Waking up with bites might be the first indicator that you have a bed bug problem. Their bites are often arranged in lines or clusters on the face, neck, arms or hands. Where there are bed bugs in large numbers, you might smell a sweet, musty odor (from the bugs’ scent glands) or see rust-colored spots on your bedding or mattress caused by bed bug blood or excrement. If you look closely, you might see adult bed bugs themselves, usually in mattress folds or seams or on the wall behind the headboard. Bed bugs prefer to stay close to their food source and are typically found hiding out within 1 to 5 ft of infested beds or furniture.
Traditional methods of repelling and/or killing bed bugs include the use of plants, fungi, and insects (or their extracts), such as black pepper; black cohosh (Actaea racemosa); Pseudarthria hookeri; Laggera alata (Chinese yángmáo cǎo | 羊毛草); Eucalyptus saligna oil; henna (Lawsonia inermis or camphire); "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".
Should I worry about a tick bite? Ticks are parasites that feed on blood, and although their bites are harmless they can still transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Learn what ticks are and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a bite. This MNT Knowledge Center article also explains how to prevent tick bites. Read now
With practice and a flashlight, nonprofessionals can become proficient in finding and destroying bed bugs. The process is made easier by reducing clutter, especially in bedrooms and sleeping areas. Bugs that are spotted can be removed with a vacuum (see previous discussion), or killed with over-the-counter insecticides labeled for such use. Most bed bug sprays intended for householders have little remaining effect after the spray has dried. Therefore it’s important to initially contact as many of the insects as possible with the spray droplets. Insecticide labels should be read carefully as some bed bug products should not be used on mattresses and seating areas. Some insecticides applied as powders or dusts (e.g., diatomaceous earth) will kill bed bugs although boric acid powder will not. However powders can be messy and difficult to apply, especially by nonprofessionals. Total release foggers (otherwise known as ‘bug bombs’) are ineffective against bed bugs and potentially dangerous when used incorrectly (see University of Kentucky entomology fact sheet Limitations of Home Insect Foggers).
To know it's bedbugs, it's important to find the bugs themselves. Look at bedsheets and mattresses for little spots of blood, rusty-looking stains (crushed bugs), or black dots (bugs' poop). You might see live bugs around the seams or tags of mattresses and box springs, or in cracks of bed frames and other furniture. They can even hide in books, carpet edges, and electrical outlets.
To treat an allergic reaction, the doctor may prescribe an antihistamine, corticosteroid, or epinephrine injection. If the area is infected, he or she might prescribe an antibiotic or recommend an over-the-counter antiseptic. Finally, if it’s severe itchiness that you’re dealing with, applying corticosteroid or taking an antihistamine in pill or liquid form may be able to help.
The exact causes of this resurgence remain unclear; it is variously ascribed to greater foreign travel, increased immigration from the developing world to the developed world, more frequent exchange of second-hand furnishings among homes, a greater focus on control of other pests, resulting in neglect of bed bug countermeasures, and increasing resistance to pesticides. Declines in household cockroach populations that have resulted from the use of insecticides effective against this major bed bug predator have aided the bed bugs' resurgence, as have bans on DDT and other potent pesticides.[medical citation needed]
Specks of blood on bedding, mattresses, or upholstered furniture such as couches and headboards: Look carefully at your blankets, sheets, and mattress pads and then check the mattress and box spring. Are there specks of blood anywhere, especially near the seams? If so, there could be a bed bug infestation. You should also check for specks of blood on all upholstered furniture, including couches and headboards.
Checking beds for bed bugs was a common practice long ago, especially while traveling. Travelers today should consider doing the same, preferably before unpacking. This would entail examining the bed sheets and seams of the mattress and perhaps box spring for signs of bed bugs, especially along the head (pillow end) of the bed. Experts also remove and check behind headboards since this is a frequent hiding place for bed bugs in hotels. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves.
Bedbug bites may go unnoticed or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other types of rash or skin conditions, since the signs of bedbug bites are difficult to distinguish from other bites or skin conditions. Bedbugs also have glands whose secretions may leave musty odors, and they also may leave dark fecal spots on bed sheets and around places where they hide (in crevices or protected areas around the bed or anywhere in the room).
After bedbugs find a food source, they bite down with their mouths and inject anticoagulant and anesthetic compounds into the skin. Depending on the species, these parasites feed on the host blood via 1 of 2 mechanisms. Vessel feeders directly insert their mouthparts into superficial capillaries, whereas pool feeders damage the superficial tissue and feed on the accumulated blood. As bedbugs feed, their color may change as they swell with the host blood, as shown in this picture of a larval bedbug feeding on a volunteer host. Image courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you need to treat items that can’t be laundered or steamed, you can use a portable bed bug heater, like a ZappBug Oven or a ThermalStrike Ranger. These heaters can safely treat household items like books, papers, CDs, and dry clean only clothing. Not only are bed bug heaters an effective part of a bed bug treatment process, but they’re one of the most popular prevention tools on the market. When you come home from a trip, just put your suitcase in the heater, zip it shut, and turn it on. In just a few hours, any bed bugs or eggs hiding in your belongings will be dead.
Insect bites, including those from the bedbug, have been proposed as a factor contributing to the formation of a cutaneous reaction termed papular urticaria. Patients with papular urticaria have been shown to demonstrate immunoglobulin (Ig) G antibodies to bedbug (C lectularius) antigens.  Thus, IgG against C lectularius, Cimex pipiens, and Pulex irritans in patients with papular urticaria may contribute the pathogenesis of this condition.
