How to Recognize and Treat a Bed bug Infestation
" A bed bug infestation should not cause panic in your home. It can be treated by a bed bug exterminator or you can choose to treat the problem yourself. This page provides instructions on what to do the moment you suspect that your home has a bed bug problem. Separate advice is provided for apartment owners who have a special situation since the infestation may have spread from another apartment."
Bed Bug Pictures
The first step is to identify if you have a bed bug problem. Bed bugs change in appearance depending on where they are in the life cycle and before/after feeding. They start in an egg and move through 5 baby bed bug (called instars) life stages.
Pictures Bed Bugs at each Life Stage Before and After Feeding
Baby bed bugs are small, but all bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye. Eggs are approximately the size of a pin head.
Picture Bed Bug Eggs
Signs of bed bugs can also be found on the mattress and from bedbug bites on the skin. Note that bites are an allergic reaction, causing a different response in each person. This can range from no skin response (50% to 70% of people) to small red raised bumps on the skin. Bed Bug bites have clear centers and are usually located on exposed skin areas during sleep.
Picture Bed Bugs Bites
Another sign of a bed bug infestation are brown and red mattress stains. This is from feces that is left behind on the mattress. You can also see bed bugs if you run a brush along the mattress seams.
Picture Bed Bug Mattress Fecal Stains
Picture Bed Bugs Hiding Behind Plastic Corner Box Spring Tab
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Hire a Bed Bug Exterminator
It is always preferable to hire a bed bug exterminator. Killing bed bugs is challenging for even experienced professionals. Bed bug treatment requires inspection and possible treatment in the infested room or rooms. It also typically requires 2 to 3 bed bug treatments.
Because of all the labor involved, treatment in a home or apartment can cost from $50 to $400 for the initial bed bug inspection, followed by fees of $800 or more for the actual bedbug treatment. The higher amounts for the in-home inspection are charged when an exterminator uses a bed bug sniffing dog to locate any bed bug hiding places.
If you believe a bed bug infestation has just started, then self treatment could be an option. However, it is important to treat an infestation early as each female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in a year, allowing the problem to quickly grow. Once bedbugs get deep inside walls and furniture, than the only option is to hire an exterminator. Some home owners opt to both hire an exterminator, and for extra protection apply some bed bug products themselves which are described below.
Because of the high cost, we suggest contacting several companies to compare costs, bed bug treatment methods, experience, references and guarantees provided. One way to get a few free quotes is to contact a national contractor network such as Home Advisor (1.877.233.1145). You can also search our list of local bed bug exterminators.
Bed Bug Treatment Methods Used by Exterminators:
There are several tools available to bed bug exterminators. This includes bed bug pesticide products not available to home owners and fumigation. Some exterminators also use a combination of heat or freezing.
Heat, or thermal remediation, is 100% effective and involves super heating a room to approximately 130F. This will kill all bed bugs and bed bug eggs. With this method no chemicals are used and there is not need to throw out the mattress, box spring or any other items in the home. Click here to find a firm that specializes in thermal remediation. The downside of this approach is cost, which can run several thousand dollars for an entire home and more for an apartment building.
Another method is the use of a freezing carbon dioxide (dry ice) spray. This approach is also effective, but requires identification of all locations where bed bugs are hiding.
Bed Bug Apartment Renter or Owner Advice
There is a 20% likelihood that a bed bug epidemic will spread from apartment to apartment. This includes those that are adjacent, above or below the infested unit.
For this reason, killing bedbugs in only one apartment will not be a complete solution as they will just return through the walls from a nearby bed bug infestation. The only solution is to inspect and treat all adjacent apartments in the area of the bed bug infestation.
As a temporary measure, apartment owners waiting for treatment
can do the following to sleep better at night:
- Wear tight fitting clothing to bed that avoids exposed skin areas.
- Move the bed at least 6 inches from the wall and make sure that no linens are touching the floor
- Wash all linens in hot water followed by 20 to 30 minutes in the dryer on the highest heat setting.
- Place a climb up interceptor bed bug traps or small tins with a thin layer of mineral oil under each bed leg. You can also place double sided tape or sticky inexpensive bed bug traps around each leg.
- Dispose of any clutter.
- Vacuum the apartment thoroughly.
- Consider using some of the home bed bug treatment products mentioned below for people that want to do it yourself.
Get Rid of Bed Bugs - Do it Yourself Bed Bug Products
Effective bed bug treatment requires a combination of products. No single product can do the job alone. Always follow the manufacturers instructions and test products on surfaces to avoid staining.
