How Do Bed Bug Nymphs Move


Baby bed bugs (simply nymphs) are the bed bugs going through the initial 5 stages of their life-cycle.

They’ll be straw or light brown (before taking a blood meal) and the size of a pin head.

Bed bug (Cimex lectularius) infest over 20% of Americans homes.

Its important to control the bed bugs nymphs in your house, bed frames, or mattress encasements. Check what bed bug look like?

What Do Baby Bed Bugs Look Like? 99+Images

First, check out the below video. Its a quick preview of how bed bugs look like – luckily this video shows the bed bugs in all their life-stages – including the baby bed bugs-nymphs.

What Do Baby Bed Bugs Look Like?

The bed bug species that mainly attack human beings are theCimex hemipterus or the Cimex lectularius. Adult bed bugs (females) lay about 250 viable eggs.

The baby bed bugs-nymphs pass through 5 juvenile “nymph” stages as they molt towards attaining the adult stage – the wingless, reddish-brown, blood-sucking insects.

Sidenote: Always spray against bedbugs, fleas or roaches on used clothes and furniture before you get them into your house. But also, check this guide on how to use steam heat treatment, rubbing alcohol, Ammonia, bleach, or Lysol to kill bed bugs

1. Appearance and Size

In exact size, Nymphs are in between the bed bug eggs (1 mm / 0.09 inches) to the size of an adult bed bug (4.5 mm / 0.18 inches).

However, immature bed bugs are tiny in size (definitely) but will grow bigger as they suck more blood and molt.

It’s important to note that it’s possible to see nymphs with the naked eye. An adult bed bug will be something like an apple seed in size (about 4.5mm), and its red or brown in color.

Bed Bugs Life cycle. Credit:

The baby bed bugs-nymphs add about 0.5 mm of its size at each molting stage (of the 5 juvenile “nymph” stages). However, do not confuse a cluster of bed bug eggs (with each measuring about 1 mm) with the nymphs.

At the 5th nymph stages, the baby bed bug has a size almost equal to their adult counterparts. But for more clarity, check out the video (Courtesy of Sandy Honess) and see how you can differentiate the nymphs from the adult bed bugs.

2. Shape andColor

Nymphs have an oval just like their counterparts. So, the main difference between the nymphs and the adult bed bugs is just the color. Immediately after hatching, nymphs will be yellow-white (almost colorless) but will turn reddish or brown as they feed on blood.

Before they suck blood, bed bugs are relatively thin and hence will easily slip through cracks and crevices into mattress covers, and furniture spaces where they hid waiting to lay eggs or attack their next host.

Do baby bed bugs Jump or Crawl?

First things first, baby bed bug, just like the adult bed bugs, can fly or jump. However, these bugs have a very fast speed when running on a flat surface, ceilings, walls, and floors.

To be specific, bed bugs will clock about 4 feet every second. Wondering if even adult bed bugs can fly? Do Check this Guide for more details.

Nevertheless, compared to insects like fleas that can hop and jump around, bed bugs can only crawl or run very fast on floors and other surfaces. Actually, nothing would qualify as an adventure in the movement of bed bugs.

Further, because of the bugs wide body and short legs, they’ll only crawl low in the ground. However, despite moving very fast, they would not easily significantly exceed their regular crawling speed.

Will bed bugs climb up rough surfaces?Bed bugs, including the baby bed bugs-nymphs, have small hooks on their legs. Therefore, these structures the bugs hold onto pores, cracks or crevices of different rough surfaces and thus quickly climb up metals, plastics, walls, cloths, or timber. On the flip side, bed bugs cannot climb up on smoother covers such as glass and porcelain.

Can bed bugs push off heavy obstacles?Equally, because of their wide body and short legs, the bed bugs won’t do great in moving in thick carpets, hair, or some busy terrain.

Further, the short legs are also too frail to push heavy objects aside particularly when moving in thick hair, carpets or grass. Therefore, in such cases, they would opt to climb up the objects and drop on the other side or simply circumnavigate them.

Do Baby Bed Bugs Bite?

Immediately after hatching, the nymphs from the eggs ( nymphs ) need to suck a pint of human (of your pets’) to allow it to grow, live and molt into other lifecycle stages.

Check the nymphs (Nymphs) – Color, Pictures, Movement. Side note: Bed bug eggs take 2 weeks to hatch after which the nymph move through the 5 molt stages during which they must feed on blood.

Therefore, the short answer isthat just like the adult bed bugs, the baby bed bugs-nymphs do bite human beings for blood. Interestingly, due to their growth requirements, the nymphs will bite humans (and such blood) more often. However, the bed bugs bites will disappear with 1-2 weeks.

But how do the bites from nymphs look like?Well, bites from the nymphs will look just like those from the adult bed bugs. As a reminder, such bites leave reddish bumps on your skin and are itchy too. Equally, nymphs will mainly bite your shoulders and arms – this can be compared to fleas that mainly bite the feet and ankles.

Where can baby bed bugs be found?

Despite that bites from bed bugs could be a significant sign of their presence in your premises, you must know how and where the bugs tend to hide so that you can easily control them.

First things first, the signs to look out for include blood spots or fecal matter (colored like rust) on your bedding or mattress.

Sadly, human beings can carry bead bugs and their nymphs in their clothes from one house to another. For example, the bugs may hitchhike your bags, purses, clothes, and luggage. However, they do not love the hairy pets such as cats and dogs.

But of course, you know that the nymphs can also trigger skin irritation and transmit diseases. Therefore, the best solution when you believe you have a bed bug infestation is to hire the services of a bed bug exterminator or spray on the adult or babies of bed bugs directly.

The BedBug Life Cycle

Understanding the bedbug life cycle is vital if you want to get rid of bed bugs! Get quick facts about bed bug eggs, nymphs and adults; watch the video to see what they look like in real life; and learn what you need to know about all life stages to successfully identify and kill them.

Where do you want to start?

These links will take you directly to specific sections of this page:

There’s a link back up to this menu at the end of each section for easy navigation. Of course, you can just read the whole page!

BedBug Life Cycle Quick Facts

While you may not be all that interested in their biology and behavior, here are 8 quick facts about the bedbug life cycle you should know:

  • You can see all stages of bed bugs (even eggs) with the naked eye
  • An adult female can lay 200-500 bed bug eggs in her lifetime
  • Bed bug eggs are harder to kill than nymphs (baby bed bugs) and adults
  • Bedbugs can grow from a hatched egg to a full adult in about a month
  • Baby bed bugs cast their “skins” (exoskeletons, technically) as they grow
  • Bed bugs need a blood meal to live, to grow, and to reproduce
  • Baby bed bugs may feed as much as one time per day
  • Adult bed bugs can live up to 18 months without feeding!

For a look at live bed bugs in all stages of their life cycle, click on the video below. You can jump down to the full discussion of the key things you should know about the bedbug life cycle in order to get rid annoying little buggers successfully by clicking here.

Bed Bug Life Cycle Video

I love this video because it show all stages of bed bugs (including eggs) in real life so you can get a better idea of what they look like. It also shows what cast skins look like which is important because they are one of the 9 symptoms you should look for to figure out if you have a bed bug infestation. One note though, the nymphs (baby bed bugs) in this video still have remnants of a blood meal in them so they look darker that they would if they had not been fed. For more photos of baby bed bugs, check out our bed bug picture gallery.

