According to the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.” This is especially true when it comes to dealing with bed bugs. These blood sucking parasites can be extremely difficult to eliminate once they’ve staked a claim to a property, and unfortunately it doesn’t take much for them to gain a foothold once they make their way inside your home or apartment.

It’s important to remember that bed bugs are champion hitchhikers. They can move from an infested site to new hunting grounds simply by catching a lift on the luggage, clothing or furniture of otherwise unsuspecting travelers. Once they find a suitable habitat, they’ll hop off and begin building colonies. And at the rate bed bugs can reproduce it doesn’t take long for a handful of scouts to produce a full scale invasion force.

Clearly, the best way to treat a bed bug invasion is to head it off at the pass. In short, to prevent the outriders from getting into your home in the first place. So, let’s look at some simple tips to help you protect your home and your family from a full scale bed bug invasion.

Recognizing the Enemy

The first step in preventing a bed bug infestation is to learn to recognize the enemy. In most cases adult bed bugs can be seen by the naked eye. So with close inspection you should be able to recognize one when you see it. Immature bed bugs, and bed bug eggs, can be more difficult to spot. But there should still be tell-tale signs that indicate their presence.

Adult bed bugs have the following distinct characteristics:

  • Long and brown with a flat oval shaped body
  • Adult bed bugs are roughly ¼ inch in length
  • After feeding an adult bed bug will be more reddish-brown in color and their body will be more elongated

Young bed bugs can be identified by the following:

  • Smaller bodies
  • Translucent or whitish-yellow in color

Bed bug eggs, while more difficult to spot, also have distinctive characteristics:

  • Roughly the size of a pinhead
  • Pearl-white in color
  • Marked by a dot, or eye spot, if more than a few days old

Now that we have a rough idea what we’re looking for, let’s dig in to some simple tips to help you prevent bed bugs from entering your home or office.

1 Avoid Places Where You’re Likely to be Exposed to Bed Bugs

This may sound easier than it is. But in reality there are some simple steps you can take to avoid coming into contact with bed bugs. All it takes is a little forward thinking.

For example, if you are planning a trip take the time to check out the bed bug registry to see if your destination has had any recent reports of bed bug infestations. You can also check out bed bug reports for hotels and time-shares on on Trip Advisor. If you find the location has had a bad run of bed bug sightings it’s a good idea to change your bookings.

Once you reach your destination you should take some time to inspect the premises before your start to unpack. This doesn’t take a lot of time, but it definitely pays off in the long run. Leave your belongings in the car, or put them in the bathroom, and perform a quick inspection. Look for any tell-tale signs of bed bugs, and only when you are sure the coast is clear should your settle in and begin unpacking.

2 Be Vigilant About Your Surroundings

It may not be possible to totally avoid places where bed bugs may be hiding, but if you are aware of your surroundings and take care with your belongings you can reduce the chances that you’ll be bringing home any unwanted visitors.

When you’re in public places be aware of where you leave your coats, handbags, and backpacks. Try to avoid just leaving them on the floor where a crawling bed bug or two could mistake them for public transport. Bed bugs also love to hide in upholstery, so try to avoid leaving any of your belongings on couches, chairs or other upholstered surfaces. This will reduce the likelihood that a stray bed bug or two will attach themselves to your coat or briefcase and hitch a ride with you back to your home or office.

3 Be Careful What You Bring Into Your Home

Bed bugs can hide in many different places, and once they’re embedded they can live for quite a long time between feedings. Consequently they can be lurking in some of the everyday items we bring into our homes. To reduce the risk of infestation carefully inspect and treat anything you bring into the home. For example, clothing (both new and vintage) should be carefully inspected and immediately washed before you pop it into the closet. A hot wash (120° or higher) will kill bed bugs and their eggs ensuring that your new clothes are fresh and pest free.

Any new furniture purchases (again, either new or vintage) should also be carefully inspected before they are introduced to the home. Remember, bed bugs can turn up almost anywhere and just because your couch is brand new doesn’t mean it hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse that is full of bed bugs.

4 Take Defensive Measures in the Home

It may not be possible to totally avoid coming into contact with a stray bed bug or two, and yes you may even bring them home with you. But if you take some proactive measures at home you can definitely minimize your risks. The goal here is to make your home an unfriendly environment for the bed bugs to set up camp.

One of the simplest, and most effective, things you can do is cover your mattress, box-spring and pillows in bed bug tested encasements. This will prevent these items from becoming infested if you do accidentally bring home a stray bed bug or two. Moreover, if bed bugs do get into your bedding the encasement will help to trap them so they do not spread to other areas of the house.

Finally, reduce clutter in the home. While it is a myth that bed bugs are attracted to dirty or cluttered environments, keeping rooms tidy gives these pests fewer places to hide. It also gives you a better chance at spotting them in the event they do make it into the home. This is key, as the earlier you detect a bed bug problem the easier it will be to successfully eliminate.

Early Detection is Key

Bed bugs have made an unwelcome return to our modern day lives, and they are becoming more widespread than ever before. That being said, there are ways to minimize your risk of experiencing a full scale bed bug invasion in your home. If you take the necessary preemptive steps you can greatly reduce the chances of bed bugs setting up colonies in house or apartment.

However, should you suspect that you have bed bugs early detection and treatment is the key. These blood sucking parasites can reproduce at an alarming rate, and the sooner your confirm and treat the infestation the better. Should you see signs of bed bugs in your home, contact a licensed bed bug inspector immediately and work together to devise a successful plan of attack.