BEDBUG PEST CONTROL WITHOUT CHEMICALS
Nobody has to fear bedbugs (they do not transmit diseases), but anybody may learn easily how to eliminate them.
Bedbugs are crawling insects about the size of an ant (6mm) with 6 legs, and with a flat body capable hiding in the tiniest of interstices, gaps or crevices to avoid exposure to light.
It sucks human blood by night causing irritating bites for susceptible people (about half the population). The key toward solving the problem durably is to isolate the bed so as to stop proliferation (even if you choose or are forced by landlords to undergo a chemical treatment). The insects are fully dependent on your blood, hence stop feeding them and they will eventually stop biting you! Chemicals tend to be inefficient for several reasons: they do not kill the eggs (hence two applications of biocides at least are required), insects develop resistance to insecticides faster than humans are able to do, biocides cannot be applied everywhere (e.g. under the floor) and further necessitate emptying the whole flat of books, clothing, etc, a herculean task offering no more security after than prior to the treatment! Hence chemicals represent by no means an efficient strategy against bedbugs!
DETECTING THE PRESENCE OF BEDBUGS (MONITORING)
-Bites (caution: many people do not react to or notice them)
-Excrements of bedbugs on the bed or the walls near the bed: small dark flecks (comparable to fly dung or dirt) leaving brownish trails when washed with a wet towel/rag. If you do not react to bites, and in highly infested regions (like NY, Montréal, Geneva, etc) you should check circa every month if such flecks are not accumulating near the bed.
-Adhesive trap impregnated/imbued with attracting pheromones sold in specialized shops, for instance the product ``Trappit''.
-Direct inspection of the bedbugs by night (at ca. 03h00), watching for bugs crawling on the wall near the bed.
Bedbugs reproduce exponentially fast (if fed). Hence without bed protection (see next item) one should inspect carefully circa each month the bedding for traces of bedbugs to catch the infestation at an early age, and to facilitate its control (this can be reduced to an annual control if the bed is isolated).
In order to avoid a first infestation or recidivism:
* keep the bed away from the walls by at least 10 cm.
* do not let objects (e.g. curtains) overhang the bed, nor let the bedcovers hang down to the floor.
* protect the bed legs:
Bedbugs are very clumsy (if not incapable) at climbing smooth polished vertical surfaces. Hence, place on stainless steel cans/basins/bowls for instance cleaned tuna cans under the bed feet. One can glue aluminium sheets along the bed legs. As shown on the figure below, one can insert the protecting cans inside larger cans (metal or tupperware), and fill in a thin layer (5 mm) of oil (alimentary or cosmetic) inside the larger can so as to suffocate any ``transgressing'' bugs. So bed legs stay clear, offering the option to steam the boxspring from all sides, without flecking the floor with oil.
If your bed lacks legs, try elevating it by screwing on stainless steel legs, or just purchase a new bed with legs (preferably already stainless steel, if you dislike adding cans under the bed legs).
If you are already beset by bedbugs:
* Clean the whole bed (boxspring and mattress) with a steam cleaner so as to remove any parasite residue (eggs included) within the protected bed space/area. Pay special attention to steaming gaps, cracks, crevices, slits of the boxspring, rubber shock-absorber of bed slats, and the stitching of mattresses. In principle (adult) bedbugs are not able to penetrate the fiber of the mattress except if it is holed. In case of doubt, purchase an anti-bug slipcover to encase the whole mattress for about a year, letting all the bedbugs inside it die.
Also clean carefully all area near the bed, paying special attention to cracks and slits near the bed (like baseboards/plinths and slits in the floor or walls, if any). This must be done carefully in a radius of about 3 to 5 metres around the bed.
Steaming at 100 degrees kills bedbugs at all stages (eggs included).
* Sprinkle a continuous barrier of diatomaceous earth (DE) along the plinths (this is a natural powder insecticide acting abrasively on the exoskeleton of bedbugs killing them by dehydration within 2 days). Drawbacks: volatile, slight pulmonary toxicity when applying (use a mask and do not use in case of oxygenotherapy). Once applied DE impedes a proper cleaning of dusts, and a regular steaming of the plinths. So it should be applied only once everything has been carefully cleaned and steamed. Because of its slight toxicity, it may be fully avoided or just used afterwards to overcome massive or tenacious cases of infestations.
* Wash the bed-clothes and linen at 60 degrees for 30 minutes, or freeze them for 3 days at -20 degrees, and then isolate the material in hermetic bags (or boxes) to avoid recontamination.
* Put adhesive traps (e.g. the product ``Trappit'') near the bed, or even inside it. Those allow the capture and counting of bedbugs to give you a quantitative idea of the size of the infestation. One may place about 10 traps around each infested bed to accelerate the capture of unfed specimens outside the protected bed.
Caution: During a sniffing-dog detection, the pheromones in the trap may mislead the diagnostic dog which usually sits to indicate a suspicious smell). Hence it is necessary to remove them from the housing at least 24 hours before any canine detection.
* Do not leave movable objects near your bed (school bags, clothes, laptop, shoes, etc) within a radius of about 3 metres. Keep such objects inside a plastic box (if possible hermetically sealed and with smooth faces). Observe this precaution up to 12 months after the eradication, to minimize the risk of spreading bedbugs as you move about.
As bedbugs can survive long periods without feeding (theoretically up to 2 years), the bed isolation system with cans must be kept up for years after the disinfection (if not for life!) However statistically, after a few months the population of bedbugs will be inactive if unfed.
Bedbugs outside the beds eventually die by deprivation of food. This may take about 8 months, yet in practice extermination is much accelerated by contacts with diatomaceous earth, traps or rigorous steaming of the plinths or other hiding places. Besides, one may actively wake up at 03h00 in the morning to intercept the insects as they crawl around the walls in the vicinity of the (occupied) beds. They are likely to be attracted by heat and carbon dioxide emitted by the human body. More passively one may glue traps ``Trappit'' along the walls near the bed.
Finally, bedbugs are so clever that sometimes (especially in cases of massive numbers) they manage to climb up the wall and jump onto the bed from the ceiling. To prevent such air attacks, one trick (described on US-website) is to glue sticky tape around a large perimeter surrounding the bed zone so that bedbugs will lose their grip on the smooth surface of the plastic tape. Of course even if an air attack occurs, it is not so dramatic and a simple steaming of the bed will kill the intruders.
If you are a lover of mother nature (and amateur entomologist), it is recommended that you tolerate ants and spiders in your house, as they are brave predators of bedbugs. (They tend also to die under the DE or get trapped in the adhesive traps, alas.)
According to our own experience (in Geneva), after one week not a single bedbug was moving (even by night), and after 8 months not a single sniffing dog was sitting down to signal a residual smell of the past infestation. Enjoy your new bedbug-free life, somewhat more romantically.
If after two weeks of combat, you still observe armadas of bedbugs crawling on your walls at night, then one of your neighbours may be feeding them affectionately. Just explain to him the bed isolation method and steaming.