How Long Does Bed Bug Infestation Take
Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control
Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?
Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:
- How many bed bugs you have;
- How much clutter is available for hiding places;
- Whether your neighbors have bedbugs; and
- Whether all residents of a house or building will participate.
Getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation. To be successful, everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.
The following steps will help you begin:
You may have to follow these steps more than once to kill all the bugs and their eggs.
Identify the Problem
- Identify the pest:
- Collect a sample of the pest to show an extension agentExitor other insect expert.
- Extension agents can identify the pest at no cost to you. They are trained in pest control and know your local area.
Develop a Strategy
- Make a schedule for completing the steps below. Be sure to include any personal plans, such as vacations.
- Keep records through the whole process. Note the dates and exact locations where pests are found. This will help you track progress and better know where to target your work.
- Keep checking for at least a year after you’re done to make sure all the bed bugs are gone.
Keep the Infestation from Spreading
- Remove infested items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and treat them. Learn more about treatment methods in the sections below.
- Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left there for up to a year to ensure any active bugs are dead.
- Empty the vacuum after each use. Seal the bag as tightly as possible and immediately throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
- Discard furniture responsibly if you can’t safely eliminate the bed bugs. Destroy it so someone else won’t be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
- Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
- Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs."
Prepare for Treatment
Preparing for treatment is very important; it will make it easier to monitor for bed bugs that haven’t been eliminated. This preparation should be completed whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.
Kill the Bed Bugs
- Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What’s Legal, What’s Not.
- Considernon-chemical methodsof killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others depending on your situation. These and other methods can be helpful, but they might not get rid of the infestation entirely:
- Heat treatment:You can use a clothes dryer on high heat. You can also use black plastic bags in a hot, closed car in the sun, but success depends on your climate and other factors. Do-it-yourself heat treatments might not work. Professionals have access to more intensive and proven methods that can even treat whole houses with heat. You may also purchase a portable heat chamber, which is usually quite effective.
- Cold treatmentcan be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0 o F. You must leave the items in a sealed bag in the freezer at that temperature for four days. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0 o .
- Steam cleaners(wet or dry) can get into cracks and fabrics to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. The steam temperature must be at least 130 o F but should not have a forceful airflow, or it may cause bed bugs to scatter. Use a diffuser to prevent scattering.
Evaluate and Prevent
- Continue to inspect for bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remain. You can use interceptors, traps or other monitoring methods. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. Commercial and do-it-yourself interceptors are options.
- Continue to protect your home from bed bugs.
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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.
Learn About Bed Bug Infestations So You Will Be Better Equipped to Fight Yours!
A bed bug infestation is a big deal. It can disrupt your sleep/life, and you may have no idea what is happening to you or how to stop it. Bed bugs are different from most other household insect pests and are much more difficult to live with and to get rid of.
Bed bugs are keen to find a way into your house, and you have to be aware of their “migration tactics” in order to thwart them. You need to know how they move from house to house and room to room, how fast they can spread, where they are likely to hide, and what options you have for killing them.
Make no mistake. A bed bug infested home means your home has just become a war zone. You can’t let the enemy sneak by unnoticed under your radar, and knowing the facts about bed bugs is winning half the battle.
Table of Contents
Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?
Bed bugs are quite willing to enter your premises uninvited, take up permanent residence, and help themselves to a blood feast. But where do they come from to begin with?
The fact is, bed bugs live primarily in human habitations all over the world, be it in mattresses, box springs, carpeting, picture frames, cracks in floor, furniture, or a host of other locales.
Of course, bed bugs ultimately hail from the great outdoors, and you may find some still living there in tall grasses, but they are overwhelmingly an “indoor insect.”
Transferred from Person to Person
Unlike fleas and lice, bed bugs do not tend to live permanently on human beings or animals. Instead, they will generally hide is some hard to reach nook or cranny and come out at night to feed. That’s why they like to live in or near beds and other places people sleep or sit for long periods.
But, it is still possible for bed bugs to be transferred from person to person.
- They can get into your clothes, purse, laptop bag, jacket, or anything else you wear or carry about.
- From there, they can get onto clothes of others you are in close contact with.
Their eggs can also be found on clothes sometimes, and if egg-infested clothes of yours touched someone else’s clothes, even the eggs could get transferred.
So, while it’s not very likely, it is possible for bed bugs to move from person to person.
Spread From House to House
Bed bugs, as clever as they are, do not generally walk long distances between buildings. They have other ways of getting into your house.
These stealthy home-invasion strategies include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Hitch a ride on your laundry, luggage, or other possessions that you bring back from a bed-bug-infested hotel room.
- Your pet might pick up a bed bug while visiting another house (or even outdoors) and then bring it back to your place.
