Bed bugs are annoying pests to have in your house and can be a challenge to eradicate.

These insects, like roaches, can hitch a ride into your home from another infested location. Once they're in your property, you may not see them right away, but they'll have set up shop long before you notice there's an issue. You typically won't know until you start to see bed bug bites on your skin, which look like red, swollen areas on your skin that are usually darker in the center.

Identifying bed bugs

Before you break out the cans of bug spray, you must ensure you actually have bed bugs. Other insects, such as ticks or fleas, can produce bites that appear similar to bed bug bites, and you don't want to take drastic measures before you've properly identified the source.

One challenge that comes with spotting bed bugs is they are active at night. During the day, they hide in your mattresses, carpets and furniture. In the evening, they come out and feed on blood, which is why they bite animals. When the sun comes up again, they go back into hiding.

Although bed bugs are sneaky critters, you may be able to spot one from time to time. They are oval-shaped, flat insects that are reddish brown. If you're not lucky enough to see a live one, you may first see a dead bed bug. You might also come across one of their shells, as the insects molt. In some cases, you may not spot the bugs themselves but find their cream-colored eggs around dark crevices.

In any pest infestation case, consider scheduling a property inspection if you're having trouble identifying the critter that has invaded your home.

Getting rid of bed bugs

For the most part, these pests can make their way into your home without any wrongdoing on your part. The one risk you do have to avoid, however, is bringing found furniture into your house. You don't know if any seemingly good couch or chair you find on the curb is home to bed bugs, so it's best to leave these items for the trash crew.

Once bed bugs are in your home, they can be difficult to treat. In many cases, professional extermination services are the best solution. If you can't afford these services or want to take on these vampiric pests yourself, here are some steps for eliminating them:

  • Clean up your home. Given that bed bugs like to hide, you must reduce the number of places they can hole up during the day. This means removing clutter and organizing your belongings. Also, regularly wash your linens and clothing. Bed bugs can be present in your linens and dirty clothes bins, so be sure to follow this practice and heat dry everything.
  • Get mattress and box spring covers. One way to eliminate bed bug hiding places is to get covers to protect your mattress and box spring. These products zip closed and can be waterproof in some cases.
  • Don't purge your home. Given the difficulty that comes with treating bed bugs, some people immediately think the best idea is to throw out all furniture and fabrics that can house these pests. However, this plan is expensive and could pass bed bugs on to other households. Plus, any replacement items can quickly become infested.
  • Call professionals if you need them. There are some bed bug cases that require insecticides or other more comprehensive measures to eliminate the critters. Let an expert who knows how to properly use sprays and infestations overall handle the situation. It may cost you now, but getting help is better than living with unwanted house guests.