How To Prevent Bed Bugs

Best way To Prevent Bed Bugs

Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge needed to prevent bed bugs in your home or apartment, and to prevent you from picking up bed bugs when at work, when at the office, at a theater, on public transportation or when traveling.

We have three main suggestions:

  1. Know how to identify bed bugs
  2. Understand how to keep from carrying them home when traveling anywhere (work, public transportation, on vacation etc.).
  3. Extra things you can do to make sure there are no hidden bed bug hitchhikers in any of your belongings.

Bed bugs stay on a human host to feed. When done with their meal, they crawl off. In this way, if you sit next to someone with bed bug infested clothing, they can crawl them and onto you. Or if they were in a movie theater, they would crawl off and then hide in the seat until it is time for another meal.

In the same way, bed bugs can hide in used mattresses and furniture, where in they will stay in hiding until finding another host. Adults can last as long as a year between meals.

The best way to prevent bed bugs is by keeping them from coming into the home as a hitchhiker on  your clothing, from luggage when traveling or from adjacent apartments.  Bed bugs are excellent hitch hikers so the first step to prevention is to not bring them into a home or apartment. While this sounds obvious, it includes steps such as not bringing any clothes home if they were worn in an infested room or inspecting a hotel room with every visit (learn how below).

Bed bugs are do not move far from where they are dropped off (they move 5 to 10 feet). To avoid the spread of bed bugs from one apartment to another,  fill cracks in the walls and minimize the number of places bed bugs can hide.  Even the cleanest home could get bugs that are brought in by pets or people.

Bed Bug appearance

actual size bed bug imageActual Size Bed Bug Image

You can see bed bugs with the naked eye. It is easier to spot adults than it is to see baby bed bugs and their eggs. They are wheat colored when born, but transition to a red color after feeding on a human host. Bed bugs go through 5 life stages. 

  1. Eggs: They start as eggs that are yellow-white in color and attached in place by a glue like substance. Eggs are 1/32" long.
  2. Nymphs: This refers to "baby bed bugs." They are about the size of a poppy seed or pin head. Bed bugs do not fly and do not have wings.  They do have small wing pads.  The insects are flat in appearance and have a brown/red color.   They are brown before feeding and then turn reddish.
  3. Adults: Adult bed bugs are 3/16" to 1/5" in length. They look like  younger bed bugs, bug only larger. 
Bed Bugs at Every Life State

There are two types of bed bug. The one most commonly found in non-tropical areas is the common bed bug or Cimex lectularius. The other is called Cimex hemipterus F and is commonly called the tropical bed bug. Both are of concern.

Images of bed bug nymph, adult bed bug, common bed bug, tropical bed bugTop Left: Bed Bug Nymph, Top Right: Adult Bed Bug, Bottom Left: Common Bed Bug (arrow points to expanded prothorax) Bottom right: Tropical Bed Bug (smaller prothorax)

how to Prevent bed bugs in your Home or Apartment

There are many ways to prevent bed bugs at home. 

First, a lot of other species of pests look similar to this pest. If you are not sure what kind of pest you have, consult with a professional before you try to rid your home of them.

Second, this particular type of pest only feeds at night and will normally only come out at night (or in the presence of darkness). If you see a pest scampering around in daylight, chances are it is not a bed bug. Third, one of the best ways to prevent bed bugs is to hire a professional who has the tools and chemicals needed in order to keep these pests in check.

Here are some quick tips to prevent bed bug infestations in your home:

  • Be careful what you bring home. Used mattresses and furniture can already be infested. Look for red or brown stains on mattresses, a key sign that bed bugs have visited the area. 
  • Keep a flashlight with you at night so that if you suspect a bug, you can quickly spot it.
  • Inspect mattress seams to see if you see any bugs. You can spot them with a naked eye.
  • Minimize the number of places that the bed bugs can stay out of site. Fill in cracks in the wall and don't leave clutter in your room such as large numbers of magazines and newspapers. The bugs can live in between the pages. Cracks and holes in your home can also allow them entrance into your space. The best way to prevent bed bugs from entering via holes and cracks is to seal those holes and cracks with caulking or some other approved substance. Contrary to what some may believe, these pests do not fly and they do not have wings.
  • Vacuum your room, particularly in cracks. A vacuum effectively picks up bugs.  Use the crevice tool without a brush attachment around cracks and window fames.  If you do pick them up, freeze the vacuum bag if you can and then dispose in a sealed plastic bag outside of the home.
  • Keep your bed away from the walls. Particularly if you are in an apartment or college dormitory, the bugs will spread from one room to the next.
  • Clean your clothes and blankets in hot water if you were in a place that you suspect had bed bugs. 97 degree water or hotter will kill the bugs. 
climbup interceptor to prevent bed bugsA Bed Bug Interceptor is a Chemical Free Way to Provide a Barrier Between the Bed and Floor. One Gets Placed Under Each Bed Leg
Shown: Climbup Interceptor