The video does start out a little goofy and may not seem that serious at first, but entomologist Mark “Shep” Sheperdigian knows his stuff. Its actually jam packed with useful information about what bed bugs look like in all stages of their life cycle. Definitely worth the2 minutesit takes to watch!

This video is shared via the Bed Bug Answers Channel on YouTube. For more helpful videos, visit (and like!) us on YouTube 🙂

Keep reading for a more detailed look at each stage of the bedbug life cycle.

Bed Bug Eggs

What do bed bug eggs look like? Believe it or not, even bed bug eggs are visible to the human eye although they can be hard to see.

Personally, I think bed bug eggs look like little pieces of rice. But they can be compared in size to a large grain of salt as shown in the video above. They are tiny (about 1mm long) and are very light in color – ranging from translucent (almost clear) to a milky sort of white color.

This is why a magnifying glass can be helpful when you are looking for signs of bed bugs. They have a sticky film which gives them a kind of shiny appearance and helps them stick to surfaces until they hatch. More photos of bed bug eggs.

It takes about 6-10 days for a bed bug egg to hatch. The hatched egg looks clearer in color and kind of like tiny deflated balloon. Once an egg has been hatched is not shiny any more and has a dried out appearance.

Its important to note that many of the treatments that will kill bed bugs will not kill their eggs. The only things that are known to effectively kill eggs are heat and gas fumigation. This is something to keep in mind when choosing bed bug pest control options.

Fear not. If you can kill the babies before they reach adulthood and reproduce. you can stop the bedbug life cycle in its tracks!

Baby Bed Bugs (Nymphs)

The first thing a newly hatched baby bed bug does is search for a blood meal. Baby bed bugs (technically called “nymphs”) go through 5 stages of development instars. So a 1st instar nymph is a “newborn” and a 5th instar nymph is a “bedbug teen”, so to speak.

What do baby bed bugs look like?Well, basically they look like mini versions of adult bed bugs, but they are very light in color – almost clear.

Like the eggs, they start out very tiny (approx. 1mm), about the size and color of a sesame seed and grow to about 5mm (Вј inch) as adults.

The blood is clearly visible in a nymph that has just fed.They look like tiny swollen purple balloons!

As baby bed bugs develop toward adulthood, they do get darker in color.

They can feed as often as once every day and they have to have a blood meal to grow from one stage to the next. They can also survive months without feeding, but they basically get stuck at whatever developmental stage of the bedbug life cycle they’re in until they get their next meal.

They develop through a process called molting. Baby bed bugs literally “crawl out of their skins” as they move from one stage to the next. Cast skins (some people call them bed bug shells) are one of the key symptoms of a bed bug infestation. You can also see more pictures of cast skins here in the bed bug picture gallery.

Adult Bed Bugs

Adult bed bugs are about Вј inch long, about the size and shape of an apple seed. They are extremely flat like a business card or a credit card, which allows them to hide in very surprising places.

They are brown to reddish-brown in color and become more shiny and purple-ish red after they’ve fed. As they feed, they swell up into a capsule like shape – kind of like little blood balloons. (Okay, I know that’s gross – but its an accurate description). See more adult bedbug photos here.

On average, they feed about every 3-10 days. Again the estimates vary, but it most experts agree that it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes for an adult bed bug to fill up on blood at one feeding. They must have a blood meal to reproduce.

Female bed bugs can lay an average of 3-5 eggs per day. The jury seems to be out on exactly how many bed bug eggs an adult female can lay in her lifetime, but the estimates range from 200 – 500!

Bedbug Life Cycle & Life Span Factors

The full growth cycle from egg to reproducing adult can range from 1 month to 4 months. Two factors that affect the time-table of the bedbug’s life cycle aretemperatureand theavailability of food(blood).

In warmer conditions bed bugs bed bugs mature more rapidly and are likely to feed more frequently if there is a source of blood. In cooler temperatures, bed bugs can go into semi-hibernation allowing them to live much longer – even without feeding.

In the absence of a host on which to feed, bed bug nymphs can still live for a few months. But they can’t develop from one stage to the next. Basically their growth is “stunted” until they can get another meal.

Adult bed bugs can be surprisingly hardy. Under the right conditions, they can survive up to 18 months without feeding. T hat’s right, a year-and-a-half!

This is why sleeping somewhere else, like a friend or relative’s house, will not solve your problem . When you return, they will still be there waiting. and hungry.

Hopefully, this overview has made you better prepared to identify and get rid of bed bugs.

Want to explore the bedbug life cycle further?This fact sheet from the Medical Entomology Department of the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research has lots of useful info includinga greatphoto infographicof the the bed bug life cycle by Dr. Stephen Doggett.

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Bed Bugs

ENTFACT-636: Bed Bugs | Download PDF | En Español

by Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Until fairly recently, most people (and even pest control professionals) had never seen a bed bug. Bed bug infestations actually used to be very common in the United States before World War II. But with improvements in hygiene, and especially the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and ‘50s, the bed bugs all but vanished. The pests persisted, however, in some areas of the world including parts of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Over roughly the past decade, bed bugs have made a dramatic comeback in the U.S.― they’re appearing increasingly in homes, apartments, hotels, health care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools and public transportation. Other places where bed bugs sometimes occur include movie theaters, laundries, rental furniture, and office buildings. Immigration and international travel have contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs in the U.S. Changes in modern pest control practice, less effective insecticides ― and a decrease in societal vigilance ― are other factors suspected for the recurrence.

Description and Habits

Bed bugs are small, brownish, flattened insects that feed solely on the blood of animals. Although the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius)prefers feeding on humans, it will also bite other warm-blooded animals, including dogs, cats, birds and rodents. It has done so since ancient times; bed bugs are mentioned in medieval European texts and classical Greek writings back to the time of Aristotle.

Adult bed bug feeding on a human.

Adult bed bugs are about 3/16” long and reddish-brown, with oval-shaped, flattened bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks, cockroaches, carpet beetles or other household insects. The immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are smaller and lighter in color. Bed bugs do not fly, and they don’t jump like fleas do ― but they can crawl rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces. Adult females lay their eggs in secluded places, depositing 1, 2 or more eggs per day, potentially hundreds during their lifetime. The eggs are tiny (about the size of a dust spec), whitish and hard to see without magnification, especially on light-colored surfaces. When first laid, the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to surfaces. At room temperatures, bed bug eggs hatch in about a week. Newly emerged nymphs are straw-colored and no bigger than a pinhead.

Adults, nymphs, eggs, shed skins, and fecal spots on a mattress.

As bed bugs grow they molt, shedding their skin five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is needed between each successive molt. Adult females also must feed in order to lay eggs. Under favorable conditions (70-80°F), the bugs can mature fully in as little as a month, producing multiple generations per year. Cooler temperatures or limited access to blood prolong the development time.

Bed bugs are very resilient. Nymphs and adults can persist months without feeding which is unusual for most insects. The ability to survive without a blood meal is longer at cooler temperatures ― potentially up to a year or longer at 55°F or less. In temperature-controlled buildings, a more typical duration is about 2 to 6 months. Consequently, it is usually impractical to leave buildings unoccupied in hopes of ‘starving out’ an infestation. When infested dwellings such as apartments are vacated, bed bugs often disperse to nearby units, or reduce their activity until the unit is reoccupied.

