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Rentokil Expert Reveals How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Author imageThe Mattress Warehouse

Author: Rentokil

Rentokil Expert Reveals How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Another new day marked by ten new, itchy insect bites? You shouldn’t have to wake up like that. In fact, you can put a stop to it. If you want to know how to remove bed bugs, keep reading. In this article, The Mattress Warehouse asked pest control expert Rentokil to share their expertise on how to get rid of bed bugs. You’ll learn everything you need to know about these mattress monsters, from identifying them to getting rid of them for good!

What are bed bugs exactly & why do they matter?

Bedbugs are small, brownish-red insects that feed on human and animal blood. Almost like mosquitos, but thankfully they don’t fly (or make unbearable zooming noises).

1. What are bed bugs?

Let’s take a closer look at these little parasites in terms of the following:

Life cycle & lifespan

Female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime. After a male and female bedbug mates, the female must eat blood to produce eggs. A female bed bug typically lays between 5 and 20 eggs per blood meal. Moreover, most of the eggs hatch and mature in 37 days. Also, female bed bugs can store fertilised eggs for some time so they can produce offspring even if there is no male around. Young bed bugs, or nymphs, shed their skins up to three times before reaching adulthood. Moreover, with a continuous food source, bed bugs tend to live for anything between 3 to 6 months. On the other hand, if they don’t have food, they can live up to a year. Strange, right?


Adults can grow up to 7 mm long and 3 mm wide. Depending on where nymphs are in their lifecycle, they can be anything between 0.8 mm and 6 mm in length with a proportionate body width. Lastly, bedbug eggs are so small that they are hard to spot with the naked eye.

What they look like

Bed bugs are shaped much like flattened apple seeds. Because they are thin and flat, they can easily squeeze into tight spaces. Adults are normally reddish-brown in colour and their bodies get longer and more red after feeding. On the other hand, nymphs may be tan, yellowish or nearly transparent (if they haven’t fed on blood yet) and they are much smaller than adults. The eggs are pearly white and normally clustered together.

Prefered living environment

Bed bugs will feed on any warm-blooded mammal but humans are much easier targets because we aren’t covered in fur. Unlike fleas and ticks, bed bugs do not live on their hosts. They prefer to lurk in dark, hidden away places close to where their prey sleeps. Then, when night comes, they can travel to their feeding ground (that’s you) with minimum effort. Some of these dark places include:

    • The seams of your mattress
    • Creases in your curtains
    • Under the floor skirting
    • Cracks in your headboard
    • Lush carpets
    • Under loose wallpaper
    • And even in electrical sockets

Are there different types of bed bugs?

Yes, there are close to 90 types of bed bugs on planet earth. However, you will most likely only ever deal with the two most common species of bed bugs:

  • Cimex lectularius – the common bed bug
  • Cimex hemipterus – a species of bed bugs found primarily in the tropics

Are they seasonal?

No, bed bugs are not seasonal. But like most insects, they do tend to breed faster in warmer climes.

The bed bug life cycle

From egg to adult, there are five stages in the bed bug life cycle.

2. Are bed bugs harmful to humans?

Apart from the fact that you might have an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, they are not very harmful to people. So far, there have been no documented cases of bed bugs carrying or transmitting serious diseases from one host to another. So if you do have a bed bug infestation, the good news is that you’re unlikely to get ill from their bites.

However, bed bugs tend to leave behind a cluster of bite marks that can be very itchy. Moreover, if you have sensitive skin, you might scar from bed bug bites or from scratching the bite marks too severely. These little parasites don’t have a preferred body part that they like to feast on, apart from easily accessible skin.

What causes bed bugs?

Bed bugs hatch from eggs, but these eggs don’t simply roll into your home. So how do you get bed bugs? Where do they come from and how do they end up in our homes? The answer is easier than you might think. Bed bugs love to travel. They crawl into your luggage when you visit a hotel or they hop on your shoulder while you sleep in a busy hostel.

