• Bed bugs can be resistant to chemicals found in some of the most common treatments.
• The little bugs can take weeks to fully disappear.
• "Heat alone does not work," says a pest controller of over 30 years.
And the truly scary part? A recent study found that bed bugs can be resistant to some of the most popular chemicals we use to kill them. Instead of working, the chemicals can actually make bed bugs significantly harder to kill.
Of course, with proper care, bed bugs can be exterminated from your home. But now more than ever, it takes a super-specific knowledge about treating your particular creepy, crawly situation.
But don't panic, people, because there is hope in this situation. We sought the answers to all our itching questions.
If bed bugs are resistant to chemicals, then how do I kill them?
Firstly, bed bugs aren't resistant to all chemicals. But it's crucial to use the right one when treating an infestation.
The new study, published last month in the Journal of Medical Entomology, confirmed bed bugs can be resistant to two kinds of chemicals: pyrethroids and neonicotinoids. These are found in some of the most common bed bug treatments out there. However, the study only confirmed resistance in bed bugs from parts of Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan, so we can't expand the results to all bugs just yet.
The bed bugs in your neighborhood could very well be immune to chemicals too, said Dr. Kenneth Haynes, an insect and chemical expert at the University of Kentucky.
He suggests that when booking a bed bug treatment, you should ask your pest controller which chemicals they're using and if local bed bugs have resisted these chemicals before. Most controllers have an, um, intimate knowledge of their local bed bug populations. They'll know exactly which kinds of chemicals, if any, work to quash them.
What about other tactics? Does heat work?
Some experts suggest heat as an alternative for bed bug control: Raising the temperature of your home has been shown to kill the bugs and their eggs.
But "heat alone does not work," said Sam Soto, an NYC pest controller of over 30 years. He says he would use heat along with chemicals in order to zap bugs in bedroom walls, where they often hide out away from warmth.
If you contract bed bugs at home or suspect you've been near them recently, pest controllers will also likely suggest putting all clothing and bedding in the dryer at high heat for 30 minutes or more. It's a simple way to ensure the bed bugs are gone... and don't come back.
I've heard bed bugs take weeks to die. What happens while I wait?!
It's true. Bed bugs can take weeks to fully disappear, and your pest controller will likely stop by for multiple treatments before they're fully eradicated, Soto says. Follow their instructions: Keep sleeping in your bed (when your pest controller says it's okay, of course), to attract bugs to the treatment in your room. And for best results, don't try to DIY.
"You can buy some bed bug chemicals on your own," Haynes said, "but there's a question of whether that's a smart thing to do. Leave it in the hands of professionals."
I REALLY don't want my bed bugs to come back... or come at all.
Yeah, and your pest controller doesn't either. Soto suggests checking any known hiding spot -- in the beds at hotels, under your seat at the movies -- to ensure bugs aren't crawling about. Keep your cool amidst the panic, and you'll make it through just fine.
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