- Bed bugs may be hiding in furniture in one house, but the owner may sell it at a garage sale or put it on the curb to dispose of it. Then, you take that old bed-bug-ridden piece of furniture into your house, thinking it’s a great find.
- You sleep over at a friend’s house where bed bugs live. Bed bugs get into your stuff or on your person, and you unknowingly transport them home with you.
- If you live in a multi-unit home or apartment complex, these bugs can crawl down the hall, through vents, and through cracks in the walls to get into your living quarters.
Spread from Room to Room
You may, perhaps, imagine that bed bugs can’t get around too fast. It’s true they have small legs and can’t hop or skip, but they can walk up to 100 feet in a single night. They just “keep going till they get there.”
Bed Bug Hiding Spots
And bed bugs are known to move through the inside of walls, which they will access via outlets if not through cracks. They can run inside of in-wall piping for a quicker move from room to room. It really doesn’t take more than a single night for them to migrate to a new room. And they can even get into your vacuum cleaner so that you are helping them spread quicker as you clean the carpet.
It could be a matter of days before your entire house is infested, given you have enough of a bed bug population and your bed bugs are motivated to look for food/water/blood somewhere other than where they are at the moment.
I found a bed bug, you say, so where should I look for more? Can I map out the infestation so I can map out an eradication plan?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to be sure of all the nooks and crannies your unwelcome guests may be hiding in, and they may even move around from night to night. All you can do is know the likely spots and apply bed bug killer.
I Have One Bed Bug. Does It Mean an Infestation?
A single bed bug may or may not indicate you already have a true infestation.
But if you do find a bed bug, here are some things to keep in mind:
- A single impregnated female can produce a whole population. She will lay the eggs and then breed with her own offspring.
- The odds are in favor of your not having found the only bed bug in your house. Where there’s one, there are probably more.
- Bed bugs can go 6 months or more without a blood meal, and many individual bugs may not feed more than once a week on average. Thus, you won’t see them all out searching for food at the same time.
- Is the bed bug red-bodied? Then it was feeding. If they’re feeding, chances are they’re breeding.
Once in your bedroom, bed bugs will have no trouble finding your bed. They are attracted to carbon dioxide such as warm-blooded animals exhale and to your body heat. As soon as they sense CO2 and heat at night, they will go to your bed because you, their target, are lying on it.
Bed bugs can get into your bedroom on your dirty clothes, on the clothes you are wearing, or by hiding in suitcases, hand bags, boxes, furniture, or anything else you bring into your room that offers them good cover.
Do bed bugs live in walls? The answer is: sometimes. Walls are not necessarily their number one or preferred hideout, as with cockroaches, but when no better shelter exists near their feeding zone, they’ll be quick to reside inside wall cavities.
Of course, there has to be an entry point for them to get into the wall. So if your walls have cracks or small holes in them, caulking it up, painting over it, or otherwise sealing it off may deny your bed bugs a hideout.
Yes, bed bugs can live inside wood flooring. They can even crawl along inside the seams between wood planks, even when those seams are rather tight.
The pancake-flat bodies and small size of bed bugs allow the to get into and live in even the most inaccessible areas. There are few wood floors, if any, that are so tightly put together that bed bugs couldn’t get into them.
You may be wondering what to do if you have bed bugs, and how long you have before they overrun you. You may be waking up at night, staring at the clock, and wondering, “How long do I have?”
How Long Does It Take for Bed Bugs to Infest?
Here are four facts you should know that will give you an idea as to how long it takes for a bed bug infestation to get started and to get into “full swing:”
- Female bed bugs can lay from one to five eggs per day and ultimately 200 or 250 eggs in a lifetime.
- Eggs will hatch in five to 10 days’ time, and the emergent nymphs will immediately begin looking for a blood meal.
- It takes around four or five weeks for a bed bug to reach maturity, going through five molts along the way.
- Bed bugs will live around four to 10 months, but life spans may vary quite a bit based on conditions (and on your extermination efforts!)
The Life Cycle of a Bed Bug
Conclusion: an infestation can get rolling in less than a week, become unbearable in one to two months, and reach peak population levels in six months to a year, given the right conditions and plenty of blood.
What You Should Know
You may be wondering, “Do bed bugs go away if I just leave them alone a while?” Wishful thinking may have its merits, perhaps, but no, they normally won’t just go away on their own.
My Apartment Is Infested With Bed Bugs. Now What?
If your apartment definitely has a bed bug infestation, what can you do about it? You’ll need to learn how to kill bed bugs and how to keep them from coming back.
Here are Five Key Steps you can take to eradicate your blossoming bed bug population:
- Clear away all the clutter from your bedroom or other infested area. In fact, clean and organize your whole house like you were getting ready for white glove at college.
- Wash and dry all your clothes and linens that could possibly have gotten exposed to bed bugs or their eggs. Use the high-heat setting.
