Bed bugs are spreading quickly across the world. A recent study by the
University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association
that we are on the verge of a global pandemic. While there are
insecticides, natural products and mechanical methods for treating
bedbugs, they are
considered to be
the most difficult insect to remove from the home. The information
provided below describes their biology, habits, signs, how to hire an
exterminator and do it yourself treatment options. There are
many techniques available to remove the insects from single family
homes, with apartments being more of a problem due to the number of
unites that require extermination."
Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius) Overview
The current epidemic
is similar to bedbug epidemics seen since biblical times. It was only
in the late 1800's that bed bug control became widespread with the
introduction of powerful pesticides such as DDT. This practically
eliminated bedbugs as a problem, with most people alive today
completely unfamiliar with the problem. When DDT was banned in 1972 and
with bedbugs becoming resistant to DDT and other pesticides, the
problem started to grow once again.
Dealing with bedbugs is one of the toughest thing a home owner
ever have to do. After all, they puncture the skin (they don't
actually bite), and then suck out a blood meal. They do not transmit
disease, although they do inject proteins into the skin that in some
people, cause an allergic skin reaction. For most people, the
bites heal in 2 to 3 days with the most difficult symptom
All bedbugs feed on the blood of mammals (rodents, bats, dogs, cats,
pets) or birds, although they prefer feeding on people. They are adept
hiding in small areas such as cracks or crevices in a bed, the bed
around window sills or at the baseboard of the floor. When an
infestation is first beginning, it will grow as close to the host as
possible with the majority hiding in or around the bed.
Adults can live up to a year without feeding. They prefer to hide in
areas that touch both the top and bottom of the insect. They are not
to climb on glass or smooth plastic and prefer wood and paper.
Pesticides that used to be used to kill bedbugs such as DDT
are no longer available, and would not work today, since they
high level of resistance to the insecticide. In fact, when tested in
New York City, only 5% of the insects where killed.
bug eradication problem is thought to be spread by travelers
them from location to location. This is why they are often found in
high human turnover areas such as hotels, college dormitories, and
BedBug Video - Great Overview from National Geographic
Bed Bugs Description
Bedbugs change in appearance as they move through different life
stages. They pass through 5 nymphal life stages, starting as an egg,
and then passing through each stage until they become an adult. The
nymphs or baby bed bugs look like small versions of the adults. They
are almost transparent to light tan in appearance
when born and then darken to a brown/red color as an adult. An adult is
approximately 1/4 of an inch in size. Eggs are about the size
of a poppy seed, are white, pear shaped are about 1/32 inch and hatch
in 10 days.
Picture Bed Bugs are
It is important to treat an infestation early as they can
quickly grow in size. Females lay approximately 345
eggs during her 10 month lifespan with approximately 1 to 12 eggs laid
per day. Eggs are usually deposited in cracks or on rougher surfaces.
They are sticky and attach to the surface, which is why
vacuuming cannot pick them up. The eggs hatch in 6 to 17 days, with
baby bedbugs (nymphs) immediately seeking a blood meal. They
need to feed in order to molt and pass into the next life stage.
Depending on the temperature and availability of a host,
this can take from 21 days (86F) to 120 days (65F). Bed bugs
live for 12 to 18 months. There can be 3+ generations of the insects in
Female bedbugs can store the male sperm for 5 to 7 weeks after
mating has occurred. They are inseminated when a male slices into the
female abdomen (traumatic insemination). Unfortunately for
people, pregnant (fertilized) female bedbugs are more likely to
disperse from an infestation, moving to adjacent apartments or hitch a
ride to another location.
Bedbugs can survive in freezing temperatures for a minimum of
5 days at 14F, -10C. It only takes 15 minutes to kill bed
bugs at below freezing temperatures of -25.6F (-32C). In
terms of heat, they are killed at 113F (45C). After 7
minutes at 114.8F (46C) all life stages are killed. They do not
move if the temperature is 53.6F (12C).
They cannot fly or jump and can move quickly in the
same way an ant moves quickly. Bedbugs can cling to a ceiling and climb
Pictures Bed Bugs At Each Life
Stage Before and After Feeding
How long a bedbug can live without feeding depends on the temperature.
