Bed bugs are bloodsuckers.
Bed bugs pierce human skin with elongated beaks through which they extract blood. Bed bug bites are not initially painful and can go unnoticed for hours or days. This allows bed bugs to withdraw human blood for up to 10 minutes with each feeding...One bed bug will usually take more than one bite. Once a bed bug inserts its mouthparts and finds a suitable blood vessel, it will begin feeding. ~ source
While bed bugs like to feed on sleeping humans, they will also suck the blood of dogs, cats, bats, birds, and other creatures.
Bed bugs can be found in almost any place with human activity including homes, schools, offices, public transportation, and hotels. They hide nearly everywhere and spread easily from one place to another in backpacks, suitcases, linens, shoes, clothes, and boxes to be near a food source.
After feeding, they move to secluded places and hide for 5-10 days. During this time in the bed bug life cycle, they do not feed but instead digest their meal, mate, and lay eggs. ~ source
You may notice a bed bug infestation in your home if you wake with flat or raised, red, itchy, potentially blistered bites on your skin. Some people react to the anti-coagulant factor bed bugs insert in their victim for feeding. You may also see blood spots on your sheets, live or dead bugs, molted skins, spots of fecal matter, or tiny eggs (usually found in dark crevices).
While bed bugs may carry disease, they are not observed to pass disease to humans. Nonetheless, who wants to allow blood suckers to eat them up as they sleep then hide in their home to digest, mate, and lay more eggs?
Food grade diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide to help rid your home of bed bugs!
Because diatomaceous earth (DE) is made of fine particles of super absorbent silica, DE compromises the protective waxy coating on the exoskeleton of insects. The bugs dry up and die, but humans and mammals are unaffected!
Here is a protocol for using food grade DE to kill bed bugs and eliminate infestation in your home:
Heat Treatment/Steam clean
Wash All Fabrics
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
Repeat as needed
1. Heat Treatment/Steam Clean
Bed bugs cannot survive at temperatures over 130 degrees F for more than a few hours. You can use a steam cleaner for linens, carpets, and furniture. Alternatively, if you live in a hot, sunny area, you could wrap mattresses, linens, rugs, and curtains in black plastic and leave the items out in the sun to reach 130 degrees F for many hours.
2. Wash All Fabrics
Wash all fabrics and dry on high heat, or use the steam clean method on them. You want to expose any bugs to high heat for hours to kill them. Once fabrics, pillows, shoes, etc. have been treated, seal them in plastic bags or containers until you're done treating the infestation. You don't want new bed bugs to spread to your linens again!
Vacuum THOROUGHLY. Vacuum carpets to remove dead bug carcasses. Vacuum furniture, paying special attention to seams and frames. You might want to consider using an industrial vacuum.
4. Apply Diatomaceous Earth
Bed bugs can travel along electrical conduits and hide in cracks and crevices. Apply DE behind faceplates, along molding and woodwork, behind appliances, along windowsills and door jams, and between carpeting and walls.
Cover furniture, carpet, and mattresses with DE and work it in with your hands or a broom.
Bed bugs will not cross a line of diatomaceous earth, so you can use it to "cordon off" zones in your house that have been treated or are not infested.
5. Vacuum/Clean Up
DE only kills adult bugs, and it only kills those that come in direct contact with it. For this reason, leave DE on as long as possible--weeks if you can.
Obviously, you probably don't want to sleep on a mattress covered in DE, in which case weeks might be unrealistic. This is why the heat step is very important for the mattress as well!
DE is very, very fine, and it is often hard on standard home vacuums with filters. You might consider an industrial or shop vac when it is time to vacuum everything up so you don't risk burning out the motor.
A note about breathing it in: filter grade and pest control grade DE have been associated with respiratory problems upon inhalation. Food grade DE does not come with that risk, but obviously breathing in big clouds of dust can be unpleasant. Even though food grade DE doesn't pose a health risk, you can wear a mask and goggles when you apply it if you want, because it does get into the air!
6. Repeat as needed
Repetition may be necessary, especially if you are unable to leave DE on for many weeks at a time. You also want to break the bed bug life cycle. Simply repeat the protocol as needed!