Bed bugs are active mainly at night. During the daytime, they prefer to hide close to where people sleep. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices–especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Characteristically, these areas are marked by dark spotting and staining, which is the dried excrement of the bugs. Also present will be hatched and un-hatched eggs, the tannish shed skins of maturing nymphs, and the bugs themselves. Another possible sign are rusty or reddish smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushed engorged bed bugs. Although it’s often stated that bed bugs have a telltale “buggy” odor, the smell is seldom evident except in extreme infestations and should not be relied upon for detection.

Dark spots on mattress and box spring are a telltale sign of bed bugs

Bed bugs prefer to hide close to where they feed, but if necessary will crawl several feet to obtain a meal. Initially the bugs tend to be situated around sleeping areas, i.e., beds, couches and recliners. If infestations are allowed to persist, they also may disperse to other locations within the dwelling making elimination more difficult.

Bites and Health Concerns

Bed bugs usually bite people at night while they are sleeping. Hungry bed bugs may also feed during the daytime, especially if this is when the occupant normally sleeps. They feed by piercing the skin with an elongated beak through which they withdraw blood. Engorgement of the bed bug takes roughly three to 10 minutes, but because the bite is painless, the person seldom realizes they are being bitten. Bed bugs normally do not reside on people like head or body lice do; instead, immediately after feeding, bed bugs crawl to a secluded location to digest their meal. Symptoms after being bitten by bed bugs vary from person to person. Many develop an itchy red welt within a day or so of the bite. Others have little or no reaction. Sometimes the reaction is delayed days or even weeks after the actual bite occurs, which can make it difficult to determine where or when bites actually occurred. Studies conducted in bed bug-infested apartments suggest about 30 percent of people do not react even when bitten repeatedly over time, and there is still higher incidence of non-reactivity among the elderly. Unlike flea bites, which occur mainly around the lower legs and ankles, bed bugs feed on any skin exposed while sleeping (face, neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, etc.). The welts and itching are often wrongly attributed to other causes, such as mosquitoes. For these reasons, infestations may go a long time unnoticed, and can become quite large before being detected.

The likelihood of bed bugs increases if the affected individual has been traveling, or if they have acquired used beds or furnishings before symptoms started to appear. Bed bugs also are suspect if you wake up with itchy welts you did not have when you went to sleep. It’s important to recognize, however, that not all bite-like reactions are due to bed bugs. Confirmation requires finding and identifying the bed bugs, shed skins, fecal spots, etc., which often requires the help of a professional. (Other possible sources of irritation that may be mistaken for bed bugs are discussed in University of Kentucky entomology fact sheet ENT-58,Invisible Itches: Insect and Non-Insect Causes).

A common concern with bed bugs is whether or not they transmit diseases. Although bed bugs can harbor various pathogens, transmission to humans has not been proven and is considered unlikely. Their medical significance is most commonly attributed to itching and inflammation from their bites. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce allergic reactions, and antiseptic or antibiotic ointments to prevent infection. Though not known to carry diseases, bed bugs can substantially reduce quality of life by causing discomfort, sleeplessness, anxiety, and embarrassment. According to some health experts, the added stress from living with bed bugs can have a significant impact on the emotional health and well-being of certain individuals.

Conventional insect repellents, like those used to deter ticks and mosquitoes, do not appear to be as effective against bed bugs. Therefore, attempting to avoid being bitten by applying insect repellent at bedtime is not recommended. Sleeping with the lights on is also not likely to deter hungry bed bugs, as they will adjust their feeding cycle to the host’s sleeping patterns.

How Infestations Originate

It often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere. The bugs are efficient hitchhikers and are usually transported into dwellings on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, and other items. This is a particular risk for hotels and apartments, where turnover of occupants is constant. Bed bugs are small and agile, escaping detection after crawling into suitcases, backpacks and belongings. Acquiring secondhand beds, couches and furniture is another way that the bugs are transported into buildings. Bed bugs also can be carried in on one’s clothing, shoes or wheelchair. Once bed bugs are introduced, they can crawl from room to room or floor to floor. They can also be transported throughout buildings on people and their belongings.

Unlike cockroaches and flies that feed on filth, there is often no relationship between bed bugs and cleanliness. Since the bugs feed solely on blood, pristine dwellings can be as vulnerable to infestation as are places of squalor. That said, poverty and privation can lead to increased risk of bed bug problems, as can the inability to hire a professional exterminator.

Some bed bug species are parasites of bats or birds, and may bite people if the wild hosts are no longer available. Although similar in overall appearance, the species of bed bugs that normally feed on bats, swallows, chimney swifts, pigeons or other wild hosts can be differentiated from those that prefer humans. Entomologists and knowledgeable pest managers can make this determination. If bat bugs or bird bugs are present, roosting and nesting sites should be the primary focus, and the animals should be removed and excluded from the building.

Controlling Infestations

Bed bugs are challenging to eradicate. Since they can hide in so many places, inspections must be thorough and elimination is not always a certainty. Whenever resources allow, it’s prudent to enlist the services of a professional. Experienced pest controllers know where to look for bed bugs, and have an assortment of tools at their disposal. Nonetheless, owners and occupants can assist the professional in several important ways. Affording access to all living areas is crucial, and excess clutter will need to be removed. Belongings strewn about rooms offer many places for the bugs to hide, and impede inspection and treatment. Since bed bugs can disperse throughout a building, it often will be necessary to inspect adjoining rooms and apartments as well.

Where They Hide

Bed bugs can live in almost any crevice or protected location. The most common place to find them is the bed or where people sleep. This is especially true during the early stages of a problem. As infestations grow larger, the bugs tend to move beyond beds into other locations making control more difficult.

Bed bugs most often congregate along seams and edges of
mattresses and box springs. Blackish spots are excrement.

Bed bugs often hide in seams, folds and crevices of mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. A thorough inspection requires dismantling the bed so that upper and lower seams and surfaces can be examined. Things to look for are the bugs themselves, shed skins of the nymphs (immature bed bugs), and the blackish fecal spots. The dark spots of dried bed bug excrement are often present along mattress seams or wherever the bugs have resided. Box springs afford many places for bed bugs to hide, especially along the upper seams and underneath, where the bottom edge of the box rests on the frame. If an underlying dust cover is present, it may have to be removed to gain access for inspection and possible treatment. Successful treatment of mattresses and box springs can be difficult, however, and infested ones may need to be discarded or encased in a protective cover.

Cracks and crevices of bed frames should also be examined, especially if the frame is wood. (Bed bugs have an affinity for wood and fabric more so than metal or plastic.) Wooden support slats, if present, should be removed and examined since bed bugs often congregate where the ends rest on the frame. Screw holes, knots and other recesses are also common hiding places. Headboards secured to walls should be removed and inspected. In hotels, the area behind the headboard is often the first place that bed bugs become established. Bed bugs also frequently hide within items stored under beds.

Upholstered chairs, recliners and sofas are typically the next most likely area for bed bugs, and should be examined carefully along seams, skirts and folds of fabric. Sofas and recliners can be major bed bug hotspots, especially when used for sleeping. Like beds, they can be difficult to treat and sometimes may need to be discarded.