- Spray bed bug killer along the baseboards, into cracks and crevices, onto mattresses, box springs, upholstered furniture, and anywhere else it’s safe to spray it. Also apply diatomaceous earth under and around your bed, set up CO2 bed bug traps, and use rubbing alcohol to protect your exposed skin at night.
- Use a one-two punch bed bug fogger bomb approach. The first bombs will kill off adults mostly. Wait two weeks so the surviving eggs can hatch, and then bomb to wipe out the hatchlings before they mature and repopulate.
- You can repeat the four steps above several times, but if the problem persists, call in a professional who can safely heat your home to 118 degrees Fahrenheit to kill every bed bug.
Three Steps to be Bed-Bug-Free
Can They Come Back After Treatment?
Bed bugs can return the same way they got into your home to begin with, even after you totally eradicate them.
Thus, you need to think about how they may have gotten in. Stop bringing in garage sale or curbside furniture, routinely sprinkle diatomaceous earth along your door’s bottom if you live in an apartment complex, or change whatever else it takes to keep them out!
Learn how bed bugs spread into and throughout houses and how their population explodes. Take measures accordingly without delay to kill them and prevent a return. Knowing the facts about your bed bug infestation will help you end it!
You can find further details of Bed Bugs Control here.
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How Can You Tell the Severity of a Bed Bug Infestation?
ByChris Williamson April 29, 2015.
Bed bug exuviae (shed skins)
A concerned property owner in Rochester, New Hampshire recently asked me if I could tell how long bed bugs had been in an apartment. With legislation in place regarding bed bug infestation and the responsibility of property owners, his concerns were justifiable. New Hampshire now mandates that bed bug or other infestations are the responsibility of the property owner, regardless of the cause of infestation. Fleas may be the only exception to this rule, as pet activity associated with a tenant may directly cause the infestation.
Cockroaches, bed bugs, ants, rodents, fleas, and wasps are the main problems that property owners and property management run into at typical apartment settings. Fleas from a previous tenant will also be covered by this legislation. Now the burden lies on the property owner to provide a pest free living space to all occupants.
As a rule, early detection of a pest problem can lead to an early solution. Problems develop over time, so early detection is critical. This may not be possible, as tenants may not report an issue until it is beyond a quick fix. Non-notification of pest problems may be due to many reasons that I will not go into here. Frequent property inspections and good tenant relations can go a long way in pest prevention.
Documentation of any complaints is critical. Thorough inspection with photos to document the conditions before and after renting an apartment or property will be very helpful to all parties. Always use a Pest Control Professional when dealing with pest issues to avoid potential mistreatment or poisoning.
In the following sections, I will try to describe the different levels of bed bug infestation, divided into three categories: Light, Moderate, and Heavy.
Light Bed Bug Infestation
- New infestation, just arrived. It takes 45-60 days from egg to mated adult (1-2 months)
- Few sightings and blood stains noted if any, 1-2 caught as specimens for identification, minimal irritation from bites. Adult bed bugs are tan to dark reddish brown, flattened, compact insects about 5-6mm long; juveniles are much smaller and are clear with a red or black dot after feeding. Both adults and juveniles are visible.
- Minimal fecal staining (small black stains in areas of travel, feeding, and harborage). Fecal stains will be anywhere the bed bugs hide or travel and can be used to detect hot spots.
- Minimal cast skins (exuviae are the skins shed during the molting process). These small translucent to tan shells can be found near harborage sites, in dust, or in webs. Each bed bug will produce five cast skins during its 100-day juvenile stage.
- Few if any visible eggs. Eggs are laid in clusters near harborage sites and along feeding routes. Eggs look like small white dots or lines glued to surfaces near the host. Females may lay 3 eggs a day if continuous feeding is available, laying over 300 eggs during her 10-11 month lifetime.
- Only 1 or 2 areas of suspect activity noted. Bed bug infestations usually starts in one or two “hot spots” of the home or apartment, then spread as the population increases. Natural migration by females to new areas and spreading through movement of personal items allows bed bugs to find new areas to infest.
Moderate Bed Bug Infestation
- Established Infestation (4-8 months since initial arrival of bed bugs)
- Many live adults and nymphs noted (bloodstains on walls and mattresses, live insects engorged with blood on mattresses, furniture, walls, under carpets, etc.)
- Visible fecal stains present in multiple areas (staining on mattress, sheets, pillows, bed frames, bedside tables, dressers, books, walls, baseboards, curtains, chairs, couches, behind pictures, under and on carpets, etc.)
- Many cast skins (on floors, in webs, under carpets, in dressers, along with dead bed bugs, and bed bugs caught by spiders). By now, there should be hundreds of exuviae.
