How Do Bed Bugs Know When You’Re Sleeping
Bed Bugs FAQs
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.
Where are bed bugs found?
Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.
Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
Do bed bugs spread disease?
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.
What health risks do bed bugs pose?
A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.
What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?
One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:
- the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
- bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
- rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
- a sweet musty odor.
How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?
It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.
Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.
How did I get bed bugs?
Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.
Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?
Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.
How are bed bugs treated and prevented?
Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.
This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.
How To Find Bed Bugs
Need to know how to find bed bugs in your home or hotel room?Let’s walk through the inspection process step-by-step right now. It’s time to find out if you have bedbugs.
Before you can check for bed bugs in your home or hotel, you need to know what bed bugs look like, other signs you have bed bugs and where they hide so you know where to look.
How to Look For Bed Bugs Step-by-Step
If you follow these instructions, step-by-step, you will be just as likely as to find bed bugs (if they are present) as a professional.
Start with the bed.
This is the most likely place you’ll find bed bugs because they like to hide close to where they feed.Here’s how to find bed bugs there:
- Carefully pull back the bedding and look for signs that bedbugs have been around like blood spots and fecal stains.
- Thoroughly check the mattress, paying particular attention to edges, seams and air-holes. If possible, turn the mattress on its side to inspect the under-side too. Bed bugs are more likely to be closest to the head of the bed, but make sure you take a look at the foot end of the mattress too.
- Do the same with the box spring. You may have to cut or remove the gauze вЂњprotectorвЂќ on the underside of the box spring to take a good look inside вЂ“ but you need to do this (unless it’s not your bed, of course). Box springs are the #1 bed bug hiding place, so spend extra time doing a really thorough inspection here. This is where a flash light and magnifying glass become your greatest allies. Pay special attention to wooden joints, corners, screw holes and staples. The wooden slats make a very attractive place for bedbugs to lay their eggs and the area where the cover is attached to the frame is a favorite hiding spot too.
- turn your attention to the head board and bed frame. Remember to really look closely at any grooves in wooden headboards and pay attention to corners and joints. Don’t forget to pull the bed away from the wall and inspect the backside completely too.
Next, try to find bed bugs in any upholstered furniture.
This includes sofas, love seats, recliners, easy chairs, chaise lounges, and ottomans.Here’s how to find bed bugs in these items:
- Carefully remove all cushions and pillows and inspect them one by one. Paying attention to seams, tufts and piping. Also examine the zippers closely (this is another common place for bed bugs to hide and lay their eggs).
- Look in and around all the seams of the couch or chair itself. Don’t forget to lift up any skirting and check the underside – focus especially on pleats in the fabric and the seam that attaches it to the piece of furniture.
- Pull it away from the wall to inspect the back side as well.
- If at all possible (with the help of a friend or partner), lay it on its back side to inspect underneath/inside just like you did with the box spring.
Now, turn your attention to the night stands and dresser to see if you find any bed bugs there.
(You can also use the directions below for coffee tables, end tables and desks in other rooms of the house.)
- Take everything out and put it in a large garbage bag or plastic tub with a cover to reduce the possibility that they spread if there are bed bugs in those items.
- Pull the drawers completely out, one вЂ“ by one, and thoroughly inspect each one inside and out. Remember to check underneath as well. Like the headboard and frame, pay close attention to the corners, joints, screw heads and any grooves where bedbugs might like to hide or lay their eggs.
- Next, check inside, behind and underneath the piece of furniture itself. I think you know what I’m would say here about, corners, joints and crevices. (c’mon, I’m sure you need a chuckle by this point)
If you’ve gotten this far and found nothing.
You’ve checked thetop 92.6% of places where bed bugs are foundin residences with infestations according to a study conducted by the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky.
You also have all the skills you need to inspect the other places you might find bed bugs. You will find a list of more places to look for bed bugs here.
IMPORTANT NOTE:If at any point you find a live bed bug,STOP.Your inspection is done for now and you need to start working on your bed bug pest control plan.
Don’t jump the gun and grab for a bed bug spray can or fogger!That’ll just make things worse. much worse. Head over to the bed bug pest control section to learn what to do next.
