How To Protect A Mattress From Bed Bugs
As lockdown restrictions have eased, and travelling is allowed again, Brits are being warned about a rise in bed bugs.
This is due to bed bugs being great hitchhikers that can hide in small crevices. Therefore, they can move between homes, hotels, and offices by travelling on clothing, furniture, bedding and luggage.
Although bed bugs typically feed on blood every 5 to 10 days, they are resilient and capable of surviving up to a year without feeding, which can explain why Lady Bug Pest Control has witnessed a 75% rise in bed bug callouts compared to last year.
However, to help, MattressNextDay have enlisted the expertise of Vicki Sims, Managing Director of Lady Bug Pest Control to answer the most common questions about bed bugs, as well as how to prevent them from your home or hotel room.
How to spot a bed bug
Knowing what a bed bug looks like is the easiest way to stop a bed bug problem from becoming an infestation. Bed bugs are small, oval, brownish insects that feed on human and animal blood. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies, and are a similar size and colour to an apple pip, depending on their age.
Although bed bugs are sometimes mistaken for fleas, what makes them more distinguishable is their colour, flat bodies and large abdomens. Bed bugs typically bite areas of the body that are exposed whilst sleeping, like the head, arms, and legs. The bites tend to be in clusters and appear as red raised bumps with a dark spot in the middle.
Female bed bugs lay 200-500 eggs over two months in batches of 10 to 50. The eggs are sticky and attach to items of furniture or fittings in clusters. Eggs can also hatch in about a week so it’s important to deal with a bed bug as soon as you find one.
Where are bed bugs more commonly found?
Understanding the behaviour of bed bugs will help figure out where to look for them. Despite what their name implies, their flattened bodies also allow them to conceal themselves in cracks and crevices around the room, such as in floorboards, skirting boards, or within furniture.
However, they usually tend to stay close to anywhere you or a pet will be sleeping – which is why over a third (35%) of them are found in the box springs of a mattress, 23% are found in the mattress itself and 13% are found in the bed frame or headboard.
How to check for bed bugs on a mattress
Bed bugs tend to come out at night in search of their next feed, and always hide in groups. This makes it difficult to spot them in broad daylight. To spot them on a mattress, look out for signs that they've been there previously. Here are some things to check for on your mattress:
- Reddish stains or the appearance of rust on bed sheets can be a sign of a crushed bed bug
- Tiny dark stains or the appearance of rust on bed sheets can be a sign of a crushed bed bug
- Eggs or eggshells that are 1 mm in size. These can be particularly hard to spot but are usually found in clusters
10 tips to prevent bed bugs in your home
1. Regularly cleaning your mattress is not only key to making it last longer but it’s also the perfect opportunity to check for bed bugs. You should aim to clean your mattress once every three months. Pocket sprung styles can be vacuumed safely, whereas foam styles like memory foam require sweeping to avoid damage.
2. Once a week, pull back your bedding and let your mattress air. This gives your mattress the chance to spring back into shape, whilst evaporating any excess moisture. What’s more, dust mites love the warmth of your bed, so letting your mattress air and cool down will lessen your chances of these loitering around, too.
3. Research shows that bed bugs harbour in dirty items, as opposed to clean items, so make sure to wash your bedding and sheets at least once a week to avoid a build-up of bacteria.
4. Use an encasement mattress protector. These can be labelled as bed bug proof, but the primary word to look out for when shopping is ‘encasement’. This style of mattress protector completely covers the mattress, leaving no entry point for pesky insects. Plus, if you do have bed bugs, an encasement will trap the bed bugs and they will die of starvation.
5. Make sure to keep your home clutter-free and tidy. The more objects you own, the more opportunities for bed bugs to hide. Plus, clutter increases the difficulty in eliminating bed bugs once they’ve been established.
6. You should also vacuum at least once a week to remove any potential bed bugs from travelling further. Makes sure to hoover all hiding hotspots, such as skirting boards, under sofa cushions and under the bed.
7. If you share laundry facilities with others, such as in student accommodation, take extra caution. When you transport your items to be washed, keep them in a plastic bag. Once they are washed, remove them from the dryer and place them straight back in the bag. Fold them at home where it’s safer to do so.
8. If you purchase second-hand furniture, make sure to inspect the item for bed bug infections first, before taking it home, especially if you are buying a bed frame or mattress.
9. Bed bugs are also known to hide in cardboard, so try to unpack your boxes quickly after moving house. Also, never use cardboard boxes for storage and stick to plastic containers, instead.
10. According to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), the ideal temperature for an adult bed bug to thrive is between 21-32°C. So, it’s best to keep your room cool on a night time.
6 tips to prevent bringing bed bugs back from your holiday
1. Vicki Sims, the Managing Director at Lady Bug Pest Control said, “When people arrive in their hotel room, many place their suitcase straight onto the bed and start unpacking their clothes. However, we would suggest keeping your suitcase off your bed as this is where bed bugs are most commonly found. Depending on the star rating of your hotel, you may have a luggage rack which is where you should ideally store your suitcase. But if you don’t, keep your suitcase as close to the door as you can.”
2. When you’ve been travelling for hours, the first thing you’re likely to want to do once you arrive in your hotel room is to remove your clothes and throw them into a drawer before heading back out. However, it is safer to hang your clothes in a wardrobe than in drawers (especially if they are the drawers of your bed). Although bed bugs can crawl, they can’t fly, so they are less likely to be able to get to your clothes in a wardrobe.
3. Vicki Sims said: “You should also investigate your hotel bed for an infestation of bed bugs. To do this, pull your bedding off the bed so that you can see the bare mattress, and any signs of actual bed bugs, or their faeces. Next, lift the mattress up and look for bed bugs underneath your mattresses. Do this as well as in the crevices of the bed drawers if it is a divan bed. Finally, you should investigate your mattress, including behind, and look in-between the gap between the headboard and the wall itself. If it’s too dark, you can also use a torch on your phone to take a closer look. Some common signs of bed bugs include rusty or reddish stains on the sheets or mattresses, dark spots, bed bug eggs or live bed bugs.”
4. Research shows that bed bugs are more attracted to dirty clothes than to clean clothes. So, when packing for a trip, make sure to take a spare plastic bag for your dirty clothing, and knot it each time you add to it.
5. When you arrive home from your holiday, unpack your bag in a location other than the bedroom. Ideally on a hard floor as you won’t be able to spot bed bugs in the carpet. Next, inspect your suitcase closely and use a flashlight to revise the seams, folds, and pockets of your suitcase. You should then vacuum your suitcase before placing it back in storage.
6. Once you arrive home, wash all your clothes, including those that you did not wear. If the washing labels of your clothes permit it, wash them in hot water.
How to get rid of bed bugs
Whilst bed bugs can be tough to control because they carry a stigma, the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) state that “self-treatment of a bed bug infestation is unlikely to be successful. A trained professional will have the technical knowledge and access to a range of professional use products and equipment which are not available to the public.”
How often should you replace a mattress?
As advised by the National Bed Federation, you should aim to replace your mattress between seven and ten years. This can vary depending on your style of mattress, how you take care of it and how much you use it. However, this is a guideline and you should aim to replace with any signs of wear and tear.