- Many hot spots (beds and sleeping areas, couches, corners, most furniture has staining and live insects present, all rooms including bathroom may have live bed bugs on walls and ceilings, as well as under carpets near sleeping areas and feeding routes). The bed bug population has spread out from initial hot spots to locations throughout the apartment/home and now pose a threat to neighboring units above, below, and to sides.
Heavy Bed Bug Infestation
- Heavy infestations take 6 months to 1 year to develop. Bed bugs mature relatively slowly; at a certain threshold, multiple overlapping generations are produced and the population will explode if conditions permit.
- Countless adults and nymphs present (Adults walking on walls, clustered in cracks on walls, stained curtains, etc. Dead bed bugs and blood stains on sheets, mattresses, walls, bed frames, on/under carpets, moldings, under tiles, almost every where they can hide and get to a host).
- Heavy fecal staining. This thick blood byproduct becomes like black paint in areas of high bed bug density and traffic. As they move to and from the human host, fecal droplets fall off the backside of the bed bug. Densely populated harborage sites also contain heavy fecal staining. Over time, it becomes thick and even has a semi-sweet, bug smell for aggregation. It is a bad infestation if you can smell this odor. Heavily stained mattresses, box springs, carpets, and other fabric items may need to be discarded or deep cleaned to remove the organic material. Walls, ceilings, and floors will also need attention once the infestation has been taken care of, and certainly prior to rental.
- Cast skins are all over the place. Multiple overlapping generations have produced thousands of exuviae, especially in harborage sites. Heavy infestations create so many exuviae that they will be readily evident upon inspection of areas near sleeping areas.
- Eggs and hatched eggs are visible (along seams, edges of molding, mattress tufts, in couches, dressers, tables, carpet edges, all around hotspots).
- The population is now only limited by access to the host (tenants).
- Heavy infestations can populate entire structures. Due to natural movement from overcrowding as well as transport of personal items, bed bugs can spread to previously uninfested dwellings. Wall voids, pipe chases, electrical apertures, and other hidden conduits may contain adult bed bugs, which can live over 1 year if no host is present, and actively seek a new host.
Bed bugs are no joke, they are real, and can cause serious problems if left untreated. If you suspect bed bugs, call Colonial Pest Control at 1-800-525-8084.
How Quickly Do Bed Bugs Spread?
Posted by Paul J. Bello – Certified Entomologist on August 03, 2016
With bed bugs becoming a major pest problem in homes, hotels and businesses across the country, many people are curious about how quickly bed bugs spread. Bed bugs do not fly since they do not have wings. They are able to crawl and rapidly move short distances within an infected area, and slowly spread to other rooms in the home or business.
Another way bed bugs move around is by finding their way into purses, backpacks, suitcases, briefcases, clothing, and jackets. Bed bugs rely upon humans to help transport them to new areas and locations where they are free to set up and establish new infestations. In fact, these traveling methods are the number one way people introduce bed bugs into their homes.
Once brought into the home, bed bug infestations take time to grow before they become a major headache. If you were to bring home one single female who has already mated, the new visitor will start to populate the home with new bed bugs. She will lay about 100 eggs over the course of the first month. Since her laying is spread out, by the end of the month there will be roughly 50 or 60 nymphs (developing infant bed bugs) and 30-40 eggs waiting to be hatched.
By the end of the second month, the adult population will have grown to around 10 breeding adults with about 200 developing bed bugs in various stages, and numerous eggs. At this point, you should start to notice small reddish-brown color dots on your bedding and mattress, and you may start to see small dark specks of dirt, as well as other minute particles. Catching and controlling bed bugs at this stage is beneficial, as things start to get out of hand by the end of the third month.
The bed bug population explodes during the third month of infestation. By now the colony has grown to over 100 breeding adults, 1,000s of developing nymphs, and 400-500 eggs. In addition, some of the adult bed bugs will start to migrate to other rooms within the home, since they can survive for approximately 6 to 12 months without a meal. If left to continue to grow and expand, the bed bug colony starts to turn into a major infestation.
Within six months of introducing the original pregnant female bed bug into the home, you could be facing infestations in every room of the home. Populations by this point will have soared to well over 8,000 breeding adults, 100,000s of developing nymphs, and 50,000-60,000 eggs waiting to hatch. Knowing how bed bugs spread and populate new areas, you can clearly see why prevention and early detection are vital to keep your home or business bed bug free.
You can protect your bedding, mattresses, and box springs, as well as other furniture in the home, with special bed bug encasements. These protective barriers stop bed bugs from getting into your pillows, mattresses, box springs, and furniture should you accidentally introduce a bed bug into the home. For more information about the bed bug certified encasements and other waterproof and hypoallergenic mattress and bedding products, contact Mattress Safe® now at 770-205-5335.