Bed bugs also congregate along seams of sofas and recliners. Photo at right shows
bugs hiding near a recessed screw under a night stand (note the presence of fecal spots).

Nightstands and dressers may need to be emptied and examined inside and out, and tipped over to inspect the woodwork underneath. Oftentimes the bugs will be hiding in cracks, corners, and recesses. Other common bed bug hiding places include: along and under the edge of wall-to-wall carpeting, especially behind beds and sofas; cracks in wood molding; ceiling-wall junctures; behind wall-mounted pictures, mirrors, outlets and switch plates; under loose wallpaper; clothing and clutter within closets; and inside clocks, phones, televisions and smoke detectors.

Bed bugs often reside along baseboards. Photo at right shows eggs,

nymphs, adults and fecal spots near a carpet edge.

Bed bugs tend to congregate, but it’s also common to find a single bug or some eggs here and there. A thorough inspection and treatment may take up to several hours. Some companies use specially trained dogs to assist in finding small dispersed infestations, especially in such places as hotels, schools, libraries and office buildings. When properly trained, bed bug detection dogs can be quite effective. Relatively few companies are routinely using them, however, due to the expense of training and maintaining such animals. Reliability of some of the dogs is also being questioned as more enter the market.

Preparing for Treatment

Preparing for bed bug treatment is tedious yet important. Very comprehensive preparation is necessary when infestations are heavy and the bugs are widely dispersed. More limited prep may be adequate for light infestations since at these levels the bed bugs typically are more confined to sleeping areas (beds, sofas, and recliners). Pest control firms have their own policies, however, regarding preparation requirements which may also depend on the manner of treatment.

Some firms want beds stripped and furniture moved before they arrive, while other firms prefer to inspect first and perform these tasks themselves. Clutter and belongings on floors (especially beneath beds) must be removed since they impede treatment and afford additional places for bugs to hide. Bedding and garments normally will need to be laundered and/or hot dried (120°F minimum) since they cannot be treated with insecticides. An effective and efficient alternative to laundering is to simply place bedding, clothing, toys, shoes, backpacks, etc., in a clothes dryer set at medium-to-high heat for 10 to 20 minutes. This can be done in lieu of washing and will kill all bed bug life stages.

According to textile experts (Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, Laurel, MD), most garments designated as ‘dry-clean only’ (e.g., cotton, wool, silk, linen, rayon, nylon) will not be harmed provided they are dry before being placed in a clothes dryer at a moderate temperature setting. Dry cleaning procedures also kill bed bugs, but there is a risk of infesting the establishment when buggy items are tagged and sorted.

Items that cannot be placed in a washer or dryer can sometimes be de-infested by wrapping them in plastic and placing them outdoors in a hot, sunny location for at least a day (for example, on pavement or in a closed vehicle parked in the sun). Packing items loosely in garbage bags and elevating objects off the ground helps the heat permeate further, and will make it harder for bugs to find a cool place to hide. Monitoring with a thermometer is prudent to ensure that a temperature of at least 120°F is achieved wherever the bugs may be.

Bed bugs will also succumb to cold temperatures below 32°F, but the freezing temperatures must be maintained for a longer period (e.g., one to two weeks). Consequently, heating tends to be a better option throughout much of the country. Efforts to rid entire dwellings of bed bugs by raising or lowering the thermostat will be unsuccessful, although pest control firms are able to achieve lethal temperatures with supplemental heaters (see the subsequent section entitled"Heat Treatments"for more details).

Discarding or Encasement

Although most furnishings need not be discarded, in some cases this may be necessary. This is especially true of heavily infested beds, sofas and recliners where bugs and eggs often reside in hard-to-reach places. Consequently, pest control firms may recommend such items be discarded, especially when in poor condition. When infested items are discarded, bagging or wrapping them prevents dislodgement of bugs en route to the trash.

In the case of beds, a more economical option is to encase both the mattress and box spring in a protective cover like those used for allergy relief. Encasements specifically designed to help protect against bed bugs are available through retail or pest control firms. Higher quality ones tend to be more durable and comfortable to sleep on. Once the encasement is installed and zipped shut, any bugs which happen to be inside are entombed and eventually will die. Encasements also help protect newly purchased beds, and make it easier to spot and destroy any bugs residing on the outer surface during subsequent examination. Encasements will not, however, keep bed bugs from crawling onto a bed and biting a sleeping person.

Encasements are an economical alternative to discarding infested beds.

Vacuuming, Steaming, Freezing

General housecleaning measures, (e.g. vacuuming floors and surfaces), seldom reach where bed bugs hide. For this reason, repetitive vacuuming by occupants may not be worth the effort, especially compared to other important preparatory activities. Targeted vacuuming of bed bugs and infested harborages, however, can help remove some of the bugs before other treatment measures are undertaken. Bed bugs and especially the eggs can be difficult to dislodge. Optimum results will be achieved by moving and scraping the end of the suction wand along infested areas such as seams and fabric folds of beds and sofas, and the perimeter edge of wall-to-wall carpet. Bed bugs can survive the high speed trip down a vacuum, so it’s important to carefully dispose of the vacuum contents in a sealed trash bag afterwards.

One trick to make this disposal easier involves using the cut-off end of a nylon stocking (or a knee-high nylon stocking) and a rubber band. Insert the stocking (toe first) into the end of the vacuum suction wand/tube, leaving the opening of the stocking protruding out of the end of the suction wand. Then fold the stocking opening back over the end of the wand and use the rubber band to secure it there. When the vacuum is turned on and the bed bugs are sucked into the tube, they will be trapped in the stocking. Afterwards, carefully remove the rubber band and retrieve the bug-filled stocking. Then secure the end of the stocking with the rubber band and dispose of it.

Some pest control firms also employ commercial steamers or spot-freezing equipment to treat areas where bed bugs are found or suspected. Used correctly, they kill bugs and eggs on contact. Neither method, however, affords residual protection against bed bugs which may have been missed. Steaming and spot-freezing equipment also have limited ability to penetrate fabric, wood, and other materials where bed bugs often reside.

Steaming (left) and spot-freezing (right) kill bugs and eggs on contact but afford no lasting protection

Heat Treatments

Some pest control firms utilize specialized heating equipment to de-infest furnishings, rooms, and entire dwellings. The procedure involves heating up the infested item or area to temperatures lethal to bed bugs. Portable heaters and fans are used to gradually heat the air to about 120 – 130°F while monitoring with strategically placed sensors. By carefully controlling the temperature, bugs and eggs are killed wherever they may be without damaging household items.

Some preparation is still required (e.g. removal of heat-sensitive items such as aerosol cans, indoor plants and medications), but it is seldom necessary to bag, launder and/or hot dry bedding and clothing since these items will be heated along with other furnishings. Another advantage of heat treatment is that infestations can often be eliminated in one day, rather than over multiple days or weeks. Conversely, heat treatment alone has no lasting (residual) effect should bed bugs be reintroduced into the dwelling. Consequently, some companies recommend concurrently applying residual insecticides. To further minimize reintroduction, occupants are advised to take as few belongings as possible with them while the heat treatment is in progress.

Heat treatments are an effective way to eliminate bed bugs quickly, but
tend to be more costly than conventional treatment methods.

Heat treatments require specialized training and equipment, and may be more costly than conventional approaches relying principally on insecticides.