How to Find Bed Bugs When You Travel
Obviously when you’re inspecting for bed bugs in a hotel or friend/relative’s guest room, you have to make some modifications. You really can’t tear the bed apart in a hotel room. And youcertainlydon’t want the folks you’re visiting to come-a-knockin’ askingвЂњeverything okay in there?вЂќ
Hotel rooms can present some special challengesbecause the bed frame and head board are usually affixed to the floor and wall.
Generally you won’t have access to the the box spring (if there even is one) so your efforts will need to focus on the mattress itself, the head board and anything within about 5 feet of the bed.
Also, don’t forget the luggage rack (never put your stuff there) and make sure to check any upholstered furniture like love seats and chairs.
When you’re staying with folks you know,discretionis the word of the day.You can hit the most common bed bug hiding places without making a ruckus. Focus on the mattress, visible parts of the box spring, and the headboard.
Consider how often/recently the room is likely used.If it’s been closed up since the last time uncle Chuck came through 6 months ago, chances are slim there will be bed bugs present (they would have migrated to where people in the house sleep or lounge). If it’s also used as a reading room, take a look at that big comfy upholstered chair.you get the idea.
Whether you’re on the road or at home, make sure you know how to find bed bugs without helping them spread.
How to Find Bed Bugs without Spreading Them
The last thing you want is for some of these little buggers to hitch a ride on your clothing while you’re looking for them. You’re going to be getting up close and personal with their hideouts, so this is a real possibility. Here are five ways to help you find bed bugs without letting them spread.
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Do Bed Bugs Know When You’re Asleep or Awake?
Bed bugs are sneaky parasitic creatures that aren’t often seen during the day. Instead, they come out at night, while we’re asleep. This gives them the chance to feed without interruption. When it’s light, they hide away in harborages around the bedroom.
Bed bugs just know that night time (when it’s dark) is when humans are most likely to be inactive. Bed bugs can smell the carbon dioxide that we give off while we’re in bed, so that’s when they emerge to feed. The light will deter bed bugs from coming out, but not for very long.
We’ll look at why bed bugs come out at night, and whether it’s true that they only bite humans while we’re asleep. We’ll discuss whether you can deter bed bugs by sleeping with the light on. Finally, we’ll share some tips for sleeping with bed bugs, and ways of repelling them.
Table of Contents:
Why Do Bed Bugs Come Out at Night?
If you have bed bugs, you’ll know that they usually come out at night. They make themselves comfortable in mattresses, headboards and box springs, and rest during the day.
Bed bugs have to drink human blood, to survive. So, when your head hits the pillow at night, they come out to feast. In the morning (or several days later, depending on how your body reacts) you wake up with itchy bite marks.
So,why do bed bugs avoid light, and come out at night? Bed bugs are different from other parasites. Unlike fleas,ticks, andlice, they can’t live on our bodies full-time.
Their legs aren’t designed for clinging onto skin or hair. As we walk around, bed bugs get dislodged and end up falling off. The most they can manage it to climb on, feed, and then leave again.
This is why they choose tofeed while we’re asleep. Every night, we lie down in bed and remain still for around eight hours. Bed bugs smell the carbon dioxide that we exhale, and come out to feed. We sometimes squash them when we roll over in our sleep, but the risk is minimal for them.
Bed bugs have learned to associate light with humans being awake and moving around. So, they wait until darkness falls before coming out of hiding.
Do Bed Bugs Only Bite When You Are Sleeping?
One of the commonmisconceptions about bed bugsis that they’ll only bite when you’re asleep.
It’s easy to tell where this myth came from. As we know, bed bugs prefer to avoid light, and of course, they chiefly live in beds. We don’t tend to spend much time in our beds unless we’re asleep. However, that does not mean that bed bugsonlybite you when you’re sleeping.
Bed bugs can’t tell when a human is awake or asleep. As long as you are staying relatively still, you’re fair game to a bed bug. You can be bitten when you’re relaxing on the couch, for example.
If you have a home office, this is another prime bed bug spot. Bed bugs can live inside office chairs and electronics. There was even a case of bed bugs living inside a woman’s mouse mat. They bit her hand every time she used the computer.
