We are often asked, "How do you kill bed bugs?" While we would love to give a simple answer, this is actually a loaded question. There are many ways to kill a bed bug but, if you want to kill all of the bed bugs in your home or business, it is important to pay attention to the details. Here are some ways you can kill bed bugs, and what you should know about each.
It’s perfectly natural to want to eliminate a bed bug infestation without spending a ton of money on professional-grade products or a treatment by a pest control operator. When people discover that they have bed bugs, they often turn to do-it-yourself recommendations from discussions on the Internet. These suggestions might include household items, some of which are recommended more often than others. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular items and how they might be used against bed bugs:
Dogs have been sniffing out insects such as termites for many years, and are now being used as inspection tools for bed bug detection. But while companies using dogs may advertise them as being highly accurate in finding bed bugs, one should not get the impression that dogs are infallible or that they are in all ways superior to human inspectors. Research on the effectiveness of dogs as bed bug detectors suggests that for those who would employ dogs, the message is buyer beware. There appears to be great variance in the accuracy of bed bug dogs, and even well-trained dogs are subject to missing bed bugs and to giving “false positives” (signaling the presence of bed bugs where there are none).
Occasionally, you might find other bugs which resemble the common bed bug including the bat bug and swallow bug. Both of these species superficially resemble the common bed bug. However, their primary hosts are bats and birds and there are small but diagnostic morphological differences. Problem infestations with these bugs may occur in attics or unused chimneys. Typically, when one host is gone these bugs seek an alternative host blood meal. This is when humans are bitten. It is important to differentiate between the common bed bug and other bugs that feed on bats and birds because control efforts can be targeted at the wrong sites and infestations can continue.
A variety of low-odor sprays, dusts, and aerosol insecticides help with bed bug control. People must apply these pesticides to all areas where the bugs are observed as well as hiding places or spaces where they may crawl. The pest control company can help you determine if an infested mattress can be disinfected or must be discarded. Since beds cannot readily be treated with insecticides, it's often necessary to discard infested mattresses and beds.
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. When these allergens come in contact with the body, it causes the immune system to develop an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to it. It is estimated that 50 million North Americans are affected by allergic conditions. The parts of the body that are prone to react to allergies include the eyes, nose, lungs, skin, and stomach. Common allergic disorders include hay fever, asthma, allergic eyes, allergic eczema, hives, and allergic shock.
Bedbug bites themselves are typically painless. However, the subsequent allergic reaction that may develop can cause intense pruritus. While feeding, bedbugs may inject one of several pharmacologically active substances, including hyaluronidase, proteases, and kinins. These compounds may induce different skin reactions, such as erythema, wheals, vesicles, or hemorrhagic nodules. Repeated bites may sensitize individuals, leading to more pronounced cutaneous manifestations or systemic hypersensitivity reactions. The local trauma from bedbug bites can lead to secondary bacterial infection, causing ecthyma, cellulitis, or lymphangitis. There is some evidence that bedbugs may also be a vector for hepatitis B and Chagas disease. Histologic findings from bite-site biopsy specimens typically show eosinophilic infiltrates, which are indicative of the allergic nature of the reaction. The image shown is papular urticaria, which may develop from bedbug bites.
We are often asked, "How do you kill bed bugs?" While we would love to give a simple answer, this is actually a loaded question. There are many ways to kill a bed bug but, if you want to kill all of the bed bugs in your home or business, it is important to pay attention to the details. Here are some ways you can kill bed bugs, and what you should know about each.

I work @ a hotel, and just found out that one of the rooms has a bed bug problem. I work at the front desk, and never go into the rooms. But i work third shift, and sleep in the chair in the lobby. Just wanted to know what my chances were of catching them? I will be going home and looking just to make sure. But since i work here, and its un-avoidable, what are some things i can do to protect myself from taking them home?

