Bed bug adults are flat, oval-shaped, less than ¼-inch long, dark brown, and look similar to an apple seed. Nymphs are shaped much like adults, but are smaller. Their color is cream-like, but they turn darker after a blood meal. The presence of bed bugs does not necessarily indicate poor sanitation since bed bugs can infest clean environments.


Bed bugs are very secretive and hide in cracks and crevices during the day and generally only show themselves at night when they come out to feed on someone or a pet that is sleeping. However, if a bed bug population is large and the availability of hosts that provide blood meals is small, they might be active during the day, as well. Bed bugs are almost always introduced into a home, school, or business by human activity by hitchhiking on suitcases and other baggage, clothing, backpacks, infested furniture, mattresses, and box springs. Often, bed bugs are brought into homes or apartments when someone buys or brings home infested items from a dumpster or curbside where someone threw out an infested item.


Nymph and adult bed bugs feed on blood. Adults and nymphs usually feed many times throughout their life and can go for months to less than a year without taking a blood meal.


A bed bug’s habitat is almost any location that mimics a crack, crevice, or void; is near where people spend their sleeping hours; and is located in an “out of the way”, well hidden, secretive place.


Bed bugs develop through three distinct stages – egg, nymph and adult. Nymphs and adults require a blood meal to develop from the nymphal to the adult stage. Under ideal conditions, the bed bug life cycle takes about 4-5 weeks, and adults may live for nearly a year or more. Female bed bugs that have mated lay eggs singly and glue them to surfaces in cracks and crevices, laying about 3-5 eggs laid per day. During a female bed bug’s lifetime, she may lay more than 500 eggs.


Indications of the presence of bed bugs include skin reactions from bites. However, people can react differently to bites. Other indications of activity include the presence of live or dead bed bugs, cast skins from molting, reddish-black fecal material, and blood spots on sheets and clothing.


  • Exclusion – actions designed to help eliminate or reduce bed bug access to cracks, crevices, and other bed bug habitat sites.
  • Removing clutter that gives bed bugs places to hide and remain undisturbed.
  • Using portable vacuums equipped with HEPA filters to physically remove bed bugs.
  • Using traps to capture bed bugs trying to climb up bed posts in order to feed on a sleeping host.
  • Using the washer and dryer at the highest possible heat settings to kill bed bugs that have infested clothing, sheets, and pillowcases.
  • Using mattress and box spring encasements that trap bed bugs inside the encasement.
  • Discarding inexpensive household items or electronics rather than trying to spray them.
  • Using portable heat generating chambers to heat articles to the lethal temperature for bed bugs.
  • Using a freezer to expose bed bugs to lethally cold temperatures. A word of caution – check with a bed bug expert to see how long you must keep items in the freezer.


Controlling bed bugs requires a thorough inspection to locate all the places where bed bugs occur. Be sure that all locations or suspected locations are completely treated with insecticide dust and liquid formulations. Therefore, bed bug control is a job that is best left to your pest management professional since partial and ineffective treatments will result in temporary and incomplete treatment results. Some other specific control methods may include:

  • Using a portable steamer to kill bed bugs, being careful to refrain from damaging articles by exposing them to the hot temperatures of steam.
  • Using fumigation procedures to treat large and widely infested items or structures.