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Bed Bugs

If you think you have bed bugs, don’t panic. There is a lot you can do; learn more and create an action plan. Bed bugs are hard to control, even for professionals. When using pesticides, always read and follow the label directions. Be mindful of the possible dangers of using pesticides. These days, many bed bugs are resistant to common pesticides. Bug bombs (foggers) don’t work for bed bugs. Learn more, one step at a time.

Where to Start with Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Biology and Behavior

Bed Bug Control Methods

Preventing Bed Bug Infestations

Use the EPA Bed Bug Information Clearinghouse to find bed bug information for First Responders, Health Care Facilities, Hotels, Housing Authorities, Landlords, Pest Management Professionals, Residential, Schools/Childcare, Shelters, Transportation Services, and Workers Entering Homes.


University of Arizona and collaborating researchers hope to determine the real impact and social cost of bed bugs, the risks to individuals and society, as well as the significant causes of infestations. Take their survey here.


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.

Last updated September 26, 2017

Bed Bugs

  • Identify the pest. Carpet beetles, fleas, and bat bugs are often confused for bed bugs.
  • Work with others. A professional is often needed, and a landlord can make a big difference.
  • Find their resting places. Check bed sheets for blood stains. Inspect the seams of mattresses, look inside box springs, and look behind head-boards.
  • Use encasements on mattresses and box springs to trap and starve bed bugs.
  • Vacuum up bed bugs frequently and discard the contents promptly. You can also freeze the vacuum bag for several days to kill the bugs.
  • Use the high heat setting on your dryer to kill bed bugs on bedding and clothing.
  • Steam-clean mattresses, carpets, or upholstered furniture to kill bed bugs and their young.
  • Place infested items in your freezer for several days to kill bed bugs, if appropriate.
  • Reduce clutter in your home to limit bed bug hiding places.
  • Coordinate treatment with neighboring apartments. Bed bugs migrate between units.
  • Caulk or seal cracks and crevices which may allow bed bugs entry.
  • Check your clothing, bags and coat when leaving a potentially infested area. Bed bugs are great hitchhikers.

If you choose to use a pesticide, read the label before you buy. Try a lower toxicity product first.

If you have a pesticide product in mind, have your label handy and click here for information about that product.

Where to Start with Bed Bugs?

It’s hard to sleep when you have bed bugs crawling on you or your bed. If you think you may have bed bugs:

  • First, don’t panic! Quick, rash decisions may lead to unneeded, costly, and dangerous actions. You are not alone in this battle; lots of people across the country have had bed bugs. Also, bed bugs are not a sign that your house is dirty. However, bed bugs can easily hide in cluttered spaces.
  • If you find bed bugs near your bed, or bite-marks on your skin, don’t sleep in another part of the house. The bed bugs could follow you, spreading the infestation and making it more difficult to treat. Instead, try to make your bed an island of safety by following some simple tips.
  • Do not discard furniture immediately. You could spread the bed bugs throughout your house, making treatment more difficult. You may also cause new infestations if others take home your discarded items. If you must discard items, clearly mark them with an image of a bug to warn others.
  • Bed bugs can be easily confused with other insects such as bat bugs, so correct identification is important. Also, you cannot determine if you have bed bugs by bites alone. Learn more about how to identify bed bugs. If you need assistance, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service or pest management professional for help identifying your bugs.
  • Next, learn about bed bug biology and behavior. This will help you understand where to look for bugs, how to collect samples, and whether you are dealing with an introduction or an infestation.
  • If it is confirmed that you have bed bugs, the next step is to decide whether to hire a professional. Bed bugs can be very hard to control, even for trained professionals. When selecting a bed bug control provider, this fact sheet may help you decide what to do. Whether or not you decide to hire a professional, make sure you think through the treatment options.
  • If you rent your apartment, consider talking with neighbors and landlords about making a group effort to treat the problem. Bed bugs are easily capable of moving through cracks and crevices from one room to the next, and pesticides can make them scatter.
  • If you don’t receive an adequate response from your building manager, consider contacting your city’s code enforcement or buildings department. Regulations may require that a licensed applicator apply any insecticides that are used.

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:

Bed Bug Biology and Behavior

Bed bugs are stow-a-ways. They enter homes by hiding in the cracks and crevices of incoming luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes and other objects. Bed bugs feed on human 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 control. Once bed bugs are established, they rapidly reproduce and spread from room to room.

Biology

  • Bed bugs are found living with humans worldwide.
  • Bed bugs have five immature life stages before becoming adults (see image above). In order to shed their “skin” (molt) and grow to the next life stage, bed bugs must have a blood meal. In ideal conditions it takes about 37 days from when eggs are laid until the bed bugs become adults.
  • Adult bed bugs are the size of an apple seed, while eggs are the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
  • Bed bugs usually feed every 3-7 days.
  • An immature bed bug or a male bed bug introduced into a home will not start an infestation, but one pregnant female can quickly reproduce. Preventing introduction is key.
  • Females lay eggs anywhere they wander, either separately or in a group. Eggs can take 6-10 days to hatch. For this reason, repeated and persistent monitoring is key when trying to control bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs can survive for months without feeding, so they may be present in vacant, clean homes when new tenants unpack.
  • A bed bug can survive for up to three months without feeding at room temperature. At cold temperatures they can survive much longer without feeding.
  • It is usually drying out, rather than starving, that kills isolated bed bugs. If the moisture in the air is low, they will dry out much faster.
  • Bed bugs can carry diseases within their bodies, but transmission to humans has not been found.
  • Populations of bed bugs across the country have been found to be resistant to many common pesticides. Control requires an Integrated Pest Management approach.

