How Can Bed Bugs Form

US EPA

Bed Bugs

Protecting Your Home from Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. They can move from an infested site to a new home by traveling on furniture, bedding, luggage, boxes, and clothing.

Although they typically feed on blood every five to ten days, bed bugs can be quite resilient; they are capable of surviving several months to a year without feeding.

A few simple precautions can help prevent bed bug infestation in your home:

  • Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.
  • Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs to eliminate many hiding spots. The light color of the encasement makes bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check the encasement regularly for holes or a cover that has been pre-treated with pesticide to control bed bugs.
  • Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
  • Vacuum frequently to remove any successful hitchhikers.
  • Be vigilant when using shared laundry facilities. Transport items to be washed in plastic bags (if you have an active infestation, use a new bag for the journey home). Remove from dryer directly into bag and fold at home. (A dryer on high heat can kill bed bugs.)
  • If you live in a multi-family home, try to isolate your unit by:
  • Installing door sweeps on the bottom of doors to discourage movement into hallways.
  • Sealing cracks and crevices around baseboards, light sockets, etc., to discourage movement through wall voids.
  • Consider purchasing a portable heating chamber to treat any items that you believe may have bed bugs.
    • Be sure to read and carefully follow the directions if you use one of these units and be aware that they are not regulated by EPA or other federal agencies.
    • More information on controlling bed bugs.
    • Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem.

      What Attracts Bedbugs to Human Environments?

      • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

      Once considered a pest of the past, bedbugs now make regular headlines as they infest homes, hotels, and dormitories worldwide. As bedbugs spread, more people worry about them and want to know what causes a bedbug infestation.

      Though it might seem as if bedbug infestations are on the rise, historical context indicates that bedbugs and other bloodsucking parasites have been associated with humans for thousands of years. Throughout that history, people have endured them feeding on their blood. Bedbugs all but disappeared when people started using DDT and other pesticides to keep insects out of their homes. Although news headlines suggest bedbugs are conquering the world, the reality is that bedbug infestations are still at historically low numbers.

      Why are they called bedbugs? Once they settle into your home, they congregate where you spend a lot of sedentary time: chairs, couches, and especially beds. They are attracted to you by the carbon dioxide in the air you breathe out, and you do a lot of breathing over the hours you’re in bed. Then they feed on your blood.

      Bedbugs Don’t Care If You’re Clean or Dirty

      Contrary to popular belief, there is no association between bedbugs and filth. They feed on human and animal blood, and as long as a source of blood is available to them, they will happily take up residence in even the most pristine home.

      Being poor doesn’t put you at greater risk for bedbugs, and having wealth doesn’t immunize you from a bedbug infestation. Although poverty doesn’t cause bedbugs, impoverished communities may lack the resources needed to control infestations, making them more persistent and pervasive in such areas.

      Bedbugs Are Excellent Hitchhikers

      For bedbugs to infest your home, they have to hitch a ride on someone or something. They don’t usually stay on their human hosts after feeding, but they might hide in clothing and inadvertently go along for the ride to a new location. Most often, bedbugs travel in luggage after someone has stayed in an infested hotel room. Bedbugs may even infest theaters and other public spaces and spread to new locations via purses, backpacks, coats, or hats.

      Bedbugs Go Where the Action Is

      Since bedbugs travel by hitchhiking, infestations are more common in places with high rates of turnover in the human population: apartment buildings, dormitories, homeless shelters, hotels and motels, and military barracks. Any time you have a lot of people coming and going, there’s an increased risk that someone will carry a few bedbugs into the building. In general, owners of single-family homes have a lower risk of getting bedbugs.

      Bedbugs Hide in Clutter

      Once in your home, bedbugs scurry quickly to select a new hiding place; in beds and other furniture, behind baseboards, under wallpaper, or inside switch plates. Then it’s just a matter of time before they begin multiplying. A single female may arrive at your doorstep already carrying enough eggs to produce hundreds of offspring. While filth does not benefit bedbugs, clutter does. The more cluttered your home is, the more hiding places there are for bedbugs and the harder it will be to get rid of them.