An adult bedbug can live for 413 days (more than a year!) at 50F (10C).
However, they can only live for 65 days without feeding at 80.6F (27C).
If a room temperature is reduced to 1.4F (-17C) for 2 hours,
bed bugs in the room will be killed.
Rodents such as mice will eat bedbugs.
Bed Bug Inspection and BedBug Habits
They usually feed at night when the human host is asleep (most
at 3AM). It take about 10 minutes for a bed bug to feed.
After feeding, they will hide for 1 to 2 weeks, and then seek
another blood meal. Bed Bugs tend to feed after midnight and
around 3AM. A single bed bug can take in 3x to 6x their weight, which
for an adult female is about 8mls.
They pierce or puncture the skin with a stylet that contains
and an anticoagulant (reduces blood clotting) which helps them remove
the blood. Feeding lasts for about 3 minutes when developing (nymph
stage) and 10 to 15 minutes when an adult. After
feeding, they will go back to their hiding place. They cannot
detect a host that is more than 5 feet away.
They will hide in any tight crack or crevice near the host.
is why every inch of a room needs to be inspected. They will
start at the mattress (particularly in seams, tufts, around buttons and
under labels), then go into the box spring (look on the outside, and
peel back fabric on bottom and inspect inside)., bed frame, and end
tables. As the infestation grows they can hide in
window frames, around the backs of pictures, inside night tables, and
even electronics such as clock radios. They will also hide
under baseboards and around carpet tacks. Also inspect head
boards and behind electrical and cable outlets.
Bedbug Hiding Places
Hiding Places in Living Room or Den
Bed bug sniffing dogs are highly effective at picking up the
scent of any hiding places.
How Bedbugs Get Into a Home
The only way for a bedbug to get into a single family home is to be
usually happens on used items such as furniture or mattresses. New
items can also be infested if they were transported in a truck or plane
that is infested.
A home's cleanliness or amount of clutter has nothing to do with a home
invasion. Travelers and returning college
students are often a source of bed bugs.
When a college student returns home check all luggage and
wash all clothes immediately in hot water followed by 20 minutes in the
In an apartment building, bed bugs start in the same way in a single
apartment as they do in a home. In one study, it took 41
months for the insect to spread from 1 apartment to an additional 101
apartments in a 253 apartment building.
Bugs in Seam of
Bed Bugs Hidden on
Signs of Bed Bugs
Signs of an infestation include:
Bed bug bites:
Bites are a sign of having a bed bug or other insect problem. Bites are
similar to those of fleas and mosquitoes. However:
Bedbug bites are on exposed areas during sleep such.
They are often in patterns or groups. They have clear centers
Flea bites have red centers and are usually on the ankles
and lower legs.
Mange or mites cause a condition called scabies
which appears at the wrist, armpit, waste and buttocks.
Chigger bites occur when the insect gets on clothes when
outside. Bites are often at the ankles, behind the knee and
Mattress: The mattress usually shows signs of bedbug
feces (brown spots) and blood marks from crushed insects. Eggshells may
also be seen and skins shed during molting. You may also
notice dead insects.
You may or may not smell a raspberry like odor. Odor usually indicates
a larger infestation.
Bedbugs: You can see the insects with the naked eye. Use a
putty knife or other thin object and pull along bed seams to see if you
can dislodge any of the insects.
Picture Bugs on
If you live in an apartment and suspect a problem, check with neighbors
next door and under and above your unit for similar problems as 1) they
may have spread from their apartment to yours and 2) all apartments
will need to be treated.
If you do not know if you have a bedbug problem, we suggest using an
inexpensive bedbug trap such as a Climbup.
These are placed under each bed leg and if they stay empty,
then your home is free of these insects.
