Understanding and Controlling Bed Bugs
By nature, bed bugs are stow-a-ways. They enter homes or apartments by hiding out in the cracks and crevices of luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes and other objects when they are moved between apartments, homes and hotels. Bed bugs hide during the day and typically feed at night. Since bed bugs feed on blood, their presence has little to do with the cleanliness of the home, although clutter can provide hiding spaces for bed bugs and make them difficult to treat. Bed bugs can survive for months without feeding, so they may be present in vacant, clean homes when new tenants unpack. Once bed bugs are established, they rapidly reproduce and spread from room to room.
Bed bugs can be very difficult to control, even for trained professionals. Many insecticides are not effective at killing the eggs, so a repeat treatment is often necessary to kill the juveniles after they hatch. Even worse, some populations of bed bugs have developed resistance to common insecticides, making some sprays ineffective. Alternative methods include heat and steam treatments, structural fumigations and cold treatments.
Keep in mind these important tips:
- Bed bugs can be easily confused with other insects such as bat bugs, so proper identification is important. Bed bugs are visible to the human eye and adults are about the size of an apple seed. There are picture-guides linked below. If you need assistance, consider contacting your local Cooperative Extension Service for help identifying a possible bed bug.
- Bed bugs can be very difficult to control for even trained professionals. If you rent your home or live in a multi-family building, consider talking with neighbors and landlords about making a coordinated effort to treat the problem. Bed bugs are easily capable of moving through cracks and crevices of walls from one room to the next even if they cannot hitch a ride on someone or something.
- Always read and follow label directions for any pesticide product, and make sure the pesticide is intended for treating bed bugs. The EPA has a bed bug product search tool you can use to identify pesticides registered for use against bed bugs in various locations.
- Do not use more of a pesticide than the label directions say to use, it could make the problem worse by causing bed bugs to disperse. It could also cause health effects.
- Avoid daily spot treatments for bed bugs. It can cause the pesticide-resistant population to grow, making elimination of the bed bugs more difficult.
- "Bug bombs" or total release foggers are not effective against bed bugs according to the National Center for Healthy Housing. The pesticide droplets generated by foggers typically do not penetrate the hiding spaces used by bed bugs.
- Infested items that cannot be treated with pesticides (bedding, clothing, electronic items) can be treated with heat or cold to kill the bed bugs. See the resources below for the specific methods, including the temperatures known to be effective.
- If you discard infested items, clearly mark them to prevent others from taking bed bugs home. Consider drawing a picture of a bug, which can be understood by people who speak different languages.
- Many experts recommend an IPM approach, which stands for Integrated Pest Management. This approach emphasizes monitoring and prevention coupled with non-chemical treatments and utilizes pesticides only as a last resort when other options have failed.
- Remember that bed bugs are stow-a-ways that hitchhike from one location to the next, so inspect any second-hand furniture or travel bags before bringing them into your home to make sure you are not also bringing in bed bugs. The resources below discuss how to inspect items for bed bugs.
The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) received hundreds of calls last year from all over the country about bed bugs. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (7:30am-3:30pm PST), or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Resources on this Topic:
- Bed Bug Information - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Bed Bug Product Search Tool - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Bed Bugs: Best Management Practices - National Pest Management Association (NPMA)
- Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States - U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- What's Working for Bed Bug Control in Multifamily Housing - National Center for Healthy Housing
- Bed Bugs are Back! An IPM Answer - Cornell University
- Bed Bug Fact Sheet - University of Kentucky
- Bed Bug Fact Sheet - Ohio State University
- Managing Bed Bugs - University of Nebraska Lincoln
- Managing Bed Bugs: Interactive Publication - University of Nebraska Lincoln
- Control of Bed Bugs In Residences - Univesity of Minnesota Extension
- Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs in Residences: Information for Homeowners and Tenants - Univesity of Minnesota Extension
- Guidelines for Prevention and Management of Bed Bugs in Shelters and Group Living Facilities - Cornell University
- Resources for Residents and Building Managers - Rutgers University
- How to Select a Bed Bug Control Provider - Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
- Guidelines for the Control and Prevention of Bed Bug Infestations in California - California Department of Public Health
- Traveler Q & A: Preventing bed bugs from hitchhiking to your home - University of Minnesota Extension
- Bed Bug Fact Sheets - Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Bed Bug Resources - Michigan.gov
- Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely - New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- Bed Bugs: Information for New York City Residents - New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- Bed Bug Resources - New York vs. Bed Bugs
- National Bed Bug Docket - Regulations.gov
Bed Bug Videos
- Bed Bug Awareness Video - Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association
- Bed Bugs and Integrated Pest Management - Rutgers University
- National Bed Bug Summit Video Webinar Presentations - U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Bed Bug TV Episodes - Bed Bug Central TV
- How to Inspect a Bed for Bed Bugs - Bed Bug Central TV
- Advisory - Dry Ice Bed Bug Trap Update - Bed Bug Central TV
- Bed Bug Dry Ice Trap - Bed Bug Central TV