So, while bed bugs do prefer to feed on a sleeping host, any period of inactivity will do. As long as you remain still long enough for a bed bug to feed.
Do Bed Bugs Come Out in the Light?
Bed bugs don’t like the light very much. This is obvious. Even in a heavily infested home, you probably won’t see many bed bugs moving around during the day.
Because of this, you may be wondering: are bed bugs light sensitive? Does the light hurt bed bugs in any way?
Unfortunately, no, it does not. Bed bugs may have an aversion to light, but it’s not because light harms them.
It’s merely because bed bugs are naturally nocturnal. The presence of light indicates that it’s the day time, which is when they rest.
Why are bed bugs nocturnal? Because humans aren’t. When we’re sleeping, we’re the perfect target. We generally don’t move much during the night. So, there’s less chance we’ll (accidentally or deliberately) jostle the bed bug while it’s feeding.
Electric lights fool bed bugs into thinking that it’s day time. They’re less likely to come out when we have a light on.
You can test this for yourself. Lie down in bed with the lights off, and wait for an hour. Then, switch the lights on. Chances are, you’ll see at least a few bed bugs scurrying away to hide.
Can Sleeping With the Lights On Deter Bed Bugs?
If bed bugs have an aversion to light, does that mean they’ll stay away if you sleep with the light on?
Unfortunately, if you want to deter bed bugs sleeping with lights on won’t help much. By all means, you can try it. Just don’t expect it to work for more than a couple of days.
Why doesn’t it work? Well, sleeping with the lights on will fool bed bugs (at first) into thinking it’s daytime. They’ll stay hidden until the lights go out. However, it can’t fool them for very long.
Sooner or later they’re going to get very hungry. Bed bugs can survive for months without a meal, but they don’t like to. They prefer to feed at least once a week if possible.
If they detect that you’re nearby, they’ll eventually come out and feed whether the lights are on or not. It’s as simple as that.
Tips for Sleeping with Bed Bugs
It can be challenging to get a good night’s sleep if your home is infested with bed bugs.
Falling asleep knowing that you’re moments away from having your blood sucked by insects isn’t easy. It causes very real anxiety and paranoia in most people.
So, here are some tips to help you sleep, knowing that your bed is playing host to parasites:
- Relax in the evenings. Take a long, warm bath and read an old favorite book, for example.
- Drink chamomile tea about an hour before bed. Not only does it help you fall asleep, but it also helps improve sleep quality.
- Fall asleep while listening to soothing instrumental music, an audiobook, or a podcast. This will help to distract and ease your mind.
- Take natural sleep aids, such as melatonin. If you are experiencing severe sleep deprivation, talk to your doctor about prescription sleeping pills.
You may be tempted to sleep in a different room – on the couch, for instance. However, it’s not a good solution. Changing where you sleep may distract the bugs for a few days, but they will eventually find you again. Bed bugs can smell the carbon dioxide that your body emits.
Likewise, you may also consider covering as much of your body as possible in bed, to give the bed bugs less access to skin. However, if you do this, the bed bugs willbite an area which isn’t covered by your pajamas– such as your face.
Can You Stop Bed Bugs From Biting at Night?
Unfortunately, if your home is infested with bed bugs, there’s almost nothing you can do to stop them biting.
Bed bugs need to drink human blood to survive, and they have a powerful will to live. If they can physically reach you, they will find you, and they will feed.
If you can’t get rid of the infestation completely, you can try to bed-bug-proof your bed. There are three main steps:
- Install a mattress encasement. These are like huge, zip-up bags that you place your mattress inside. They are designed to have no gaps, so that bed bugs cannot escape. Existing bed bugs get sealed inside, and can’t get to you. Eventually, they starve to death.
- Move your bed away from the wall and the window. This way, new bed bugs won’t be able to climb the walls orcurtainsto reach your bed.
- Install bed bug interceptor traps under the legs of your bed. These are designed to trap bed bugs when they try to climb up your bed legs.
If you follow the above steps, your bed should be safe. Unfortunately, they may still bite you in other areas of the home.
What Else Do Bed Bugs Dislike?
So, to summarize what we’ve learned, bed bugs don’t like the light. They prefer to come out when it’s dark, as there’s a better chance that we’ll be asleep.