Bed Bug Bites
These insects don't actually bite the skin, but puncture it with a
stylet. Each feeling lasts approximately 10 minutes. Most people show
no skin reaction when bitten, which is why an infestation is often hard
to detect until the population of bedbugs becomes larger. Those that do
have a skin reaction usually show small round bumps with a clear
center. The skin can become inflamed at each bite, called bed bug
rash. This can be differentiated from flea bites which usually have a
Most people do not show any skin reaction to bites, or show a
reaction after repeated episodes. A recent study shows that
42% of adults over age 65 do not show a bedbug bite skin reactions
Picture Bed Bugs Bites on
Typical Allergic Reaction - Will Heal in 3 to 5 Days
Individuals that are more allergic to bites
will have a more
pronounced skin reaction such as a large red wheal on the arm. The very
allergic could see blistering as well. Itching can cause microbes to
enter the bite, and result in infection.
Picture Bed Bug Rash and
These parasites usually bite areas of the skin that are
during sleep including the face, neck, shoulders, hands, lower arms and
legs. For some reason, they avoid the bottoms of the feet.
Bite reactions can appear immediately or up to 14 days later.
Bites are seen individually or in patterns, particularly when
a leg or arm is resting against a hiding place. Bites all over
the body indicate a larger infestation.
Picture Bedbug Bites on
Picture Bed Bugs Bites on Leg Patterns Like this One Probably Cause by Leg Resting Along
a Bed Seam where The Insects are Hiding
Picture Bed Bug Bites
Skin Blisters Due to Allergic Reaction
Treating bed bug bites symptoms such as itch are simply
treated with an
over the counter topical, preferably one that contains oatmeal
such as Aveeno.
There are also products sold online that are specifically formulated to
provide relief from bedbug
If bedbugs bites do not heal in 2 to 3 days, or if they worsen
in appearance with crusts or pus, see a Doctor for treatment of a
possible infection. They do not transmit disease.
Some relief may also come from spraying an insect repellent on
that is formulated to repel the insects. One product called BedBug
Repellent is all natural and claims to repel 98% of bedbugs.
Insects that Look Like Bed Bugs
Bedbugs are often confused with other insects which have a
similar appearance. This includes baby cockroaches, bat bugs,
swallow bugs and chimney swift bugs.
To be certain, you can send a sample
insect to Identify LLC
using this form (pdf
download). They charge a $20 fee for this service.
Bed Bug Treatment
If you think you have a problem, inspect your bed room and mattress,
particularly areas where the family spends the most time. If
you live in an apartment, inform the managing agent or landlord, so
that they can coordinate treatment. Note that most areas do
not require landlords to pay for treatment. If this is the
case, offer to split the cost. Contact your local department
of health or state attorney generals office for guidance regarding the
law in your area.
Most treatment plans require the use of multiple products.
The exception is heat treatment where an entire room or home
is heated to 120F+. This method is used in more extreme cases
due to the high cost (home could cost $2,000). Insecticide
based treatment can cost $900 per room.
Instead most bed bug exterminators will use a combination of chemical
and non-chemical approaches (called IPM or integrated pest management).
We suggest hiring a professional experienced bedbug exterminator,
although small infestations can be handled yourself with the use of an insecticide
bedbug kit or organic
How to hire a Bed Bugs Exterminator
We do not recommend that homeowners treat their own home as
the toughest insects to locate and kill. However, treatment can cost
between $1,000 to $2,000 for the typical home, so be sure to get
One easy way to start is with a call to the Service
(1.877.233.1145) Network. All bed bug exterminators that are members of
the network have been pre-screened and are licensed and insured.
The network will provide up to 4 free quotes.
Bed bug exterminators also have access to different types of bed
bug pesticides not available to home owners. They also use
techniques such as:
Heaters are placed in a sealed room or throughout a home. The
technique is highly effective, but can cost between $2,000 to $6,000.
See the Thermapure or Temp-Air
website for an exterminator in your area offering this type of
A carbon dioxide spray (dry ice) is used to freeze and kill bed bugs
and bed bug eggs.
Chemicals such as fikane are either set off in a home, sealed room, or
in a portable chamber for treating household items.