While the former methods are helpful, insecticides are widely used by most pest control companies. A variety of EPA-registered materials are available formulated as liquids, dusts and aerosols. Baits used to control ants and cockroaches are ineffective in this case since bed bugs must bite and feed on blood. Professional-use insecticides such as Temprid®, Transport® and Phantom® tend to be more effective than bed bug sprays sold by retailers. Bleach, alcohol, cigarette lighters, etc. should NOT be used to control bed bugs. Besides being ineffective, such actions can result in fires and other dangerous outcomes.

Application entails treating all areas where the bugs are found or tend to hide or crawl. This takes considerable effort and follow-ups are usually needed. Companies typically treat seams, folds and crevices of bed components, chairs and sofas, but usually will not spray the entire sleeping surface or seating area. They also do not spray bed sheets, blankets or clothing, which instead should be hot washed or heated in a dryer.

Fumigation using a penetrating gas is another way to de-infest dwellings or furnishings, but the procedure is only offered by certain companies. True fumigation is not the same as setting off a total release fogger or ‘bug bomb.’ (It should be noted that bug bombs are considered ineffective in the treatment of bed bugs, and can be quite dangerous if misused.) The fumigation process is technically complex and requires vacating the building for a period of days. The building is then sealed and injected with a lethal gas, usually sulfuryl fluoride. Because the entire building must be vacated, structural fumigation is logistically more challenging with multi-unit buildings such as apartments, than for single family homes. Bed bug fumigations tend to be more common in southern and western states, where the procedure is also used to control certain types of wood-dwelling termites.

Preventing Infestations

Considering how time-consuming and costly it can be to eradicate bed bugs, it’s prudent to take precautions and avoid infestations in the first place. Householders should be vigilant when acquiring used furnishings, especially beds and couches. Discarded items should be avoided, and secondhand articles should be examined closely before being brought into the home. Look carefully in the folds and seams of furniture for signs of bed bugs (see the previous section entitled "Description and Habits" for more details). There is no reason to stop shopping in consignment stores, yard sales, etc., but it would be prudent to run clothing and fabric items through the washer or dryer before storing them in the home. The risk of acquiring bed bugs from items purchased in antique stores would generally be insignificant.

Discarded beds and couches might be infested and should be left alone. Devices
such as the ClimbUp® can be placed under beds and sofas to help monitor for
bed bugs. Bugs that crawl into the plastic dishes cannot escape.

Avoiding bed bugs is most challenging in hotels, apartment buildings, and other places where there are many people, high turnover and ongoing opportunities for introduction of the pests.Periodic, preventive inspection by tenants, housekeeping/maintenance staff, or pest control firms is the best way to detect infestations in their initial stages when they are easiest to control.Visual inspections can be supplemented by using various monitoring devices to capture and reveal bed bugs that may have been overlooked by occupants.

Additional Tips for At-Risk Groups

Business and Leisure Travelers
Checking beds for bed bugs was a common practice long ago, especially while traveling. Travelers today should consider doing the same, preferably before unpacking. This would entail examining the bed sheets and seams of the mattress and perhaps box spring for signs of bed bugs, especially along the head (pillow end) of the bed. Experts also remove and check behind headboards since this is a frequent hiding place for bed bugs in hotels. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves.

To help guard against bed bugs while traveling, take a moment to inspect
beds. A small flashlight is useful for dimly-lit areas.

Vigilant travelers may also want to elevate suitcases off the floor on a stand, tabletop or other hard surface rather than storing them on the floor or another bed. Hyper-vigilant travelers may further opt to keep belongings in sealed plastic pouches and their suitcase in a zippered tote — however each traveler must decide how cautious they wish to be.

While encountering bed bugs in hotels is possible, typically only a small number of rooms have problems. If bed bugs are discovered, guests can request another room, preferably in another area of the building, since problems often extend to nearby units. Should you experience itchy welts suggestive of bed bug bites during your stay, it would be prudent upon returning home to place all clothing directly into the washer and/or dryer. Inspecting or vacuuming luggage upon arrival home is less useful since it’s hard to spot bed bugs inside a suitcase. The suitcase itself can either be treated or discarded.

Social Service and Emergency Workers

Caregivers, firefighters, and other service providers are sometimes required to enter and work in bed bug-infested dwellings. In doing so, there is the potential to transport some bugs home or to the workplace. It should be noted that bed bugs do not fly, nor jump onto people/pets as fleas do. During the day, bed bugs usually remain hidden and immobile, becoming more active at night when seeking a host. Consequently, the chance of picking up bed bugs by merely walking into an infested dwelling during the day is unlikely. The risk may increase while providing care but can be lessened by taking some precautions.

Bring in only what is needed, and avoid sitting or placing coats and other items on beds, floors and sofas where the bugs commonly reside. Essential items can be placed on a tabletop or other hard surface, preferably away from bedrooms and sleeping areas. Better to sit on a hard (non-upholstered) chair than on sofas and recliners. Also try to avoid leaning or brushing against beds and upholstered furniture. If such items are carried out of infested dwellings (e.g., by sanitation workers or firefighters), it’s best to wrap them in plastic or at least not hold them against your body during transport. Emergency Medical (EMS) personnel may need to take additional precautions, such as removing a patient’s bed bug-infested shoes or clothing, or installing plastic sheeting before transporting them in the emergency vehicle.

As mentioned earlier, applying insect repellent at bedtime will probably not deter bed bugs from biting. When working in severely infested dwellings, there may be some benefit to spraying tops and bottoms of shoes with DEET-based repellents. Those working in bed bug-infested environments may also want to hot wash or run clothing, etc. through a dryer upon returning home or to the office.

Schools and Daycares

Bed bugs are a growing problem in schools and daycares. Typically they are introduced by students or staff living with an infestation at home. Pinpointing where the bugs exist can be challenging in such environments since there are no beds or sleeping areas for the insects to congregate. (Similar challenges occur when bed bugs are found in offices, libraries and retail stores.) Usually only small numbers of bed bugs are spotted, often on a student’s clothing, backpack, chair or desk. While this does not necessarily confirm that the child’s residence also has bed bugs, the parents should be notified that the home should be inspected, preferably by a professional. Teachers, nurses, and staff should be educated about the bugs and what they look like. Bed bugs should also be considered if a student frequently has reddened itchy welts –but keep in mind such reactions can be for reasons other than bed bugs.

Bed bug incidents in schools are best handled by knowledgeable pest control firms. Widespread insecticide treatment of classrooms, hallways, buses, etc. is unnecessary, ineffective and imprudent. Effort instead should be spent checking chairs, desks, lockers, coat rooms, etc. in the vicinity of where the bugs were found, and treatment should be focused on those specific areas. Canine inspections can also be useful in finding small numbers of bed bugs in schools and other establishments where there are no beds.

Those Who Cannot Afford a Professional

Bed bug eradication is challenging and it’s prudent to hire a professional when resources allow. However treatment can be expensive, often costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those who cannot afford this often must cope with the problem themselves. A useful step that anyone can take to combat bed bugs is to install bed encasements. Covering the mattress and box spring can help eliminate a substantial portion of the bed bug population — especially if discovered early while most of the bugs are still confined to the bed area. Extra care should be taken when installing budget encasements since these can tear easily, especially on metal bed frames. Ideally both the mattress and box spring should be encased. If only one encasement is possible it’s often best to cover the box spring which is harder to subsequently inspect.

