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Bedbugs: How to recognize and fight them

These insects are a real problem: bed bugs are annoying and multiply quickly. How the parasites tick and how you get rid of them.

An unpleasant souvenir from the holiday: bed bugs. There are no reliable precautions, but there are ways to get rid of the annoying animals.

“We have been observing a growing increase in bed bug treatment for years,” explains Adam Tesmer, pest controller from Berlin t-online.de. In recent years, more and more people would contact him because they need help with bed bug infestation.

How do you catch bed bugs?

The pests can be brought in suitcases from vacation. Old furniture or clothes you buy at the flea market or on the Internet can also be used to bring bed bugs or their eggs home.

In addition, bird nests are true breeding grounds of bedbugs. Because they can crawl along house walls, it can happen that they can get into the apartment from a nest or even from an attic inhabited by domestic pigeons.

This is how bed bugs look like

Before you start fighting bedbugs, first make sure that they are really bed bugs. Adult pests can be recognized with the naked eye. They reach a body length of four to nine millimeters, depending on whether they are soaked in blood or not.

Characteristic of the hairy, six-legged parasites is their reddish brown color and the very flat body shape, which the tormentors also have their colloquial name “wallpaper flounder” thanks.

Not only in bed: discovering bedbug hiding places

Preferred dwelling bugs are beds and mattresses. At night, they are attracted by the warmth, smell and breath of the human body. “Bed bugs usually move in bed and close to the bed, and only when the infestation is very strong, it expands,” says pest controller Tesmer.

Then the bloodsuckers also hide behind pictures, wallpapers, baseboards, light switches and in cracks and columns of furniture. Sockets, electrical appliances, blinds and curtains are also popular whereabouts of the pests, as explained by the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA).

Most humans only recognize an infestation when they have been bitten by the parasites. Because bed bugs are nocturnal and hide during their breaks.

A migration to other rooms occurs only when no food source is available. But the UBA warns: bed bugs are able to starve for several months. Therefore, even rooms that have been uninhabited for a long time and have not been professionally renovated, may be infected with the bugs.

Further signs of bedbugs

There are signs that you know if your home has bed bugs.

  • Bug Street: If you’ve been bitten by bed bugs, a row-like arrangement is visible, also called Bug Street.
  • Traces of Blood: Biting a bug usually kills blood. A few drops are also applied to the bedding or the duvet cover.
  • Kotspuren: For small black dots it can be a droppings of bedbugs.
  • Dead bugs or nymph skin: In addition to living bed bugs, dead animals – bed bugs live between six and twelve months – or dead nymph skin can indicate an infestation.

Detect bed bug bites: This is how you differentiate yourself from flea bites
In the vernacular, it is erroneously said that bedbugs cause stings. In fact, these are bites, because the bugs feed exclusively on blood. The act of sucking blood lasts three to twenty minutes, depending on the stage of development of the bug. At first, bed bug bites often go unnoticed, as the animals secrete a numbing secretion.

Backs with bites from bed bugs: The bites of bed bugs are not visible to all people, but if they do, they usually occur in a row, the bug street. (Source: Joel Carillet / Getty Images)

According to UBA, people react differently to bed bug bites. While some people experience wheals and redness, others do not notice the bites. If these are visible, they usually appear in a row, the Wanzenstraße. Especially in the night uncovered body areas, such as arms, legs, feet, shoulders, neck, neck and face, are haunted by the animals.

It is not so easy to distinguish bed bug bites from flea bites: Both insects are among the bloodsuckers and leave several bites. While bug bites are often unnoticed at first, flea bites usually itch more and sometimes cause papules – pea-sized thickening – on the skin.

Treatment of bed bug bites

“Bedbugs do not transmit diseases,” explains pest controller Tesmer. In most cases, the bites can be treated with over-the-counter ointments or medications. Depending on the intensity of the itching and type of reaction, agents such as cortisone or hydrocortisone may be used. If in doubt, you should contact a doctor.

If the affected areas are swollen, cause severe itching and wheals, an allergic reaction could be behind it: The ingredients from the saliva released lead to the reaction. In this case, contact a doctor.

Bed Bug Fighting: How are you going to get rid of them?

You do not come around to a professional pest controller. That’s the only way you can be sure that there are no more eggs in your home. These are only about a millimeter in size and milky white. The females lay about twelve eggs per day – up to 200 in their lifetime.

If you feel that bed bugs may have taken root, Tesmer recommends that you speak with a specialist first. This clarifies whether it is actually bed bugs and what measures are necessary. Find out how a beagle recognizes bed bug infestation here.


“We recommend spraying with insecticides, which can destroy all stages of the bed bug because of the long-term effects of the remedies.” One problem is the bed bug eggs: we can not directly destroy them at any time The bed bugs hatch and they poison themselves when they come into contact with the remedy, “explains the Berlin pest controller.

For humans and vertebrates such as cats and dogs, the insecticides are not toxic. However, it could lead to allergic reactions such as coughing and runny nose.

Temperature Method

Since bugs, like other pests, become increasingly resistant to pesticides, pest controllers use the heat method as an alternative method to the insects. The infested room is filled with approximately 50 degrees hot air. In the laboratory test of the Berlin Federal Environmental Agency has been shown that bed bugs at 45 degrees already die after 20 minutes. The reason for this is that the protein compounds denature from this temperature in the enzymes and stop the metabolic processes. Even temperatures below -18 degrees do not survive the animals.

However, treatment with heat or cold is difficult if it is carried out in inhabited rooms. In addition, it already came to structural damage in old buildings when using heat systems, explains the expert.

Cost Of Bedbug Control

The costs depend on the type and number of treatments. Treatment with insecticides is usually cheaper, for the treatment with heat and cold higher costs. The stronger the infestation, the more treatments are necessary. The fight can then extend over several weeks.

For example, pest controllers in the vicinity can find victims on the websites of the German Pest Control Association.

Prevent bed bugs: Keep the parasites away

It is difficult to prevent bed bugs. There is no way to protect yourself from the pests. But you can take some precautions to reduce the risk of infestation.

  • Before you move to a room at a hostel hotel, check for any signs of bedbugs and request other accommodation if necessary.
  • Do not purchase used furniture unless you can rule out bed bugs at work by performing a thorough inspection. To be on the safe side, you can put the furniture outside in the winter in winter for two days.
  • Do not place your suitcase in the hotel room on the floor or near the bed and always keep it locked.
  • Store clothing worn in travel in airtight bags or special storage containers. Bedbugs are based on the human smell and therefore often nest in wearing clothes.
  • Also, wash your clothes at least 60 degrees after your vacation. Likewise, if you buy used clothing on the Internet or at the flea market. Everything that can not be washed at 60 degrees in the washing machine can alternatively be frozen for 48 hours.

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