Do It Yourself Treatment
It is possible to treat an infestation using only natural
products and methods. The step by step instructions below
should be followed. Fundamentally, natural treatment involves
the use of a vacuum and steam to knock down or reduce the size of a
A natural spray such as Bug
Patrol will kill remaining insects and eggs on contact. This
product is made from plant extracts that are known to kill these
insects. Instead of using pesticides to provide lasting
dust is used instead. Fossil dust is made from
ground up natural fossils, and will cling to and kill the insects as
they walk the dust field.
Other steps such as filling or repairing cracks and crevices
with caulk can minimize the number of hiding places, making it easier
to locate and kill the insects. Mattress
and Box Spring Covers will trap and starve any insects and
eggs you might have missed. Bedbug
Mattress covers can be as simple as a zippered vinyl covering
to premium versions that have cotton tops that also protect against
To save money, a combination of the products needed can be
purchased in a natural
Individual items that cannot be washed in hot water, or placed
in a dryer, can be treated in a portable heat chamber such as a PackTite.
Insecticide Based Treatment
Bedbugs in certain cities such as New York are starting to show
resistance to many types of
insecticides. The good news is that there are some pesticide
based products that are 100% effective. Approaches for extermination
include the mattress safe knock down spray Sterifab
(phenothrin w/ isopropanol). A knock down spray such as Sterifab,
which kills the insects and eggs on contact, should be used with a
spray that provides lasting protection such as Phantom.
Note, that New York residents cannot buy Phantom, and should
w/ pyrodone) instead.
Bedlam will provide residual protection for about 7 days, and Phantom
will provide protection for 2 to 3 weeks, enough to disrupt the
Insecticide based treatment should also begin with the use of
vacuuming all surfaces and the used of steam after vacuuming. The use
dust/fossil dust or diatomaceous
earth at the last stage of treatment can also be of help to
provide lasting protection.
Other insecticides that can provide lasting protection in a
room include Demand
CS (lamba-cyhalothrin) and Suspend
SC (deltamethrin). Given the choice, we would go with Phantom
(chlorfenapyr).given the recent research which shows no
resistance. Phantom takes up to 10 days to work, requiring the use of a
knock down spray along with this product.
To save money, bedbug
kits are available that contain all needed products.
Other items that can be of help include:
Box Spring Covers: Covers, such as a mattress
cover, box spring cover and pillow cover is
an important part treatment. It traps any bugs and
inside both, and in up to 12 months, starves the insects.
Some people like to buy covers as part of a total
protection plan, which will prevent a mattress and box spring from
becoming infested. Note is it more important to cover the box
spring, as this often has more hiding places for bed bugs than the
There are many kinds of traps
on the market. One in particular, the Climbup
Interceptor is an inexpensive low tech option, which traps
bed bugs as they attempt to climb toward the host.
Controlling Bed Bugs - Home Treatment Instructions
When these treatment instructions
as a guide. Always follow the manufacturers instructions first.
Be sure to inspect and treat all hiding places including:
Inspect the bed
Cracks and Crevices
Carpet Board Tacks
Furniture (inside and out, under drawers)
Under lamps and inside electronics
Ripped wallpaper and seams
Inside plaster cracks
Along ceiling molding
Around door hinges and knobs
Step by Step Instructions:
Set up a safe
area outside of the room to be treated" This can
be a hallway or bathroom. This area will hold items after
and linens on bed: Place into a plastic bag and carry to
washing machine. Wash on hot temperature followed by 20 minutes in
Vacuum room thoroughly. Use crevice tool along baseboards.
When treatment is complete bag and remove dust bag from home.
Vacuum carpets, rugs, floor
Crevice tool along baseboards
Vacuum blinds, curtains
Vacuum inside drawers
Vacuum behind wall units
Baseboards: If you have a hand
steamer, go around perimeter with steam. When dry, use a bed
bug knock down spray around the perimeter of the room to kill any
hiding insects and eggs (Sterifab or natural spray such as Bug
Patrol). Follow this by spraying a residual spray such as
Phantom or Bedlam. After spray dries, apply dust product.
This will catch any insects that you may dislodge while treating items
such as the mattress.
an Aerosol Spray
Vacuum all seams and tufts and under labels with crevice tool.
