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Bed Bugs

How Do I Know I Have Bed Bugs?



• Eggs are pearly white and & only 1mm in length

• First stage immature bed bugs are only 1mm in length

• First stage immatures are pale in color and are somewhat translucent

• Immature bugs go through five developmental stages becoming larger with each stage

• Adult bed bugs are approximately 1/4" in length and are reddish-brown in color


• A physical sample of an actual bug or egg is required to be 100% certain that you have bed bugs

• Bite symptoms are a good indicator but cannot be diagnosed with 100% certainty

• The most effective inspections are conducted by a qualified pest management professional

The only way to know for sure if you have bed bugs, is to produce an actual sample of the bug itself. Do not automatically assume that any bite-like mark is a bed bug bite. Also it is important to realize that medical professionals cannot give a positive diagnosis simply by examining bite symptoms, they can only suggest some possible explanations for what may have caused the bites/symptoms to occur. Obviously if you see bugs in your home associated with your bedding or other furniture, you should have it examined by a professional that is qualified to provide a positive identification. However, if you are experiencing bites but have not seen any bugs, you should consider the circumstances in which the bites are occurring. For example, there is a very good chance that you have bed bugs if you keep repeatedly waking up each morning with bite symptoms on your body that were not present when you went to sleep. A situation like this would be a good reason to have a pest management professional perform an inspection to identify if bed bugs are present. On the other hand, bites that occur at various times of the day in various locations such as at home, in the car, at work, etc. are much less likely to be caused by bed bugs. It is also important to realize that just because you have looked for bed bugs and could not find them, does not mean that they are not there. These insects lead a very cryptic and secretive lifestyle and will often go undetected. It is best to have a highly trained professional conduct the inspection for you.

Occasionally you may see evidence of a bed bug infestation without actually seeing any bed bugs. Bed bugs leave fecal stains in the areas they inhabit. These stains are actually partially digested blood but remember that it will not be red unless you crush a bed bug that has just recently fed. As the blood is digested it turns black and therefore the bed bug droppings usually consist of several black spots in one area. The fecal spots will not flake off if rubbed and will smear if wiped with a wet rag.

Bed bugs may in fact be the most challenging pest problem currently facing the pest control industry. There are many pests that homeowners may decide to try and control on their own but bed bugs should not be one of them. Even the most experienced pest management firms will have their work cut out for them and it may be difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee the total elimination of bed bugs from some infested environments. Reduction of bed bug populations is not difficult in most cases, however it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible to eliminate every last bug in some situations. If even one adult female survives, the environment may become re-infested. For this reason it is difficult to guarantee bed bug work. For example, one adult female may be hiding inside the binding of a book sitting on a bookshelf, another may be located beneath a floor board etc. These small pockets of bugs allow the infestation to continue at low levels and make elimination an uncertainty. The consumer needs to be aware that 100% elimination cannot always be guaranteed with current conventional pest management methods. When dealing with a company that is offering a guarantee, consumers should inquire what the guarantee really covers, does it guarantee complete elimination and how long is the guarantee? Most guarantees will be limited to no longer than a few months due to the potential for re-introduction of new bugs into the environment.

The bottom line is that bed bug work requires a highly trained professional. It takes hard work, follow-up efforts and it can be expensive.

I Have Bed Bugs, Now What?


• Bed bugs are best handled by a professional

• Physical methods such as vacuuming or hot laundering can be helpful

• Vacuums that are used to remove bed bugs can become infested

• Beds do not have to be thrown out, they can be saved by using an appropriate mattress & box spring encasement (learn more)

• Sleeping in a different room or vacating the structure is not a solution and can make the problem more difficult to eliminate

1. Contact a professional

The complete elimination of bedbugs requires highly trained and licensed individuals knowledgeable in bed bug biology, behavior, and the proper use of pesticides. There is little chance that you will be able to eliminate the problem on your own. Most commercially available pesticides are not designed for bed bugs and the use of these products (while they may kill some bed bugs) will only spread the bed bugs to remote areas and make the problem much more difficult to solve. While professionals should only handle chemical remedies, there are many non-chemical measures you can take to help eliminate the problem and speed up the results of your bed bug program. These techniques are discussed below.

