Bed Bugs Infestation

" Bed Bugs infestation can happen to anyone at anyplace, from a four star hotel to a small apartment. A bed bug infestation starts when bedbugs are carried into the home, usually via luggage or used furniture. In an apartment there is a 20% change that they will spread from one apartment to an adjoining apartment and a 7% chance that they spread from an apartment above or below you. Treatment is best left to professionals who know where to look, but home treatment is possible if you are methodical or if the $750 - $1000 cost of treatment is too high for your budget (plus the cost of anything you discard). The key in any case is to act fast before the bed bugs have a chance to multiply"  

Many cities are seeing a rapid increase in the spread of bed bugs. This includes public transportation, apartments, movie theaters and even offices. No building is immune, with even the most high prices buildings having a problem. Where there are people coming and going, there can be bedbugs. For example, calls to the New York City 311 line from 1/1/09 to 9/30/09 increased +47% to over 25,000.

Bed bugs can live up to 18 months between feedings (most up to 1 year) so a bed bugs infestation can last a long time, even in an unoccupied room.  They do not spread disease, although bed bug bites can cause an allergic reaction on the skin in some people.  Bed bugs can reproduce quickly, with a female laying up to 500 eggs in her lifetime.

How to Control Bed Bugs - What to do First

The first step in treating a bed bugs infestation is to confirm that you have a bed bug problem. You can do this by comparing a trapped insect to the pictures you see below, send in a sample to Identify LLC with this form (PDF download) (small $20 fee) or a local government office for confirmation. Most areas that have a bedbug problem will provide look at your bedbug sample (see our local bed bug prevention resources guide).

Call a Bed Bug Exterminator

If you are a homeowner, call 2 or 3 local pest control companies for a quote. We suggest starting with a network that pre-screens members such as the   Service Magic Network (phone 877-233-1145).  They pre-screen members and certify that they are licensed and insured.  They will also provide 4 free quotes.

You can also find a qualified local bedbug exterminator by searching our database.  

Please keep in mind that if the bed bugs are not treated correctly, insects missed will begin to multiply and the problem will return.  Don't use a pest control company unless they have extensive experience treating bed bugs.

As an alternative, If you are a member of Angie's List, contact them for a recommendation, since they collect consumer reviews of local exterminators. 

Don't wait or the problem will get much worse and possibly more expensive to treat. We have a list of pest control companies that are specifically qualified to treat bed bugs. These companies will provide a quote at no charge to you.

Be sure to use a bed bug specialist, as they will know where to look and may have specialized equipment such as heating units.

Make sure that the company you talk to has experience with bedbugs and that the specific person sent to your house has experience.  Ask for a written guarantee that the bed bugs infestation will be taken care of, particularly since it may take 2 to 3 treatments.  Ask about child and pet safety if this is a concern.

If you live in an apartment, call the landlord. The landlord has an obligation to quickly address any bed bug issues. Call your local health department to understand your rights.

Many bed bug exterminators will use a dog to sniff out the bed bugs infestation before treatment begins. Bedbugs give off a musty raspberry like odor that can be detected by a dog. The bugs are very flat and will hide in any crack, so a dog can be a useful way to see if any bugs are in a room. Note that some firms, particularly in a large city, will charge up to $400 just for the inspection with a dog.

bed bugs infestation
Closeup of Bed Bug on Mattress

bed bugs infestation
Picture of Bed Bug Fecal Stain on Mattress

bed bugs infestation
Bed Bugs Picture and Nymphs (just born) At Crack in Wall

Bed Bugs Infestation Products

The key to removing a bed bugs infestation is to kill both the bugs themselves and their eggs. The goal is to find every bed bug hiding place in a room and then to use the appropriate product designed to kill them. Since bed bugs look for a human host to feed on, most will be found (studies show approximately 50%) in or around the bed. Once all of these hiding places are taken, the bugs will move on moving from the bed to other parts of the room.

There are several chemical and non-chemical ways to treat a bed bugs infestation. These are described below::

Sprays: Aerosol and pump sprays are used to spray mattress, box spring and other objects in a room.  Usually two types of sprays are used, a knock down spray to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact, and a residual spray that provides lasting protection. A good  choice for a knock down spray that has been independently reviewed by University of Kentucky researches is Sterifab. They same researchers confirmed the effectiveness of the residual spray Phantom.  

Dust: A natural dust product called fossil dust or diatomaceous earth.  The dust clings to the bed bug's body, drys out their exoskeleton, causing death.  Dust will remain in a room and kill any bedbugs that hatch from eggs you might of missed.

Hand Steamer: Bed bugs are killed at 120 degrees F.  Steaming is a safe and fast way to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs.  It doesn't hurt for example to lightly spray a mattress and box spring, then steam area and then leave dust behind.  Steam works well in cracks and on upholstery. Steamfast is a good portable steamer, although a professional grade steamer such as a Vapamore  is preferred.

Vacuum: An ordinary vacuum will pick up bed bugs.  It will not pick up eggs, so a vacuum is a good 1st line of defense.

Covers: Zippered covers are used after mattress and box spring treatment has been completed.  Make sure covers are bed bug approved, to avoid the bugs squeezing through the zippers.  It's can't hurt to put heavy tape over the zipper after the mattress has been sealed.   Both the  mattress and box spring should be covered.  Competitive prices on covers can be found at Amazon and Walmart.