Use a putty knife or other thin object to dislodge any hiding
Steam all places on both sides of mattress where they can hide.
Follow by using a knock down spray. When done, move the
to safe area.
Treat Mattress with a
Mattress Safe Spray Such asSterifab
Table Drawers on Box Spring: Empty contents of night
tables on box spring and inspect items. Choices are to wash
items in hot water followed by 20 minutes in the dryer, treating with
the mattress safe spray, or freezing items for 2 weeks in the freezer.
You can also place items in plastic snap lid containers for a
year. All approaches will kill bedbugs. Put contents after
treatment into a snap lid container or large Ziploc
bag after treatment.
Spring: Use the same steps you used to treat the mattress.
Treat both the outside and inside (remove or peel back fabric cover on
bottom). Most to safe area when done.
Treat the bed
frame and head board: Treat the bed frame with the vacuum,
steam and then both the knock down and residual spray. Do the
same for the head board.
Treat the End
Tables and Objects on Table: Treat the inside and outside
of furniture with both sprays. Test to ensure that they will not stain.
Inspect inside any lamps, particularly along the bottom.
Treat the Inside and
Outside of Furniture. Be sure to Treat Inside Tracks that Hold Drawers.
Carpet: If you have carpet, treat along the baseboards
with both sprays (test for color staining). Use a carpet
steamer if you can. As an option, add a disinfectant made to kill
parasites to the cleaning fluid such as PuraCleenRX.
Mattress and Box Spring: After the spray is
dry, place dust into seams and tufts of mattress and
box spring. Apply a thin layer of dust inside box spring as
well. Cover the mattress, box spring and pillows in bed bug labeled
covers. When done, return to bed frame.
12. Place Climbup Interceptors under each bed leg: Place an
under each bed leg. If the traps stay clear, then the bedbug
infestation is gone. You can also use inexpensive traps
or double sided tape on each bed leg.
Do not be surprised if treatment requires 2 to 3
attempts. You can always call in an exterminator
if do it yourself efforts fail, just don't
wait too long as infestations can quickly grow in size.
Never bring clothes or objects into a home that may have been
infested. Avoid any used furniture, mattresses or other
objects that may be exposed to bed bugs.
In an apartment, eliminate areas where the insects can cross
one apartment into another. One solution is to apply caulk along
Anyplace where people sleep such as a hotel is a potential
site of an infestation. When checking into a hotel
check for bed bugs on the mattress, head board (look behind it) and box
spring. Do not place your luggage on the floor, opting for
any provided luggage racks.
Inspect luggage before bringing it into a home. If
you are a frequent traveler, you may want to invest in a PackTite,
which is a heat chamber that can hold a suitcase and heat all contents
to the required temperature. It is 100% effective and will
ensure that you do not bring home any bed bug hitchhikers in your
Tip: Spray luggage with a Luggage
Spray before leaving home for 6 weeks of
Always be on the look out for signs.
One idea is
to check your mattress for bed bug fecal stains, skins, dead bed bugs
or blood stains every time you change the sheets. White sheets make it
easier to see bed bug marks.
Also check used items such as antique furniture, and
particularly library books that are borrowed in areas known for having
a bed bug problem.
If you visit a friend with bedbugs, meet them away from their
home. If you do visit, remove clothes in your entry way or
outside the home in a garage. Seal bag with tape or place clothes into
Killing Bed bugs in the Washing Machine and Dryer
Clothes that are washed at 60C (140F) will kill baby bugs,
and eggs. Placing clothes in a dryer on hot (104F, over 40C)
for 30 minutes will also kill bedbugs and eggs. Soaking
clothes alone will kill bed bugs but not the eggs.
They can also be killed at 1.4F or -17C in freezing
if left for 2 hours. Other studies show 5 lbs of laundry take
8 hours to exterminate the insects and eggs at .4F (-18C).
BedBugs and Pets
Any mammal can act as a host for these insects. In terms of
cats, they can be protected with popular spot ons such as Frontline and
College of Agricultural Sciences, Cooperative Extension
Department of Entomology
Steven B. Jacobs