bed bug removal tips

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) have been around and annoying innocent sleepers since the time of Aristotle.

While the ranks of these annoying pests were nearly decimated decades ago thanks to the toxic pesticide DDT, it proved a short-term victory. Now that DDT is gone from our pest control arsenal, they're back, seemingly with a vengeance.

Here's what you need to know about bed bug removal - and bed bugs themselves - to help you identify an infestation and safely eliminate it.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

  • Adult bed bugs are small (about 1/4 to 3/8 inches or 5 mm to 9 mm in length), have flat, brown oval bodies that change color to purplish-red after a blood meal and the body becomes more cigar-shaped making it appear like a different insect. They are sometimes mistaken for wood ticks or small cockroaches. 
  • The wings of bed bugs are vestigial, which mean they don't fly. However, they can crawl. Fast.
  • Bed bugs are visible to the eye.
  • Nymphs, or immature bed bugs, are smaller (about 1.5 mm) and lighter colored.
  • You may also find cast skins, which are empty shells of bed bugs as they grow from one stage to the next.
  • After they eat, bed bugs deposit fecal spots of digested blood in areas adjacent to the feeding site.

the Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation

Once bed bugs get into your home, the best way to detect them is not through their bites (which are often misidentified as they can look like mosquito, flea, or spider bites, even hives). 

Instead, look for physical signs of bed bugs around the mattress, box springs, bed frame, and areas around the bed. Here's what to look for:

  • Dark spots on or around bedding (about the size of this period: . ) which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric when dampened. 
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1 mm) and white.
  • Skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.
  • Rusty red stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by crushed bed bugs.

Non-Chemical Bed Bug Removal Options

Getting a bed bug infestation under control takes time and patience. There are a variety of non-chemical approaches that have been shown to be effective.

Here are a few to consider if you have an infestation of bed bugs:

  • Toss bedding and clothes into the dryer at the highest temperature setting for best pest control results. Just washing these items generally won't kill bed bugs.
  • Heat infested articles and/or areas to at least 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees C) for one hour.
  • Cold treatments - below 0 degrees F (-19 C) for at least four days. Home freezers usually aren't cold enough to reliably kill bed bugs.
  • Encase the mattress, box spring, and pillow in dust or allergen preventing covers to both trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.

Chemical Bed Bug Removal Treatments

  • Use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bed Bug Product Search Tool to find a pesticide product that meets your needs. There are more than 300 products registered by the EPA for use against bed bugs - the vast majority of which can be used by consumers.
  • Read When Treatments Don't Work before reapplying or trying a different product. You may want to consult with a bed bug exterminator to inspect your home and, if needed, apply approved pesticides to treat any infestation. 
  • For assistance with pest control and choosing a pesticide registered for consumer use, you can also check with the Cooperative Extension Service office in your area.

Visit the Bed Bugs Registry 

The Bed Bug Registry is a free, public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the United States and Canada. Founded in 2006, the site has collected about 20,000 reports covering 12,000 locations.

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