Information about bed bugs
Information about bed bugs
Human bed bugs are found in all sorts of neighborhoods and environments around the world. There has been a significant increase in the reported number of infestations over the past decade. The good news is, this insect is not known to transmit any type of human disease. However, some people experience severe itching from the bites, which can lead to nervous and digestive disorders. The challenge is to prevent this pest from spreading by properly identifying and eliminating it.
Origin of the infestation
Bed bugs can carry along on luggage, furniture, clothing, shoes, rucksacks, pillows, boxes and other items when they are moved between apartments, houses and hotels where an infestation is present. Used furniture, especially bed frames and mattresses, is the greatest risk to bed bugs and their eggs. Since they can easily survive for many months without food, bed bugs can already be present in apparently “empty” and “clean” homes. Bed bugs can migrate between neighboring homes through voids in walls and holes that have wires and pipes running through them. They have also been seen crawling from one unit to another via corridors in hotels.
Bed bugs are nocturnal when they leave their resting place deep in cracks and crevices during the day to seek a meal of blood. Adult male and female bed bugs and nymphs (young) feed on blood and then retreat to day hiding places where they lay their eggs. A person does not feel that the bite is taking place. It is the saliva that causes the severe itching and wheals the next day. People often think that the bites are caused by mosquitoes or spiders. Some people have no bite reaction for 4-5 days. Others may not respond to the bites at all.
Other insects like spiders can cause bites in humans, so it’s important to properly identify bed bugs if they are present. Checking bed linen in the middle of the night is a great way to find bed bugs on the go. Look for bed bugs under folds in mattresses, along seams, and behind headboards. A sweet, pungent odor and fecal (black) or bloody stains on the bedding are indications of a large bed bug infestation.
Live or dead bed bugs, plaster skins, and eggs from an infested room or residence can be submitted to the health department for identification. Other insects can be mistaken for the bed bugs, so proper identification is important.
Treatment and control
A licensed pest controller (PCP) should be hired to effectively eradicate bed bugs. After careful inspection of infested and adjacent rooms, an approved insecticide with a long-lasting effect should be applied. A follow-up pest control assessment is recommended as a second application of insecticide may be required.
Mattresses and box spring beds can be vacuumed, cleaned with steam and treated with a PCP. You should then be wrapped in a bed bug-proof zippered cover. If the PCP requires the mattress and box spring to be disposed of, they should be treated first and then wrapped in plastic before being removed and placed in a locked dumpster or sent to a landfill.
A strong vacuum can be used to remove insects and eggs from cracks and crevices. A steam cleaner is useful for killing nymphs and eggs on all surfaces. Clothes can be washed in hot water and dried on a hot cycle. Placing non-washable items like tennis shoes in a dryer for 5 minutes on moderate heat will kill bugs and eggs.
Particular attention should be paid to beds with headboards attached to the wall or welded-in mattress frames, as these offer excellent hiding places. Bed bug infestations in these areas can escape detection and treatment with insecticides.
Good housekeeping practices, such as vacuuming and washing the bedclothes regularly, will help deter bed bugs. Eliminating hiding by caulking cracks and crevices is also a good idea. Don’t buy used mattresses or stuffed furniture because of the current bed bug epidemic.
Since bat and bird beetles can also ingest a meal of blood from humans, get rid of them and their nests from chimneys, attics, and gutters. The removal of the nest should include insecticide treatment to control any bat or bird beetles left behind.
References and resources
Potter, Michael F., (2006) Bed Bugs. University of Kentucky, Cooperative Counseling Service.
Cooper, Richard, (2004) Bed Bug Central, your online resource from the bed bug experts.
Knight, Jeff, State Entomologist, Nevada State Department of Agriculture. From an unpublished interview about bed bugs and their control in the state.
Bed bugs and related species
Bed bug control brochure
Bed bug guide for motel managers
Photo credit: Piotr Naskrecki
Last changed on May 2nd, 2021