed bugs like to hide out during the day in nooks and crevices – so if you think you might have them, check around and under the seams on your mattress, on and under your bed frame and head-board, in any nearby furniture and even in any cracks on your bedroom wall.

You’re looking for a tiny, reddish-brown bug which can grow to around 5-7mm long and is flat and oval – a bit like a tiny sunflower seed. Alternatively you might come across their shed skins, their tiny 1mm round eggs, or small dots or stains marking where they’ve been.

They’re a seriously hardy creepy-crawly - their larvae can live for a year without food and they can easily hitch around the globe by finding a nice suitcase to hide in while you’re on your holiday.

Once you’ve identified them, the most common recourse is to get down to the hardware store and hunt out some serious pesticide, or find an exterminator who’ll do the job for you. There are also more natural ways involving tea-tree or lavender oil, or something called diatomaceous earth (actually ground up fossilised algae). You’ll also want to wash all your linen to a pretty high temperature to make sure you’ve got rid of all the eggs.

But the best way to sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite is by not inviting them in in the first place. Make sure any hotels or motels you stay in are free from them and follow these easy steps to keep them out of your luggage; wash your clothes on a hot cycle as soon as you get back off holiday; keep your bedroom vacuumed regularly and wash your linen on a hot cycle; and don’t buy second-hand bedroom furniture, mattresses and linen.