Because bed bugs are so small, they can find all sorts of interesting places to hide and wait for new prey. Remember, they prefer to feed on human blood and as such, they tend to live in places where a lot of people come together to do relatively low-energy activities. For instance, sleep. That is why one of the most common places to pick up bed bugs is in hotels and hostels.

And no, bed bugs do not only thrive in dirty, unhygienic places. You can find bed bugs in the most immaculate hotel room just as easily as in a busy, low-budget youth hostel. Of course, clutter in a bedroom doesn’t help because these pesky pests like to hide in dark spots. If there are a lot of shoes, books, and clothing lying around, you are creating optimal hiding spots for bed bugs.

More common areas where you can pick up bed bugs

Holiday living destinations aren’t the only place where you can pick up these unwelcome guests. Here are other common spots where you could pick up bed bugs:

  • Cinemas and theatres
  • University and school dormitories
  • Self-catering apartments
  • Daycare centres
  • Office buildings
  • Cruise ships
  • Public transport
  • Second-hand furniture
  • Old-age homes

Basically, where people lie- or sit down for long periods of time.

A grey and white themed hotel room with a large white bed in the middle of the room.

Plush carpets and curtain folds are perfect hiding spots for bed bugs.

Interestingly, bed bug infestations tend to increase around large sporting events, like the Soccer World Cup or Olympic Games. When a lot of people from all over the world come together in one place, a couple of travellers are bound to bring along a bed bug or two. Moreover, with increasing urbanisation, bed bug numbers in cities also seem to be on the rise.

You might also be wondering…

How to check for bed bugs

These nocturnal feeders are attracted by body heat and the carbon dioxide that you breathe out, so they will only come out of hiding if there is a human or animal to feed on. As such, it is not an easy task to find them. However, if you wake up with a couple of new insect bite marks regularly, you might have bed bugs. And then there are a couple of things to check for before you start asking how to get rid of bed bugs.

  • Bite marks – if the offending insect bites are clustered together, there’s a good chance that it is bed bugs. On the other hand, if the bite marks are scattered around haphazardly, you might have some other infestation (maybe fleas or ticks).
  • Blood spots on your bedding – see if you can find any small (less than 5 mm across) blood spots on your bedding. Sometimes a bed bug’s bite can leave a drop of blood behind, which might stain your bedding.
  • Dark specs in your bed – bed bugs leave behind very small, as in no more than 1 mm in size, dark brown faecal matter. If you have clustered insect bite marks you can scrutinize your bedding with a looking glass to see if you find any of these dark pecs.
  • Bed bug skins – as we’ve mentioned, young bed bugs (nymphs) shed their skin a couple of times during the growth phase. So you might find minute little exoskeletons in or around your bed if you have bed bugs.
  • Smell – in extreme cases you can sometimes smell bed bugs. They give off a sickly sweet smell, almost like the smell of stale sweat. If you see some of the above indicators and you smell something funny, you might have bed bugs.

If you find any or all of the abovementioned evidence, it would seem that you have a bed bug infestation. Now what you need to do is to find an actual bed bug.

Where to look for bed bugs

This is where you need to remember their preferred living environment. So take out your magnifying glass and very carefully look in your mattress seams, around the buttons in your upholstered headboard, in the gaps between the floor skirting and the wall, and so on. In general, if the thin side of your credit card can fit into the space, a bed bug can snuggle up in there too.

How to get rid of bed bugs

There are two approaches to getting rid of bed bugs. You can attempt to do it yourself or you can get in the professionals to take care of it for you. If you are a homeowner with bed bugs in some of your bedrooms, the DIY option is viable. But if you are in the hospitality industry and your hotel or hostel is infested by bed bugs, we suggest you seek professional help to get rid of the pest.

