Why Is Getting Rid of Bed Bugs so Hard?

Bed bug on human skin close up.

Piotr Naskrecki / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to eliminate and, unfortunately, they're on the rise. Fortunately, there are some ways to alleviate a bed bug infestation, but short of bringing back harsh insecticides like DDT, there are no absolute guarantees of a complete bed bug elimination.

They Seem Invincible

There are several reasons why eliminating bed bugs is so hard. These tiny bugs multiply quickly and they can go long periods of time without their preferred meal: human blood.

Bed bugs are hardy, small, flat, lentil-sized insects that are adept at squeezing themselves into tiny spaces. They are commonly found hiding behind loose wallpaper or under floorboards and electrical switch plates. To successfully eliminate an infestation, you have to find and kill every viable bed bug, which is not an easy task.

Bed bugs multiply quickly. A single female can lay 500 eggs during her life and within a few months, the offspring can reproduce as well. A few bugs introduced to a new environment can increase exponentially. Depending on conditions, bed bugs can produce three to four generations in one year. Bed bugs reproduce most quickly in temperatures between 70 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, which happens to be the range where most people keep their thermostats.

Bed bugs can go a remarkably long time without feeding, should no host be present to provide them with needed blood meals. Scientists have documented that adult bed bugs can live up to 550 days, but usually closer to one year without eating, and nymphs may last for months. So simply leaving an infested dwelling unoccupied for a few months in hopes of starving them out will do nothing to discourage the little freeloaders.

How Hard Is It to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

There are a few things you can try for removing a bed bug infestation from your home. There are specialized exterminators, barriers to prevent your mattress from being a permanent home for bugs and good, old-fashioned, top-to-bottom cleaning that you can do to rid your house of an infestation.

As the problem of bed bugs has reemerged in recent years, so has the influx of specialized bed bug exterminators. Exterminators are experts at pest control and can be a very viable option for eliminating a bed bug problem. A downside to extermination is that bed bugs can sense chemical odors and may avoid areas where cleaning agents or even pesticides have been applied. Some scientists believe bed bugs have developed a resistance to certain insecticides as well. 

Bed bugs like to live next to their meal source. Since most bedbugs strike at night, your bed is a great habitat for them. To protect your mattress from an infestation or to curb a mattress infestation that may have occurred, you can purchase a bed bug mattress cover or encasement to discourage bugs from making a permanent home in your bed or trap the bugs inside the encasement.

The absolute best possible way to rid a dwelling of bed bugs is to clean or treat every possible bed bug hiding place. In a home, this means all clothing, bedding, linens, and other washable fabrics must be laundered at high temps and with bleach where appropriate.

Every crevice and seam of mattresses and upholstered furniture must be inspected and treated. Dresser drawers have to be emptied and cleaned, and all clutter must be removed to limit hiding places for stray bed bugs. Cracks in walls must be sealed, loose wallpaper reattached or removed, and carpets must be treated and thoroughly vacuumed. Treatment can include cold, hot, or chemical treatment, usually performed by an exterminator. 

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Hadley, Debbie. "Why Is Getting Rid of Bed Bugs so Hard?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 9, 2021, thoughtco.com/why-is-it-so-hard-to-get-rid-of-bed-bugs-1968389. Hadley, Debbie. (2021, September 9). Why Is Getting Rid of Bed Bugs so Hard? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-is-it-so-hard-to-get-rid-of-bed-bugs-1968389 Hadley, Debbie. "Why Is Getting Rid of Bed Bugs so Hard?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-is-it-so-hard-to-get-rid-of-bed-bugs-1968389 (accessed February 9, 2023).