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22nd Feb 2024

Bed Bugs: Signs and information on how to deal with a home infestation

Jody Coffey

bed bugs

Don’t let the bed bugs bite

European headlines late last year had been documenting the serious infestation of bed bugs in Paris during the World Cup.

Last November, the problem infiltrated Ireland, with one expert claiming to receive at least 30 complaints about bed bugs a day.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show at the time, Trevor Hayden, Managing Director of Complete Pest Control, said it was highly irregular for the time of year.

“We would get a lot of these calls generally when people are travelling during the summer and they’re coming home and they’re brought these unwelcome guests back with them.

“Understandably, many who have registered for the upcoming Paris Marathon or planning to visit the city this year are apprehensive about further outbreaks.”

What do bed bugs look like?

We may not want to know what these little pests look like, but being able to identify what bed bugs look like is the first step in dealing with an outbreak.

According to Irish Pharmacist, Sheena Mitchell, owner of totalhealth pharmacy in Milltown and the health platform, bedbugs are around four to 5 mm long, which is about the size of an apple seed.

They’re small, flat, parasitic insects, usually oval in shape.

Bed bugs have six thick legs, have wing pads, but no wings, and usually will be red to brown in colour.

They have a beak that has three segments and a set of antennas with four parts.

They hide during the day and come out at night when we sleep.

What do their bites look like?

In good or bad news, you likely won’t feel a bed bug bite as they inject a tiny amount of anaesthetic so you can’t feel it at the time.

When they bite, they drink our blood and Sheena says it could be a few days later when see a red mark on your body.

These bites can look like mosquito bites or the bite of any other insect, making it more difficult to figure out what’s causing it.

Generally, bedbugs will bite on the neck, hands, arms and legs; anywhere exposed when you’re laying in bed.

In rare cases, you can get minor swelling and itching, but generally there is no major reaction to these bites.

If a rash develops, you may require treatment for allergy.

Bed bugs are great travellers

Unlike head lice, which stay on your head, bed bugs are no selective about where they settle in a home.

According to Sheena, they can be found in your bed, but they can also hide in furniture and furnishings; bed frames, headboard crevices, skirting boards, mattresses, seams, carpets, underlay, between timber floorboards, cracked or broken plaster, behind peeling wallpaper, inside electrical sockets and fittings in drawers, cupboards, wardrobes, bed cabinets and in suitcases.

Because bed bugs can be transported so easily in luggage, furniture, and clothing.

They can spread quickly from room to room, from a bag to a seat on the train, to someone’s coat, to someone’s carpet, then to someone’s bed, and even through the floorboards.

These guys are a little pesky nightmare.

Signs bed bugs are present

There are a number of telltale signs that indicate you have a problem with bedbugs in your home.

Trevor explained that many people think these creatures are so small they go unnoticed, but that is not the case.

“An adult bed bug, for all intents and purposes, looks like an apple pip,” Trevor advised.

“So, they’re quite large and they live in and around the bed.”

Things to look out for include:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed
  • Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger
  • Live bed bugs
  • Dark or black stains on your mattresses and the surrounding area.
  • A smell. It’s been described as an unpleasant almond smell, basically a sweet, sickly scent.

How to deal with the issue

Mr Hayden said if you think you have bed bugs, you need to call in professional help as soon as possible because they will multiply, quickly.

“We use a three-pronged approach; we use a heat tent, so we’ll heat up a bed and we’ll essentially cook the bed begs and that will kill anything,” he told Newstalk.

“A lot of these box-based beds, they’re very difficult to treat, so cooking them will get rid of anything inside.

“We use a superheated steam at 180 degrees, so it’s a dry steam but again that will penetrate into cracks and crevices, the headboard and actual hard to get places.

“Then we use an insecticidal spray as well… We find that works best.”

It’s important to note that although can cause itchiness with their bits, they are not deemed to be dangerous.