All About Bed Bugs

" All About bed bugs describes everything a home owner or traveler needs to know to avoid bringing the insects into the home. If you are unfortunate enough to have a bed bug problem, this page provides the facts you need to decide whether or not to hire a bed bugs pest control expert or to attempt treatment yourself. Given the difficulty of finding all bed bug hiding places, we strongly suggest that a home owner request a free list of qualified experts by clicking here or call a well known pest control company such as Service Magic  (1.877-233-1145). If you choose to "do it yourself", be sure to follow the manufacturers directions for the use of all bed bug pest control products mentioned."  

Here are some quick links to get you to the information you need to learn all about bed bugs and a bed bug infestation:

What are Bed Bugs?
Bed Bug Video Overview
How Do You Kill Bed Bug Eggs?
What are Bed Bug Pest Control Options?
Do bed bugs spread disease?
How Do Bed Bugs Enter A Home or Apartment?
How Can you Identify Bed Bugs?
How Can you Kill Bed Bugs?
How to prevent bed bugs in apartment buildings
Traveling without bed bugs
How Do You Recognize Bed Bug Bites
Choosing Bed Bug Insecticides
List of Bed Bug Pest Control Products
Can Heat and Freezing Be Used to Kill Bed Bugs?
List of Professional Bed Bug Exterminators

All about bed bugs - What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are insects that feed off of a human or animal host. They look like small oval and flat insects, although the appearance changes depending on their lifestage. Baby bed bugs are called nymphs and are straw colored. Adult bed bugs are approximately 1/4 in length before feeding.  Bed bug babies or nymphs are smaller and lighter in color.

bed bug life stages
Bed Bug Life Stages

Bed bugs prefer to feed at night, just before dawn. When not feeding they tend to hide near the host, which in the case of people is around the bed. When learning all about bed bugs it is important to understand where they bite, which is exposed areas of the body when sleeping.  This is why most bed bug bites appear on the legs, arms and neck. 

all about bed bugs
Picture Bed Bugs Before and After Feeding

Bed bugs can look like other insects, so it is important to confirm that you in fact have a bed bug infestation. Other signs such as also waking up with bed bug bites are a confirming sign that your home is suffering from a bed bug infestation. Most people do not show a bed bug bite reaction, so infestations can often grow in size before the insects are detected.  Be sure to share a sample with a professional that knows all about bed bugs to confirm that you do in fact have a bed bug problem.

bed bugs pictures
Bed Bugs Pictures Side View

bed bugs picture
Picture of Adult Bed Bug on Hand

How Do You Kill Bed Bug Eggs?

It's important to learn all about Bed bugs eggs. They are small oval white specs that almost look like white colored sesame seeds.  The female will attach them to a rough surface where they are laid and attached with a cement like substance, making it impossible to a  vacuum.  

When killing bed bugs, it is important to use a spray product that kills bed bugs and their eggs.  Bed Bug dust is often used as  a layer of protection after the primary treatment is completed to kill any eggs that might have been missed.  This is also why zippered mattress covers and box spring covers are used, to not only trap bed bugs, bug late hatching hard to find eggs as well.  

all about bed bugs
Enlarged Picture Bed Bug Eggs on Surface

Steam heat or heat itself is also an effective way to kill bed bugs at 114F. A good source for a low cost bed bug hand steamer is Dermisil.  Heater units are used by pest control professionals to either superheat a room, apartment or an entire building.  The heat is set above the required 114F temperature to ensure that the heat penetrates all objects, such as inside a mattress or clutter.

Bed Bugs Pest Control Options

We strongly suggest that if you are a home owner you call in a professional for an inspection. Be sure to only work with companies that have experience and therefore know all about bed bugs and therefore have the know how to fight a bed bug infestation. Importantly, firms that know all about bed bugs have specialized equipment and insecticides that is too expensive or unavailable to home owners.  

To start, you can use our free service to get a list of qualified experts here.  You can also call a well  firm that pre-screens exterminators such as Service Magic, via their toll free number which is 877-233-1145.

Treatment can be expensive, so be sure to speak to more than one firm and ask them all about bed bugs, their expertise and if they guarantee that the problem will be taken care of.

Many firms that know all about bed bugs, know that it is very helpful to use bed bug sniffing dogs  to identify areas where bed bugs are hiding. This can be a very accurate approach, although there is usually a fee associated with the use of a bedbug sniffing dog.  Be sure to be present during the inspection to visually confirm the presence of bed bugs.

