The War on Bed Bugs: A Personal Journey

Apart from cockroaches, bed bugs have got to be one of the scariest and most difficult of pests to eliminate. They’re incredibly resilient and hardy, and they breed as fast as rabbits.

Yours truly experienced a particularly bad spell of bed bug infestation a couple of years back. Therefore it’s only fit to share this story of horror and triumph during this Halloween season. Bed bugs have been harassing people ever since mankind started living in homes and making wooden furniture.

All sorts of methods have been used to control them, some more effective than others.

Photo credit: Consumer Reports

How it Started

The bed bug infestation started rather strangely, with itchy welts appearing on my arms and legs. They look exactly like mosquito bites. However, unlike mosquito bites, they turned red and the itchiness stayed for days. Eventually, the bites left a brown scar that took months to disappear.

Photo credit: Home Remedy Find

Bed bug bites manifest differently on different people, and sometimes the itchy welts take up to half a day to appear. Some people don’t react to it at all, so different members of your family may have different bite symptoms.

Other Signs You’ve Been Invaded

Apart from just itchy bites, you can also look out for small dark or brown stains on your pillows, cushion, walls, blankets or any other surface. These are actually the bed bug droppings, and you should also be wary of brown debris made up of their shells.


Photo credit: Entomology Today

Bed bugs reproduce very fast, and they shed their skin several times throughout their life cycle leaving previous shells. A female bed bug can lay up to 5000 eggs over a period of 6 months. Bed bugs live in cracks and crevices,  furniture, walls, bedding and practically any nook they can find.

Getting rid of bed bugs can be tedious and frustrating because they can live without feeding on your blood for up to a year.

Beginning the Extermination

The key to exterminating bedbugs is to understand their weaknesses. Bedbugs are sensitive to extreme temperatures, like extreme heat and cold. Their skins are porous and they can die by dehydration very easily. Bed bugs also move rather slowly when visible, so it’s easy to catch them.

Sunning and Heat

For small pieces of furniture of light mattresses that can be moved, you can bring them out onto the lawn to sun. The heat will kill off the bed bugs. Alternatively, you can take the sheets off your large mattress and wrap it in cling wrap to prevent the bed bugs from coming out and feeding, effectively starving them.

You can also use a steam cleaner on mattresses and furniture if you have one. You can douse hot boiling water onto pillows and cushions to kill the bugs too, as well as on small pieces of wooden furniture.

Image credit: Wikihow

Rubbing Alcohol

Apart from squishing visible bed bugs ( which is pretty gross) you can start by spraying rubbing alcohol on them. Rubbing alcohol or ethanol should be used undiluted on any bed bugs you see. The alcohol actually dehydrates them by drawing moisture from their skin.

Diatomaceous Earth

Ethanol, however,  is pretty inaccessible in Malaysia and quite pricey. This was when I discovered the wonders of diatomaceous earth or DE. It’s sold online in powder form and is reasonably priced. You don’t need a lot. In fact, 200 grams is more than enough to complete the extermination.

Photo credit: Harmonic Arts

DE is made of microscopic sea creature called diatoms whose outer shells are rich in silica. When insects like bed bugs walk across this powder, bits of sharp silica will pierce their skin, causing moisture to leak and dehydrating them slowly.

DE doesn’t kill the bedbugs immediately, but they will die within 2 -3 days after contact. To apply the DE, identify places where the bugs have a high chance of walking across, dip a brush into the DE and just dust some powder in that area.

DE really worked for me, and gave me the breakthrough I needed after months of struggling with the problem. After about a week, there was a significant drop in a number of bites and visible bugs in the living room.

If you’re struggling with a bed bug infestation too, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up until you find a workable solution. You may want to get the help of some professional pest control personnel on Kaodim, all of whom have the experience and advanced equipment needed to take care of bed bugs. 

written by Michelle Chee