However, switching on the light at night won’t deter bed bugs for very long. And while you can protect your bed if you’re through, the bugs will still exist in other parts of the home.
So, is there anything else that will repel bed bugs?
Bed bugs have adapted to live at the same temperatures as humans. They’re most comfortable at typical room temperatures of between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both extreme cold and extreme heat can be fatal to bed bugs. However, they can survive easier in cold temperatures than hot ones. Unless the temperature is lower than 0 degrees Fahrenheit for at least four days, some bed bugs will survive.
Creating a sub-zero environment in your own home is hard. However, you can use heat to your advantage. Hand-held steam cleaners can deliver fatal blasts of scalding steam to beds, couches, and carpets. You can also launder your bedsheets at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all bugs and eggs.
Insecticides, like pyrethroids, are somewhat effective at deterring bed bugs. They are poisonous to insects, so they will kill bed bugs upon contact. Most insecticides are sold in liquid form. You can brush them on, or spray them around the home.
The only trouble is that in recent years, some strains of bed bugs have developed a resistance to insecticides. There’s no guarantee that they will work for the specific bugs in your home. If you’d like to give pesticides a go, try buying a small bottle first to test it out.
Essential Oils, Alcohol, and Vinegar
There is some evidence that bed bugs are repelled by vinegar, alcohol, and essential oils. It’s likely that you’ll have some of these around the home anyway, so they’re worth a try.
Tea tree oil is effective against bed bugs, compared to other essential oils. It has a strong smell which bed bugs don’t like. If it actually touches a bed bug, it’s fatal. It’s not effective if diluted, though. Undiluted tea tree oil can also be harmful to humans and pets.
High-strength cleaning vinegar also repels bed bugs, and kills them on contact. It’s irritating to the skin, so wear gloves when using it. Unfortunately, it has a strong, unpleasant smell that lingers.
If you choose to use alcohol, you’ll need to opt for rubbing alcohol rather than drinking alcohol. It’s only about 50% effective at killing bugs, but it does repel them reasonably well.
Diatomaceous earth is a sedimentary rock, sold as a white, talc-like powder. You can buy food-grade diatomaceous earth, which is safe to use around pets and children.
It’s a desiccant, which is the technical term for a drying agent. The small, sharp particles make tiny cuts in the waxy coating on a bed bug’s shell. The moisture inside evaporates, and is absorbed by the diatomaceous earth. Eventually, the bed bug dehydrates and dies.
Bed bugs can’t become resistant to diatomaceous earth. They will avoid it at all costs. Apply it to any area of the home that you think may harbor bed bugs.
Though it may sound strange, bed bugs have a preference for certain colors.
According to a study in theJournal of Medical Entomology, bed bugs actively avoid harborages (hiding places) that are yellow or green. Theyprefer darker colors, such as red, black and purple.
Unfortunately, buying yellow bedsheets isn’t enough to get rid of a bed bug infestation. It will, at best, put them off for a few days. If a bed bug is at risk of starving, they’ll find you and feed.
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Hi, I’m Lou. I’ve long been fascinated by bed bugs, ever since a friend’s life was turned upside down. That’s why I’ve put together this specialist site. You’ll find detailed answers to all of your questions on how to get rid of a bed bug infestation. I hope you find it useful!
Here’s what to do when you find out you have bedbugs
- First: breathe. Then figure out if you’re calling a pest management professional or dealing with the problem yourself.
- If you live in an apartment or condominium, call your landlord or property manager immediately — bedbugs elsewhere in the complex need to be handled, too.
- Depending on where you live, your landlord may be legally obligated to deal with this problem.
- Properly handling a bedbug infestation is an ongoing process — you won’t get rid of them overnight, even if you do call professionals.
As far as bad news goes, finding out you have any kind of vermin living in your house is never cause for celebration. Bedbugs feel more personal, somehow — I mean, these creatures are living in your bed and drinking your blood at night like tiny six-legged vampires.
However, that unsettling mental image doesn’t mean that you should panic.
Instead, here are some decisive steps you can take to end their reign of terror and get past this infestation to live your best, bedbug-free life.
