We just found out that several neighbors in my apartment building have bed bugs. Is there anything we can do to try and prevent them in our apartment — particularly in a green way? I hate the idea of flooding my apartment with pesticides that could harm my pets.
Oof, best of luck in keeping them out! What a scuzzy feeling.
So, I had fleas once. Isn’t that a gross thing to say? About a week after I moved into a Victorian House in a shitty neighborhood with a family of hippies, I was settling into bed and saw a little black spot climbing up between the fibers of my sheets. I looked closer, and holy fuck. A flea. They look just like they do in cartoons.
I jumped up, took a shower, changed my clothes and slept at my boyfriend’s house. The next day I went home and spoke to my roommates — their indoor/outdoor cat brought them home. They planned a flea bomb. I wasn’t stoked about living in the aftermath of a pesticide bomb, but I was also totally skeeved, so we had a flea bomb.
It took several additional applications after the first flea bomb to completely clear the house, but my room cleared out much sooner because I used my Google Fu.
Most flea-removal tricks will also work with bedbugs. Both insects are susceptible to heat (over about 120 degrees) and desiccation. There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent them from moving about in your own building. Your best bets:
- Don’t allow pets to wander into common areas where they can pick up bugs.
- Keep your entrance free of clutter in which bedbugs might huddle.
- If possible, caulk cracks along baseboard and moulding. They can enter that way. Similarly, seal cracks around pipes or wires traveling through walls.
If you find yourself with an infestation — or if you just want a few tricks for extra prevention, here’s what I did:
- Fleas and flea eggs (and bedbugs and bedbug eggs) are very subject to desiccation. I stocked up on baking soda and salt, which dry the bugs, and poured them EVERYWHERE. On the hardwood, making sure they penetrated cracks; all over my chair and rug, and I think just near my bed. You can also use diatomaceous earth (safe for humans and pets).
- USE HEAT. Even the sun coming through windows can help make your home inhospitable. Use your blinds to your advantage.
- I washed all my textiles repeatedly and dried them on super hot settings and never let them sit out in the open.
- Cedar is a natural bug repellent. You can get pure cedar oil, but I liked the balls. It’s safe and makes your home smell lovely.
- I vacuumed often — probably every day — and kept the vacuum bin filled with baking soda and salt to desiccate whatever it picked up. It’s important to clean the bin or change the bag EVERY TIME. Steam cleaners are even better.
- Anything soft that wasn’t being used was wrapped in a plastic bag.
- I did this for months. Fleas were out of the house within a couple weeks, but their eggs can be in stasis for three months before they hatch, waiting for you to drop your guard. Hell no, fleas. And bedbugs? They can live about a year without eating, acting like jerks the whole time.
- Especially important to prevent an infestation: protect entryways. Use cedar or diatomaceous earth or baking soda or salt across all doorways, near cracks, and around any place they might enter your home. If you have to visit these neighbors, don’t bring anything with you, don’t sit, and pop your clothes in the dryer when you come home.
It sucks. For monnnnnnnnnths after that I was SURE that every tickle was a flea — even though they hadn’t traveled on me when I had them! — and I now live in fear of bringing home bedbugs. Again, good luck!
We need all the help we can get to keep bloodsucking pests out! What have you learned about preventing infestations?