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.
You may be tempted to take treatment into your own hands. The nonchemical treatment options — such as heating and freezing — can help reduce the number of bedbugs you’re dealing with but probably won’t get rid of the population completely. Eggs and young bedbugs can be incredibly difficult to locate since they can be small enough to fit inside the head of a screw, Lazarus says.
Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
The type of reaction provoked depends on previous exposure; repeated bites may lead to an allergic reaction, which may lead to pronounced cutaneous manifestations. Some patients show a severe systemic hypersensitivity to arthropod allergens. The site of the bite can also become secondarily infected with bacteria infection and lead to ecthyma, cellulitis, and/or lymphangitis.
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.
Bed bugs are active mainly at night. During the daytime, they prefer to hide close to where people sleep. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices--especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Characteristically, these areas are marked by dark spotting and staining, which is the dried excrement of the bugs. Also present will be hatched and un-hatched eggs, the tannish shed skins of maturing nymphs, and the bugs themselves. Another possible sign are rusty or reddish smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushed engorged bed bugs. Although it’s often stated that bed bugs have a telltale “buggy” odor, the smell is seldom evident except in extreme infestations and should not be relied upon for detection.
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.

Because bed bugs have become so prevalent in the past few years, many fear they’ll be their next victim. They became so anxious and paranoid of the possible bed bug presence. If you eliminate the pests though, you could have a certain sense of peace knowing that you would not be bothered or bitten them. However, you wouldn’t be able to sleep well for long if you would not kill bed bugs right and continuously do the bed bug preventive steps.
Bedbugs reproduce by a gruesome strategy appropriately named "traumatic insemination," in which the male stabs the female's abdomen and injects sperm into the wound. During their life cycle, females can lay more than 200 eggs, which hatch and go through five immature "nymph" stages before reaching their adult form, molting after each phase. [Infographic: Bedbugs: The Life of a Mini-Monster]
Traps aren’t an effective way to wipe out a bed bug infestation, but they’re an excellent way to determine whether you have them. Set traps in areas where they may hide or travel, like near baseboard trim or under nightstands. If they aren’t living in your mattress or other parts of your bed, that means they need to travel up the legs of the bed frame to get to you, so place traps there as well.
To use sprays effectively to eliminate all traces of bed bugs, you need to know the signs of a bed bug infestation. The first sign that you may have bedbugs are some itchy bite marks on your skin when you wake up in the morning. Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the bites from bed bugs cause red itchy bumps on the skin.3 You can learn about their other signs and symptoms in my articles on what do bed bug bites look like.
^ Anderson, J. F.; Ferrandino, F. J.; McKnight, S.; Nolen, J.; Miller, J. (2009). "A carbon dioxide, heat and chemical lure trap for the bed bug, Cimex lectularius" (PDF). Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 23 (2): 99–105. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2915.2008.00790.x. PMID 19499616. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 August 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2010.

Insecticide Application This is the most common way to get rid of bedbugs, Lazarus says. Oftentimes, the professional will use several different products to effectively treat the area, though it may take a few rounds to ensure removal. “The advantage to this method is that the residual insecticide will continue to offer protection for a period of time,” Lazarus says. “The biggest drawback is that the preparation for service is time-consuming and must be repeated prior to each service.”
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. 
Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
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. 
DIY heat treatments most often just drive bed bugs deep into wall voids and hard-to-reach spaces in a structure. When the heat is turned off, the bugs return to living and sleeping areas. It has no impact at all. But, in worst case scenarios, where desperate people have gone to greater lengths to destroy these tormenting pests, it has resulted in damage to belongings, the death of pets, structural fires, and in tragic cases, a loss of human life.
Bed bugs feed exclusively at night. They take approximately three to five minutes to engorge on blood. Once feeding is complete, they return to their harborage. Feedings take place every few days and nymphs require approximately six blood meals for complete development. Humans are the preferred host for the common bed bug, but it will feed readily on other animals, such as poultry, mice, rats, canaries, dogs, and cats, when necessary. Normally the bugs feed at night, but they will feed during daylight hours in places such as theaters, offices, and rest rooms that are not ordinarily used at night.
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.
×