How To Make Bed Bugs Come Out

Do Bed Bugs Come Out When The Lights Are On?

Bed bugs are generally considered to be nocturnal and prefer to forage for a host and take a blood meal during the night. They also will come out in the daytime or at night when lights are on, in order to take a blood meal, especially if there were no human hosts in the structure for a while and they are hungry.

Other Reasons Bed Bugs Are Seen During the Day:

  • Bed bugs will often change their normal nocturnal behavior and feed during the day if the resident(s) work at night and sleep during the daytime.
  • When a bed bug infestation is very large.

Another situation that may cause activity in a lit environment is when bat bugs, which are very similar in appearance to bed bugs, come out during the day or night to consume blood from their preferred hosts, which are bats or birds.

Regardless of the causes, if an occupant sees bed bugs during the day, it is wise to seek the assistance of a professional management professional.

Department of Health

Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them

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

What are bed bugs?

How can bed bugs get into my home?

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

How can I avoid bringing bed bugs into my home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I also try pesticides?

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

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

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

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

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

Do Bed Bugs Come Out When The Lights Are On?

Bed bugs are generally considered to be nocturnal and prefer to forage for a host and take a blood meal during the night. They also will come out in the daytime or at night when lights are on, in order to take a blood meal, especially if there were no human hosts in the structure for a while and they are hungry.

Other Reasons Bed Bugs Are Seen During the Day:

  • Bed bugs will often change their normal nocturnal behavior and feed during the day if the resident(s) work at night and sleep during the daytime.
  • When a bed bug infestation is very large.

Another situation that may cause activity in a lit environment is when bat bugs, which are very similar in appearance to bed bugs, come out during the day or night to consume blood from their preferred hosts, which are bats or birds.

Regardless of the causes, if an occupant sees bed bugs during the day, it is wise to seek the assistance of a professional management professional.

How to Make Bed Bugs Come Out of Hiding

Bed bugs have lived with us for thousands of years. We thought we’d finally gotten rid of them over the course of the 20th century through using pesticides, heat treatments, etc. But, they have always found a way to survive by hiding from us. So, how do you lure bed bugs out?

Bed bugs are naturally drawn to CO2, body heat and many other ‘lures’ that draw them to their host at night. By using their natural instincts against them, you can get them to come out of hiding so that they’re easier to kill.

In this guide, we take a look at what attracts bed bugs, in particular, the ‘markers’ that tell them where their host is, and when is the perfect time to feed (including a fewmyths about what bed bugs like, and don’t like). Afterward, we look at how to get bed bugs out of hiding, including information on where they tend to hide, where they lay their eggs, and whether they can live on you.

Table of Contents:

How to Lure Bed Bugs Out of Hiding

So, you can use the bed bug’s instincts to force them to come out of hiding. These are based on of years of their adapting to live with us. They use them to find us at night so that they can feed.

Some tools and methods are better for bed bugs in furniture. Others are useful for bed bugs hiding in wall cracks. So, let’s take a look at where bed bugs hide during the day.

Where do Bed Bugs Hide?

Bed bugs are expert hiders. They can conceal themselves and evade our best efforts at killing them. They have specific skills and qualities that are hard to combat.

Their shape is almost entirely flat. This gives them the ability to hide in any gap or slot the width of a credit card. As you can imagine, this gives them any number of places to hide.

  1. A bed bug’s favorite place to live is in your mattress and box spring. They offer the perfect mix of easy access to a host and many hiding places. Each has fabric folds that they can hide underneath, and besides that, it’s a rare occasion that you lift ormove your mattress. And, if there’s a way inside, that’s even better.
  2. They can also hide in your bed frame, even a metal one. The cracks and joins in the wood are wide enough for them to fit. The underneath is always dark and stable and offers corners to hide. Even metal frames have screw holes they can live in.
  3. Furniture offers dark corners, cracks, and joins for them to live. Here, they’re not as close to you, so it’s not a preferred location. You’ll find them here in moderate infestations.
  4. In the most severe infestations, bed bugs will live anywhere that they can reach you from. They can live in wall cracks,inside the wallsthemselves, inside old pipes, inside the gap between the carpet and the baseboard, and in the carpet itself. As long as they can find their way to you at night, they’ll live there (provided that there’s nothing to kill them or wash them away).
  5. Can bed bugs live in carpet? Yes, they can, and in soft furnishings like curtains too. Wherever they can find a safe purchase, they’re happy to live. You may also see bed bugs running across the carpet at night, as part of their general explorations.