If you decide to do it yourself,  you can save money with a kit which contains all of the products needed (mattress safe spray, crack/crevice spray, dust, mattress/box spring covers etc.). Good choices are the New York Bed Bug Kit (contains combination of insecticide sprays and organic dust) or a kit that is completely organic such as the one offered by Dermisil for Bed Bugs.  The kits will make sure that you know all about bed bugs before taking the time to remove them.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

There is no evidence that bed bugs spread disease even though they leave behind saliva when puncturing the skin. The bugs actually do not actually bite, they have a stylet on the head which enters the skin looking for a blood capillary to feed on.  Experts whose careers are all about bed bugs confirm that they do not spread disease, so the only real problem is the discomfort and skin reactions caused by their bites.

How Do Bed Bugs Enter A Home or Apartment?

Bed bugs have to be carried into a home, apartment, cruise ship, hotel room or hospital. The bugs hitch a ride on items such as used furniture or luggage. They can even be found in new furniture or a new mattress in particular if the same truck that delivers new mattresses is also used to cart away used.  

bed bugs travel suitcase
Picture Bed Bugs on Back Pack

Bed bugs have nothing to do with the cleanliness of an apartment or room. People that do not know all about bed bugs often think you can only find them in poor communities or cheap hotels.  This is not true.  Bed bugs can reside anywhere. They are just as likely to inhabit a 5 star hotel as an apartment complex. 

However, if people are more likely to live in a building where a bed bug infestation has spread, then they are also more likely to spread the insects to other locations such as hospitals and schools. Even when discovered, it is very difficult to point to a specific person as the cause or carrier of the bedbugs.

How Can you Identify Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye. They also leave behind feces on mattresses. The easiest way to check for bed bugs is to pull back the sheet of the bed and to look for red/brown markings on the mattress.  As mentioned, the appearance varies depending on life stage and before/after feeding.  When in doubt, call in someone that knows all about bed bugs such as a hotel manager, building manager or pest control professional.

bed bug mattress
Picture Bed Bugs on Mattress

Climb-up Interceptors can also be helpful when identifying bedbugs in a home. These are 4 small bowls that are placed under each bed leg that trap the bed bugs before they can climb up onto the bed.  This combined with moving the bed away from the wall/furniture and by keeping blankets off the floor, can help keep bed bugs away.

bed bugs mattress
Picture Bed Bugs Mattress Spots

As mentioned, bed bugs do look like other insects such as bat bugs. Many local government agencies have services to identify a bed bug sample. You can also send a sample bug to a firm that evaluates insects (pdf download), who will also confirm that your sample is in fact a bed bug.

Bed bugs are often confused with many insect species including bat bugs, ticks and small cockroaches.

all about bed bugs

Bed Bugs Are Often Confused with Bat Bugs

How Can you Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs can be killed with organic products, insecticides, freezing and heat. Individuals that know all about bed bugs usually use some combination or these products when removing an infestation. The process requires killing visible bed bugs and then making sure any late hatching bed bugs and their eggs are also killed.

The key to removing bed bugs from the home is to be thorough. Every inch of the infested room needs to be inspected and treated. The basics include:

  1. Throwing out all clutter found in the room as bed bugs can hide in books, newspapers, magazines etc.
  2. Bag and wash all linens. Fold the blankets and sheets on the bed, place into a plastic container or preferably bed bug safe bags such as Ziploc Big Bigs, and wash on hot and then dry for 20 to 30 minutes.  The more you remove and wash in hot water (followed by 20 to 30 minutes on the heat setting on the dryer), the easier it will be to control an infestation.
  3. Treat the mattress and box spring: These need to be treated with a mattress safe spray such as Sterifab. Be sure to treat all cracks, crevices and under any labels. Once treated, move the mattress out of the room, so that you can access the box spring. Treat the box spring the same way, including removal or pealing back of the covering on the bottom. After treatment, move the box spring out of the room
  4. Move on to the mattress frame, back board, and furniture. Bed bugs can also hide inside electronics.  The only way to keep from throwing out these items is to find a pest control expert with a heat chamber (request a list to call here - not all companies have them) or purchase a PackTite case, which is made to kill bed bugs hiding in small items.
  5. Treat all cracks in the room with spray that leaves a residual. A good choice of bed bug spray for cracks and crevices is Phantom.
  6. Treat around all cable outlets, and other non electrical areas
  7. Use a bed bug dust product, which is a natural powder which will attach to and kill any late hatching bed bugs. Spread the powder around the edges of the room, and in any cracks
  8. Other precautions include the use of a hand held steamer to kill any eggs.
  9. After returning the mattress and box spring to the room, use zippered bed bug covers (that state they are bed bug proof),  to seal in any bed bugs that you might have missed.  It is not necessary to throw out a mattress and box spring.  Most guides to all about bed bugs suggest that you should only throw out a mattress if it is old, torn and/or damaged.

