Pyrethroid sprays are among the stronger and longer-lasting pesticides, but most bed bugs are resistant to these sprays to some degree. Special care should be taken when using pyrethroid sprays, especially when children are present. Only use pyrethroids in places indicated on the label. Do not spray electrical outlets with any type of liquid spray. Spraying should be done when children are not present, and all label directions followed carefully.
Bed bugs can survive more than a year without feeding, but most adults and nymphs probably do not live more than six months without a meal. This ability lets them wait for transient hosts that periodically inhabit camp cabins, apartments and temporary housing. It also helps them survive transportation. Today, bed bugs “hitchhike” more easily than ever, via public transportation and luggage, and in secondhand furniture, mattresses, bedding and clothing. In multi-unit buildings, bed bug infestations that are not adequately attended to often spread between units with or without human help, making eradication much more difficult and costly.
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)
Move your bed away from any other points of contact, like walls, nightstands, and other furniture. Tuck in or remove any hanging skirts or sheets, and remove any storage under the bed that is touching any part of the frame. The only thing your bed should be touching is the floor via its legs. If you don’t have a bed frame with legs, you should purchase one to sleep in, at least until you are bed bug free.
The life cycle stages of a bed bug are egg, nymph, and adult. The reason they are called bed bugs is that they readily infest mattresses, bed frames and box springs. Eggs are laid along the edges of or around buttons on the mattresses. Eggs can also be glued to rough surfaces. Bed bug females lay about 200 eggs, usually at the rate of three or four a day. Eggs are placed in cracks, crevices and other isolated and protected shelters. Females lay eggs after a blood meal. Eggs will hatch in one or two weeks into Nymphs. Newly hatched bugs (Nymphs) begin feeding immediately. At room temperature, and with an available food supply, the nymphal period will last 14 to 30 days. They shed their skin (Instar) five times before becoming adults. Bed bugs will mate soon after becoming mature, so the time from egg hatch to egg laying is 4 to 9 weeks, under favorable conditions. The average life span of the bed bug is 6-12 months and they feed every 10 days or so during this time. Bed bugs can survive many months without a blood meal and their reproduction is high.
Bed bugs are very hardy insects. Both adults and nymphs can survive prolonged periods without food or under adverse temperature conditions. Adults can live for a year or longer without feeding and can survive over winter in an unheated building. Nymphs are not as hardy as adults, but they can survive for considerable periods under adverse conditions.
These nocturnal creatures can hide in beds, floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day. We humans usually become their dinner during the night, with peak biting activity just before dawn.They can obtain their meal in as little as three minutes, after which they are engorged and drop off the host, then crawl into a hiding place to digest their meal. Bedbugs can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.
Skin reactions from bed bug bites vary from person to person. Bites may go unnoticed or may be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other skin conditions. The most common skin reaction to bed bug bites are itchy red bite marks that appear clustered or in a straight line, often along the edge of clothing or where sheets were pulled up to a person's skin. Small swollen red bumps are also common. In rare cases, people may develop large, often itchy, red welts. A single bed bug bite is similar to a flea bite, except that a red area does not occur in the center. Flea bites tend to be found around the ankles while bed bugs tend to bite any exposed area of the body while a person is sleeping, such as the face, neck, arms, hands, or legs.
If you arrive home and discover that you have brought some unwanted guests home with you, immediately notify the hotel of your discovery. Having a possible infestation in hotels and motels can be a public relations nightmare for the owners. Politely ask them to pay for any and all costs incurred to rid your clothing and home of a possible new infestation.
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.
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.
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.
Systematically treat the room–all cracks and crevices around windows, outlets, blinds, pictures, posters and clocks on walls, baseboards, under edges of carpets and any other crevices or void areas in the room. Remember that immature bed bugs are very tiny. Dozens of bed bugs can hide in a recessed screw hole in a bed frame or dresser. Therefore it’s important that no hiding place be overlooked. Treatment can include vacuuming, but should not be limited to vacuuming only. Vacuums do not remove eggs, and will likely not remove all bed bugs from deeply infested cracks and crevices. Vacuums can remove many bed bugs from mattresses and the exterior of box springs (remember to immediately double-bag the vacuum bag after cleaning and dispose of outside in a trash can or dumpster). Sticky tape is another method of picking up bed bugs from furniture, walls, etc.
Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.
Individual responses to bites vary, ranging from no visible effect (in about 20–70%), to small macular spots, to prominent wheals and bullae formations along with intense itching that may last several days. The bites often occur in a line. A central spot of bleeding may also occur due to the release of anticoagulants in the bug's saliva.
As bed bugs grow they molt, shedding their skin five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is needed between each successive molt. Adult females also must feed in order to lay eggs. Under favorable conditions (70-80°F), the bugs can mature fully in as little as a month, producing multiple generations per year. Cooler temperatures or limited access to blood prolong the development time.
Minimize its spread. First, notify your landlord if you rent in a building to control its spread to other units. Thoroughly vacuum any infested areas, including carpets and mattresses, and then empty the vacuum bag into a plastic bag, seal it, and throw it in the trash outside. If you can’t get the bed bugs out of your furniture, discard items in a responsible manner. To avoid someone else from salvaging infested furniture or mattreses, rip, remove stuffing, or spray paint with the words “bed bugs.”