1. The DIY option

Once you’ve identified the rooms in which the bed bugs reside, restrict movement from those rooms to others to avoid the spreading of the bugs. Then, in an all-out effort, do the following:

  1. Vacuum – thoroughly vacuum all those areas where these tiny pests may reside. Yes, that includes the seams of your mattress and your bed base. After vacuuming, empty the contents of your vacuum cleaner in a plastic bag, seal off the bag and put it in an outside bin so that the bed bugs can’t come back for more.
  2. Wash & dry – wash all of your bedding and clothing that may have been in contact with bed bugs on the highest heat setting that your washing machine has. Bed bugs can’t survive in temperatures 60°C or more, so ensure that you wash at those temperatures. Just to be sure, dry the washing out in a tumble dryer at the highest possible temperature setting. *Please read the washing instructions on each item that you intend to wash carefully and don’t wash items at higher heats than is recommended.* You may also want to clean your mattress, just to be on the safe side.
  3. Isolate – if you cannot wash an item at high heat, put it inside a black plastic bag, seal up the bag and leave the bag outside in the sun on a warm sunny day. The bag will likely heat up to 60°C or more, at which point all life cycles of the bed bug will perish. Leave the bag in the sun for at least three days to ensure that the bed bugs are dead.

If all else fails…

Use a commercial household-approved pesticide that indicates it can be used to get rid of bed bugs. Read the instructions carefully and apply the pesticide wearing appropriate PPE. Take note that bedbugs are resilient and resistant to some pesticides, so this option might not work. Moreover, some pesticides can be harmful to pets and humans so use them with extreme caution.

2. Call in the experts

Pest control experts, like Rentokil, have years of experience in identifying and exterminating bed bugs. They know exactly where to look and what to look for.

Rentokil follows the principles of integrated best management when it comes to eradicating pests like bed bugs. If you decide to call in our help, we will do the following:

  1. Survey – we will do a thorough investigation of your property to pinpoint where the problem lies.
  2. Suggest – after our technicians have identified the problem areas, we will work out a tailor-made solution for your specific situation and discuss the targeted approach that we’ll follow to rid your establishment of bed bugs.
  3. Spray – once we’ve worked out the details, our technicians will come and chemically treat the areas where bed bugs have been identified. As with the DIY option, thorough vacuuming of infested areas will need to be done regularly and all of the linen must be washed at temperatures of 60°C or more. After the spray, affected rooms and furniture that were treated must be allowed to breathe for 24 hours before putting it back in use.

Please note that in hotels, all of the rooms adjacent to the one where bed bugs were identified must also be treated to ensure that the infestation does not spread. That means that rooms above, below, next to, and across the hallway from infested rooms will also need to be treated.

Prevention is better than cure

Here are some tips to prevent future bed bug infestations:

  • When you return home from your travels, don’t take your suitcase into the house. Instead, put your travel clothes in a plastic bag, take the bag directly to the washing machine and wash the clothes at the highest possible heat. Seal up the suitcase in a black plastic bag and let it lie in the sun for a couple of days.
  • Fix up your bedroom. Seal up all the cracks in the walls and the gaps between the skirting and the wall/floor. Glue peeling wallpaper to the wall and remove excess clutter from your bedstand and from the floor under and around your bed.
  • Get a zip-up mattress protector and encase your mattress in it. If there are bed bugs on the mattress, they will stay there until they die (leave the zippered encasement on for at least a year to ensure this). On the other hand, more bed bugs won’t be able to go and hide in the mattress seams like this.

Getting rid of bed bugs can be an iterative process. If you don’t clean out all of their eggs, a new generation of bed bugs may be born into your home or hotel after you got rid of the first set of intruders. So you should be vigilant after the first sweep to ensure that no large-scale resurgence occurs.

Sleep health tips from The Mattress Warehouse

Striving to improve your sleep hygiene, The Mattress Warehouse supplies sleep tips and more importantly, top-quality beds and bedding. Follow us on our blog or social media for more tips on how to improve your sleeping environment. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!

About Rentokil

Rentokil is a professional exterminator company with over 90 years of international experience and 50 years of local experience in South Africa. The company is committed to protecting people from the danger of pest-born diseases and illnesses. Expert technicians are trained to understand the biology of pests in order to apply the best possible treatment plan for your home.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Mattress Warehouse. 

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