Information on Bed Bugs
Identifying Bed Bug Infestations
Much of the time, a bed bug infestation is only suspected when bites appear on a person. Oftentimes, the bites are misidentified, thus allowing infestations to go unnoticed, which gives the bed bugs time to spread to other areas of the house.
When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:
Dark spots (about this size: •) which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would
Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and white skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger
Live bed bugs
Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed
Treating Bed Bug Infestations
Bed Bug Pesticide Alert
- Never use a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use. It is very dangerous and won’t solve your bed bug problem.
- Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bed bugs can make you sick, may not solve the problem, and could even make it worse by causing the bed bugs to hide where the pesticide won’t reach them.
- Check if the product is effective against bedbugs -- if a pest isn’t listed on the product label, the pesticide has not been tested on that pest and it may not be effective. Don’t use a product or allow a pest control operator to treat your home unless bed bugs are named on the product label.
- Before using any pesticide product, READ THE LABEL FIRST, then follow the directions for use.
- Keep in mind that any pesticide product without an EPA registration number has not been reviewed by EPA, so we haven’t determined how well the product works.
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods like pesticides, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
IPM methods for bed bugs include:
- Inspecting infested areas, plus surrounding living spaces
- Checking for bed bugs on luggage and clothes when returning home from a trip
- Looking for bed bugs or signs of infestation on secondhand items before bringing the items home
- Correctly identifying the pest
- Keeping records – including dates when and locations where pests are found
- Cleaning all items within a bed bug infested living area
- Reducing clutter where bed bugs can hide
- Eliminating bed bug habitats
- Physically removing bed bugs through cleaning
- Using pesticides carefully according to the label directions
- Following up inspections and possible treatments
- Raising awareness through education on prevention of bed bugs
For more information on IPM visit http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/ipm.htm.
- Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs.
- Heat infested articles and/or areas through to at least 113 ºF (45 ºC) for 1 hour. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
- Cold treatments (below 0 ºF (-19 ºC) for at least 4 days) can eliminate some infestations. Again, the cooler the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
- Use mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements to trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.
Pesticides are one component of a comprehensive strategy for controlling bed bugs. Currently, there are over 300 products registered by EPA for use against bed bugs – the vast majority of which can be used by consumers. Several classes of chemicals are utilized in these products -- each class share a similar mode of action, or way in which the chemical affects the biological functions of a bed bug.
To help you find a product, EPA has developed a Bed Bug Product Search tool to help you find a product that meets your needs.
If you find that a particular chemical treatment seems to be ineffective, please read When Treatments Don’t Work before reapplying or trying a different product. You may want to consult a pest management professional to inspect your residence and, if needed, apply approved pesticides to treat any infestation. For assistance with choosing a pesticide registered for consumer use, you may also check with the Cooperative Extension Service office in your area.
Preventing Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bugs are very successful hitchhikers, moving from an infested site to furniture, bedding, baggage, boxes, and clothing. Although they typically feed on blood every five to ten days, bed bugs can be quite resilient; they are capable of surviving over a year without feeding.
A few simple precautions can help prevent bed bug infestation in your home:
Information Courtesy US EPA http://www.epa.gov/bedbugs
- Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation, as described above before bringing them home.
- Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs which eliminates many hiding spots. The light color of the encasement makes bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check the encasements regularly for holes.
- Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
- When traveling:
- In hotel rooms, use luggage racks to hold your luggage when packing or unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor.
- Check the mattress and headboard before sleeping.
- Upon returning home, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully.