bed bug removal tips

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

While the ranks of bed bugs were nearly decimated decades ago thanks to the toxic pest control with the pesticide DDT, it proved a short-term victory.

Now that DDT is gone from our pest control arsenal, bed bugs are back, with a vengeance.

Here's what to know about identifying an infestation, and the various methods available for bed bug removal in your home.

What 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 means they don't fly. However, they can crawl. Fast.
  • 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.

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 a 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 how to detect bed bugs:

  • 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 

Getting a bed bug infestation under control takes time and patience. There are a variety of non-chemical pest control approaches that are effective. Here are a few pest control methods to consider:

Woman putting bed sheets into dryer.
  • Toss bedding and clothes into the dryer at the highest temperature setting for best pest control results. Just washing these items generally won't get rid of bed bugs.
  • Heat articles or areas infested with bed bugs 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 get rid of bed bugs.
  • Encase the mattress, box spring, and pillows in dust or allergen preventing covers to both trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.

Chemical Bed Bug Removal

  • Use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Bed Bug Product Search Tool to find a pest control 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 to get rid of bed bugs. You may want to ask a bed bug extermination company to inspect your home and, if needed, apply approved pesticides to treat an infestation of bed bugs. Look for a bed bug extermination company with years of experience.

Visit the Bed Bugs Registry Before You Go on Vacation

The Bed Bug Registry is a free, public database of user-submitted reports of bed bugs 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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