They use pheromones to mark their territory: the best hiding spots. They make their way back to these spots after they feed, and stay there, immobile for days as they digest. That’s why it’s so important that they pick somewhere still, dark and secure so that they aren’t disturbed. Then, they’ll lay their eggs nearby and continue thebed bug lifecycle.

How to Check for Bed Bugs in a Room

There are many basic checks you can make to find bed bugs, in a room:

  1. Start by checking in the bedding itself, inside the duvet cover if there’s a duvet.
  2. Remove the sheets from the bed, air them, and check on top of the mattress.
  3. Check the folds in the mattress.
  4. Check underneath the mattress, underneath any dust covers in the box spring, and in the bed frame itself.
  5. Check underneath any furniture, and in the corners of any drawers.
  6. Check the soft furnishings, e.g., curtains, next to the bed.
  7. Check the corners of the room, the carpet, and the electrical outlets too.
  8. Check for any crack in the wall.

You should be looking for many things: bed bugs themselves, old bed bugs shells, fecal staining (black and tar-like spots) and eggs. But what makes somewhere a good place for a bed bug to lay eggs?

Where do Bed Bugs Hide Their Eggs?

Long story short, anywhere that they won’t be disturbed.

This includes dark corners, inside your bed frame, on your mattress and box spring—anywhere that they won’t be disturbed, and that’s dark and hidden. For example, they might choose the underside of a pillow on your couch, but they certainly wouldn’t lay an egg on top of it.

If you lay perfectly still for a year, they would lay their eggs on top of your mattress and bedding, because the only other thing they think of is proximity to the host.

Have a quick search for eggs and see what you can find. They’re small and white, about the size of a sesame seed. They’re stuck tight to the surface that they’re laid on so firmly that you wouldn’t be able to vacuum them up, and they’re even difficult to scrape off. The ‘live’ ones are rubbery andhard to squish. If you know there’s a central location for an infestation, under your mattress, for example, then it’s likely that there are eggs there too.

Where do Bed Bugs Hide on Your Body?

Here’s a crucial point: bed bugsdon’thide on your body. They’re a specific kind of parasite that lives near their host, but not on them. They don’t need to live on you, and even if they tried, it wouldn’t end well for many reasons. Here’s why:

  • Even the ‘greediest’ bed bugs only need to feed once every five days. Depending on the weather, they might only feed once every couple of months. If you only needed to eat once a week, you wouldn’t camp out in the kitchen near your fridge, would you?
  • Bed bugs lack the leg shape and structure needed to push their way through hair. Lice, for example, have front claws that can hold onto a hair; bed bugs don’t. They’re also the right shape to crawl across your scalp and fit between hairs. Bed bugs are wide and flat: the worst possible shape to live in hair. That’s why they don’t.

If you’re still convinced thatbed bugs live on the skin, bear in mind that the cause might be psychological. According to any number of psychological papers—and this summary in theHuffington Post—itching is partly physical and partly psychological. People with lice, bed bugs and other infestations regularly report PTSD. This is the continuation of itching in the complete absence of an infestation.

Bed bugs don’t live in your hair, or on your body. They don’t need to, because they can always find their way to you from where theydolive.

What Attracts Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are perfectly in tune with their hosts. They know how to recognize a sleeping person, through heat, sweat, breath, and pheromones. Using each of these things that attract bed bugs is the key to drawing them out of their hiding places.

Do Bed Bugs Like the Dark?

Bed bugs are photophobic. This means that they hate light, a fact reported in many journals, including theJournal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology.

At the root of this is the necessity of them being secretive. The easier they are to find, the easier they are to remove. Therefore, they have learned to avoid light and easy detection.

Conversely, bed bugs are drawn out of their hiding place in the dark of the night. In the day, you might see just one or two, if your infestation is severe enough.

As a test, the next time you wake up at night, turn on the light. You’ll likely see plenty crawling around, either on the carpet or the wall—especially close to their harborages.

Are Bed Bugs Drawn to Carbon Dioxide?

By nature, we need oxygen to live. Air, though, is only 20.95% oxygen. W, therefore,e breathe out a concentration of air with less oxygen.

Not only that, though, but webreathe out more carbon dioxide we breathe in, which we took in from food. This increased level of CO2 is a marker for bed bugs that their host is nearby.

According to a piece in theJournal of Pest Science, this has a specific effect on bed bugs nearby. Their mobility is increased.

The paper looked at a new bed bug treatment: desiccant dust (something like diatomaceous earth, which dries them out) in combination with a small increase in CO2 in the nearby air.

