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Bed Bugs and What to Do About Them


If the thought of bed bugs attacking your home has you scratching already, here are some tips to help you figure out if you have bed bugs:


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Check for bites. Bed bug bites are usually flat welts or raised, red bumps that itch. However, only 30 percent of people who are bitten have a reaction to the bite.

Keep an eye out for bed bug droppings or small blood stains on your sheets when you wake up.

Bed bugs can also smell like raspberries, raw beef or moldy shoes in places that are infested.

Be on the lookout for eggs! Bed bug eggs are pearly white and difficult to spot with the human eye. Adult bed bugs are about the size of a grain of rice.

Bed bugs are nocturnal, so the best time to try to spot them is at night. Use a flashlight!

Spot one? Help is available.


How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs


It is possible to pick up bed bugs almost any place – they’ve infested offices, stores, hotels, gyms and countless other places we never would have imagined just 10 years ago. They can hide in your luggage, personal belongings, or even on you, and hitchhike a ride back to your home, condo, townhouse or apartment. Once indoors, they can be extremely difficult to eradicate without the help of an experienced pest control professional.

A bed bug infestation has nothing to do with cleanliness – you can pick them up in even the finest hotels, and they can hitchhike into the cleanest homes at any time. But, you can help reduce your chances of a costly bed bug infestation by catching them early.



When traveling, think of the acronym S.L.E.E.P. to remember the following action steps to help avoid taking bed bugs home with you.

S - Survey surfaces for signs of an infestation, such as tiny rust-colored spots on bed sheets, mattress tags and seams, and bed skirts.
L - Lift and look for all bed bug hiding spots, including underneath the mattress, bed frame, headboard, and furniture. Typically, they come out at night to feed, but during the day, they are most likely found within a 5-foot radius of the bed.
E - Elevate your luggage on a luggage rack away from the bed and wall, since bed bugs can often hide behind head boards, artwork, picture frames and electrical outlet panels.
E - Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and when you return home. Always keep luggage off the bed and store it in a closet or other area, far away from your bedroom.
P - Place all your clothing from your luggage immediately in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting upon returning home from travel.


In the House


When at home, follow these handy tips to help keep bed bugs at bay:

  • Remove all clutter from your home, which makes finding bed bugs easier.
  • Wash and dry your bed linens often using the hottest temperature allowed for the fabric.
  • Closely inspect any second-hand furniture for bed bugs before you bring it into your residence.
  • Inspect your residence regularly – after a move-in, a trip, a service worker comes in, or guests stay overnight.

Think You Might Have a Bed Bug Infestation?

Notify your local pest control provider immediately, or tell your property manager if you are renting. Bed bugs can multiply quickly so early detection is critical to help prevent an even larger infestation.


(Courtesy of Orkin - not an endorsement.)
According to the Bed Bug Handbook: The Complete Guide to Bed Bugs and Their Control:


Commercial Pest Control Versus "Do-It-Yourself"

The complete elimination of bed bugs requires highly trained and licensed individuals knowledgeable in bed bug biology, behavior, and the proper use of pesticides. There is little chance that you will be able to eliminate the problem on your own. Most over-the-counter pesticides are not designed for bed bugs and the use of these products, while they may kill some bed bugs, is unlikely to eliminate most bed bug infestations, and may only spread the bugs. But the main reason to use a professional to control bed bugs is that success requires knowledge and experience in finding all the potentially infested sites, and in using the latest tools to eliminate them.

Although you need a professional pest control firm to take the lead in bed bug control, there are many nonchemical measures you can take to help eliminate the problem and to shorten the time you will have to put up with the bugs. These techniques are briefly discussed in the sections below.

Your Pest Control Company Needs Your Help to Control Bed Bugs

An uncomfortable truth about bed bugs is that even a professional pest control firm will be unable to eliminate the bed bug problem without your help.


Mechanical Removal. Just because you have bed bugs does not mean that you have to wait for a professional to kill them. You can simply wipe them up with a wet rag or paper towel, crush them with a rag (although this may stain surfaces), use a hand-held steamer to kill bugs and eggs on contact, or remove them with your vacuum (although there is some risk of infesting the vacuum, and we will discuss this later). Regularly inspecting and then vacuuming your mattress and box spring is an effective way to reduce large numbers of bed bugs quickly. However, you will not be able to vacuum up everything, particularly the eggs and the bed bugs back in hidden areas.