Apply as a coarse, low-pressure spray to harborage areas including crevices, baseboards, loose plaster, behind bed frames and headboards, beneath beds and furniture, and to bedsprings and bed frames. After removal of bed linens, apply Transport Mikron to mattress and boxsprings. Apply to tufts, edges, seams and folds (do not spray clothes or bed linens). Your may apply it to furniture, but not to areas where there is direct access to seating or arm placements. Infested bed linens should not be treated, but should be removed, placed in sealed plastic bags, and taken for laundering and drying at high temperatures.

Apply residual Bed Bug Insecticide Spray. After every crack, crevice, switch plate, electrical switch, baseboard, box springs, mattress, etc, has been treated and everything is put back, it is time for the residual treatment. Using a hand held sprayer such as the Chapin Sure Spray apply Optimate, Cy-Kick, Suspend SC or Demand along the baseboards in the bedroom and closet, under and around the bed, behind the headboard, inside bed stands etc.

But the bites will look different from person to person, and some people won’t develop any reaction whatsoever. “The same bedbug could bite two different people and one could have no reaction at all and the other can have an extreme reaction with a swollen arm or itchy rash,” says Eric Braun, a board-certified entomologist and business manager for the national pest control company Rentokil Steritech, who is based in Redding, Pennsylvania. Some people end up developing a rash that looks like eczema. (5)


Bedbugs are diagnosed in two ways. The first is the appearance of bites on your body. However, these are very similar to other insect bites and can appear days after being bitten. Finding the signs of bedbugs in your sleeping environment is more conclusive evidence that there is an infestation. You will usually do your own self-diagnosis, but you might see a doctor due to unexplained bite marks or a skin infection after scratching. Learn how to determine whether you have been bitten by bedbugs.