How to Prevent Bed Bugs from Spreading

To keep bed bugs from spreading:

  1. Caulk any gaps and cracks in the walls
  2. Dispose of clutter that is in the infested room
  3. Vacuum the infested room including carpets, floors, furniture, bed frames, cracks in walls
  4. Enclose infested box springs and mattresses in covers
Help to Prevent Bed Bugs From Spreading By Caulking Any Cracks or Gaps in the Wall

Bed bugs do not move very far from the host (10 to 20 feet). If you want to keep them from spreading from room to room, think like a bed bug. This includes caulking any gaps in walls, and keeping the bed a few inches away from the wall or furniture. 

How to Prevent Bed Bug Bites When Sleeping

To prevent bed bug bites when sleeping:

  1. Keep your skin covered with tighter fitting clothing such as socks. Bed bugs will not crawl under tight clothing. Tuck in any shirts to pants, and pull socks over the bottom.
  2. Trap any bed bugs in the mattress and box spring with bed bug approved covers
  3. Keep them from climbing onto the bed with climbup interceptors.
  4. Move the bed away a few inches. from the wall and furniture. Keep blankets off the floor.
How to prevent bed bug bites when sleeping (left: climbup interceptor, right: bed bug mattress cover

Tips for bed bug prevention when traveling

bed bug signs on mattressSigns of Bed Bugs on Mattresses
  • When traveling, carefully inspect all items that were in hotel rooms. Lift the sheets and look at the seams of the mattresses for bugs that are either visible to the eye, or as mentioned above, red and brown streaks.  If you live in a warm environment, leave your items in a car that is parked in the hot sun for a day, that should kill any bugs. Putting items in a freezer will also work. Luggage is a favorite hiding place for bugs. Vacuum the luggage lining.
  • Be sure to keep all luggage zippered closed.
  • Store luggage on hotel racks or on top of furniture. Keep it off the floor. If you purchase items keep bags off the floor or in zippered luggage.
  • When returning home, move clothes into plastic bags or bins in a garage our other area outside of the home. Carry directly to the washing machine and wash in hot water followed by 20 to 30 minutes in a dryer.
  • A 100% fool proof alternative is to heat luggage and contents in a device such as a portable Zappbug Oven
mother, daughter and luggageDo Not Bring Luggage Into a Hotel Room Until You Inspect Mattress Seams and the Headboard for Signs of Bed Bugs (actual insects or black fecal marks)

Additional Ideas on how to prevent bed bugs

It is important to keep in mind that these pests can be found all over the home, and not just in mattresses. They can live in sofas, upholstered chairs, inside dresser drawers, and just about any other place that affords them safety and food. Food, in this case, is human blood. Understanding that these pests can live virtually anywhere in your home is the first step when you want to prevent bed bugs from biting.

Another key to prevent bed bugs from bothering you and your family is to understand that these pests can be brought into the home in a variety of ways. These insects can be found in hotels, motels, and even on luxury cruise ships. If you happen to visit one of these places, bed bugs might get into your clothing or luggage and when you return home, they take up residence at your place. They can also hitch a ride on your pant legs or shoes. Once they enter a home and set up, they can be hard to remove.

4 pictures of zappbug ovenThe ZappBug Oven is a portable unit that heats items such as luggage and other household items to kill any hiding bed bugs.
Shown: Zappbug Oven (Amazon)

The easiest way to spot bed bugs is to purchase a bed bug inspection kit.

