What's Bugging You: Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs

How to deal with bed bugs

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Don’t bring home hitchhikers: Traveling? Inspect your hotel room before you call it a night. Examine your luggage thoroughly with each new place you go. Wash and dry clothes with hot water and high heat as soon as you get home.

Freeze it: Bag small items; place in your freezer for 30 days.

Buying used furniture, bedding, clothes? Inspect thoroughly. Wash and dry bedding and clothes with hot water, high heat. Steam is an option, but make sure stuff dries out so it doesn't mold.

Check everywhere: Keep bedroom furniture an inch or two from the wall and a flashlight handy for easier cleaning and inspecting. Bed bug-proof mattress covers and light-colored bedding make them easier to spot.

Remove: Say goodbye to clutter in your bedroom to get rid of bed bug hiding spots. Getting rid of stuff?  Cover in plastic so bugs don’t fall off and make sure the items are in a dumpster or ruined so people don’t take them home.

Vacuum often: Floors, walls, mattresses, baseboards, furniture ... Get rid of the vacuum bag as soon as you’re done in case you sucked up a bed bug.

Pesticide options: Leave it to the professionals. Some sprays simply repel bed bugs, spreading them around. Make sure pesticides are labeled specifically for bed bugs. Always read and follow the instructions on the label.

Adult bed bug
Adult bed bug next to a dime. Photo by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, NYSIPM.
Bed bug nymph feeding.
Bed bug nymph feeding. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health and Safety, Harvard U.

 

Bed Bug eggs
Bed Bug eggs on mattress fabric. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health and Safety, Harvard U.
Bed Bug adult, nymphs and blood spots on wood.
Bed Bug adult, nymphs and blood spots on wood. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health and Safety, Harvard U.

What they look like

Adults look like apple seeds with legs. Young bed bugs—nymphs—look like adults, only smaller. Newly hatched nymphs are poppy seed-sized. Eggs are tiny white, and hard to spot.

Where they live

In cracks and crevices of bed frames, floors, walls, furniture, electronics, mattresses, and luggage. Wedge themselves into anything, but usually near where people rest.

What they do

Feed on you as you sleep, but if you’re not around they can go over a year without food. Bites look like a rash or welts—or you may not notice them at all. Bed bugs don’t transmit disease.