Bed Bugs

Adult bed bugs, in general, are:

  • about the size of an apple seed (5-7 mm or 3/16 – 1/4 inch long);
  • long and brown, with a flat, oval-shaped body (if not fed recently);
  • balloon-like, reddish-brown, and more elongated (if fed recently);
  • a “true bug” (characteristics of true bugs include a beak with three segments; antenna that have four parts; wings that are not used for flying; and short, golden-colored hairs); and
  • smelly, with a “musty-sweetish” odor produced through glands on the lower side of the body.

Young bed bugs (also called nymphs), in general, are:

  • smaller, translucent or whitish-yellow in color; and
  • if not recently fed, can be nearly invisible to the naked eye because of coloring and size.

Bed bug eggs, in general, are:

  • tiny, the size of a pinhead;
  • pearl-white in color; and
  • marked by an eye spot if more than five days old.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Canvas strap of old box spring covering that is housing adults, skin castings, feces, and eggs. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Louis Sorkin)

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.

If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.
Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.

Living conditions:

  • Bed bugs can survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 7°C (46°F), but they die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F).
    • To kill bed bugs with heat, the room must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding.
  • Common bed bugs are found almost anywhere their host can live.
  • Tropical bed bugs (Cimex hemipterus) require a higher average temperature than the common bed bug and are found in tropical and subtropical areas.

Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. They can move from an infested site to a new home by traveling on furniture, bedding, luggage, boxes, and clothing.

Although they typically feed on blood every five to ten days, bed bugs can be quite resilient; they are capable of surviving several months to a year without feeding.

A few simple precautions can help prevent bed bug infestation in your home:

  • Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.
  • Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs to eliminate many hiding spots. The light color of the encasement makes bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high quality encasement that will resist tearing and check the encasement regularly for holes or a cover that has been pre-treated with pesticide to control bed bugs.
  • Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs.
  • Vacuum frequently to remove any successful hitchhikers.
  • Be vigilant when using shared laundry facilities. Transport items to be washed in plastic bags (if you have an active infestation, use a new bag for the journey home). Remove from dryer directly into bag and fold at home. (A dryer on high heat can kill bed bugs.)
  • If you live in a multi-family home, try to isolate your unit by:
    • Installing door sweeps on the bottom of doors to discourage movement into hallways.
    • Sealing cracks and crevices around baseboards, light sockets, etc., to discourage movement through wall voids.
  • Consider purchasing a portable heating chamber to treat any items that you believe may have bed bugs.
    • Be sure to read and carefully follow the directions if you use one of these units and be aware that they are not regulated by EPA or other federal agencies.
Back To Pest Library