Behavior

  • Bed bugs hide during the day, and typically feed at night.
  • Bed bugs hide near areas where people rest for long periods of time, mostly on and around the bed. Couches, wheelchairs, and recliners are also common hiding places.
  • Bed bugs like to hide in tight areas, such as cracks, crevices, under mattress tags, in box springs, and any place dark and sheltered. In these hiding places you can find eggs, all ages of bed bugs, shed “skins” (which look like empty bed bug bodies), and dark spots or stains, which are the dried droppings from the bugs.
  • Bed bugs feed when their food source (host) is sleeping, usually at night. It takes 3-10 minutes for a bed bug to feed, but the bite is painless so people don’t know it’s happening.
  • Reactions to bed bug bites vary widely, and one third of people may show no reaction at all.
  • Bed bugs can be found on buses, on subways, in taxis, in movie theaters, in libraries and many other areas.
  • Large infestations and disturbances such as pesticide applications can cause bed bugs to spread to other areas of the home, or to neighboring apartments.

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:

Videos:

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:

Preventing Bed Bug Infestations

The best offense is a good defense. Traveling, overnight stays, and used furniture can increase the risk of bringing bed bugs home. You may also be at higher risk if you share walls with neighbors. Bed bugs are stow-a-ways that hitchhike from one location to the next. They can also walk to nearby rooms through cracks or crevices in walls.

  • Familiarize yourself with what bed bugs look like, their range of sizes, and their typical hiding places.
  • Familiarize yourself with bed bug eggs, molted skins, and fecal marks.
  • Returning home from a trip is your best opportunity to prevent bed bug infestations. Inspect luggage thoroughly before bringing it into your home and do not store luggage near resting areas. Dry all clothing on a hot setting for thirty minutes before putting them away.
  • Do not use pesticides as a preventative treatment. Modern pesticides usually have to hit the bed bugs in order to be effective, rather than leaving effective residues.
  • Repair cracks in plaster, wallpaper, and paint on the walls and ceilings. Seal crevices around windows and baseboards.
  • Remove clutter around sleeping areas, and do not store items under the bed.
  • Thoroughly inspect and clean any used furniture before bringing it home.
  • Used clothing should be dried for at least 30 minutes on high before bringing it home.
  • Change and wash bedding regularly, inspecting sheets, mattress seams, and under tags for signs of bed bug activity.
  • When arriving at a hotel or other sleeping place, avoid placing your luggage on the bed or the floor until you have conducted a thorough inspection. You can use the luggage rack (after inspecting it) or put your luggage in the bathroom.
  • The resources below explain how to prevent bed bugs from entering your home.

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:

Videos

County Extension Offices

Through its county agents, the Cooperative Extension Service gives individuals access to the resources at land-grant universities across the nation. These universities are centers for research in many subjects, including entomology (the study of insects) and agriculture. Each county within the United States has an Extension office, which is staffed with agents who work closely with university-based Extension specialists to deliver answers to your questions about gardening, agriculture, and pest control. You can find the phone number for your local county extension office in the local government section (often marked with blue pages) of your telephone directory or by clicking on the map below.

Alaska Washington Oregon California Idaho Nevada Montana Wyoming Utah Hawaii Arizona Colorado New Mexico Texas Oklahoma Kansas Nebraska South Dakota North Dakota Puerto Rico Minnesota Iowa Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Mississippi Tennessee North Carolina Alabama Georgia South Carolina Florida American Samoa Guam N. Mariana Islands US Virgin Islands Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Indiana Kentucky Ohio West Virginia Pennsylvania Virginia Washington D.C. Maryland Delaware New Jersey Conneticut Rhode Island Massechusetts Massachusetts Connecticut New York New Jersey Maryland Washington DC Delaware Vermont New Hampshire Maine Vermont New Hampshire
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U.S. States:

AK | AL | AR | AZ | CA | CO | CT | DE | FL | GA | HI | IA | ID | IL | IN | KS | KY | LA | MA | MD | ME | MI | MN | MO | MS | MT | NC | ND | NE | NH | NJ | NM | NV | NY | OH | OK | OR | PA | RI | SC | SD | TN | TX | UT | VA | VT | WA | WI | WV | WY | Washington D.C. |

U.S. Territories:

Puerto Rico | American Samoa | Guam | Northern Mariana Islands | Virgin Islands

Additional Resources:

Related Topics:

What are pests?

Learn about a pest

Identify a pest

Control a pest

Integrated Pest Management

What are pesticides?

Herbicides

Disinfectants

Fungicides

Insecticides

Natural and Biological Pesticides

Repellents

Rodenticides

Other types of pesticides

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