Bed Bug Facts
Bed bug facts including information on identification, bites, and
treatment methods. Bed bug infestations are considered to be
the toughest to treat among all insects. If you have a bed
bug problem, the first step should be to call in an exterminator or
take a sample to a cooperative extension for confirmation. Then follow
the steps outlined below."
Bed Bug Identification
bugs (C. lectularius) start in an egg and then pass through 5 infant
life stages (called
instars) followed by the 6th stage which is when a bed bug becomes an
adult. A baby bed bug is referred to as a nymph. As
they move through each life stage they shed their skin. A
blood meal is needed to move from stage to
Bedbug eggs are pear shaped and white. They can be seen with
the naked eye, although a magnifying glass and flashlight help as eggs
are about the size of a poppy seed. They adhere to the
surface with a cement like substance.
After hatching a nymph is about the size of the head of a pin.
are straw colored with all bed bugs changing in appearance as they move
through the life cycle. Adult bedbugs are 1/8 - 3/16 inches (4-5mm)
long and are
red/brown in color. They body is oval shaped.
Bed bug facts: The insects change in appearance at each stage
of the life cycle plus before and after feeding. They are covered with
short yellow hairs and can be seen with the naked eye
The parasites feed on people, but will also feed on warm blooded
animals. Pets includes cats, dogs and birds. They will also
feed on rodents.
The insects have vestigial wings (non functioning) and cannot fly or
leap onto a host. They most at about the speed of an ant over
ceilings, floors and other surfaces. They will travel up to
100 feet in search of a host.
A female bed bugs can lay up to 300 - 500 eggs in her lifetime, and
for a secluded area. She will lay 3 to 5 per day. A
bed bug can move through its life cycle in as little as a month
(typically 4 to 5 weeks),
depending on temperature. The ideal temperature is 70F to 90F
for bed bug development. Typically, they will move through 3
generations in a year.
Bed bugs can survive for slightly longer than a year without feeding,
with nymphs (baby bed bugs) surviving for up to 3 months.
They will feed at night and hide during the day unless disturbed or
How Bed Bug Problems Spread
Bed bug infestations spread when bedbugs are carried from one place to
another. They hitch a ride on luggage, used furniture and the
bags of returning college students. Where ever there are
people, there can be bed bugs.
In New York City they have been found in clothing stores and subways.
Across the country they are turning up in college dormitories
and hospitals. It has little to do with socio-economic
status, but more likely correlated with travel.
Studies show that bed bugs can spread from apartment to apartment.
There is a 7% chance that they will spread to an apartment
over or below the infested room, and a 20% chance that they will spread
to an adjacent apartment.
How Bed Bug Infestations Feed
A bedbug doesn't actually bite, but punctures the skin through a hollow
tube called a stylet. They pierce the skin looking for a vein
or capillary to feed on. They will feed for 3 to 10 minutes
and then return to their hiding place until ready for the next meal.
Bed bug facts: Nymph feeding on skin. They feed just before
People do not feel the bed bug bite or can tell when a bed bug is
feeding on the skin. Bed bugs can carry disease pathogens (up
to 20 human diseases),
but do not spread disease. Recent studies of bed bugs in
hospitals show that patients that were bitten in the hospital have a
higher incidence of the MRSA skin infection.
Bed Bug Bite Symptoms
Most people show no skin reaction to the bed bug bite. Those
that do have a reaction can see one within an hour to as long as 14
Mild bed bug bites range from a single red papule to groups on papules.
Bed bugs primarily bite areas that are exposed during sleep. They will
also bite under loose fitting clothing. Unlike other insect
bites that have a red center, bed bug bites have a clear center.
Bed bug facts: Bites are an allergic reaction that is different from
person to person. Bites can be individual or found in groups
on areas of skin that are accessible to the insects when the host is
Bed bug Signs
Bedbugs hide in tight spaces about the width of a credit card.
They leave marks such as brown/black feces, skins and stains.
Eggshells from hatched bed bugs and the eggs themselves are
also signs of a bed bug infestation.
They do sometimes leave a raspberry type odor, but it is not always
present. Dogs are able to be trained to sniff out bed bugs at
all times, an approach which is 98% accurate.
Bed Bug Facts:
What to Do When You Have a Bed Bug Problem
First confirm that your building has bed bug infestations by bringing a
sample to a local cooperative extension or ask the building to show a
sample to an exterminator. Baby cockroaches and other insects look like
bedbugs, so look for other signs such as mattress stains to confirm
that you have a bed bug problem.
Bed bug facts: Check the mattress if you suspect bedbugs. Signs include
brown/black spots along the seams. Run a wire brush in the seam and
seem if you jar loose any insects, which you can see with the naked eye
Advice for Apartment Owners
If you live in a apartment, be sure to call the building management.