Bed bugs can survive inside a vacuum. As soon as you are done vacuuming, empty the vacuum bag into a trash bag, tie it shut, and discard it outside in a trash container or dumpster. If you have a bagless vacuum, empty the contents of the canister into a trash bag and tie it shut. Wash the canister to remove any remaining bed bugs or eggs.

Eliminate Clutter.
Clutter is a bed bug's best friend and a pest management professional's worst enemy. Clutter provides an infinite number of areas for bed bugs to hide and, worse yet, lay eggs. It provides safe havens for bed bugs in areas that cannot be effectively treated. If cluttered conditions persist, even a professional may only be able to reduce the number of bed bugs and never completely eliminate the problem. Do your best to eliminate clutter.

Do Not Store Things Under the Bed. Items stored under the bed give bed bugs additional undisturbed areas to hide, well protected from any chemical treatments and close to their feeding area...the bed.

Launder Bed Linens Regularly. Bed linens should be laundered in hot water and dried in the hot cycle of your dryer. Such cleaning procedures will kill any bed bugs and destroy any eggs that may be present. Even if you do not see any bed bugs on the items, female bed bugs drop eggs randomly as they roam. These eggs are tiny and may not be noticed on bedding. Washing the linens will remove and kill these eggs. If your futon is infested, you can remove the covers (if possible) and launder them or have them dry cleaned.

Install Mattress and Box Spring Encasements. Mattress and box spring encasements (covers) can be used to create a barrier to bed bug movement. Encasements were originally developed to protect beds from accidents by incontinent patients and bed-wetting children. More sophisticated encasements were also developed to protect allergy sufferers by containing the allergens produced by dust mites living in the mattress and, to some extent, the box spring. Now there are special encasements to protect against bed bugs.

Not all encasements will work against bed bugs. The encasements must be both bed bug "bite proof" and "escape proof" Cheap encasements may not prove effective. Choose an encasement specifically designed to protect against bed bugs. Another option, although not as "bed bug proof," would be to choose a quality encasement designed for people with allergies to dust mites. Properly designed encasements completely cover and seal the mattress and the box spring and trap bed bugs inside. The bed bugs are then unable to feed and will eventually starve. In addition, once the beds are protected, other bed bugs cannot get into the mattress or box spring. They can only get on the surface of the encasement where they are easy to spot and remove.

Do Not Change Where You Sleep or Temporarily Leave Your Home. Some people believe that they can avoid bed bugs by sleeping in a different area of their home. People who discover that their bed is infested will often begin sleeping in a different bedroom or on the sofa…If you move to a different area of the home to sleep, the bed bugs will find you This will only spread the problem and make it more difficult to resolve.

Even if you move out of your home, you risk bringing bed bugs with you to your temporary residence and infesting that area as well. Not only can you spread the bed bugs, but when you return home the bugs will be waiting to greet you. Bed bugs can survive many months, and in some cases up to a year or more, without feeding. Although it sounds like a grim choice, it is best to continue sleeping in the infested area until the bed bugs are eliminated. Encasements and aggressive mechanical efforts (discussed above) can limit the bites dramatically so that you are not serving as bait while the last of the bugs are eliminated

Do Not Throw Away Infested Items. For many people, the immediate reaction to a bed bug infestation is to throw away the infested items. This is unnecessary and could possibly make the problem worse. As items are carried through the home to be discarded, bed bugs can fall off of the item and be spread throughout the home to uninfested areas. Also, you are eliminating the harborages (hiding places) for these bed bugs and disturbing them. The bed bugs will find other places to live and so spread the problem. In addition, discarded items are often picked up by other people (maybe even your neighbor), spreading the infestation to new areas. Mattress and box spring encasements can be used very effectively to save beds that you don't wish to discard. Even if beds are discarded, the encasements can be used to protect new bedding from becoming infested by bugs that still exist in the infested dwelling.

However, when the item is in poor condition or is heavily infested, discarding the item may be the best option. Disposal is best left to a professional so that the item can be discarded properly without spreading the problem Bed bugs are easily transmitted to new locations via discarded items from infested homes.

Bed Bugs and What to Do About Them:  Created on February 17th, 2012.  Last Modified on January 21st, 2014


About IEHA


The International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) is a 3,200-plus member organization for housekeeping management. Executive housekeepers are managers that direct housekeeping programs in commercial, industrial or institutional facilities, including upscale hotels, hospitals, schools, and other public places. The non-profit was founded in 1930 in New York City, and is now located in Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of the state’s capitol.