Natural and Safe products For bed bug prevention

You can use a natural dust called diatomaceous earth to create a field that will kill bed bugs that come in contact with the dust. The dust can be spread around floor boards and under the bed to help prevent any bed bugs from entering the area. 

When the dust comes in contact with the bedbug, their shell will dry out, killing the insect.   Dust is often used after a room has been treated for bed bugs, since the eggs are very hard to spot.  By sprinkling dust around areas where bugs can be found such as near the bed, when the young bed bug nymphs hatch, they will be attracted to the bed area to feed, come in contact with the dust, which will kill the bed bugs.

Only use a thin layer of the product using a duster and wear a mask to avoid breathing in the dust during application (follow manufacturers directions).  Be sure to apply in a well ventilated room, until the dust settles.

keep bed bugs from entering mattress

You can also keep the bugs out of your mattress by buying a zippered mattress cover. You can buy a cover designed specifically to keep bed bugs out of your mattress such as the AllerZip Waterproof Bed Bug Proof Zippered Bedding Encasement, You can also buy covers for your pillows from the same company.

To prevent bed bugs on the bed itself, following these steps that it make it harder for the insects to reach the bed:

  • move the bed a few inches from walls and furniture
  • keep blankets off the wall
  • intercept any bed bugs that try and climb up any legs using low cost Climbup Interceptors.
bed bug sniffing dogBed Bug Sniffing Dogs are 98% Accurate in Locating the Scent of Bed Bugs. They can find the insects in furniture and walls.

Killing bed bugs

You have to do some work when killing bedbugs. To prevent bed bugs from spreading you should scrub and vacuum all of the crevices and corners in your bed frames. You will also want to vacuum the mattress and box spring on all of the beds in the home. 

It is a good idea to also search any furniture that has cloth or crevices to make sure you remove pests that might be living there. Remove your bedding and wash it in hot water, and do not forget to look inside your dresser drawers.

Multiple sprays and products are needed for do it yourself bed bug extermination. We suggest purchased what you need in a kit.

Follow our step by step instructions for bed bug treatment using chemical and non-chemical methods.

killing bed bugs in laundry

  • Wash clothes in hot water.  This will kill bed bug eggs and adults.
  • Dry clothing in the dryer for 20 minutes.
  • Hand wash sensitive items in warm water. Allow to soak for several hours.
  • Consider using laundry bags that dissolve in the wash to avoid dropping bed bugs when transferring clothes.
  • Let dry cleaners know if clothes may have been exposed to bed bugs.
washing machineUpon Returning Home Place All Clothes Directly From Luggage to Washing Machine to Avoid Dropping Any Bed Bugs in the Home. Bed Bugs are killed at approximately 120 Degrees F (hot water is about 130F).

heat treatment for bed bugs

According to Arthur Slater, a UC Berkeley entomologist believes that super heating a room is a superior method to insecticides. He recommends that the infected room be sealed, then it is heated to 120 degrees for 24 hours. This method kills the bed bugs and the bed bugs eggs. The problem with this approach is that it requires a skilled exterminator and it can be costly (as much as $4,000 for a home.)

hire a bed bug exterminator

Bed bugs are one of the hardest insects to eliminate. If your home does have bed bugs, or you aren't sure, the best approach is to call in a bed bug pest control professional, who has the knowledge and experience to do an inspection, assess the extent of the bed bug problem and then recommend a treatment plan.

We suggest hiring a professional. Start with a free quote from the Home Advisor network (or call 866-214-8380) or contact one of the exterminators in our database.

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. 

Be sure to use a bed bug specialist, as they will know where to look and may have specialized equipment such as heating units. Be sure to ask for a treatment guarantee since it typically takes 2 to 3 treatments before an infestation is eliminated.

Half the battle with bed bugs is knowing where to look in a room. Professionals will be able to quickly identify hiding places, not to mention that they have access to pesticides and treatment approaches such as portable heaters and bed bug sniffing dogs that are not available to consumers. 



brochures

 These free brochures provide additional information on bed bugs prevention. 

A brochure explaining Bed Bug Prevention, Detection and Control.
Available in a free Ebook

Bed bug prevention tips and resources.
Available in a free Ebook

Questions and answers

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references

Center for Disease Control

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