      Bedbugs

      In this Article

      In this Article

      In this Article

      Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

      Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.

      Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

      Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.

      Where Bed Bugs Hide

      Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

      Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.

      Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

      When Bedbugs Bite

      Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

      Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

      People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.

      Continued

      Signs of Infestation

      If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

      • Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
      • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
      • Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
      • An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands

      If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.

      Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.

      If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.

      Bedbug Treatments

      Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:

      • Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
      • Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
      • Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
      • Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
      • Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
      • Get rid of clutter around the bed.

      If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.

      Continued

      Bedbug Extermination

      While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.

      Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.

      Sources

      University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."

      Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."

      The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."

      University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."

      Department of Health

      Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them

      Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. They feed on blood, but are not known to spread any diseases to humans. Some people can be allergic to their bites. Getting rid of a bed bug infestation is not easy, but there are steps you can take to control the problem. There are also steps you can take to avoid bringing bed bugs home.

      What are bed bugs?

      How can bed bugs get into my home?

      • They can come from other infested areas or from used furniture. They can hitch a ride in luggage, purses, backpacks, or other items placed on soft or upholstered surfaces.
      • They can travel between rooms in multi-unit buildings, such as apartment complexes and hotels.

      How can I avoid bringing bed bugs into my home?

      • When staying in a hotel, place your bag on a suitcase stand rather than on the bed or floor. Keep the rack away from walls or furniture. When returning home, wash the clothes from your trip and put them in a hot dryer.
      • Inspect new and used furniture before bringing it inside. Look in seams, tufts and under cushions.

      How do I know if I have a bed bug problem?

      • You can see the bed bugs themselves, their shed skins, or their droppings in mattress seams and other items in the bedroom.
      • There may also be blood stains on sheets.

      How do I control a bed bug problem in my home?

      It can be done, but it usually requires what is called an "integrated pest management" (IPM) approach. This combines techniques that pose the lowest risk to your health and the environment. Try these strategies:

      • Clean and get rid of clutter, especially in your bedroom.
      • Move your bed away from walls or furniture.
      • Vacuum molding, windows and floors every day. Vacuum sides and seams of mattresses, box springs and furniture. Empty the vacuum or the bag immediately and dispose of outside in a sealed container or bag.
      • Wash sheets, pillow cases, blankets and bed skirts and put them in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. Consider using mattress and box spring covers –the kind used for dust mite control–and put duct tape over the zippers.
      • Seal cracks and crevices and any openings where pipes or wires come into the home.

      Should I also try pesticides?

      Pesticides may not be effective and can be dangerous if used improperly. If you decide to use pesticides, follow these rules:

      • Only use pesticides that are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (look for the U.S. EPA Registration Number on the label) and make sure they are labeled to control bed bugs.
      • Do not apply pesticides directly to your body (there are no repellents registered to control bed bugs that can be used on the human body).
      • Do not use outdoor pesticides indoors.
      • If you decide to hire a pest control company, make sure they have experience with bed bugs. They should follow the steps of IPM, along with any pesticide application. Use a company that is registered and employs licensed applicators. The Department of Environmental Conservation has a list of registered companies.

      It takes time and persistence to get rid of bed bugs, and in some cases, the cooperation of landlords, neighbors and others. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting. It can also be expensive when pest control companies are called in. Just remember – bed bugs are more of a nuisance than a health concern and, with vigilance, you can avoid or deal with infestations.

      See the following for more information on bed bug biology and control measures:

      Photo courtesy of Dr. Harold Harlan, Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Library

      What Causes Bed Bugs, And How Do They Spread?

      What causes bed bugs? How might they spread? Learn more about how you might be able to stop a bed bug infestation before it starts.

      In recent years,bed bugs(Cimex lectularius) have gone from relative obscurity to center stage in America.

      WHERE DO BED BUGS COME FROM?