Don't be surprised if the building refuses to pay for bed bug
treatment, as it is not covered by most landlord tenant agreements.
If they refuse to pay, consider applying pressure on the
management company by:
- Organizing tenants
- Contacting the local health department
- Ask the help of a local politician
- Contact the media and let them know about the buildings bed
Advice for Home Owners
If you live in a home, then call an exterminator at
the first sign of trouble. We suggest starting with the Service
Magic Network (1.877.277.1145) as they pre-screen members,
and check to make sure members are licensed and insured. They
will provide up to 4 free quotes. Compare quotes to firms you
find in our bed
bug exterminator database.
Bed bug treatment can cost from $50 several hundred dollars
for the in-home inspection and over $1,000 for the treatment
itself. Because of the high cost, it pays to get several
quotes. Also, companies vary in levels of experience, written
guarantee, time period the guarantee covers and bed bug solutions used.
To save money, you can purchase a bed bug kit. A kit
is essential as multiple products are needed for a complete bed bug
solution. These include bed bug sprays, powders/dust and a hand steamer.
bed bug kits and insecticide
based bed bug kits contain the bed bug products needed.
Bed bug facts: This kit from Bed
Everything Needed to Fight a Bed Bug Problem
Bed Bug Facts: What You can Do
- Dispose of clutter, this minimizes the number of hiding
places. This includes newspapers, toys, magazines etc.
- Wash all bedding in hot water. Dry clean any
items that can't be washed.
- Use the vacuum crevice tool and vacuum the mattress, box
spring, floors, head board and along the baseboard. Be sure
to vacuum inside the box spring.
- Steam the mattress and box spring with a hand held steamer.
Steam clean carpets as well. Larger bed bug
infestations may require removal and possibly disposal of the carpet.
- Treat all items with sprays starting with the knock down
spray, followed by the residual spray.
- Cover the mattress and box spring.
See this page on bed
bugs treatment for detailed instructions.
Bed Bug Facts: Hiding Spots
If a bed bug infestation is in the bedroom, studies show that
most insects will be hiding as close to the host and bed (70%) as
possible. A study by the University of Kentucky found 35% of
the insects in the box spring, followed by the mattress (22%),
frame/headboard (13%), nightstand/dresser.
Bed bug facts: hiding places are usually within 5 to 20 feed of the
Bed bug hiding spots outside of the bed room are places where
people congregate in the home such as couches, sofas and reclining
Bed bug facts: About 7% of bed bugs in a typical
home or apartment
are found in the walls and ceilings. Be sure to check sleeping areas,
around electrical outlets,
underneath lamps, and in and under drawers.
No professional can find and treat every bed bug. It will
take several treatments and a combination of products to do the job.
For example, one bed bug spray is needed to kill bedbugs and
eggs on contact to reduce or knock down the size of the bed bug
infestation, while another spray is needed for lasting protection.
Bed bug facts: In apartments, bed bug problems often return when
tenants fail to allow
multiple treatments, leave clutter that blocks treatment, or picks up
bed bugs and brings them home.
Bed Bug Solutions and Insecticide Resistance
Bed bug facts: Several strains of bed bugs are showing resistance to
insecticides. Even DDT, a now banned and once effective
insecticide will no longer work against today's bed bugs in most
North Eastern cities.
Products that have been independently tested by the University
that show no bed bug resistance include:
- Knock Down Sprays
- Residual Spray (provide several weeks of protection)
Note that Phantom is not available to New York residents.
Both Sterifab and Bedlam are mattress safe. A good organic
spray alternative to these insecticide baaed products is Bug
Other tools for bed bug removal include the vacuum (crevice tool is
helpful), and a hand
. A steamer generates the 113F necessary to kill the
insects. Multiple steam treatments can significantly reduce
the size of bed bug infestations.
Professionals have tools not available to homeowners such as
fumigation, portable heaters (called thermal remediation), and freezing
sprays (carbon dioxide spray). They are also licensed and
trained to handle pesticides.
Are Bed Bug Encasements Necessary?
It is very easy to miss bedbug eggs and the insects themselves during
treatment. The eggs are often glued to the foam padding inside the box
If a mattress and box spring is in good condition, if is preferable to
use a mattress
and box spring cover
instead of throwing out the mattress/box
spring set. This is used after treatment to trap any bed bugs and late
hatching bed bugs that might have been missed during treatment.
Encasements must specifically state that they are bed bug
proof. If they are not, it is likely that bed bugs can escape
through the zipper.
Bed bug facts: Pillows should be thrown out. They
can also be
protected in bed
bug pillow covers
Note that encasements do not keep bed bugs off of the person sleeping,
they only keep the bed bugs from hiding in the mattress/box spring. If
you do not have bed bugs, but want to protect the mattress, then
encasements will provide the needed protection.
Ask a Question or Share Your Bed Bug Experience With Others
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