Bed bugs are small insects that like to live in beds and other enclosed, dark places such as headboards and even picture frames. They often live where other creatures such as birds and mice live in or near your home. Several different species exist and they can bite not only you and your family, but also your pets. Bed bugs can live without food for several months, perhaps for over one year. And they seem to be on the increase in the United States. If you have them, you'll want to get rid of them. If you don't have them, you'll want to keep them away.
Bed bugs come in several different species. The most common one in the United States is the Cimex lectularius. All types of bed bugs are about one fourth inch in length and a rusty looking color. They are rather flat and you might mistake them for small cockroaches. They have become more common in recent years because they easily hitch rides in luggage from other countries. If you see dark spots on your sheets, these can be bed bug excrement.
Harm They Can Do
A bed bug bite looks like a mosquito bite, but they happen at night when your body is wrapped in bedding that does not allow mosquitoes to reach you. Their bites do not usually hurt when they first occur, but later can become red and cause welts and intense itching. Treat bites with soap and water and calamine lotion if you need relief from the itching. Tea tree oil is also effective for relieving the discomfort of bed bug bites—apply it directly to affected areas. Avoid scratching because bites can become infected. Fortunately, bed bugs are not known to carry or cause any human diseases, but they can spread quickly from room to room of your home, or from one apartment to another in large buildings, which makes eradication much more challenging.
Herbs That Can Help
Many people are reluctant to use poisons and pesticides in and around their homes. Fortunately, certain herbs and other natural products such as black walnuts are effective in ridding your home of bed bugs and keeping them away. Natural products that repel bed bugs are available at many natural foods stores. Look for those that contain black walnut or garlic. Cayenne pepper drives them away, and pleasant-smelling mint is also effective in repelling bed bugs. Lavender is another pleasant-smelling herb that bed bugs do not like. Spray or spread one or more of these herbs on top of your mattress and then cover it with a freshly washed mattress pad and sheets, blankets and bedspread.
Although not an herb, aturally occurring pyrethrins mixed with canola oil can help greatly in bed bug control.
Other Methods of Controlling Bedbugs
If you have an infestation of bed bugs and don't want to replace your mattress and other bedding, you can purchase special covers that trap these insects inside your mattress, box springs and pillows. These covers are also said to be effective for controlling dust mites. Made of a special fabric that bed bugs cannot get through or bite through, these covers can cause the eventual death of the insects that are living inside your mattress.
If All Else Fails
Chemical dusts, aerosol products and other pesticides are also available for bed bug control. Try herbs first.