Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. They are usually very thin unless they have recently fed.
They are usually a reddish-brown color and are fairly easy to see especially on white or black mattresses and box springs.
Anywhere that has a lot of traffic and people coming-and-going offers the potential for picking up bed bugs. Some common areas include buses, subways, schools, libraries, or even apartment complexes and dorms with higher turnover. Also, used furniture and clothing can be methods of transmitting bed bugs.Learn More
A bed bug life cycle is around 2 to 4 months. Bed bugs start from small, white, oval eggs that are very sticky and usually laid in cracks and crevices of a bed frame or headboard as well as in mattress seams. Eggs hatch in about a week as nymphs. These nymphs feed on blood and grow until they need to shed their exoskeleton (their outer “skin” that is like a hard shell). Nymphs will molt five times before they become an adult bed bug and must feed each time before they molt.
Adult bed bugs on average feed once every 3 to 7 days. It only takes them 2 to 5 minutes to have a filling blood meal, after which they return to their hiding spot. Feeding is typically done at night since bed bugs are nocturnal. They depend on blood for survival as well as producing their eggs. A single female adult bed bug can lay up to 3 eggs a day and as many as 300 eggs in her lifetime.
Bed bug populations in North America dropped significantly several decades ago and several factors are leading to the recent resurgence of bed bug populations. A major reason is the widespread use of chemical treatments such as DDT greatly reduced the number of bed bug infestations until the 1970’s when the damaging effects of these toxic chemicals become well-documented. DDT use is now banned worldwide. Also, multiple studies are indicating the existence of DDT-resistant strains of bed bugs meaning a return to using DDT may not even reduce bed bug populations as it did previously.
Another factor leading to an increase in bed bug populations across North America is the development of cheap long-distance travel. As it has become increasingly easy to travel across the country or even around the world, people now have a higher chance of coming into contact with a bed bug which can then hitchhike back home with them and their family.
Most people think having bed bugs are a sign of a dirty home. This is simply not true and that belief may adversely impact an affected person because he or she may feel uncomfortable asking for help to remove the infestation. Bed bugs are parasitic insects that require blood to survive and reproduce. Once they come in contact with a human host, that person’s house can and usually will become infested with bed bugs. They are not picky as long as you have blood for them to eat (if you’re reading this, we assume this describes you and are therefore capable of being infested by bed bugs). The cleanliness of your home is not a deciding factor for a bed bug.
Bed bugs are not known to transmit human diseases in nature; however, research has shown bed bugs can transmit certain types of parasites in laboratories, though it’s not yet known why it hasn’t been documented outside of a lab.
The most common sign of a bed bug infestation is itchy, red bite marks on the skin. You could see their feces which look like small ink stains on mattresses, box springs, or other areas where bed bugs gather (see attached picture). Of course, it is also possible to see bed bugs crawling across your bedding, pillow, or bed frame. Occasionally you can smell a bed bug infestation because they emit pheromones and histamines to attract other bed bugs. The smell has a musty odor and is described as smelling like a locker room.
Pest control specialists often use pesticide sprays, heat treatments, or a combination of both. We prefer using heat treatments for several reasons. First, we like to avoid introducing pesticides into your home due to health concerns. Second, every living organism has a heat tolerance (a thermal point at which it will die). This is true for adult bed bugs as well as their eggs and their heat tolerance is, conveniently, not very high. We will heat your home to a temperature which is lethal for bed bugs, monitor temperatures within your home to ensure there are no cool spots which could keep bed bugs safe, and then hold the temperature long enough that no bed bug nor bed bug egg will be able to survive regardless of where they are hiding.
Pesticide sprays are still a common option many people choose. Some people like sprays because they are a cheaper alternative; however, cheaper isn’t always better. Spray treatments often take several applications because it is hard for sprays to reach every area where bed bugs may be hiding and bed bug eggs are often resistant to many sprays. There are also multiple research studies out suggesting adult bed bugs are becoming resistant to popular pesticides which are believed to be a contributing factor in increasing bed bug population across North America.
It is difficult to remove all bed bugs and their eggs from an infected area by treating yourself. The EPA has several recommendations if you want to try self-treatment which includes:
Pesticide treatments (carefully following label directions):
Traveling is one of the most common ways to come into contact with bed bugs. There are a few tips you can follow to reduce your infestation risk when you travel:
Like mosquito bites, some people react differently to bed bug bites. Bites usually appear as red, itchy spots on the skin. Bites can appear anywhere on your body but are most commonly found in areas of your body that are exposed while you sleep such as your arms, hands, legs, neck, or shoulders.
Unlike other insect bites, bed bug bites are normally found in groups that can either be slightly spread out or in a line.
Bed bugs are commonly found under or in seams of mattresses and box springs. They may also be hiding in cracks or crevices of your bed frame and headboard and can hide under loose carpet, in furniture cushions, or even behind baseboards and electrical outlet covers.
Remember, they like to hide in places where they are relatively undisturbed but can easily reach humans or other animals for a quick blood meal.