Bed bugs, once nearly eradicated as a common pest in the United States, are reappearing in record numbers across the country and around the world.

Bed bug infestations are being reported everywhere people live and work: homes, dormitories, apartments, motels, hotels, schools, theaters, trains, buses, offices, hospitals, department stores – and the list goes on.

The best defense against them starts with knowing a little about them – what they look like, where they hide, and how they spread.

HOW DO I KNOW IT’S A BED BUG?

Adults are about ¼ inch long and reddish brown to dark brown in color.

  • They have oval, flattened bodies that resemble apple seeds.
  • They can’t fly, but can run quickly and disperse throughout a structure, much like roaches.

WHAT ARE THEIR FEEDING HABITS?

  • They feed at night using a piercing beak. These bites can cause an allergic reaction, producing red welts that look – and itch – like mosquito bites.
  • They prefer to feed on humans, but will feed on other animals, including pets such as dogs, cats and birds
  • They can live for months without a blood meal – which means they can survive while you’re away on vacation or while an unoccupied home is waiting to be sold.

HOW DO THEY AFFECT MY HEALTH?

  • Despite the fact that they feed on blood, they are not known to spread any diseases. However, they can cause health issues.
    • Loss of sleep is the most common effect of a bed bug infestation – along with the issues caused by sleep deprivation, such as (but not limited to):
      • Irritability
      • Inability to concentrate
      • Decreased energy
    • Bed bug bites can cause itchy skin rashes or welts
    • Some people have allergic reactions to the bites.
    • Secondary infections can also be a risk* when itchy bites are scratched open.

    *Please note: At-risk populations, such as diabetics or people with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to secondary infections.

HOW DO THEY SPREAD?

  • They spread easily by “hitchhiking” on people, clothing, and luggage – including computer bags.
  • Females lay 1 to 5 eggs per day and 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. A bed bug can develop into an adult in just 5 weeks.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR LEARNING MORE ABOUT BED BUGS:

The following resources will shed some light on the vampires who feed on people in their sleep. Also visit our Resources page to view studies cited throughout the site and for a more complete list of bed bug and termite information.

Podcast: Controlling Pesky Bed Bugs: Ellen Thoms, Global Technical Leader with Douglas Products, discusses the burgeoning bed bug problem in the United States and how to treat for them.  Courtesy of Pest Management Professional magazine.

Dini Miller webinar: A webinar by Dini Miller, Ph.D., Department of Entomology in Blacksburg, VA. Dr. Miller shares her knowledge about the bed bug epidemic and discusses facts about bed bug infestations in this country and worldwide, as well as evaluations of different types of treatment options for bed bugs.

Bed Bugs Featured on “Today” Show Segment: The “Today” show’s Ann Curry talks with Gary Alpert of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Harvard University about these tiny pests.

HOW DO I RID MY HOME OF BED BUGS?

The most effective form of treatment for bed bugs is fumigation. There are alternatives to fumigation, but you should know the facts about each before you decide.

For success stories about using Vikane® gas fumigant for treating a variety of structures for bed bug infestation, visit Vikane® Gas Fumigant at Work: Case Studies on this site.

Do You Have Bed Bugs?

Only a pest management professional can definitively determine if you have a bed bug infestation. However, the following signs could mean you have bed bugs:

PHYSICAL SIGNS:

  • Red, welt-like bites that itch and occur while sleeping
  • Dark brown or rusty excrement (spots of dried blood) on mattresses, linens or near the bed
  • A peculiar musty, sweet odor may be present in heavily infested areas.
  • Insects found in cracks and crevices in bedding, nearby furniture, drapes, carpeting, or behind headboards and picture frames, etc. Bed bugs prefer wood and fabric surfaces to metal and plastic.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS:

If you see any of these signs or suspect that bed bugs are present, contact your local pest management professional to determine if you have a bed bug infestation and to discuss an appropriate treatment plan.

Bed bugs can also infest hotels, motels, and other public buildings, so you might want to look for similar signs before you tuck in for the night.

Once a pest control professional has determined you have a bed bug infestation, you need to consider carefully your options for bed bug treatments for your home.

Solutions for Bed Bugs

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Each bed bug infestation is unique and, therefore, requires a customized treatment plan. However, bed bug fumigation with Vikane® gas fumigant is the only treatment method with a 50-year track record of effectively and reliably eradicating all bed bugs infesting a structure, including the egg stage.

Bed bug fumigation with Vikane can be conducted on entire structures (whole-structure), certain parts of a structure (compartmentalized), or certain household items, including box springs and mattresses, which are placed in a chamber to be fumigated.

Vikane_CYC_200

BED BUG FUMIGATION IS THE BEST OPTION TO TREATE A BED BUG INFESTATION WHEN:

  • Immediate eradication of bed bugs is required, such as in multiunit dwellings (hotels, apartments and dormitories), when occupants are highly allergic to bites or when there is zero tolerance for the infestation
  • Repeated crack and crevice applications (liquids, dust and aerosols) have failed
  • Other treatments may damage infested materials, such as high value furnishings or custom mattresses

ALTERNATIVES TO BED BUG FUMIGATION

If fumigation is not conducted, multiple methods of control are generally needed to eliminate bed bugs. These methods include:

  • Steam treatment plus the application of residual insecticides  (liquids, dusts, aerosols) to all voids, cracks and crevices where bed bugs could hide
  • Laundering, including drying in a hot dryer, or dry cleaning all bedding, curtains and clothing that might be infested
  • Heat treatment of infested items or the structure itself

These methods of bed bug control are less effective than fumigation. With residual insecticides multiple treatments are the rule, not the exception, because it is difficult to locate all the areas requiring treatment. For one thing, bed bugs can fit into a space the thickness of a business card. For another, infestations are often widely dispersed. Moreover, bed bugs have become increasingly resistant to many residual insecticides, increasing the need for bed bug fumigation.

Heat treatments require a great deal of expertise and preparation to avoid causing damage to the structure and its contents.

ADDITIONAL THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT ALTERNATE TREATING METHODS

  • Other treatments may damage infested materials, such as high-value furnishings or electronics.
  • Other treatments may not be permitted for application to all materials that could be infested with bed bugs, including mattresses, linens and clothing. When applied according to label requirements, Vikane®gas fumigant only requires a single treatment to eradicate bed bugs infesting a building.
  • Vikane® gas fumigant completely dissipates from the structure being fumigated and leaves no surface residue, odor or film behind, eliminating the need to wash linens, clothing or other items after fumigation.

In 2009, The New York Real Estate Journal published an article about the benefits of using Vikane® gas fumigant from the perspective of Donna Bossuyt, a New York business development manager for a fumigation specialists’ group. Ms. Bossuyt opens with a lament she hears almost daily from landlords, property owners, and tenants: “I wish I would have known about Vikane fumigant treatment first.” Read why.

Read more about alternatives to bed bug fumigation.

Learn about preparing your home and its contents for fumigation.