They found that the CO2 increased the number of bed bugs that explored the area covered by the desiccant dust, which is something they usually avoid. This resulted in more deaths.

Are Bed Bugs Attracted to Heat?

Bed bugs are also attracted to body heat. They seek out your warmth at night because you’re likely to be the only thing giving off warmth in the room at night. Their attraction to heat, therefore, helps them to find you.

According to a paper inLaboratory Medicine, bed bugs are attracted to both heat and CO2 to find a host. They travel at around the same speed as ladybugs, from their harborage, towards their sleeping host, to feed.

Pest control experts can take advantage of this using traps that give off the same warmth as a human. However, far more common is heating the room to lethal temperatures.

The same paper detailed how this process works. According to the review, bed bugs die at 122 degrees, which is achievable in a room using specialist equipment.

This kills 100% of bed bug stages, including eggs, over the course of 90 minutes. You can also achieve much the same effect by throwing clothes in a washing machine or dryer.

Kairomones and Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are also attracted to other chemicals that you naturally emit over the course of a night. These are calledkairomones.These are chemicals like pheromones that humans and other animals use to communicate with others chemically.

Bed bugs and other insects (and predators too) take advantage of these pheromones to locate a host, or to find prey during hunting. Prey can also use them to locate predators. Mice and rats can detect cats who emit them, for example.

Because we thought we’d almost eradicated bed bugs, little research was done on them in the 20th century. A review in the journalPest Management Sciencefound that bed bugs have something calledolfactory sensillaon the end of their antennae. These are like tiny noses that sense specific chemicals (kairomones especially).

Their paper reviewed other studies that looked into kairomones too. They found that kairomones have an “additive effect” when used in traps that emit carbon dioxide and heat.

In other words, they make the traps even more attractive than they were before, presumably by making them appear even more like a human host than they otherwise would have.

Do Bed Bugs Use Pheromones?

Bed bugs also have pheromones of their own. But they don’t serve the same purpose.

Bed bugs, like many other animals, use pheromones to communicate with one another. This is necessary because making any noise or another signal would be obvious to their host, who would surely get rid of them if they got the chance. One key reason they communicate is to find their way home. They’re called trail pheromones, and it’s how ants find their way back home.

Bed bugs don’t use trail pheromones, but they do use pheromones in another way. They use them to mark out their home, which is why you see so many congregating in one place.

Are Bed Bugs Attracted to Poor Hygiene or Is It a Myth?

One common myth about bed bugs is that they’re drawn to people with poor hygiene. That’s not true. Anybody can catch bed bugs, and it’s all down to the luck of the draw. You can catch them from friends, relatives and work colleagues.

All it takes is for them to find their way into your bag or some folded-up clothing that you aren’t wearing. Once you bring them home, they immediately hide. If you’re unlucky enough to have brought a female with eggs home, you’ll have an infestation.

That being said, poor hygiene can play a part in spreading infestations, for example:

  • Clothes left on the ground provide a hiding place (harborage) for bed bugs and their eggs.
  • Failing to change your sheets gives bed bugs more time to establish themselves. Laundering sheets kill both bed bugs and eggs.
  • Not using your vacuum cleaner for a long time has a similar effect, allowing an infestation to spread and take hold more easily. Vacuuming does not kill bed bugs but reduces the biomass (number) of bed bugs in an infestation.

Bed bugs aren’t drawn to you any more or less by the fact that you regularly bathe, or choose not to bathe. You release the same warmth and CO2 that attracts them regardless of whether you bathed yesterday or last month. Bed bugs won’t come out of hiding to bite people with worse hygiene than others.

Are Bed Bugs Attracted to Blood Type?

Some people seem to get bitten by bed bugs more than others. Many myths try to explain why, for example, that there’s such a thing as a bed bug blood type preference. It’s not true.

Bed bugsdohave a particular blood type that they’re raised on from birth: the blood type of their host. Some studies have looked at whether raising bed bugs on a certain kind of blood would give them a preference. A paper in theJournal of Circadian Rhythmslooked to test that exact question.

They looked at the feeding behaviors of many different bed bug species to see whether they could learn anything about them, and how to kill them more effectively.

They found that raising a bed bug on a certain kind of blood resulted in a “modest delay of feeding” when they were then presented with a different kind. However, they found overall that bed bugs will feed on any blood type, not just one or two, and none with any preference. Bed bugs, therefore, won’t come out of hiding to attack a new or different host with a different blood type.