You’ll likely only see them in their hiding spots or crawling across the floor since, unlike other insects, bedbugs cannot fly or jump. Durham says to check along the edges of your mattress. You may see the exoskeletons that bedbugs have shed as they matured, or you may notice a musty smell, both of which indicate there could be bedbugs in the area. It can also be helpful to check your bed with a flashlight during the middle of the night (since these crawlers tend to be more active at night.)
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.
Cracks and crevices of bed frames should also be examined, especially if the frame is wood. (Bed bugs have an affinity for wood and fabric more so than metal or plastic.) Wooden support slats, if present, should be removed and examined since bed bugs often congregate where the ends rest on the frame. Screw holes, knots and other recesses are also common hiding places. Headboards secured to walls should be removed and inspected. In hotels, the area behind the headboard is often the first place that bed bugs become established. Bed bugs also frequently hide within items stored under beds.
Once you’ve vacuumed and chemically treated your mattress and box spring, enclose them in encasement bags. If the bed bugs found a way inside the mattress, the odds are that the spray chemicals did not kill them. Encasement bags have special zippers that trap the bed bugs and prevent them from escaping. Keep these bags on for at least a year because a fully fed bed bug can live more than 10 months between meals.
Alternatively, place a bed bug proof mattress cover over an infested mattress to trap the bed bugs inside and starve them to death. This will eliminate the need to purchase a new mattress/boxspring and make treatment and future inspections easier. (Starving the bugs CAN take up to 400 days, so make sure your cover stays sealed for at least that long.)
Abrupt temperature change is best when attempting to kill bed bugs, so the bugs do not have time to adjust to the new temperature. Because it can take many hours for heat or cold to penetrate objects, the process of killing bed bugs is complicated by the density and depth of the items to be heated or frozen. It may take 15 days at 32 F to kill bed bug adults and 30 days to kill bed bug eggs that are unprotected, and much longer to kill those that are hidden inside items. Temperatures below freezing will kill quicker, but less is known about killing bed bugs with cold compared with using heat against them.
Bed bugs love fast food. They like to feed and then scurry back to their hiding places. They try to avoid crawling all over their food for fear of waking it/us. They usually bite the bare skin they find closest to the mattress. That’s why it’s common to see two or three bite marks in a line along the skin that was in contact with the mattress or pillow. When this happens it’s time to learn how to get rid of bug beds fast.
Both of these types of Hemiptera are sensitive to extreme temperatures. It may be necessary to rid the infestation by exposing the area to extreme heat or cold; they are most comfortable in temperatures around eighty degrees Fahrenheit. Raising the temperature to ninety-seven to ninety-nine degrees may kill off a significant portion of the population.
Dust the wall voids. Bed bugs can often travel from room to room, especially in apartments, hotels and condo's. They travel along electrical wiring and plumbing lines. Specifically treat wall voids with a hand duster either by removing wall switch plate covers and/or drill access holes discreetly between studs. Cimexa Dust or Delta Dust are excellent choices for void applications. It kills populations in walls and voids and creates a repellent, hostile environment which reduces the likelihood of bed bugs traveling through voids to other areas. Use a small hand type duster to "puff" insecticidal dusts into these areas. A light coating is all that is needed. To much dust and the bed bugs will just crawl around it.
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To begin, strip your bed of all sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding, and seal them in plastic garbage bags to keep bed bugs from escaping and infesting other parts of your home. Take the bags straight to the washing machine, and wash them using the hot water setting. Then, dry the bedding on high heat if their tags allow it. This heat treatment will kill any bed bugs or eggs hiding in your bedding.
If you live in an apartment or condominium, it’s best to alert the property manager. A coordinated bed bug control effort using a pest control company is generally needed in such situations. Bed bugs readily move from apartment to apartment, with many people unaware that they have a problem. If one apartment is infested, adjoining units (left side, right side, above and below) should be assumed to be infested unless shown otherwise through inspection or monitoring. Simply asking tenants whether they have bed bugs is not enough. In one recent study only half of apartment residents whose homes were determined to have bed, bugs knew (or admitted) they had a bed bug problem.
Bed bugs are an increasing cause for litigation. Courts have, in some cases, exacted large punitive damage judgments on some hotels. Many of New York City's Upper East Side home owners have been afflicted, but they tend to be silent publicly in order not to ruin their property values and be seen as suffering a blight typically associated with the lower classes.
Especially in situations where a large amount of time would be required for a pest management professional to thoroughly inspect a structure, bed bug detecting dogs are sometimes employed. Well-trained and handled dogs can also be of value in structures or units with lesser infestations, i.e., where human inspectors might easily overlook bed bugs because only a few bugs are present.
It's becoming easier to find bed bug mattress covers in local hardware stores. Menard's has one for 24.99 for all sizes. There are others, but beware! Some low quality versions are only plastic, tear easily, and have horrible cheap zippers. The real ones are made of a special fabric and heavy duty zippers. Also when you buy a new mattress, keep the plastic on as well as using a bug cover.
After treating a mattress or box spring for bed bugs, we recommend encasing each in a bed bug proof cover. This will prevent re-infestation and will make future inspections and treatments easier. Be sure any product that has been sprayed or applied to your mattress is dry before you cover the mattress with a bed bug proof cover. You can make the bed with your freshly laundered linens over a bed bug proof mattress cover.
^ 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.
Treatment for bedbug bites is typically supportive. Local antiseptic lotions or antibiotic creams can be applied for secondary infections, whereas corticosteroid creams and oral antihistamines can be used for allergic reactions. Bedbugs can be eliminated through the use of permethrin insecticides, baited traps, special bedbug-free beds, and bed nets. Homemade methods, such as wrapping duct tape around bed legs as shown, may be effective, but bedbugs have been known to climb other objects and then fall down onto a bed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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: