BBSD, short for “bed bug stress disorder”, has affected as many as 1 in 5 Americans. Symptoms include anxiety, sleep loss, chronic vacuuming and laundering to prevent reinfestation, and checking every bump or rash to see if it’s another bed bug bite. If you’re a BBSD victim that has been treating a bed bug infestation, you wake up every day hoping you’ll never see another bed bug again.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic plasma sign that lights up when the last bed bug leaves your home. While you’re sure you’ve taken the right steps, and you may have gone a few days or weeks without being bitten, there doesn’t seem to be a surefire way to know when you can declare your home bed bug free. How can you know for sure that your treatment worked, and that bed bugs are gone from your home for good?
First Things First: the Right Treatment
You can’t hold any hopes of being bed bug free if your treatment is not up to par. As we’ve discussed numerous times on this blog, spraying around your room a bit and hoping for the best is going to lead to nothing but disappointment and money wasted.
The right bed bug treatment is thorough, methodical, and precise. You cannot skip steps or cut corners. You have to follow the right steps with the right products in the right order. By being as thorough as possible, you ensure that there are no gaps in your treatment that bed bugs can escape through.
While every step of a bed bug treatment is critical, isolating your bed is especially vital. Bed bugs need to feed in order to grow and reproduce. Cutting off their means of reaching you and feeding on you stops their reproduction in its tracks. Once the bed bugs are unable to multiply, eliminating the infestation is a simple matter of mopping up the remaining survivors.
Monitoring the Population
As you progress through a bed bug treatment, you need a way to measure your progress and see if bed bugs are still active in the area that you’re treating. The best way to accomplish this is by monitoring the population directly to try and gauge how it changes over time.
If you’re treating for bed bugs in a room where you and/or someone else sleeps, the best way to monitor for bed bugs is with a passive monitor and trap, like ClimbUp Interceptors. When an interceptor is placed under each leg of the bed, they will trap bed bugs that try to enter or exit the bed. Inspect these traps regularly to see if bed bugs are still active in the room. Ideally, the number of bed bugs being captured will decline over time, eventually reaching a consistent zero.
If you’ve been treating an unoccupied room, like a living room or a vacated bedroom, monitoring the bed bug population becomes a bit more complicated. ClimbUp Interceptors won’t do you much good in this situation, since there isn’t a human body acting as a lure to draw the bed bugs to the interceptors. Instead, you’ll want to use an active monitor, like the NightWatch or SenSci Activ. These have a lure of their own, so they can attract bed bugs without anyone present.
The Infestation Timeline
There is a lot of misinformation on the web about how often bed bugs feed, how long they can live, and how long you should wait before declaring an infestation to be over. To really deconstruct the infestation timeline, we’re going to look at the bed bug lifespan and reproductive rates and come up with a reliable time range:
Most bed bugs live for four to six months, though some can live for over a year without food by hibernating. Pregnant females lay three to five eggs per day, totaling up to 500 in her short lifetime. Those eggs hatch within two weeks, and the newborn nymphs will be hungry for a blood meal right away.
Since eggs will hatch about two weeks apart, that’s a good time period to space apart treatment applications. Remember that almost no bed bug treatment is 100% successful on the first attempt — you’ll need to at least repeat the contact and residual spray applications to finish off the infestation. Wait two weeks after the first treatment to reapply the sprays, then repeat that in another two weeks. These follow-up treatments will hit any newly hatched bed bugs as well as adults that you may have missed before.
Once those follow-up treatments are done, you’ll know fairly quickly how effective your treatment was. Bed bugs want to eat every 5 to 10 days, so any hungry survivors should start appearing in your traps around two weeks after your last follow-up treatment. If the traps go about 6 to 8 weeks without any signs of bed bugs, you can probably call yourself bed bug free. That’s the time to come up with a way to celebrate a bed bug job well done!