Even if you’re not a huge diatomaceous earth fan, there is one major reason to use it against bedbugs. Over the years, bedbugs have developed a resistance to most chemical treatments. As one chemical treatment attempts to wipe out an infestation, the survivors are the ones immune to the treatment. As this cycle continues, we inadvertently create bedbugs resistant to the pesticides we use. Bedbugs aren’t resistant to diatomaceous earth, and one of the reasons probably has to do with how DE works on bugs. (It absorbs the oils that bugs use to retain moisture and kills the bugs by dehydrating them.)
Fighting bedbugs can be an exhausting process emotionally, physically, and financially. In 2012, The Columbus Dispatch wrote a piece about bedbugs that really captures the nightmare scenario people find themselves in. People relate the financial toll of spending upwards of thousands of dollars, even when a professional isn’t involved. This cost includes lost furniture and possessions in addition to the cost of paying for pesticides.
Even after exterminating bedbugs, there is always the fear of picking up them up again. A few people reported in that article they avoided public places for fear of picking them up again.
Most people are embarrassed when they have bedbugs. According to a study done in 2012 by the American Journal of Medicine, many people suffer nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance (to prevent a reinfestation), insomnia, anxiety, avoidance behaviors, and personal dysfunction. These symptoms are quite similar to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Most respondents exhibited one or more of these symptoms.
These symptoms are consistent with people’s accounts of fighting bedbugs. Martha Anderson of Columbus Ohio estimates that her total cost was about $2,000 taking about four months to finally eradicate the bedbugs.
She said, “I could not believe how much work it was. It was exhausting. It felt like someone had died.”
Bedbugs are on the rise, making the familiar saying “Good night – don’t let the bedbugs bite!” become a horrifying reality. While bedbugs there has been an increase in bedbugs, they’re more common in urban areas. CBS did a list of the top 15 cities that are infested with bedbugs, below I’ve listed the top 10:
- New York City
- Dayton, Ohio
- Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles
It’s not surprising that the majority of these cities are high in population and density. Incidents of picking up bedbugs is three times higher in urban areas than rural areas. You can pick up bedbugs in a variety of locations. Respondents to the 2013 Bugs Without Borders Survey treated bedbugs in the following locations: hotels (75%), college dorms (47%), nursing homes (46%), Schools/daycare centers (41%), Office buildings (36%), hospitals (33%), and transportation (21% excluding planes). Some of these places are difficult to avoid, and since you can’t become a hermit, there are a few things you can do to prevent bedbugs. When you’re traveling, be cautious when you stay in hotels. Check for bedbugs before you unpack your suitcase in the hotel. When you get home, launder all of your clothes in hot water and place them in the dryer after. Vacuum out your suitcase to get any “hitchhikers” who may have decided to join the family household. In general, keep your ear to the ground about any news of bedbug infestations in public places in the news.
Sadly, even the most vigilant people can get an infestation. Because of the stigma surrounding bedbugs, people are unlikely to own up to the fact they have a bedbug infestation. This can be particularly problematic for people who live in condos or apartments. If one unit is infested then it makes it easy for the bedbugs to travel between units. Another complication with bedbugs is between tenants in a building or even roommates in the same apartment or house. One person said, “My friend got bedbugs from a new housemate at his house and that’s where I’ve had my first experience with them. My friend and I didn’t know much about them and there wasn’t any effective treatment options in the stores at that time. However when they did arrive my friend used them extensively and still kept getting bit. He also refused many of my physical isolation and quarantine procedure suggestions and preferred to get up in the middle of the night and do battle. He was more afraid of losing his roommates and downplayed the threat rather than have everyone employ an effective method to wear their numbers down.”
Finding an effective mode of treatment is the first priority. I’ve read many success stories on both sides of the exterminator and DIY crowd. A lot of people believe that hiring a professional is the only way to go with bedbugs and exterminators are familiar with bedbugs since, in 2013, 99.6% of U.S. based professional pest management companies had encountered a bedbug infestation in the past year. If it’s finacially feasible, it’s a good route to go. For those who cannot afford it, never fear, there people who swear by DIY methods.
There are a few things to consider when hiring a professional. The cost a company advertises might only be for their first visit. Most professionals will do several follow up visits, which might not be included in that initial price. Keep that in mind when shopping for exterminators and ask them what the total cost of their services will be. As I mentioned before, this can get into the thousands of dollars, so if you don’t have the money then you are often stuck in a difficult position.
Even when you hire a professional, you still need to do some of the work yourself. Extermination companies often list the steps to be done before their visit. Even when you use DE, there are a number of involved steps to take to get rid of bedbugs. The following steps apply to both a DIY project and preparation for an exterminator.
- According to a study conducted by PestWorld.org, approximately two-thirds of respondents said that clutter is one of the biggest problems they face with customers in treating bedbugs. This equals to 58 percent of customers not following the de-cluttering advice and 16 percent of respondent point this out as a cause of re-infestation. With this in mind, de-clutter your home! Take advantage of this opportunity and throw out things you no longer need. (Be careful not to give someone something that has been infested with bedbugs.)
- Start bagging items and use hot or cold treatments on them to kill any bedbugs. (Either freeze items in the freezer or place items in areas over 140°F.)
- Pull the bed and all furniture at least one to two inches away from the wall.
- Buy a mattress encasement.
- Start by washing all of your fabrics in hot water. Launder your bedding, clothing, pillows, and other fabrics in hot water. Afterwards dry them in high heat and then seal them in plastic bags or containers. Even fabrics that have been in storage should receive the same treatment.
- Vacuuming is your best friend. You need to vacuum everywhere.
- You can vacuum the couches and steaming them and the bed is a great idea as well.
- Cover electrical outlets with plastic lining the inside with some DE.
- You can buy an air mattress to sleep on while you wait for your bed to be bedbug-free. If it makes you feel safer, pour DE as a barrier around the air mattress.
- Caulk all cracks in the home and repair any wallpaper in the home.
- There are several methods like using CO2 traps that are worth looking into.
While this process is a tiring one, it’s best to do everything you can right away before the bedbugs multiply. It takes about 10 days for a bedbug egg to hatch so it can give you the advantage. Check out these references below to find even more bedbug slaying advice.