Prevent Bed Bug Apartments. What do you do?

Local government agencies are finally learning all about bed. Many localities are passing laws regarding bed bugs in apartments. In general, apartment owners have an obligation to provide a safe living environment for tenants. 

The first thing you should do is notify your management company or landlord. If you are lucky, they will know all about bed bugs and have a plan for how to treat a bed bug problem.  Research all about bed bugs in apartments shows that early and fast action is critical as there is a 20% chance that bedbugs will spread to an adjoining apartment and a 7% chance that they will spread to an apartment above or below the infested unit.

If your apartment does not have bedbugs, but they are in your building, you can spread bed bug dust along the perimeter of the room, in cracks etc., as a first line of defense. You can also use a good crack and crevice insecticide that has a lasting effect such as Phantom.

Any apartment treatment program should include an education program for tenants. Every tenant needs to know all about bed bugs. Often used furniture and mattresses are the source of a bed bug infestation. Banning or making sure that these items are treated first, is an important preventative. Rented furniture should also be inspected before bringing it into a home or apartment.

Apartment buildings are often treated with a combination of insecticides and heat. The key is to make sure a treated apartment are free of clutter, so that treatments can reach all areas. All items such as furniture and mattresses can be treated.  All apartment owners and renters that live in the treated area  must participate.

When waiting for treatment, protect the bed by moving it at least 6 inches from the walls and adjoining furniture.  Keep all blankets and linens from hitting the floor, removing a way for the bed bugs to climb onto the bed.  Place Climbup Interceptors under each bed leg or use double sided tape as an alternative.  You can make your own interceptor by placing a cardboard ramp on the outside of a bowl.  Inside of the bowl place a layer of talcum powder.  Bedbugs will climb up the outside and get stuck in the bowl.

Another tip for preventing bed bugs in apartment buildings is to install a heat room in the building where any furniture or at least used furniture can be subject to high heat before moving to an apartment.  The key is proactive education all about bed bugs and bed bug prevention efforts.

All About Bed Bugs for Travelers

Whether avoiding bed bugs and cruise ships or if your goal is traveling without bed bugs, there are things you can do to avoid bringing them home with you. Be sure to know all about bed bugs before you go on your trip.

  1. Pack a Natural Bed Bug Spray: This Bed Bug Travel Spray can be a helpful way using an natural bed bug product to protect against bed bugs when traveling.
  2. Use hard luggage: There are more hiding spots on the outside of soft canvas luggage vs. hard cased luggage.
  3. Inspect the hotel or cruise cabin before entering: Do not immediately bring your luggage into the room. Inspect the mattress by pulling back the sheets on one corner. Look for red brown spots. If you see dark small stains, call the manager.
  4. Pack Ziploc Big Bags: This is a low cost, simple way to keep bed bugs out of your luggage. Pack the bags. When you arrive at the hotel, don't unpack, but keep clothes in the luggage. Place each piece of luggage into one of the double zippered bags for protection.
  5. Keep Luggage in Bathroom: Bed bugs tend to avoid hard surfaces such as tile in bathrooms. Also keep hanging clothes in the bathroom.
  6. Inspect Luggage When You Get Home: Check the luggage seams for bed bugs.   In the summer, leave bags in the direct sun to kill off any bugs.  Bed bugs are killed at 114F.

How Do You Recognize Bed Bug Bites?

Most people show no skin reaction to a bed bug bite (actually a puncture). Those that do show a reaction usually have round raised red areas with a clear center. Beyond the skin reaction, the bites itch. Try not to scratch to avoid infection. Use an insect itch cream made for bed bug itch such as All Stop or buy an anti-itch cream in your drug store. Bedbug Bites should go away by themselves in 3 to 5 days. Bite skin reactions tend to be immediate, but could be deflated by several days.

Picture Bed Bugs Bites

In highly allergic people, bed bug bites can be more pronounced and take the shape of a wheal, which is a round red area approximately 2 inches in diameter.  The size of a bite reaction will vary between people and even between episodes.  In some cities many doctors do not know all about bed bugs, so they may not pick up on the signs.  Ask specifically if you have bed bug bites.

all about bed bugs
Bed Bug Bite Wheal Skin Reaction

all about bed bugs
Bed Bug Bite Picture on Leg
More Severe Allergic Reaction to Bed Bug Saliva on Skin

See other pages on this site to learn all about bed bugs bites.

All About Bed Bugs Video

The following video from National Geographic is all about bed bugs and provides a good overview of the problem. 

What are Types of Bed Bug Insecticides?

