We’re not the only ones excited about summer. It turns out bedbugs enjoy the warm weather just as much as we do—maybe more. “Heat accelerates a bedbug’s lifecycle,” says entomologist Gil Bloom, who runs the extermination company Standard Pest Management in New York City. “In 64° weather it takes around four months for an egg to turn into a mature adult; in 80° it only takes a month and half, making the bugs more plentiful and infestations more common."
Another reason summer is high bedbug season: It’s when we humans travel the most. And bedbugs specialize in tourism, typically hitching rides on coats and suitcases, then setting up camp in beds, couches, and electrical outlets in homes and hotels.
The reddish-brown insects, no bigger than a poppy seed when they're babies, are characterized by horizontal stripes across their backs. They prefer warm, dark places that are in close proximity to their food source: us.
Bedbugs can go unnoticed for weeks as they take hold in your home, hiding in cracks and crevices and only coming out at night. Once there’s a sizeable population established, they’re almost impossible to get rid of without expensive professional assistance. Detecting the problem early is the best way to stop an infestation before it gets out of hand.
Recognize a bedbug: Examine mattresses, sheets, headboards, box springs, electrical outlets, and couches for reddish-brown bugs ranging in size from a poppy seed to an apple seed. They like to inhabit places that are 10-20 feet from where you sleep or sit, so start your search in this area.
Scout for signature marks: Check mattress seams, pillow cases, and furniture for tiny red blood spots and brown excrement spots left by the bugs.
Know an egg when you see it: Look in crevices/cracks in baseboards of walls or furniture for tiny white oval-shaped eggs.
Do a sniff test: If you notice a distinct musty or bitter smell, that indicates a possible bedbug infestation.
Check your skin: Welts usually appear where skin is exposed while sleeping, and they differ in size depending on your reaction to the initial bite. While it’s tough to tell the difference between bedbug bites and other insect bites, the common rule is that bedbugs will leave three red welts or more grouped together. For help managing the itch, click here.
If you have an infestation, here's what to do:
Immediately notify your landlord and your neighbors. The sooner everyone knows, the better. This way you can work together to take care of the infestation ASAP.
Choose a well-recommended professional pest control company. Make sure they come to inspect the apartment before giving you a quote, and expect at least two treatment visits and a follow-up to confirm bedbug elimination.
Trap and kill 'em. Use flat-edged tools like a credit card or putty knife to scrape the bugs from crevices into paper towels. Then blow-dry them for at least 30 seconds—the heat kills them.
Seal all cracks and crevices. Use caulk to seal gaps in baseboards, cabinets, and shelving, where the bugs like to live. Tighten light switch covers and remove all loose wallpaper.
Clean and get rid of infested items. Make sure to throw out all things that are heavily infested (furniture is usually salvageable after cleaning), making sure to seal things tightly in plastic wrap and label them “infested with bedbugs.” Wash everything with bedbug stains in hot water (at least 140°) and dry for at least 20 minutes. Vacuum bed frames, crevices, furniture, and carpets daily, replacing the vacuum bag after each time.