Bed Bugs: What Are They & How Do You Get Rid Of Them?

7 Min Read | By Liam Porter

Last Modified 16 November 2023   First Added 3 November 2023

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Scoundrels, pests, pesky little chaps – bed bugs recently hit the headlines with their unexpected arrival in Paris! Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a few of the little mites either. They were so prominent that certain media outlets referred to their arrival as a crisis.

Given we are both bed experts and proud sponsors of the 2024 Paris Olympics, it’s only right we explore why and how bed bugs ventured to the French capital. We’ll also share guidance on how to prevent, spot, and get rid of them.

Ultimately, we’d like you all to get back to a good night’s sleep without bedfellows who have a penchant for biting you!

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are insects. They have six legs and three main body parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Interestingly, there’s more than one type. But the one you need to be aware of is the common bed bug, known in scientific circles as “Cimex lectularius”. They range from around 1mm to 7mm, and given their small size, like to hide in small crevices and other sheltered areas.

What do they feed on?

Unfortunately, bed bugs feed on blood. It’s often human blood too. Although, most often, they’ll only bite those who are still for long periods. That’s why you’re most likely to be bitten while you’re sleeping.

They do also feed on poultry and other animals – pretty much anything they can get their teeth into. And contrary to popular belief, bed bugs don’t feed on dead skin cells. Regardless, you should still clean your mattress as this will help create an environment that doesn’t attract them.

Do they bite every night?

Bed bugs don’t bite every night. They only feed when they’re hungry, which can be anything from several nights to several weeks. Despite being nocturnal, and despite being more likely to bite you when you’re still, they do respond to movement and may bite throughout the day – typically if they haven’t sated their appetite for a while.

the river seine at dusk with the eiffel tower towering over the waters edge

How do they spread and why were they so prominent in Paris towards the end of 2023?

Bed bugs aren’t necessarily a sign of poor hygiene. Instead, they’re one of the most active hitchhikers in the insect world. They move from location to location in search of food with no real preferences on the local scene.

In their search, they pop up in various locations; hotels, trains, cafe chairs and sofas. And yes, occasionally, beds, mattresses, and Olympic host cities too.

They even like spaces most humans don’t normally hang about in – plug sockets, lamp shades, they’re not at all picky.

As alluded to, they can last without food and stay alive over long distances and periods of time. And given their likelihood to infest luggage and clothing, its no surprise they’ve recently popped up in Paris, one of Europe’s most visited capitals.

Can you feel them on your skin?

You definitely can feel bed bugs on your skin when you’re about to nod off or even when you’re asleep. However, be aware that this can be a negative placebo effect. People often report feeling them despite the fact they’re not really there. This is most common after a pest expert has removed them from your home and you’re still worried about them hanging around.

If you’ve never had a bed bug problem and you think you can feel them, it may be that the hotel or room you’re in does have an issue. As mentioned, if you’ve recently had them removed from your home, it’s worth looking for other signs and trying to make sure it’s not just your mind playing tricks on you.

Either way, if you think you have a bed bug problem, use the below tips to try and spot them. If you’re at all unsure, we’d always advise getting an expert in.

close up facial portait of an elderly gent with a magnifying glass over his eye

How to spot bed bugs

These critters are minute – making them hard to see. This image shows a close-up, so you know how to recognise them if you do suspect they’re around…

Despite the fact they’re so small, with a little concentration and know-how, you can spot bed bugs even without seeing them. Here are some of the key methods:

  • As mentioned, feeling them on your skin.
  • Check for rusty or red stains which appear due to bed bugs being squashed.
  • Look out for dark spots on contaminated areas, which is a sign of their excrement. Gross, we know.
  • Check for eggs which are the size of a pinhead and are pearly-white. If the eggs are more than five days old, you may also notice a small dark spot on the surface.
  • Keep an eye out for pale yellow skins which are the remains of their moulting process. Like all insects, bed bugs have an exoskeleton which has to be shed to allow growth.

Next, let’s explore where to look for these critters in more detail…

Where do they hang out?

Contrary to popular belief, and their name, bed bugs aren’t only found near where people sleep. If you’re concerned you may have a problem, look for them in the following locations:

  • Beneath loose wallpaper.
  • Where the wall and ceiling meet, often around skirting boards or even in the vertical space where one wall meets another.
  • On your bedding and along the edges of beds and mattresses.
  • In the seams of chairs, such as those on trains and public transport.
  • Near electrical appliances, receptacles, and plug sockets. They typically go to these spots to evade capture – crafty little characters, aren’t they?
image of washing machine and a tidy utility space

How do you get rid of them?

Positive news – getting rid of bed bugs isn’t typically a long-winded ordeal. It’s best to get pest control in as soon as you think there’s a problem. While you’re waiting for the experts, try to get rid of them yourself. Look to simple measures, such as:

  • Hoovering locations of concern regularly.
  • Washing any contaminated materials, such as clothing or bedding, on a high temperature.
  • Placing affected materials and garments in the freezer for around three days. For peace of mind, do this in a sealed plastic bag.

How to prevent them

Clearly, it’s better to prevent bed bugs than try to get rid of them. As with their removal, there are simple, at home measures you can take. These include:

  • Keeping clothes and bedding off the floor.
  • Regularly washing sheets on a high temperature.
  • Cleaning and decontaminating any second hand clothing or furniture before it comes into your home.
  • Taking care when using public laundrettes – keep your items away from surfaces, particularly after it’s been through the washing machine and tumble dryer.

The lowdown on bed bugs:

Bed bugs, despite their name, aren’t solely a bed or mattress problem. Instead, they’re pesky little creatures which can be found in various locations. And unfortunately, they have a real appetite for blood and will venture wherever they can to find it. Think hotels, trains, our homes, cafes, restaurants, and plenty more. The silver lining is the fact they’re not picky and don’t only fancy a nibble on humans.

They can be an issue for us two-legged folk though. Most often, near lively town centres where they can move about easily and there’s plenty of dining spots up for grabs.

To spot them, check for evidence of their presence such as bites on your skin or stains on hotel bedding. In the home, prevention is your best bet. So, make sure to keep your bedroom clutter free and ensure your clothes and bedding stay off the floor.

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