An unfortunate consequence of the bed bug epidemic is it has made secondhand furniture "shopping" unwise.
Learn how to identify, treat and prevent bed bugs before you go insane
Bed bugs are an increasing reality for many Vancouverites, no matter what part of town you call home. And there's little sign of the problem abating anytime soon.
If you're concerned about your building or neighbourhood, check it out on the Bed Bug Registry, a heat map of citizen-reported bed bug cases. The registry covers more than just Vancouver and is particularly useful for travellers seeking bug-free quarters for their visit.
If you suspect your living quarters have been penetrated by bed bugs, the first step is confirming your suspicions. And from there, the long road to a bed bug-free life begins.
Bed bug bites often appear in rows or patterns of three or four bites.
Do I have bed bugs?
The first sign of an infestation is usually bites. To distinguish bedbug bites from mosquito and flea bites, pay close attention to their pattern and their location on your body. The bites look similar to a mosquito bite, but often appear in rows or patterns of three or four bites. Flea bites are smaller and rarely found on the upper body, appearing mostly on the legs and ankles.
If you've confirmed the source of your bite, the next step is to find the hiding place.
Hunting down the elusive pest can be a challenge, but starting with your bed is the best approach. Check your sheets for dark marks or stains, which are traces of dried bed bug excrement or blood. They shed their outer shell as they mature, so be on the lookout for their thin casings.
Take a flashlight on your investigatory tour, beginning with the folds, creases and corners of your mattress and box spring.
Bed bugs are nocturnal, so don't assume that you're free and clear if you don't catch any.
And not all bedbugs reside in your sheets and mattress; they also hide in the walls, side tables, baseboards, carpet, clutter and other cozy spots close to your sleeping quarters, so be thorough with your search.
Sealing off your bed with a plastic mattress encasement is one of the most
important things you can do in the fight against bed bugs. (Image: Flickr / cuttlefish)
How do I get rid of bedbugs?
Taking the DIY route to extinguish your bedbug problem is, itself, a problem.
As many who have suffered through a bed bug infestation will attest, the buggers are not easy to get rid of. Their size and propensity for late-night trickery make them hard to catch, and some bed bugs can even survive an entire year without feeding.
Hiring an experienced professional to handle your situation is the most effective method, and (depending on their method) they come at a range of prices. Check out the Better Business Bureau's list of pest control companies or our list of BC exterminators. Ask for testimonials to be sure you're working with a proven winner.
If your budget doesn't allow you to hire a professional, you still have options—plenty of laborious options. To stave off the bloodsuckers while you strategize against their demise, try the bed bug Vaseline trick. The most important steps are vacuuming and disinfecting your home, laundering or dry cleaning your clothing, and sealing off your bed with a plastic mattress encasement.
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions on eliminating your unwanted house guests:
How do I prevent bed bugs?
Staying vigilant can help avoid an infestation, especially when travelling. When choosing a hotel, check Trip Advisor for recent reviews and red flags. After finding a hotel with a clean slate of reviews, look it up on the Bed Bug Registry.
There's also no harm in asking the hotel manager if they've had any recent bouts of bed bugs.
Now, here's where you get really paranoid and act like a crazy person: Upon arriving in your hotel, immediately place all luggage in the bathtub and prepare for a thorough room inspection. With a flashlight in hand, check a hotel room the same way that you would approach your bedroom at home—start with the mattress, its seams and box spring, then move onto other furniture and hiding spots.
Once you've determined that the room is clear, place your bags on a luggage rack or hard surface (not the floor or bed). Don't make a habit of unpacking all of your belongings in hotel drawers, as this increases your chance of picking up pests hiding in the furniture.
Bed bugs can fit through closed zippers and the fabric lining of suitcases, so if you have the option of buying airtight hard luggage, it's a safer choice. And if you really want to go the extra mile, pack your clothes in airtight, plastic clothing-encasements.
Before departing, check all of your personal items and luggage for traces of bed bugs, even if you saw no signs during your stay. Immediately launder all of your clothing on a high temperature upon arriving home. Do not place your luggage on a bed or couch when unpacking, and vacuum your suitcase thoroughly once you've unpacked it.
Taking steps to avoid bed bugs can make even the most laid-back of us feel extremely neurotic, but in the end, it's more than worth it.