A torn encasement may no longer be effective.

With practice and a flashlight, nonprofessionals can become proficient in finding and destroying bed bugs. The process is made easier by reducing clutter, especially in bedrooms and sleeping areas. Bugs that are spotted can be removed with a vacuum (see previous discussion), or killed with over-the-counter insecticides labeled for such use. Most bed bug sprays intended for householders have little remaining effect after the spray has dried. Therefore it’s important to initially contact as many of the insects as possible with the spray droplets. Insecticide labels should be read carefully as some bed bug products should not be used on mattresses and seating areas. Some insecticides applied as powders or dusts (e.g., diatomaceous earth) will kill bed bugs although boric acid powder will not. However powders can be messy and difficult to apply, especially by nonprofessionals. Total release foggers (otherwise known as ‘bug bombs’) are ineffective against bed bugs and potentially dangerous when used incorrectly (see University of Kentucky entomology fact sheet Limitations of Home Insect Foggers).

Insecticide dusts should never be applied this heavy. A light deposit is all
that’s needed and is best accomplished with a professionally-designed duster.

Monitoring devices such as the previously mentioned ClimbUp® are useful for confirming the presence of bed bugs when a visual inspection cannot. When installed under bed legs, they also provide a barrier between floor and bed which can potentially reduce bites, especially when beds are pulled slightly away walls and encased.

The incidence of bed bugs in the United States and in many countries of the world has increased to the point where vigilance is a prudent practice. Some common sense tactics and taking modest precautions can go a long way towards helping avoid infestation.

Portuguese Translation:Prepared by Artur Weber & Adelina Domingos

Original: 10/96
Revised: 5/12

CAUTION!Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.


The essential guide to bed bugs

Bed bugs: two words that can create psychological havoc with most people. Although bed bugs were nearly wiped out in the developed world by the 1950’s, these tiny parasitic insects have made a tremendous comeback in recent years.

Bed bugs are insects in the familyCimicidae. The most common species of bed bug iscimex lectularius. They feed entirely on the blood of vertebrates, however, they have a preference for human blood. Bed bugs are sneaky, hiding in places where they can have rapid access to a blood meal and with as little disturbance as possible. Once they have fed, bed bugs will quickly abandon their host and hide.

Potential hiding spots include beds, sofas, chairs and near any other location where humans are sedentary for extended periods of time. You should learn how to find bed bugs in your home or how to check for them in a hotel room.

Bed bugs are found almost everywhere humans inhabit, and according to the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky, almost 100% of pest management professionals have treated for bed bugs in the past year. Bed bugs are regularly found in places such as single family homes, condos, apartments, hotels and motels. Additionally, there are increasing incidents of bed bugs infesting places such as retail stores, movie theaters, public transportation and restaurants. In fact, bed bug pest control services are one of the most requested services Ehrlich offers and the demand seems to be growing.

People who have been bitten by bed bugs often suffer more psychological harm than physical harm. The thought of being fed upon as you sleep is extremely disturbing to most people. Bed bugs do not transmit disease to humans, and skin reactions to bed bug bites will vary, but most reactions are similar to those of mosquito bites.

We have created “The Essential Guide to Bed Bugs” to try and answer all of your questions about bed bugs. This resource will also provide guidance when you have an infestation. You can also find our frequently asked bed bugs questions page for more information. Click below to see the answers.

Basic bed bug questions

What are bed bugs?

The common bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, are blood-feeding insects in the family Cimicidae. They are temporary ectoparasites, meaning they exist on the outside of their hosts to feed, and spend their time between blood-meals hiding in nearby cracks and crevices. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts for feeding purposes, and both males and females of all life-stages feed exclusively on blood. Their preferred host is humans, though they will feed on other vertebrates.

What color are bed bugs?

Their color will vary, depending on their stage of life and also when they last fed. Early stage bed bug nymphs are translucent to straw-colored, but will have a crimson-colored center if they have recently fed. As bed bugs get older, they darken, and adult bed bugs appear as a mahogany brown color, or a darker red if they are digesting a blood-meal.

Are there other insects that look like bed bugs?

A trained specialist can tell whether you have bed bugs or something else, but the average person may not know. There are some insects and close relatives that can resemble bed bugs. Including:

  • Ground beetles
  • Carpet beetles
  • Ticks
  • Bat bugs – they look almost identical and can even fool a Technician. An examination with a microscope is required to accurately determine the difference between bed bugs and bat bugs. Bat bugs develop in colonies of bats, and oftentimes, unbeknownst to them, homeowners may have a colony of bats residing somewhere in the structure. Bat bugs may enter into living spaces in search of a host, and are commonly found wandering in attics or upstairs hallways. While they can bite humans, bat bugs cannot sustain and reproduce in the absence of bats.

How big are bed bugs?

Bed bug adults are about the size of an apple seed, measuring around 5mm long. Younger life stages are much smaller. Bed bug eggs are 1mm in length, which is about half the size of a grain of rice. Newly hatched nymphs are about the size of a pin head—looking much like a tiny “moving freckle”. As nymphs molt and grow larger, they become easier to see.

Where do bed bugs live?

Bed bugs are found anywhere that humans are motionless for an extended period of time. The most common of these places is of course, the bed, which is where bed bugs get their name. Bed bugs prefer to be as close to their human food source as possible, and are frequently found on or in close proximity to the following places:

  • Beds– including box springs, mattresses, headboards, mattress covers
  • Couches– including cushions and pillows
  • Reclining chairs
  • Any other areas where people are sedentary for long periods of time.

As infestations grow larger, bed bugs tend to spread out within a room, and can end up in unusual places such as behind baseboards on curtains, along ceilings, in electrical outlets and behind pictures.

Where do bed bugs come from?

Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. Many experts believe that bed bugs have evolved from bat bugs, hypothesizing that bed bugs switched from feeding on the blood of bats and birds to feeding on humans, when cave dwellers first began taking up residence in the same caves as the bats.

Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers and can crawl into your luggage, or other belongings, and catch a ride to your residence. They can also lay eggs on your belongings and return to their hiding spot, leaving behind a future generation that will emerge at a new location. You can pick the resilient little creatures up from any infested area or from visits by friends and family carrying belongings that have also been to areas with an infestation.

Housing that is multi-family, such as apartment buildings and condominiums have led to the expansion of some bed bug populations. In these types of housing, bed bugs can crawl out of one residence, down a hallway, and into another residence. They can also travel within the walls.

How long do bed bugs live?

Bed bugs live an average of about 10 months. They can also survive for weeks to several months without feeding, depending on their life-stage and surrounding environmental conditions.

Where do you find bed bugs?

Bed bugs can be found anywhere that humans inhabit from houses, to places of business to public transportation. Some examples include hotel rooms, hospital rooms, apartments, single-family homes, condominiums, retirement homes, movie theaters, office buildings, and cruise ships, to name a few. They are found throughout the world, in both developed and undeveloped countries. Bed bugs must live close to their human hosts and are therefore found in man-made structures and never free-living in the wild.

What attracts bed bugs?