Can I Make Bed Bugs Come Out of Hiding?

So, now that you knowwhat bed bugs are attracted to, can you convince them to come out of their hiding places? Yes, you most definitely can. You can use bed bug lures to persuade them to leave behind their harborages, and come out in search of you. The lures themselves are the only thing that can make them come out because the bed bug thinks they’re closing in on a host.

By and large, bed bugs are inactive during the day. That’s because they’re photophobic. They spend the day hiding somewhere that you can’t get them, like a crack in the wall. They also remain inactive for a long period of time after they feed, as they digest. But you knew all that already.

What you might not know is that this makes many common bed bug treatments like diatomaceous earth, insecticides and DIY treatments like tea tree oil ineffective.

They might be able to kill most of the population, but not all of them. That’s why getting them to move away from their harborages and out into the open is vital, and the best way is using lures.

How to Get Rid of Hidden Bed Bugs

We’ve outlined some do’s and don’ts for getting rid of bed bugs when they have many hiding places.

Don’t Use Insecticides for Bed Bugs

Insecticide has long been a preferred bed bug treatment. There are many different chemical insecticides available to exterminators, and which have been in use for many decades. Manufacturers of bedding, mattresses and so on used DDT extensively during the twentieth century to prevent infestations, for example.

This was the favored way to get rid of hidden infestations. The air inside the entire home would become poisonous for bed bugs, and it would reach even hidden cracks and crevices in the wall and beyond. However, as with all pesticides (and antibiotics, for similar reasons) extensive use has ensured that some populations have begun to become immune to common insecticides.

This is most often the case for populations in major urban areas like New York, L.A. and big cities across the U.S. A BBC News article detailed how bed bugs in Cincinnati and Michigan had developed “dramatic levels” of immunity to many common pesticides. And, as you should know, just 1% of an infestation surviving is enough to re-establish the population within just a month or two.

Exterminators, therefore, have to consider alternatives to insecticides to kill bed bugs. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways to kill them: let’s take a look at a few.

Plastic Bed Bug Traps (Passive Monitors)

The simplest traps are often the best. You can immediately cut off the majority of a population by using basic plastic traps, tape or even Vaseline.

These passive monitors fit around the feet of your bed. They are referred to aspassive monitorsbecause they don’t actively lure in bed bugs, they get in their way as they’re trying to get to you. They look like small Tupperware tubs or small round plastic caps that fit around the feet/legs of your bed. The bed bugs try to climb up your bed leg to reach you, but they fall into the trap and can’t get out due to the slippery surface.

Variations include the following:

  • Basic plastic bed bug traps that fit around the feet of your bed. The bed bug can crawl in, but can’t crawl out. You can also use water traps, which are the same idea, but the trap is filled with water. Not only can the bugs not climb out, but they drown, too.
  • Sticky double-sided tape around the legs of your bed frame stops them from being able to crawl up to get you. Bed bugs are smart and avoid any surface that they would find it difficult to crawl over. As such, the vast majority of bed bugs would avoid the tape. Any others would get stuck to it.
  • Vaseline makes the legs of your bed frame too slippery for them to climb up.

These traps will stop any bed bugs from harborages in walls, furniture or the carpet from being able to reach you. The plastic traps, in particular, will stop them from being able to get back to their safe spots too.

Bed Bug Lures (Active Monitors)

Bed bug lures are like the traps we described above, but they both attractandtrap bed bugs. Active monitors actively release a lure that draws the bed bug in. An example is a CO2 or heat trap, which releases either a steady stream of CO2 or heat at a similar temperature to your body (or both). Some release both, alongside kairomones, which increases functionality (draw in more bed bugs).

Over the course of a period of time, normally a few hours, these lures will persuade bed bugs to leave their hiding places. Not all of them will come at once since bed bugs often have a long period where they don’t need to feed. Depending on the temperature and the stage to which they’ve developed, they may take between five days and many months between each feed. There will, therefore, be many that have recently fed and ‘aren’t hungry.’

This lure will gradually draw in more and more bed bugs from their hiding places, although it will take time. Placing lures around your bed may discourage them from coming for you, specifically. This will reduce the number of bites you get, but not stop them completely. You’ll have to do something more active to get rid of them all.

CO2 Fumigation

Using CO2 to kill bed bugs isn’t a new idea. Like any other animal, they can suffocate if they go without oxygen for long enough. However, since bed bugs are also attracted to CO2, it’s a unique treatment in that it draws them outandkills them with 100% effectiveness (if the treatment is done correctly).