2. Remove bed bugs

Just because you have bed bugs does not mean that you have to wait for a professional to kill them. You can simply crush them with a rag (although this may stain surfaces) or remove them with a vacuum. Regularly inspecting and vacuuming your mattress and box spring is a very effective way to reduce large numbers of bed bugs quickly. However, it is important to note that bed bugs can readily infest vacuums. To reduce the likelihood of the vacuum becoming infested you should choose a vacuum that empties into a vacuum bag instead of a filter. A vacuum bag can be easily disposed of while a filter is difficult to completely empty and eggs can easily lodge in places that you cannot see. Also, avoid using vacuum attachments that have brushes or bristles. Instead use the open end of the hose. Vacuuming up a little bit of talcum/baby powder before you start vacuuming and just after you finish may also help reduce the survival rate of some of the bugs that are vacuumed up. As soon as you are done vacuuming, the vacuum bag should be tied shut in a trash bag and discarded outside of the home. You should also inspect the housing of the vacuum where the bag attaches to the hose as some bugs may escape the vacuum bag. If you have a bag less vacuum, the contents of the canister should be emptied into a trash bag and tied shut. The canister should then be washed to remove any remaining bed bugs or eggs. If you are concerned about the vacuum becoming infested then you should not follow this recommendation.

3. Eliminate clutter

Clutter is a bed bug's best friend and a pest management professional's worst enemy. Clutter provides an infinite number of areas for bed bugs to hide and creates areas that cannot be effectively treated by your pest management professional. These areas are a safe haven for bed bugs. Cluttered areas can cause the complete failure of a bed bug control program. If cluttered conditions persist, your pest management professional may only be able to reduce the number of bed bugs and never completely eliminate the problem. Do your best to eliminate clutter.

4. Do not store items under bed

Related to #3, items stored under the bed give bed bugs additional undisturbed areas to hide protected from any chemical treatments.

5. Launder items regularly

Heat is deadly to bedbug. Exposing them to temperatures in excess of 115oF for at least five minutes can kill all stages of bed bugs including the eggs. Hot laundering can be a highly effective method for dealing with any item that can be safely placed in a clothes dryer on high heat. Linens should be laundered regularly (preferably weekly) in hot water and dried in the hot cycle of your dryer to kill any bed bugs or eggs on the items. Even of you do not see any bedbugs on the items, female bedbugs drop eggs randomly as they roam. These eggs are very tiny and will not be noticed on your linens. Washing the linens will remove and kill these eggs. Likewise, if your couch is infested, you can also remove the cushion covers (if possible) and launder them as well.

6. Install mattress and box spring encasements

There are many mattress and box spring encasements available to the consumer; however most of these encasements have not been designed specifically for use with bed bugs. Instead most encasements available to the consumer are designed to either protect the bed from becoming stained or provide relief for people with allergies to dust mites. This does not mean that they will be effective for bed bugs. It is very important to be sure that the encasement that you purchase has been specifically designed for bed bugs and has scientific data to support the effectiveness of the product.

Once beds are encased any bugs that may be trapped within the encasement will unable to escape or feed and will eventually die. In addition, once the beds are protected, other bed bugs cannot penetrate the encasement and thus cannot infest the mattress or box spring. Instead, bed bugs are restricted to the surface of the encasement where they are easy to spot and remove. In addition to playing an important role in managing a bed bug infestation, encasements can also be a very useful pro-active tool to help aid in the early detection of bed bugs should they be introduced into a dwelling that was not previously infested. Finally, it is important that the encasements are kept in good condition. Any rips in the encasements will allow bed bugs to enter and exit the encasement.

7. Do not change where you sleep

Some people believe that they can avoid bed bugs by sleeping in a different area of their home. Once people identify that their bed is infested they will often begin sleeping in a different bedroom or on the sofa. Bed bugs have evolved over millions of years to be very adept at locating potential hosts to feed on. If you move to a different area of the home to sleep, the bed bugs will find you. Changing where you sleep is likely to promote the movement of bugs throughout the structure and make it more difficult to eliminate the infestation. Even if you move out of your home, you risk bringing bed bugs with you to your temporary residence and infesting that area as well. Not only can you spread the bed bugs, but when you return home the bugs will be waiting to greet you. Remember, bed bugs can survive many months, and in some cases up to a year or more without feeding. Although it sounds like a grim choice, it is best to continue sleeping in the infested area until the bed bugs are eliminated.