Part of knowing all about bed bugs is the different types of bed bug insecticides available:

1. Bed Bug Dust: These products attach to the outside of a bed bug, causing the bug to dry out.   After treatment, dust is often placed inside bed frame tubes, in wall cracks, under furniture, inside walls, inside box springs, around electrical outlets etc. to kill any bed bugs and late hatching eggs that may have been missed.  Don't use if you have a dog as they might lick it up.  Only apply a thin coating and we suggest (per government safety regulations) when working with any dust product, use a low cost duster and dust mask.

The most important advantage of bed bug dust is that they have residual value.  Meaning that they provide lasting protection as long as the area where the dust is applied isn't disturbed.  Their effect can last for months or years.  Most sites that are all about bed bugs recommend the use of a dust product with other insecticides such as sprays.

Types of dust products include:

  • Silica Dust:: This is a man made dust product that is often found in those white packets found in new product boxes.  Products include Pyganic Dust.
  • Fossil Dust: Fossil Dust is the most popular dust product as it is all natural.  it is also called diatomaceous earth.  This is our preference as it is all natural.
  • Insecticide Dust: These product are referred to as a stabilized pyrethroid insecticide .  One product commonly used by pest control professionals is Tempo.
  • Fossil Dust and  Insecticide Combinations: Some manufacturers blend together a natural or silica dust and an insecticide such as a pyrethroid.  A popular choice is Drione (comes with duster).
Dust Management Professional Magazine, which has many articles all about bed bugs, has an excellent overview of bed bug dust products and their effectiveness.  Also, be sure to follow the manufacturers directions for sale application of any product, including the use of an appropriate face mask, if needed, to avoid breathing in the dust.

2. Bed Bug Insecticides: These products come in a bed bug spray and liquid form.  The difference between products includes mattress safety, insecticide based products and those which use organic ingredients. Note that dusts products should be applied with a duster.  

  • Organic Bed Bug Spray: These products use natural plant based extracts such as extract of chrysanthemum flowers. Popular products include Bed Bug Patrol. This product is also available as part of the kit.  Organic products are mattress safe and will kill bed bugs on contact.  The draw back is that the products not have a strong residual or lasting effect, as bed bugs may avoid areas that were sprayed. 
  • Insecticide BedBug Sprays: These bed bug pest control products contain different base ingredients including pyrethroids.  If you choose to go this route, we suggest purchase two different sprays, one that is mattress safe such as Sterifab, and another that is a crack and crevice spray such as Bedlam or Phantom.   Phantom in particular contains the ingredient chlorfenapyr, which has been shown to have a long residual effect and it will not repel bed bugs that enter areas that have been sprayed.  For this reason, we highly recommend the combination of Phantom and Sterifab.
  • Insect Growth Regulators: These products do not necessarily kill bed bugs on contact, but stop their ability to reproduce.  Over an extended 10 day period, these products can be very effective.  A popular option in this category is Gentrol.

Can Heat and Freezing Be Used to Kill Bed Bugs?

Most online sites and blogs all about bed bugs mention that Heat is the best non-chemical option next to vacuuming for removing bed bugs from a home or apartment.  Since bed bugs and their eggs are killed at 114F.  There are several approaches to applying heat.  

  • Steam Heat: High end steamers are used (multi-hole head) to apply heat directly to bed bugs and their egg.  Since water is the only ingredient, it is highly effective and not harmful.  Note that water can stain wood, so test on wood surfaces before using.  Dermisil offers a lower cost hand held model.
  • Heaters: These units are used to professionals to heat a room or building to the required temperature.  Some firms have heat boxes on the back of trucks or in a building where furniture and mattresses can be safely treated and certified bed bug free.
  • Portable Heaters: Small heaters such as the PackTite unit can be used to kill bed bugs that are hiding in electronics and other small items that may have hidden bed bugs.
  • Heat Chambers: These work the same way as portable heaters, but on a larger scale.  Heat chambers are found in buildings, on the back of trucks, or like the PackTite, larger units can be set up in the home to treat furniture such as couches.

    all about bed bugs
    All About Bed Bugs
    A portable heat chamber like this one can be setup in the home to treat larger items such as a couch.  The chamber is heated to a level that ensures that heat at 120F penetrates the item being treated.
    Source: Dr. Stephen A. Kells
  • Freezing Bed Bugs: High pressure freezing units instantly freeze and kill any bed bugs that come in contact with the freezing spray.  This is an approach used by professionals that have the proper equipment.
For more information all about bed bugs, use the search box on the upper right corner of this page.  If you have a question or story all about bed bugs, please fill out this form:

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