A paper in theJournal of Medical Entomologyexamined how effective CO2 was at killing bed bugs. They accounted for many factors: the developmental stage of the bed bug, the temperature at which the treatment was administered, and the time they had to take to kill 100% of the bed bugs. They found that:

  • Concentrations of CO2 higher than 30% were sufficient to kill an entire infestation at 71 degrees, over the course of 24 hours.
  • Eggs required higher CO2 concentrations: 80% or more to kill them over the course of a full day. However, with 100% concentration, they would be killed within 7 hours at 71 degrees.
  • Eggs were more susceptible to 100% CO2 concentration but less susceptible to 80% concentrations and lower.

This is applied both in a laboratory and home settings. In particular, the researchers checked whether bed bugs would survive in trash bags or ziplock bags filled with CO2: they didn’t. This applied to bags that were filled with clothes and boxes, too, proving that it could be done at home. However, they had to use over three pounds of dry ice per bag to achieve the effect, meaning that this would be an inefficient way to kill bed bugs at home.

Either way, using CO2 is an excellent way to kill bed bugs that are hiding. First of all, since CO2 is a lure anyway, it increases their mobility. But also, it decreases the available oxygen (and increases the amount of CO2) throughout the entire room. This, therefore, kills the bed bugs, even if they choose to remain hidden.

Heat Treatments

Heat treatments achieve much the same as CO2. Heat increases a bed bug’s mobility and speeds up their development. That’s whybed bugs breed and grow quicker during the summermonths.

However, once the temperature reaches high enough, they quickly begin to die. Temperatures of above 113 are enough to make them die, although over 122 is high enough to kill an entire infestation in a few hours.

Again, heat treatment is a good choice because it kills bed bugs even if they choose to remain hidden. It’s also effective against eggs, which not all treatments are.

Can Essential Oils Kill Bed Bugs?

Tea tree oil and other essential oilsare a well-known alternative to chemical insecticides. And not just according to online blogs and forums, but according to real, hard science.

A study in the journalInsectstested many essential oil mixes to test their effectiveness. They picked a natural spray (EcoRaider) and compared it to Temprid SC as well as a mix of both. They then sprayed many test rooms (real, infested apartments that had agreed to be a part of the test). Unfortunately, there was no control group since nobody was willing todo nothingabout their infestation over the course of the experiment. However, the results were still interesting.

Did they work? Over a period of 12 weeks, they reduced mean bed bug count by a number approaching 100%. Temprid SC was more effective at first. However, these were small infestations of 100 bed bugs or less, to begin with. Over the course of 12 weeks, their numbers were reduced to ten or less for each of the sprays.

The treatment, therefore, is reasonably effective. However, one has to bear in mind that these were medium-sized infestations, not large infestations. For infestations numbering in the thousands (which is more than possible), getting them under control would take longer.

The treatment also doesn’t have to be applied consistently; the scientists sprayed the apartment thoroughly and left it for weeks afterward. It’s, therefore, a decent solution for medium-sized infestations.

DIY Bed Bug Killers & Home Remedies for Bed Bugs

Last but not least, there are many DIY options for killing bed bugs. These are particularly appealing because hiring an exterminator can cost north of $1000.

And, for $1000, you’d hope that the infestation would be guaranteed to be dead: but that’s not always the case, which can be exceptionally frustrating. So, what kind of DIY bed bug treatments are there?

  • Does baking soda kill bed bugs? The idea is that baking soda (also known as baking powder and sodium bicarbonate) can dry out bed bugs, and cause them to dehydrate and die. It’s how diatomaceous earth and alternative desiccants work. Unfortunately, baking soda isn’t sharp enough or coarse enough to break into a bed bug’s outer shell-like desiccant powders, so it doesn’t work.
  • Strongvinegar can kill bed bugs on direct contact. However, everyday home-use vinegar isn’t strong enough to do so.
  • Rubbing alcohol can kill bed bugson direct contact, but not all. It also depends on the concentration (the stronger, the better). Even so, it doesn’t kill them all, so it can’t control an infestation.

You also have to bear in mind that none of these methods will kill hidden bed bugs, only those that crawl around outside their hiding places.

Your best bet is therefore to use heat treatments or CO2, or bed bug lures that actively draw bed bugs away from their harborages. As a long-term treatment, essential oil sprays and traps can work, and in combination with lures, this may be enough to kill even hidden bed bugs.

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Lou Carter

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!


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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.

Bedbug Treatments

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

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

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


Bedbug Extermination

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

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


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."

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