Typical bed bug products that are required for treatment include:
- Bed Bug Sprays
Safe Knock Down Bed Bug Spray: A knock down
spray is formulated to reduce the size of the bed bug population by
killing bedbugs and bedbug eggs on contact. The problem is that these
sprays do not provide long lasting protection such as the ability
to kill any late hatching insects or those you might have missed during
treatment. Many products do not work against the more pesticide
resistant types of bed bugs commonly found in the Northeastern United
States. For this purpose we recommend the pump spray Sterifab
The organic spay Bed Bug Patrol is also a popular option.
Bed Bug Spray: These bed bugs sprays are
formulated to not be detected by bedbugs after they dry, yet provide
several weeks of protection from bedbugs that cross into treated
areas. One of the best options is the aerosol spray Phantom.
This spray is not available in New York State to homeowners. Instead,
we reocmmend Bedlam.
For home owners wanting an all organic option, substitute fossil dust instead of the pesticide spray. The dust is a natural product that is applied in a thin layer to the mattress, box spring and in cracks and crevices. The dust clings to the outer shell of the bed bugs and kills them. Both approached can be effective if applied as part of a combination of approaches. Our preference is to use both a residual spray, followed by the application of bed bug dust.
- Bed Bug Dust: These products are all natural and are made up of natural ground fossil shells. It also is called fossil dust or diatomaceous earth. It is best to apply these products with a bed bug duster while wearing some type of dust mask to avoid breathing in the powder. As an alternative the dust can be purchased in a applicator such as the product offered by JT Eaton.
- Vacuum: A vacuum is the first line of defense against a bed bug infestation. A crevice tool can be used along the mattress, inside the box spring and around the baseboards.
- Hand Steamer: Bed bugs and eggs and killed at temperatures above 113F. A hand steamer is an effective way to naturally and safely knock down the size of a bed bug population.
- Mattress, Box Spring and Bedbug Pillow Covers: A common myth is that covers help to prevent a bed bug infestation. This is not the case. Bed bug mattress covers, pillow covers and box spring covers are tested to either trap bed bugs inside these items that might have been missed during treatment. It also can help to protect these items in buildings that might have a bed bug problem. They are always recommended after treatment since the majority of bed bug hiding places are in and around the bed.
- Bed bug Traps: Simple traps such as climbup interceptors can be placed under each bed leg. The traps will help to keep bed bugs away from the bed and will indicate the size of any infestation. Empty traps 2 to 3 weeks after bed bug treatment indicates that the bed bug problem has been resolved.
The right combination of bed bug products can be purchased as part of an organic bed bug kit or an insecticide based bed bug kit. Be sure to follow the manufacturers directions for bed bug infestation treatment.
There are four general steps for treating a bed bug infestation:
- Steam and Vacuum Clean the Room, throw out clutter
- Apply Use Bed Bug Sprays and Powder - apply first the knock down spray, followed by the residual spray and bed bug powder
- Cover Mattress and Box Spring
- Place Bed Bug Traps under each bed leg
Bed Bug Hiding Places
Studies show that over 50% of any bed bug infestation will be
within 5 feet of the bed (if the bed bug problem is in the bed room).
Bed bugs will try and hide in tight spaces
as close to the human or pet host as possible. They start by inhabiting
the seams and tufts of the mattress. As the bed bug population grows,
to adjacent areas such as the box spring, bed frame and nearby
furniture such as the nightstands. From there, bed bug hiding places
include along the baseboards, nearby electronics, the bottom of any
lamps, inside electrical plates
and around picture frames.
Picture Bed Bug Hiding Places in Bed Room
For this reason, bed bug infestation treatment needs to include all of these areas starting with the use of the vacuum/steam followed by the bed bug sprays.
The same goes for bed bug infestations that start in the living room or den. Here, bed bugs will hide around the couch, chairs and other areas where humans or pets congregate.
Picture Bed Bug Hiding Places in Family Room
Advice for an Apartment BedBug Infestation
Bed bug treatment in an apartment is a special case. Some States mandate that landlords are responsible for treatment such as Massachusetts while others do not. You can check our local resources for specific regulations in your State.
Regardless of who is responsible for payment, it is important that all apartments that are next to the problem apartment are inspected and treated. Some landlords or building manager will agree to treat your apartment, but not others because of the cost.
Before calling your landlord, contact your local department of health to determine your rights. If they do not now, contact that State Attorney Generals office as this entity usually regulates landlord/tenant disputes. The State health department might also be of help in getting bed bug infestation treatment.
If you have determined that the law in your area is unclear, then you may want to split the bed bug treatment cost with the building manager. If the building refuses treatment, contact your local health department to register a complaint, there needs to be some type of official record. Be sure to write down all conversations.
As a last resort you can contact local media, local politicians or organize other tenants. You can also follow the advice above for how to get rid of bed bugs.
Ask a Question or Share Your Bed Bug Experience With Others
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