Bed bugs are most attracted to humans compared to all other potential vertebrate hosts. Bed bugs use multiple cues in order to detect humans, including:

  • Body heat
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Human odors

How do you detect bed bugs?

There are several ways to detect bed bugs , but for the average person, bed bugs can be very difficult to find.

  • Bites– not a good indicator for bed bugs because not everyone reacts the same way to a bed bug bite. Some people will not experience any type of reaction, while others will develop itchy red welts. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to distinguish a bed bug bite from the bite of other insects, such as mosquitoes. Even a medical doctor may not be able to say for certain who the biting culprit is.
  • Fecal spotting– black staining that is digested blood appears as small dots of black on mattresses, box springs and bedding that looks like someone held a fine point sharpie to the fabric. On harder surfaces, bed bug droppings dry and bead up more. Fecal spots are usually found in areas where bed bugs like to hide, along the seams or under the tags of mattresses and box springs
  • Live bugs– they hide in areas such as the seams or tags of mattresses and box springs, screw holes on the headboard joints, along bed frames and in any other nearby crack or crevice that may provide a hiding place. These areas can also include the nightstand or behind a picture hanging over a bed.
  • Cast skins- since bed bugs molt before each life stage, you will often find their cast skins in areas where an infestation is present. Cast skins are tan to brown in color, and look like small insect “shells.”

Pest management Technicians are trained to look for signs of bed bugs and will detect them by performing a thorough inspection with a bright flashlight. Another way to detect an infestation is by using specially trained bed bug dogs. These dogs are trained to detect the scent of live bed bugs and their eggs, even at low levels.

A more recent development used by pest management professionals to detect bed bugs are active bed bug monitors. A chemical base attractant is placed in a specially designed device which will lure and trap these pests.

What do bed bugs do?

Bed bugs feed exclusively on the blood of vertebrates with humans their preferred host. A blood-meal is required for bed bugs to reach each life stage and to reproduce. When hosts are present and blood-meals are readily available, bed bugs will develop rapidly, and infestations will quickly progress and become unmanageable.

How do bed bugs reproduce?

They have an interesting form of reproduction known as traumatic insemination. Male bed bugs use their copulatory organ to puncture the body wall of the female’s abdomen, and inject their sperm directly into a specialized organ.

After successfully mating, female bed bugs typically lay about 5-7 eggs per week. One female lays anywhere from 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime.

What are bed bugs most attracted to?

Bed bugs are attracted by multiple cues from their human hosts, including body heat, CO2 exhalation (such as with humans) and human-specific odors.

Why do you get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are usually brought home accidentally on a piece of luggage, backpack, second-hand mattress or used piece of furniture. Bed bugs are found in 4 star hotels as well as low-end motels, and in any home, regardless of the race, ethnicity or culture of its inhabitants. Bed bugs also don’t discriminate between those who are clean and those in need of a shower.

A dirty or cluttered house has nothing to do with bed bug attraction. However, rooms with extensive clutter can provide more places for bed bugs to hide, and therefore make bed bugs harder to remove.

How do bed bugs spread or travel?

Bed bugs are very effective and efficient travelers. Bed bugs do not fly, jump or want to live on humans (compared to head lice who prefer to live in human hair). Bed bugs hitchhike on personal belongings such as luggage or backpacks, or in items such as used furniture, and are transported via humans to new places which they can then infest.

Once bed bugs have infested an area, they can then spread out locally to infest adjacent rooms (in houses and hotels) or other units (in apartment buildings).They do this by crawling into openings such as vents, electrical conduits of adjoining walls or even beneath doors into hallways to enter and infest other areas.

How fast do bed bugs move?

Bed bugs can move pretty fast, with adults crawling up to 5 feet in about a minute.

How do bed bugs transfer from person to person?

They transfer on personal objects via close proximity. A person can transport bed bugs on an infested item, such as a backpack, handbag, or piece of luggage. Once set down, bed bugs will leave these items in search of a blood-meal and can climb onto other items – spreading the infestation. Bed bugs can also be transferred via the purchase of used, infested furniture, or second-hand mattresses.

Why do bed bugs seem to bite certain people?

Bed bugs may be biting, but if a person doesn’t have a reaction, they might not know it. It also depends on where the bed bugs are infesting. For example, two people can be in a bed, but if the cluster of bed bugs are closer to one person, that may result in that person getting bitten more than the other person. Over time, as the bed bugs reproduce and the infestation level increases, the other person will most likely be bitten as well.

When are bed bugs most active?

Bed bugs are usually most active at night. They prefer to feed when you are asleep and less likely to move or wake up as a result of them feeding. However, bed bugs will adapt to take advantage of a food source. If you work at night and are home during the day, they can feed off of you during the day while you are sleeping. In a movie theater, where it’s dark all the time, bed bugs will feed off patrons during the day.

What do bed bugs smell like?

Some people describe bed bugs as smelling like coriander or cilantro of varying intensities – depending on the level of infestation. When infestation levels are low, most of the time, there is no smell. Specially trained bed bug scent-detecting dogs can detect bed bug odors in small infestations of even just 1 or 2 bed bugs.

Where, besides mattresses, can I find bed bugs?

Bed bugs prefer to live as close to their human host as possible (without actually living on the humans themselves) in order to easily access and acquire their blood meals. Since they prefer to feed on humans when they are sedentary, bed bugs will hide close to places where humans sleep or sit. Examples of these places include cracks or crevices in objects on night stands such as alarm clocks, behind chipped paint or torn wallpaper on walls adjacent to beds, on ceilings or behind wall hangings suspended above beds or couches.

What times of the year are bed bugs most active?

Bed bugs don’t really follow any season. However, pest management professionals tend to perform more bed bug services in the summer and early fall. This seems to correlate with the way we travel as a society, going on the most vacations during the summer and early fall. Travelers pick up bed bugs, bring them home, and it can take a month or more before they realize they now have an infestation.

Bed bugs do not hibernate, and since they typically live in temperature controlled environments they can show up during winter months as well.

Do bed bugs harm people?

Bed bugs do not transmit disease. The medical significance of bed bugs (in addition to the fact that they feed on human blood) is associated with secondary infections at bite sites due to scratching open bites.

Probably the most problematic side effects from bed bug bites are the psychological ones. Experiencing a bed bug infestation can be a very emotional and highly stressful experience. The idea of little bugs living in your bed and drinking your blood can be creepy to say the least. Not to mention that there is still a social stigma associated with bed bugs, whereby many people think that infestations have something to do with personal or household hygiene or social status. And while things like hygiene and social status have nothing to do with getting bed bugs, unfortunately these are myths that are alive and well among the masses.

History of bed bugs

How did we nearly eradicate bed bugs?

At one time bed bugs were nearly wiped out in the civilized world. This was due to stronger chemical treatments that were commonly used. These days concerns over the effect of those chemicals have caused them to fall into disuse.

Why are bed bugs back?

Newer chemical treatments have not proven to be as effective as those used in the past. Before the 1950’s, there was heavy use of a chemical known as DDT. DDT was a very effective material, however, it had a negative impact on the environment and its use was discontinued in the US.

Pest control methods have also changed. In the past pest management professionals were very liberal with insecticide applications. Current technicians are more cautious with their applications and most treatments consist low amounts of safer and more environmentally friendly products. Additionally, increasing regulations on pesticide use have put strict limitations on the amount and places where insecticides can be applied.