Washing Machine/Dryer: Wash all linens on the hot water setting and then drying in the dryer for 20 minutes will kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs.  

Saving Money when Fighting a Bed Bugs Infestation


To save money, organic products are available in a kit available from Dermisil for Bed Bugs (organic kit), Amazon or Bed Bug Supply. Kits cost approximately $70 to $160 depending on what is included.

A bed bug exterminator such as Terminix may have additional tools at their disposal for dealing with a bed bugs infestation including a heat chamber or the ability to super heat a room or building to 120 degrees F.  Heat chambers can be portable, on the back of a truck, or located in a building.  All objects placed in the chamber are super heated for several hours to the required temperature.  A professional extermination will cost approximately $750 or more depending on the size of your home.

When all else fails, an entire building can be fumigated.  This approach may be needed when there are elderly occupants or many apartments with clutter.

Preparing for a Bed Bugs Infestation


The treatment goal for any room is to inspect every object and area.  

If hiring a professional for a bed bugs infestation, don't remove anything from the room being treated without consulting the exterminator first.  Moving objects from one room to the next can spread the bugs.  This includes objects such as electronics, which could have bedbugs hiding inside.  Nothing should be removed from the room unless it has been treated or is in a sealed plastic bag or container.

If doing it yourself, set up a "safe area" outside the room being treated such as in the bathroom or hallway.  

  1. Start with the bed linens.  Fold them on themselves, then place and seal in a plastic bag.   Carry to the washing machine and wash on hot water, followed by 20 minutes in the dryer on the high heat setting.  Bag and wash whatever you can.

    Tip: Ziploc Big Bags are bedbug proof and can provide protection for washed clothes.
  2. Treat the mattress and box spring.  Treat the top and sides with a knock down spray such as Sterifab or the products included in the Dermisil kit such as Bug Patrol.  After treatment, seal the mattress in the cover and move to the safe area.  When done, treat the box spring.  Be sure to remove or open the bottom cheese cloth on the box spring.  It is more likely for bed bugs to be hiding in the box spring then on the mattress since there are more place to hide.  On the mattress, be sure to check under any tags or labels.

    bed bugs infestation
    Treat Mattress and Box Spring with a Knock Down Spray Which Kills Bed Bugs and Bed Bug Eggs on Contact such as Sterifab

    As pictured below, bed bugs leave behind skin, red marks and brown fecal marks.  Check and treat all seams.  If you decide to dispose of your mattress, wrap it in plastic and mark as being bed bug infested before bringing it back into a room.

    bed bugs infestation
    Bed Bug Picture - Bedbug Marks on Mattress
  3. Use dust in the box spring and around the mattress before resealing.  Make sure all surfaces dry before using zippered covers to avoid mold.  The zippered covers trap any bed bugs and eggs you may have missed.

    bed bugs infestation
    Bed Bug Dust Can Be Applied to Mattress and Box Spring.  It will Kill Bed Bugs by Attaching to their Outer Skin
    Pictured: Exterminator using JTEaton Green Label Bed Bug Dust
  4. Treat the Bed Frame: Inspect the bed frame and backboard.  These are favorite hiding places.  Spray in every crack and follow up with steam and dust.
  5. Treat Along the Baseboard: It's a good idea to apply a residual spray along the baseboard of the room to kill any bed bugs that try and hide in this area.  Treat any credit card sized gap.

    bed bugs infestation
    Treat Baseboards with a Long Lasting Residual Spray Such as Phantom
  6.  Treat Furniture: Check around furniture and under drawers.  Do as much as you can in the bed frame area to avoid spreading bed bugs.  Be sure to check behind pictures, wall plates and along the floor boards.  Use steam and spray products.

    bed bugs infestation
    Treat Areas Inside Furniture Such as the Tracks that Hold Drawers.  Use a Knock Down Spray (Sterifab) and then repeat with a Residual Spray (Phantom)
  7. Vacuum and Steam: Use the vacuum, vacuum crevice tool along walls to suck up any bed bugs you can.  Steam will kill any bed bugs you miss and kill their eggs as well.
  8. Dispose of Clutter: Bag and dispose of anything you can.  Electronics can either be super heated in a PackTite portable heating unit or disposed of. The fewer places you give a bed bugs infestation to hide, the better.

    bed bugs infestation
    Closing Cracks and Crevices that are the width of a Credit Card will Eliminate Places Bed Bugs can Hide
  9. Spread Bed Bud Dust: After you complete your treatment, spread bed bug dust (also called fossil dust)  into cracks, under furniture etc as a protective barrier.  This provides a long lasting effect as long as the area where the dust is applied isn't disturbed.
  10. Reinspect for bed bugs infestation: After 1 weeks, inspect the room again to see if all bed bugs have been removed.  It takes a residual spray such as Phantom several days to be fully effective.  An option is to put a ClimbUp Interceptor under each bed leg.  If the Interceptor bowls are empty after 2 to 3 weeks, the problem has been solved.

More information can be found throughout the Bed Bugs Handbook site.  Don't be surprised if removing a bed bugs infestation takes 2 to 3 treatments.  

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