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National Pesticide Information Center

npic@ace.orst.edu

1.800.858.7378

Bed Bug Control Methods

Bed bugs can be very difficult to control, even for trained professionals. Many insecticides are not effective at killing the eggs, so a second treatment is often necessary to kill the juveniles after eggs hatch. Even worse, many populations of bed bugs have developed resistance to common insecticides, making some sprays ineffective. Regular, thorough inspections and a variety of treatment methods are often needed. Those methods may include heat and steam treatments, fumigation, and cold treatments. A trained professional must do some of these treatments.

Where to start:

  • If you believe you have bed bugs, the first step is to properly identify them.
  • If you share walls with neighbors, talk with your neighbors and landlord about making a coordinated effort to treat the problem.
  • Read more about getting started here.

Physical methods:

  • Find and remove as many insects as possible. A crevice tool on a vacuum can be used for the tight areas where bed bugs like to hide. Immediately seal and dispose of the vacuum bag if bed bugs are suspected to be present. Clear packing tape or extra sticky lint rollers can also be used to remove bugs and eggs from surfaces.
  • For bedding, clothing, and other heat durable items, drying them on high heat for 30 minutes will kill all bed bugs, including the eggs. Use dissolvable laundry bags or plastic bags that can be disposed of outside to transport clothing to shared laundromats. After drying, items should be stored in sealable plastic bins or bags to stop bugs from moving back in.
  • If you discard infested items, clearly mark them by drawing a picture of a bug on the item(s), which can be understood by people who speak a different language. Also, wrap your items before moving them to keep bed bugs from spreading.

Making your bed a bug-free island:

  • Pull your bed away from the wall and other furniture. Inspect your bed frame, box spring, and mattress thoroughly and remove any bugs you find.
  • Place traps under your bed legs to stop bed bugs from climbing up to bite during the night. You can buy traps or build your own. Do not allow linens to touch the floor.
  • Mattress and box spring encasements can be used to salvage infested beds or protect replacement beds. They will trap bugs inside that are already present, remove hiding areas, and make future inspections much easier. If only one encasement can be afforded, the box spring should be encased first.

Chemical methods:

  • Always read and follow the 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.
  • If you are working with a pest management professional or a landlord, talk to them before using any pesticides on your own.
  • 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.
  • Typically, dust products should be applied in small amounts within the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. Read the label to be sure.
  • Infested items that cannot be treated with pesticides (bedding, clothing, electronic items) can be treated with heat or cold to kill hidden bed bugs. See the resources below for the specific treatment methods.
  • Large infestations may also be treated using structural fumigation.

The bullets above contain a menu of options, not recommendations. Only a professional familiar with your situation is qualified to recommend specific strategies to eliminate your infestation.

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 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Additional Resources:

Tools to Control Bed Bugs:

Videos:

Last updated February 19, 2016