Bed bugs sound like something from another era but they are more common than you might think. A bit like head lice which perversely only like clean scalps and hair, bed bugs are not necessarily a hallmark of poor household care or dirty bed linen.
What size are bed bugs? (Image source: usda.gov)
What causes bed bugs?
The main cause of bed bugs is travel. The little critters will hitch a ride on your clothing or in your luggage and can easily move from one property to another, even across continents.
Early stage rash from Bed Bug bites while travelling (Image source: r/BedBugs)
Bed bugs are also not that simple to spot which is why infestations can take hold. They are small and wingless with flat bodies so find it easy to hide in the bed headboard or within upholstered furniture. Despite their name, they don’t just take up residence in mattresses and beds. Their anatomical design prevents them from being crushed by the occupants of the bed so they are designed to thrive and persist. Even their feeding regimes are all designed to deter detection. They tend to feed at night when people are asleep and inject a little anesthetic at the bite site to avoid someone stirring or reacting.
Bed Bug Lifecycle: Image Source
Because people travel so much these days, bed bugs are everywhere, in hotels, student accommodation, hostels, cinemas, furniture shops, and rental properties. Bed bugs can survive for months without needing to feed so you can see how easy it is to acquire these unwanted visitors and also how hard it can be to get rid of them.
How to get rid of bed bugs
There are chemical and synthetic options available on the market but there are two problems with these products. First of all, due to their liberal overuse, bed bugs are becoming resistant to them. The same thing happened with head lice on children. Rather than carefully checking and combing and setting up a lice prevention regime, parents simply relied on using the shampoo once the infestation had occurred. Now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to eliminate lice using these products and exactly the same thing has happened with bed bugs.
Secondly, because of the proximity of sleepers, unless you can move rooms for the duration, many people don’t want to sleep or want their children to sleep on mattresses and beds which have been sprayed with chemicals.
Happily, there are green and natural alternatives:
Try Bed Bug Killer from Ecoraider – it’s safe for you and your kids but has been proven to fight bed bugs.
And then there is the lounge furniture to consider:
Essential oil for bed bugs – sprays and mixes
Essential oils in varying compounds have demonstrated good success rates against bed bugs and are quite safe to use on household furniture. And, they smell great! There is no lingering toxic odor which might alert your friends or relatives to what you are trying to treat. And essential oil sprays also provide a valuable deterrent even if you don’t have bed bugs. The oils will discourage them from setting up home. Spray fabrics weekly.
What oils can keep bed bugs away?
Not all essential oils will kill bed bugs so the mix is important plus persistent application. Synthetic and chemical products when they work, act quickly but essential oils will take longer so you do have to persevere. Here are some of the oils that are effective in the fight against bed bugs. A common mistake is that some people think it’s the scent that bed bugs don’t like when these oils actually work by affecting the insect’s nervous system:-
- Oregano and thyme oil which produces Carvacrol and thymol
- Citronellic acid which is derived from Lemongrass
- Oil of Cloves which produces eugenol
This is a popular and proven bed bug repellent recipe to use in your home which uses peppermint, lemongrass and cedarwood oils:-
- 10 drops of Peppermint Oil
- 10 drops of Lemongrass
- 10 drops of Cedarwood Oil
- 2-3 drops of Oregano Oil
- 2-3 drops of Witch Hazel
- 2 Teaspoons of Epsom Salts
Add distilled water to dilute further and then spray daily on mattresses and pillows shaking well before use as the oils will separate. Also spray the legs, headboards and footboards. The best time to do it is in the morning so the fabrics have time to dry out. Remember to take care and avoid electrical sockets. Some people also swear by a blend of Rosemary, Lavender and Eucalyptus using 10 drops for each oil. Essential oils are strong and can cause skin irritation to people lying on bed linen so make sure your oils are diluted.
Remember, essential oil products work best to eliminate bed bugs if you follow other protocols. This includes washing and drying bed linen daily. There is more about this further down the page. If you don’t have bed bugs and are using the spray preventatively then you can also spray your bed linens.
Essential oils are not enough
Here are some techniques to help you minimize the introduction of bed bugs to your home.
- Treat secondhand furniture in a location that is separate to the main home and don’t bring it into the house until you are sure it is free of any bugs. This may be furniture you have bought or something you have been given by a family member
- When you are traveling or moving into temporary accommodation, inspect the bed carefully for any signs of infestation. Bed bugs are around the size of an apple seed and brown in color. If they are in your hotel bed then you will probably end up bringing them home with you as a very unwelcome souvenir
- Take your essential oil spray with you as a precaution so that you can spray fabrics and mattresses even if they appear to be bug-free
- Check your luggage carefully when you pack to come home, particularly examine all the compartments of the suitcase if it has been hidden under the bed before you put clothes into them
- Bed bugs can survive the washing process so the best thing to do is place your clothes in the dryer for 20 minutes first – the heat will kill the bugs. Then put them through a hot, soapy wash cycle before drying them again. Heat will kill bed bugs at all stages of their lifecycle
- Invest in a protective bed bug mattress cover – either for the home or to take along with you on vacation
Always dilute your oils before use and be careful when you are spraying linen or fabrics in children’s rooms. Expectant mums should use with care.
Further Reading / Useful Resources
Study identifies essential oil compounds most toxic to bed bugs: https://phys.org/news/2019-03-essential-oil-compounds-toxic-bed.html
Can You Repel or Kill Bed Bugs with Essential Oils? https://healingsolutions.com/blogs/learn/can-you-repel-or-kill-bed-bugs-with-essential-oils
Some “Green” Oils Can Stop a Bed Bug—But Many Can’t: https://entomologytoday.org/2017/12/06/some-green-oils-can-stop-a-bed-bug-but-many-cant/
Essential Oils For Bed Bugs: https://dearadamsmith.com/essential-oils-for-bed-bugs/