Dismantling bed frames in infested areas typically exposes bed bug hiding sites. Having access to these areas during cleaning is important. Stand up the box spring and shine a flashlight through the gauze fabric and look for bed bugs. If the fabric is torn (possible hiding place), remove fabric to prepare for spraying. If the mattress and or box springs are infested, you may want to consider Encasements by Mattress Safe. Once covered with these encasements, bed bugs can not enter or exit. There is no need to treat the mattress or box spring when using these encasements. Keep them on for a year.
As mentioned earlier, applying insect repellent at bedtime will probably not deter bed bugs from biting. When working in severely infested dwellings, there may be some benefit to spraying tops and bottoms of shoes with DEET-based repellents. Those working in bed bug-infested environments may also want to hot wash or run clothing, etc. through a dryer upon returning home or to the office.    
Heat treatments of this type are advantageous because they present no pesticide hazard. However, they also provide no residual activity. That is, they do not prevent a structure from being re-infested after it is heat treated. For this reason, residual pesticides are often applied in conjunction with heat treatments. Such applications may not prevent re-infestation, but help control any bed bugs not killed by the heat. A certain percentage of heat treatments, perhaps 10 to 20 percent, fail to kill all the bed bugs present. Often this is due to residents failing to adequately prepare the premises for heating.
"By every metric that we use, it's getting worse and worse," says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Health authorities and pest control operators are regularly flooded with calls, and the epidemic may not have yet peaked. And because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are no high or low seasons throughout the year, he adds, only continual bombardment. "It's just the beginning of the problem in the U.S.," Schal says.
Bed bugs are tiny, flat, wingless insects that range in color from nearly white to deep brown/reddish. The parasitic pests get their name from their hiding spot of choice – they prefer burrowing into bed frames and mattresses during the day, then become active at night when they feed on people and pets. Bed bugs are resilient pests that can hitch a ride on luggage, furniture, storage boxes, backpacks and clothing (but rarely humans), very quickly causing an infestation.
Alcohol. 90% works best. On contact … also…they go where the blood is…. you must wash everything in very hot water. Then put freshly washed and folded clothes in clean plastic bags. Store for as long as possible… spray Carpet.. baseboards..clothes bedding..mattresses.. etc.. etc.. you can buy a large sprayer at walmart for $5.00 . Saves time… do not spray alcohol on some items. It will ruin. Your leather…shoes. Luggage purses..etc..
Some oils like tea tree and neem oil can't kill bedbugs, but they work well to repel them. Tea tree oil is an extract from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant—it can cause various health problems with pet birds, cats, and small dogs. If there are pets in the house, look for other safer choices. If you use the oil, apply it in small quantities to the skin to repel bed bugs. Since bed bugs are active at night, apply it before bedtime.
Traditional methods of repelling and/or killing bed bugs include the use of plants, fungi, and insects (or their extracts), such as black pepper;[54] black cohosh (Actaea racemosa); Pseudarthria hookeri; Laggera alata (Chinese yángmáo cǎo | 羊毛草);[15] Eucalyptus saligna oil;[55][56] henna (Lawsonia inermis or camphire);[57] "infused oil of Melolontha vulgaris" (presumably cockchafer); fly agaric (Amanita muscaria); tobacco; "heated oil of Terebinthina" (i.e. true turpentine); wild mint (Mentha arvensis); narrow-leaved pepperwort (Lepidium ruderale); Myrica spp. (e.g. bayberry); Robert geranium (Geranium robertianum); bugbane (Cimicifuga spp.); "herb and seeds of Cannabis"; "opulus" berries (possibly maple or European cranberrybush); masked hunter bugs (Reduvius personatus), "and many others".[58]
The main reason people seem to favor the essential oil option is that it’s considered a natural and chemical-free alternative to pesticide sprays. What they don’t realize is that today’s home pesticides are carefully regulated by the EPA to make sure that they’re safe for indoor use. The EPA also requires that health and safety guidelines are included in the product label and MSDS, to ensure that anyone who uses a spray has instructions on how to use it safely and effectively. When used correctly, even our strongest bed bug sprays won’t have any effect on you, but they will kill bed bugs more effectively than any mixture of household items like herbs or oils.
First up are the contact sprays, like STERI-FAB and JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs. These will kill quickly, but evaporate shortly after, leaving no long-lasting protection. Spray along baseboards, below drawers and on drawer slides, behind cabinets, and behind night stands. Follow up with a residual spray, such as Bedlam Plus and JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus. Residual sprays will offer long-lasting protection against bed bugs and hatchlings. Bedlam Plus is ideal for cracks and crevices throughout the room, while JT Eaton Plus can be used below the cushions and bases of sofas, chairs, edges of carpets and other fabric items.
Inspection for bed bug infestations must be very thorough. Your primary tool is a flashlight. Since bed bugs are cryptic insects and spend most of their time hiding, you will need a flashlight to find them. You must move and/or disassemble some items while searching including beds, dressers, carpets and rugs. While you inspect, be alert for a bed bug smell which has been described as an obnoxious sweetness or fresh, red raspberries. You should also look for accumulations of cast nymphal skins and for stains of blood spots on sheets and linens. A common location for bed bug infestations is a box spring. The framework is often made of wood and contains cracks can crevices suitable for harborage. Other common areas include wall voids, behind switch plates, interior corners of bedside tables, under the edges of wall to wall carpeting, couches and stuffed chairs.

Español: tratar las picaduras de chinches, Deutsch: Bettwanzenbisse behandeln, Português: Tratar Picadas de Percevejos, Italiano: Trattare le Punture delle Cimici da Letto, Français: traiter des piqures de punaises de lit, Русский: лечить укусы клопов, 中文: 应对床虱叮咬, Nederlands: Bedwantsbeten behandelen, Čeština: Jak léčit štípance od štěnic, Bahasa Indonesia: Mengobati Gigitan Kutu Ranjang, Tiếng Việt: Trị Vết cắn Bọ rệp, 日本語: トコジラミの刺し跡を治療する, العربية: معالجة لدغات البقّ المنزلي, 한국어: 빈대에 물린 상처를 치료하는 법, ไทย: รักษารอยตัวเรือดกัด