8. Do not immediately throw items away

For many people, the immediate reaction to a bed bug infestation is to throw the infested items away. This is unnecessary and could possibly make the problem worse. As items are carried through the home to be discarded, bed bugs can fall off of the item and be spread throughout the home to uninfected areas. Also, you are eliminating the harborages for these bed bugs and disturbing them. This may cause the bed bugs to move to find other places to live and spread the problem. In addition, discarded items are often picked up by other people (maybe even your neighbor), spreading the problem to new areas. In some circumstances when the item is in poor condition or is highly infested, discarding the item is the best option. However, this is best left to a professional so that the item can be discarded properly without spreading the problem.

How Long Does It Take To Control Bed Bugs?

The time required to achieve control can vary greatly. It is best to view bed bug control as an ongoing effort that may require numerous visits to inspect and re-treat the infested areas. In most cases, bed bugs infestations can be resolved in three to four visits. In most situations, the bed bug populations should be dramatically reduced following the initial visit. Some bugs may continue to persist and it is these smaller populations that require a dedicated and persistent follow up effort to eliminate. The number of bugs and bites experienced by the homeowner should be minimal during the remainder of the management program. To date there are no effective monitoring tools available for bed bugs. Many companies will place insect glue boards or sticky traps out to monitor for bed bugs. There is nothing wrong with this practice, however, it should be understood that this is not a reliable monitoring method and the absence of bed bugs on these traps does not accurately reflect if bed bugs are present or not. The only true indicator that bed bugs are no longer present is the absence of bites. However, it is risky to assume that the bed bugs have been eliminated after only a few weeks of "bug-free" or "bite-free" time. Instead, a period of approximately 60 consecutive days of "bug-free" and "bite-free" time will provide a much greater level of confidence that the problem has truly been eliminated.

What Should I Do With My Bed?


• It is usually not necessary to discard bed bug infested beds

• Discarding of infested beds is rarely a solution

• New beds that are purchased to replace discarded beds often become infested

• It is not necessary to treat beds with pesticides

• Non chemical methods can be a very effective way of dealing with bed bug infested beds

• Mattress and box spring encasements are among the most effective methods for bed bug infested beds.

• Encasements can be used to protect replacement beds or to salvage existing beds

One of the biggest misconceptions about bed bugs is that infestations are limited to the bed. For this reason, many people throw their bed(s) away believing that this will solve their problem. Unfortunately, discarding the mattress and the box spring rarely solves the problem and new beds that are purchased and brought into the home often become infested by bugs that were still present in the structure. This can obviously become very expensive and raises the following question: Just how many beds can you afford to throw away if your new beds keep getting infested? There are a number of factors that you should consider when deciding how to deal with infested beds. Each of the options is discussed below:

Discarding Beds

You should not discard your bed because you feel you have to. However, there are benefits to getting rid of infested bedding if you decide that you want to. While it is true that in most situations bugs will be located in areas away from the bed, the majority of bugs will in fact be associated with the mattress and box spring. As a result, discarding the bed is a very effective way of immediately eliminating a large percentage of the bed bug population. It may make even more sense to discard the beds if the bed is severely infested, if it is old and in need of replacement or you emotionally can’t deal with leaving the infested bed in the home.

If you choose to throw infested beds away it is important to be careful how you go about getting rid of the bed so that you don’t create an even bigger problem. First think about what is going to happen to the infested mattress after you discard it. Is it going to be sitting out on the curbside or by a Dumpster? How long will it be sitting outside before it is collected and will some unsuspecting person pick it up before the collection truck arrives? It is important to take measures to prevent your bed bug infestation from becoming someone else’s infestation. Steps that can be taken include coordinating the discarding of the bed with the trash collection schedule to minimize the time it is left outside. Once outside of the home the bed can be spray painted or marked indicating that it is infested. Regardless of how you choose to deal with the bed think about the problems that the bed could create for someone else and try to take some type of action to prevent it.

It is also extremely important to consider how you are going to get the bed out of the structure so that bugs and eggs are not dispersed during the removal process. Just imagine dragging the bed across the floor and down the stairs or carrying the bed and having it bang into a wall by accident. One option is to remove as many of the visible bugs and eggs with a canister vacuum or shop vacuum. The problem with this is that you run the risk of infesting the vacuum (see Remove Bugs). Even if you do try to remove the bugs with a vacuum, chances are you will not get all of the bugs and may still disperse them as you carry it out. It is a good idea to contain the bugs by thoroughly wrapping the bed in shrink-wrap or plastic before removing it from the structure. Even after it is wrapped the infested items should be handled carefully to avoid unnecessary bumps or jolts while carrying it out of the structure.