There’s good and bad news about your bedbugs
First, the good news: Although these little bloodsuckers literally drink your blood as you sleep at night, they aren’t known to spread disease among humans . That’s especially helpful to know since Zika virus in mosquitoes is still a concern.
But now for the bad news: They’re stinky. Also, they poop everywhere. If you notice a weird moldy smell in your bedclothes — and there’s no reasonable explanation for it — you should check for little brownish or reddish spots that you also can’t otherwise explain. Those are poop, and while they’re definitely gross — at least now you have a reasonable clue about what’s happening.
First things first: You need an inspection
Bedbug bites usually look and feel a lot like mosquito bites . Since they bite you at night — while you’re presumably sleeping — you’re more likely to smell them or see the fecal presents they leave behind on your sheets than you are to actually see the bugs themselves.
That’s why it’s important to correctly identify the pest responsible for those itchy bites before you go any further. Treatment and follow-ups for a bedbug infestation differ significantly from those for other pests that may also be biting you.
Failure to treat any type of pest infestation correctly just means you’re going to have to start over from square one in the future — wasting your time, your money, and your patience in the process.
Once you’ve confirmed that it’s bedbugs, it’s time to identify, remove, and treat affected materials
Although bedbugs have that name for a very obvious reason, they don’t confine themselves to your bed. However, they do like to stay within about eight feet of wherever you sleep.
Places you need to check for evidence of bedbugs include your mattress, box spring, all your bedding, your bed frame, in any cracks and crevices around your bed — including in furniture, behind wallpaper, and under carpeting. Electrical outlets and switch plates are also prime places they might be hiding , according to the University of Minnesota.
If you live in an apartment, you need to talk to your landlord right away
Your landlord needs in on the bedbug action for two reasons.
First, your neighbors need to check for infestations of their own and contain them — just like you’re doing.
Second, the laws in your area may require your landlord’s involvement in treating — and necessary follow-up — with any bedbug infestations.
Seek professional pest management help if you can
Individual bedbugs are easy to squish — if you see them. Unfortunately, there are almost always more than just the ones you see.
Not only that, but they reproduce by laying eggs. So even if you kill off a bunch of bugs that are out living their bloodthirsty little lives, when those eggs hatch, the problem cycle starts all over again.
Some steps you can do yourself — including a lot of deep cleaning
Once you’ve identified the items in your home that are infested, you’ll need to securely put that stuff into sealed plastic bags. At this point, anything that you can launder should be laundered — on the highest heat setting you can. That includes all your bedding, sheets, and pillows.
Since bedbugs can travel very easily, it’s also important to sleep in the same place you’ve been sleeping to avoid accidentally transferring bugs elsewhere in your home, according to TODAY.
Vacuuming everything in sight can be helpful, as long as you empty the vacuum frequently and keep what comes out of your vacuum contained. Steam cleaners can also be effective , according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.
Why home pesticide treatments often don’t completely solve the problem
Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria are all over the news all the time in recent years.
While bedbugs aren’t bacteria, they’ve also quietly been evolving to defeat the chemical compounds that were successful at controlling them in the past.
Add this to the fact that bedbugs can stay dormant — not feeding on human or animal hosts for several months at a time — and you can see why this is a tough problem to face on your own.
Things to know if you do decide to face your bedbug infestation on your own
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides for use in human habitation — these are different from the ones approved for agricultural use. Make sure you’re using the correct item for your application to protect humans of all ages in your house — as well as any pets.
It’s impossible for anyone — professional or otherwise — to get rid of a bedbug infestation in a single day. Instead, the EPA recommends taking the time to develop and stick to a strategy . You’re more likely to have success if you do this.
Always look for the EPA label and a specific mention of bedbugs on any pesticide that you decide to bring into your home. Also, the EPA warns everyone to stay both safe and legal when trying to combat bedbug infestations in our homes.
Plan to follow up and do several thorough bedbug checks in the future. Be prepared to repeat the entire process to rid yourself of bedbugs again if necessary — they’re both persistent and resilient.
Unfortunately, bedbugs can be picked up from just about anywhere — from a five-star hotel to a movie theater seat to your Uber.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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."