Research has shown that some bed bugs are resistant to the pyrethroid pesticides that have been most commonly used in recent years by pest management professionals. Likewise, pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and permethrin have been among the active ingredients most commonly available in pesticides at retail stores. The ongoing use of pyrethroids has undoubtedly contributed to the resistance we see today in some bed bug populations.
When professionals need to treat an infestation, they don’t reach for rubbing alcohol or cedar oil or a blow dryer. They use a proven treatment process that involves a combination of proven products to get the job done. It’s not about whether or not a certain item can kill bed bugs, it’s about whether that item is the ideal part of a treatment that will actually get rid of an infestation. After all, your shoe would have a 100% kill rate on any bed bugs you smack with it – that doesn’t mean you can expect to be bed bug free after a diligent afternoon of shoe-wielding.
According to textile experts (Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, Laurel, MD), most garments designated as ‘dry-clean only’ (e.g., cotton, wool, silk, linen, rayon, nylon) will not be harmed provided they are dry before being placed in a clothes dryer at a moderate temperature setting. Dry cleaning procedures also kill bed bugs, but there is a risk of infesting the establishment when buggy items are tagged and sorted. 
Do encasements work? Yes. When you put an encasement on your mattress or box spring you can lock bed bugs in and prevent new bed bugs from getting in. No chemical control is needed, so you don't have to worry about being poisoned by powders or some other toxin in your bed. The problem is that encasements by themselves, or when used with traps, are simply a bandaid. They are not likely to contain or stop a bed bug infestation. As mentioned above, this method can lead to the growth of an infestation and, ultimately, a prolonged and frustrating infestation.
While alcohol can kill bed bugs on contact, it’s not going to kill nearly enough of bed bugs to be considered effective. In lab studies, even 99 percent concentrations of alcohol only killed between 40% to 60% of the adults that were sprayed. On top of that, alcohol has no long-lasting residual effect, and doesn’t affect bed bug eggs. 60% sounds good, but a contact killer should be able to kill a lot closer to 100% of the bed bugs you see. Otherwise, a shoe or a blowtorch would be the more reliable tool for the job. (Editor’s note: please don’t use a blowtorch.)
Begin by reducing clutter in the room; things like clothes, books, and other personal belongings shouldn’t be left on the floor, as they make treatment more difficult and add hiding places for bed bugs and eggs. Seal those items in garbage bags and store them away from the room. Any clothing that was picked up or removed from dresser drawers should be dried on high heat for at least 45 minutes. Once treated, clothing that you don’t normally wear should be stored inside garbage bags outside of the infested room.
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Bed bugs like to travel and are good hitchhikers. They will hide in suitcases, boxes and shoes to be near a food supply. They are elusive, nocturnal creatures. They can hide behind baseboards and in cracks, crevices, and folded areas of beds, bedding and adjacent furniture, especially mattresses and box springs. Bed bugs can also hide in electrical switchplates, picture frames, wallpaper and nearly anywhere inside a home, car, bus, or other shelter. Bed bugs usually come out at night for a blood meal. However, they are opportunistic insects and can take a blood meal during the day, especially in heavily-infested areas. Bed bugs usually require 5-10 minutes to engorge with blood. After feeding, they move to secluded places and hide for 5-10 days. During this time in the bed bug life cycle, they do not feed but instead digest their meal, mate, and lay eggs.
Next, vacuum and steam along baseboards, window sills, and the edge of the carpet. When you’re done vacuuming, the bag or canister should be cleaned or discarded to limit exposure of bed bugs to other parts of the home. The steamer can also be used to treat sofas, chairs, furniture, and cabinets. When applying steam, remember to move the nozzle slowly (about one inch per second) to ensure that all bed bugs and eggs are killed.
Although most furnishings need not be discarded, in some cases this may be necessary. This is especially true of heavily infested beds, sofas and recliners where bugs and eggs often reside in hard-to-reach places. Consequently, pest control firms may recommend such items be discarded, especially when in poor condition. When infested items are discarded, bagging or wrapping them prevents dislodgement of bugs en route to the trash. 

I'm a former scientist, using words and an audio recorder as my new research tools to untangle the health and food issues that matter most to consumers. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I cook as much as possible. You can find me in the grocery aisle scrutinizing the fine print of every food item I put into my cart. Follow me on Twitter @juliacalderone.
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