Some bed bugs have developed a resistance to modern chemical treatments. Furthermore, very few newer chemicals are expected to enter the market in the future due to the high standards of safety set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health and the environment.

Increased international travel to and from distant parts of the world is a likely contributor to the resurgence of bed bugs in North America as well as several other developed countries. In many parts of the world, bed bugs have always been a problem and travelers staying in bed bug prone areas may be bringing them home in their luggage.

Bed bug bite questions

How do bed bugs bite?

Bed bugs have beak-like mouthparts (proboscis) that are specifically designed to cut skin and suck blood. The proboscis is kept tucked beneath the bed bug when not in use.

When bed bugs feed, the proboscis is placed at a right angle to the skin, and the bugs rock back and forth during insertion. Once in the skin, cutting parts of the proboscis slide through the tissues until a suitable blood vessel is found, and the blood is then sucked up. The pressure from the blood in the vessel is used to transmit the blood into the insect.

The bed bug swells as is fills with blood, and feeding may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Similar to mosquitoes, when a bed bug bites, it releases anticoagulant and anesthetic compounds that keeps the blood flowing freely and makes the bite virtually pain-free. After feeding bed bugs will quickly return to their hiding place, where they will spend several days digesting the blood-meal.

Bed bugs are sensitive to disturbance and will remove their proboscis to discontinue feeding if the food source moves, or becomes restless. Once settled, bed bugs will re-insert their proboscis and begin to feed again. This behavior can sometimes explain multiple bites in the same, or nearby, location.

How do you cure bed bug bites?

Bed bug bites can be itchy and become inflamed, but generally do not require medical attention. If you are worried or think you are having any kind of reaction contact a physician.

How do you stop bed bugs from biting?

If bed bugs are present, they will bite. There is really no way to stop them from biting if they are in your home.

Can bed bug bites be dangerous?

As of right now, bed bugs have never been proven to transmit any disease organism to humans. Studies are always being conducted and this could change down the road.

Bed bug control questions

How do you get rid of bed bugs permanently?

While you can eradicate a bed bug infestation, there is no way to prevent future infestations, due to the nature of how bed bugs are brought into human structures. The key to preventing future infestations is educating yourself. Learn how bed bugs travel, and how you got them, and then change that behavior to make sure that you don’t get them again. Additionally, be vigilant for bed bugs and regularly inspect your bed or other at-risk areas. The earlier you detect an infestation, the easier it will be to get rid of them.

There are a variety of bed bug treatments that can be used to remediate a bed bug infestation, but none can prevent you from bringing them home with you in the future.

Some bed bug treatments include:

  • Insecticides
  • Fumigation– involves sealing off the entire house and introducing a gas to eliminate all pests inside the home.
  • Heat treatments– The use of heat to control bed bugs has been recently adopted by the pest management industry. Heat has been shown to be highly effective at killing all life-stages of bed bugs and is now recognized as one of the most effective treatment solutions. Heat is used in many ways to treat bed bugs, such as in clothes dryers (for clothes and bedding), through steamers (for upholstery and mattresses), and in the form of heat chambers and portable heaters for furnishings or entire rooms. The latter two methods are commonly referred to as heat treatments.

How do professionals get rid of bed bugs?

An expert in bed bug removal can use a variety of treatment methods. Ehrlich bed bug pest control experts have a variety of methods to detect and get rid of bed bugs. The bed bug pest control expert should work with the customer to determine what options will work best in each situation.

What is the most effective bed bug treatment?

It all depends on the situation. The use of a heat treatment, in conjunction with some chemical applications, has proven to be very effective. However, conventional treatments with chemical treatments can also eliminate infestations.

How do you get rid of bed bugs with heat?

A bed bug control professional will use portable heaters to heat areas where bed bugs have been detected to temperatures in excess of 125°F. It is a careful balance because high temperatures (over 150°F) can damage objects within the treatment zone. Bed bugs are sensitive to high temperatures and exposure to 122°F for one minute will effectively kill bed bugs and their eggs.

When should you call a professional?

Do not delay in calling a professional if you suspect that you have bed bugs. Do-it-yourself bed bug treatments are rarely effective, and can make the problem worse.

Why are bed bugs so hard to get rid of?

It’s not that bed bugs are hard to kill, it’s that they are experts at hiding. If you miss just one area with a few bed bugs, the infestation can bounce back. Additionally, bed bug eggs are resistant to most chemicals. Therefore, multiple treatments are required in order to ensure that all eggs have hatched and the nymphs were treated.

How do you get rid of bed bugs naturally?

There are no effective natural methods on the market for bed bug removal. If you are looking for a more environmentally friendly option, then a heat treatment may be the best option. Although heat treatments are usually done in combination with chemical treatments, they can also be used as a stand-alone treatment.

How can you detect bed bugs in a hotel room?

You can do a full inspection, looking for bed bugs, cast skins and fecal staining by checking:

  • The mattress- including the corners, mattress cover, blankets and sheets
  • The box spring– including seams, dust ruffles and attached bed frame or legs
  • The headboard and wall hangings above the bed. Headboards can sometimes be removed from the wall and can be inspected. Check behind wall hangings, especially around the frame edges
  • All accessible areas around the bed– including the night stand and any objects on it, such as an alarm clock, and lamp bases.

Bed bug prevention questions

How do you avoid bed bugs in while traveling?

In order to prevent bed bug infestations, it’s important to eliminate ways for bed bugs to hitchhike onto your belongings. Don’t leave your suitcase on the bed or on the floor. Instead, keep your suitcase on the luggage rack, coffee table or in the bathtub. Do not place clothing in the drawers or piled up on the floor. Keep your clothes in the suitcase. Store dirty clothes inside a hanging plastic garbage bag or inside the suitcase as well.

Do you throw out furniture infested with bed bugs?

You do not need to throw infested furniture away. Generally a pest management professional will not recommend disposal, unless the infestation is extreme. It’s generally more cost effective to treat infested furniture or individual objects.

Why do bed bugs come back after a treatment?

Sometimes bed bugs are missed. They are very good at hiding, and even with a thorough inspection and treatment, they can be overlooked. Bed bugs can also be re-introduced from the original source of infestation, and/or any other location. It is important to determine the source of the initial infestation and take the necessary steps to prevent re-introduction from any location.


Bed bugs are small, blood-feeding insects that go through multiple stages of development as they mature. After they emerge from the eggs, developing juvenile bed bugs are called “nymphs.”

The time it takes bed bug nymphs to mature varies based on the temperature and how often they are able to obtain a blood meal. With an available host, bed bug nymphs can become adults in about 21 days at room temperature.

Both the eggs and nymphs are nearly colorless, which makes them hard to see on light-colored bed sheets and carpets. The nymphs darken as they mature and may look red after feeding.

Bed bug nymphs can represent a large number of the total bed bugs in an established infestation. Due to their small size, they are even harder to detect than adult bed bugs.

Nymphs are quite small and range in size from 1.3 millimeters to 4-5 millimeters in length. This means they spend most of their development time at a size smaller than a sesame seed. At their smallest, they are no bigger than the letters on a U.S. dime.

There are many other insects commonly mistaken for bed bugs. If you suspect bed bug nymphs or adults, call Terminix® to assist with identification and, if needed, control of these pests.

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