At least 1 in 5 Americans have suffered from bed bug infestations. If you’re one of them and have recently finished a bed bug treatment, you may be worried that you didn’t quite get them all. Maybe you’ve gone some time without seeing any new bugs or bites, but you want a way to be sure that the coast is clear. Whatever the situation, the question is the same: how do you know when all the bed bugs are gone?
Good News and Bad News
First, the bad news: unfortunately, there’s no way to confirm without any doubt that all bed bugs in an area have been eradicated. While you can take careful steps through the whole process and come to a reasonable conclusion at the end, there’s no way to be 100% sure. Bed bugs are notoriously good at hiding, hibernating, and waiting, even for weeks at a time or longer.
Now for the good news: being “sure enough” is easy to do if you followed our 4-step treatment process. Not only is this a thorough, methodical treatment solution, but it includes the tools to monitor the bed bug population over time. Steps 1 and 2 of the solution involve isolating your bed and applying ClimbUp Interceptors, which are industry-standard bed bug monitors. With those Interceptors in place, you’ll be able to monitor for bed bugs during the treatment and long after.
Monitoring the Population During Treatment
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. These have a lure of their own, so they can attract bed bugs without anyone present.
The 6-8 Week Timeline
Figuring out when to call the coast clear requires that you know how long bed bugs will be able to survive without feeding. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on the web about how often bed bugs feed and how long they can live without a meal. That makes figuring out your post-treatment timeline harder. Let’s review the actual timing on bed bug feeding and how long they can live without a meal:
Most bed bugs live for two 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.
How to Confirm Bed Bugs are Gone
By now, we’ve covered the tools we need to monitor the bed bug population, as well as a rough timeline we need to monitor before giving the all-clear. Let’s review what an effective treatment and post-routine treatment looks like in order to be confident that the bed bugs are gone for good:
First, you need to completely treat the bed, ensuring that no bed bugs are on it and that they can’t get back in/on it. Begin by stripping the bedding and washing them on high heat, then drying on high heat if the beddings’ tags allow for it. While the laundry cycles are running, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any bed bugs and eggs that might be along the seams of your mattress, box spring, pillows, and bed frame.
Follow up the vacuuming with a high pressure steamer to penetrate deep inside those same nooks and crannies to kill bed bugs and eggs on contact. Lastly, spray down the joints of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard with contact and residual bed bug sprays that are labeled for use on the bed, and encase the mattress and box spring with sealed bed bug encasements once the bed is dry. Be sure to leave those encasements on for at least 18 months to ensure that any bed bugs that managed to survive stay trapped inside until they starve.
Next, you’ll need to isolate the bed to make sure bed bugs elsewhere in the room can’t get onto the bed and feed. Move the bed away from the walls and any nightstands or other furniture. Tuck in or remove any hanging skirts or sheets, and remove any storage under the bed that is touching any part of the frame. The only thing your bed should be touching is the floor via its legs. If you don’t have a bed frame with legs, you should purchase one to sleep in, at least until you are bed bug free.
To complete the isolation, place ClimbUp Interceptors under each leg of the bed. These traps will prevent bed bugs from climbing up your bed legs, stopping them from reaching you in your bed. As bed bugs attempt to get to you, they will climb up the edge of the interceptor and fall into the perimeter pitfall where they can’t escape. With the ClimbUps in place, you can monitor the population of bed bugs in the room over the next several weeks (and even longer to avoid future infestations).
As you proceed through the rest of our 4-step treatment solution, including the follow-up treatments over the next four weeks, that isolated and intercepted bed will act as a long-term monitoring system. Once both follow-up treatments are done, continue checking the ClimbUps daily for bed bugs. If the occupants of the room go at least 6 to 8 weeks without any new bite marks, and without any sightings in the interceptors, you can fairly safely declare that room bed bug free!