      As the name indicates, bed bugs are often found in close proximity to beds. They are attracted to and feed on warm-blooded animals to survive. This can be humans or animals, but little is known about what causes bed bugs to have a preference for humans.

      BED BUGS IN THE BEDROOM

      To feed on humans, bed bugs want close proximity to the host. Box springs, headboards and bed framing are favorite harborage sites for these pests. They may also settle into furniture and fixtures that are close to a bed.

      Bedrooms are not the only place where bed bugs can be a concern though.

      BED BUGS OUTSIDE THE BEDROOM

      Bed bugs are looking for human hosts who are inactive long enough to provide a meal. The feeding doesn’t have to be at night. They will feed opportunistically, even in the daytime.

      Where else might bed bugs find and feed on you?

      Sitting for two hours in a movie theater while being distracted by adventure and popcorn? You could become an extra large drink for a bed bug.

      Maybe the movie is enjoyed (or possibly slept through) in that favorite recliner in the living room. You could be a target.

      Have a long cab ride into the office?

      You get the idea. Any place that humans sit, rest or sleep can be a place that bed bugs are introduced or feed.

      HOW DO BED BUGS SPREAD?

      Bed bugs are consummate hitchhikers. In fact, they are primarily transported by humans and human belongings like suitcases.

      If bed bugs or evidence of bed bugs are discovered, leave the area and call a qualified pest management professional to assist.

      Bed bugs will move to other areas when they are disturbed. This may cause other areas to be infested that may be much more difficult to inspect or treat.

      If you spot signs of bed bugs,click hereto schedule your inspection.

      Do Earwigs Bite?

      If you shudder a little when you think about earwigs, you’re probably not alone. They’ve developed quite a nasty reputation, thanks to urban legends (mostly false) that have been circulating for years. But are they harmful?

      The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives

      Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.

      The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

      The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.

      What are Earwigs?

      Most people have probably heard of earwigs at some point or another. These creepy-looking insects are associated with some urban myths. Learn the truth about earwigs, including what attracts them and how to help get rid of them.

      ARE TICKS DANGEROUS?

      The majority of ticks will deliver painless bites without any noticeable symptoms. However, some ticks can carry a variety of bacteria and pathogens for disease. Although not all ticks are dangerous, you don’t want to risk coming into contact with these blood-sucking insects.

      ARE TICKS DANGEROUS?

      The majority of ticks will deliver painless bites without any noticeable symptoms. However, some ticks can carry a variety of bacteria and pathogens for disease. Although not all ticks are dangerous, you don’t want to risk coming into contact with these blood-sucking insects.

      Are Bed Bugs Contagious?

      Bed bugs are not too picky about where and when they catch a ride and don’t necessarily have a preferred mode of transportation, so it’s no surprise how many people wonder, are bed bugs contagious?

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      If you shudder a little when you think about earwigs, you’re probably not alone. They’ve developed quite a nasty reputation, thanks to urban legends (mostly false) that have been circulating for years. But are they harmful?

      Cluster Flies In Your Home

      If you’re like many homeowners, you’ve dealt with annoying flies ruining your summer barbecues and outdoor dinner parties. You may have even become accustomed to whipping out the flypaper and heavy-duty bug zappers the minute you hear the familiar buzz of a fly. These annoying pests are likely house flies, which can pose significant health risks to you and your family. But have you ever seen large, sluggish flies loitering inside your home in the autumn and winter? They may be cluster flies.

      Tips to Get Rid of Stink Bugs in Your House

      Now that it’s fall, it’s officially indoor stink bug season. Before it becomes winter, brown marmorated stink bugs are looking for comfortable overwintering sites to spend the cold months—and that can often mean that they may find a way to sneak into your house. While the odor that a stink bug releases is not dangerous, they are definitely a nuisance. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get rid of stink bugs in your house—without having to deal with the unpleasant smell.

      What are Sand Fleas?

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      The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives

      Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.

      The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

      The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.

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