What do I need to know about these pests?

As you may have heard, bed bugs are making a comeback around the world as international travel increases and resistant species emerge.

We created this site to provide consumers a handy educational resource about these pests as well as an introduction to our unique, safe, effective products for bed bug control and eradication. While bed bugs are indeed formidable and repulsive pests, learning about them can help you make educated decisions about how you treat and, most importantly, prevent infestations.

Q&A

What does a bed bug look like?

About the size of an apple seed, adult bed bugs are ¼ inch long (4-6 mm), reddish brown and oval with flattened bodies that swell after feeding. They have six legs and no wings. The immature (nymphs) bugs resemble the adults, but are smaller and lighter in color. They can be seen with the naked eye but are very good hiders. We have some pictures on this site – take a look!

How do I know if I have bed bugs?

Sometimes you won’t know unless you thoroughly search for them. They’re very good hiders. Many people show no reaction to their bites, so it’s more likely you’ll notice clues of their presence on your bedding. For people who do get a reaction to the bites, distinguishing bed bug bites from the bites of other arthropods (mosquitoes, fleas, and spiders) is difficult. People often confuse itching bed bug welts for mosquito bites. The best way to confirm you have a bed bug bite is to find the bugs in your bed or bedroom.

What does a bed bug bite look like?

A bite looks like a mosquito or flea bite, but it can appear more elongated and can result in a spindle-shaped welt. Unlike flea bites that are mostly around the feet, ankles and lower legs, bed bug bites are random, can be just single spots and the symptoms vary with the individual. Some develop an itchy red welt or localized swelling within a day or so of the bite. Others have little or no reaction, and in some people the reaction is delayed. The welts and itching are often wrongly attributed to other causes, such as mosquitoes. For these reasons, bed bugs may go a long time unnoticed. The likelihood of a bed bug infestation increases as the individuals in your home travel more frequently and with acquisition of used beds or furniture. Suspect bed bugs if you wake up with itchy bites you did not have when you went to sleep. It’s also important to recognize that not all bites or bite-like reactions are due to bed bugs. If you suspect you have been bitten, calamine lotion will relieve the itching.

What signs do bed bugs leave?

Tiny rusty, reddish spots on sheets or pajamas are signs that a bed bug has feasted (on your blood) and that you have crushed it. These are usually random spots. Tiny brown spots on your sheets or mattress or elsewhere are bed bug excrement and they tend to appear in clusters. You might also see discarded exoskeletons since, as bed bugs go through the five molts during maturation from nymphs to adults, they shed their “skin.”

What kind of diseases do bed bugs carry?

None. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all consider bed bugs a public health pest, no research exists that suggests bed bugs carry or can transmit disease. These pests are a nuisance and infestations can be particularly challenging to control.

How long do bed bugs live?

Adults live about 10 months to one year depending on conditions and live longer in high humidity. While bed bugs usually begin to seek a blood meal if they don’t feed every two weeks, they have been known to go without feeding for many weeks and even months. Older stages of nymphs can survive longer without feeding than younger ones.

What’s the bed bug life cycle?

A female bed bug lays hundreds of eggs in her life (200-500) in batches of less than 10 to as many as 50. She looks for secluded areas (cracks and crevices) and lays eggs that are tiny (about the size of a speck of dust), sticky and that adhere to surfaces. Eggs hatch in about 10 days. Newly hatched nymphs are straw colored and about the size of a pinhead. They molt five times, shedding their skin, before reaching maturity. Before each successive molt, these immature bugs require a blood meal. Depending on conditions, it takes approximately 30 days for a nymph to become mature.

Do bed bugs just like humans?

The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, prefers to feed on human blood, but it will also feed on dogs, cats, birds and rodents.

Where should I look for bed bugs?

They love to hide in cracks and crevices. Bed bugs typically hide close to where they feed, but they can and will crawl several feet to get a blood meal. Usually, they live around beds, but over time, they can scatter to other places in the bedroom and can move to adjacent rooms and even to other apartments. Visit our Hiding Places page for a full list of hiding places as well as room diagrams.

How do bed bugs get into my home?

By far the most common place from which people import bed bugs into their home is from hotels, but you can also get them from: motels, health care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools, trains, planes, movie theaters, laundries/dry cleaners, furniture rental outlets and office buildings. The presence of bed bugs in no way is a reflection on the cleanliness or hygiene of your home. They are very difficult pests to eradicate.

How can I prevent getting bed bugs?

Since bed bugs are incredibly adept hitchhikers, the most reliable form of prevention is to not allow them to come into your home. The key then is to prevent them from finding refuge in your luggage or on your clothing when you travel. Regardless of the size of the hotel or whether it has a 5-star rating, follow the tips we have for you on our Travel page

I’ve found bed bugs! What do I do?

First, don’t panic. Be assured you are not in an unclean place. Bed bugs do not carry disease. Bed bugs represent a complex public health problem that requires different solutions for the many different environments in which they are found. There is no simple or single approach that works for all cases. For example, if you are already using a professional pest control service, you may want to notify them and work with them to solve the problem.
For a Do-It-Yourself Approach: Apply an integrated pest management protocol using a combination of prevention, non-chemical, and chemical tactics. Begin by searching for them. Thoroughly inspect all their hiding places and look for the actual bugs and their calling cards of brown excrement spots and/or rusty, reddish blood smears or stains. Clean areas where bed bugs are found, reduce clutter, and consider removal of furniture that provides hiding places. Review both chemical and non-chemical treatment options based on signs and level of infestation. When selecting a pesticide, look for one that is specially formulated to treat the various places they inhabit (cracks, crevices, mattresses and carpets). Be sure to apply the pesticide after reading the label and use in accordance with the product directions. Also, consider an effective product to which the pests have not developed resistance while minimizing exposures risks to pets and children. EcoSMART’s new, all-organic bed bug killers attack the octopamine nervous system in invertebrates. Since mammals have no octopamine receptors, these non-toxic green insecticide products effectively attack bed bugs without affecting humans or their pets.

I didn't hear much about bed bugs a few years ago. What happened and why is this
all over the news now?

After WWII, stronger and longer lasting synthetic chemical pesticides such as DDT were readily available. The American people were aware of the bed bug problem and with improvements in cleaning equipment, these pests all but disappeared in the US. They continued to flourish around the world and today, with international travel so much more prevalent, these adept little hitchhiking bugs are coming back to the US in suitcases. Additionally, bed bugs have developed adaptations to make them more resistant to commonly used pesticides. So it’s good news that there are new product combinations, like EcoSMART’s patented and safe botanicals.