Bed bugs at various stages of growth. Unfed bugs (top row) are lighter
in color, shorter, and flatter.
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small flat insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals. Bed bugs are active mainly at night. During the day, they generally hide in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, and under any clutter or objects around the bed. Bed bugs can travel over 100 feet in one night, but they tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep. Bed bugs can fit in a crevice the depth of a credit card.
Bed bugs are not known to carry diseases, but cause a variety of physical health, mental health, and economic consequences. Bed bug bites can cause large itchy welts on skin. Many people have mild to severe allergic reactions to the bites with effects ranging from no reaction to a small bite mark to, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body reaction). The bites marks can also lead to secondary infections of the skin such as ecthyma. Bed bugs may also cause psychological symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, and systemic reactions.
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
The only way to conclusively know if there are bed bugs is to see a live bug. Adult bugs are approximately the size of an apple seed. Bed bugs can be easily confused with other household insects including carpet beetles and newly hatched cockroaches. Signs of bed bugs include blood stains, markings, and eggs found in mattress seams, bedding, and baseboard of walls. Bed bug bites resemble other insect bites including mosquito bites. Bed bug bites often appear in lines or clusters. For more information, refer to this handout, Bed bug guide or view the video below for tips on monitoring for bed bugs.
What do I do if I find bed bugs in my home?
If you are a renter, contact your landlord. While most people are apprehensive to contact their landlord it is essential to work with the property manager to adequately inspect and treat for bed bugs. Everyone has a role in treating for bed bugs whether you are the occupant, pest management company, or property maintenance. If you are an owner, contact a pest control company. Always follow the pesticide label.
My friend (acquaintance, friend of my child, or someone at my child's school) has bed bugs. Can I catch them?
Bed bugs are not like lice. They do not nest or lay eggs on a person. Bed bugs can travel in a person's clothing. They especially travel in luggage, backpacks, and furniture. If you stay in a hotel or house with bed bugs, wash and dry your belongings on high heat settings when you get home. Isolate your clothing in sacks until you can treat in a dryer. Use a blow dryer and playing card to force bed bugs out of cracks and crevices and suck them up with a vacuum.