Bed Bugs


NC State Extension: Bed Bugs Biology and Control: 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

Bed bugs are a nuisance and are very costly and time consuming to treat. Lately more of these insects are becoming a problem for hotels and residential houses. Bed bugs do not fly nor do they crawl long distances, they hitchhike from place to place in search of a warm blooded meal.

The only good news about bed bugs is that they are not vectors of disease. They can move from place to place using luggage from traveling, used bedding or mattresses that have not been sanitized, on the clothing of people, used furniture, or on wild animals (for example: wild birds that live in the chimney).

Bed bug pictures (PDF)

Bed Bug_thumb

Treating for bed bugs:

  • Pest Control Operator (CPO) - Professional services that offer treatment and follow up. Ask for treatment options: steam, liquid pesticide, powder pesticide, intense heat, etc. Some companies offer or have access to trained dogs that will sniff out the exactly where the bed bugs are living which provides a targeted area for treatment.
  • Do it yourself treatments - There are many products available for purchase that will treat bed bugs. Read the label and follow the label directions EXACTLY. More is not better when it comes to pest control. Treating for bed bugs yourself is much cheaper route but it is VERY time consuming. Be patient and diligent for best results. Some available options include:
    • Pesticides - liquid or powder form available at any hardware store
    • Steam - not a carpet cleaner but specific for bed bugs
    • Freezing cryonite units, chest freezers (one week minimum)
    • Fumigation - (there must be DIRECT contact to the bed bugs to kill them)
    • Thermal remediation - a thermal machine can heat a room to 120 degrees for five hours to kill both adult bed bugs and eggs. Small items can be put in the clothes dryer for 30 minutes on hot cycle to kill bed bugs as well.

Why Are They Spreading So Rapidly?

  • Phenomenal explosion in major metropolitan regions
  • Increase in travel, loss of pesticide tools, and changes in how the industry operates
  • Multi-family housing and cultural habits
  • Cruise ships
  • Bed bugs are master hitch hikers and hard to detect in low numbers
  • Public generally does not know what bed bugs are, how to avoid them, or how to recognize a problem
  • Most modern insecticides are not effective

How Are They Being Spread?

  • Furniture company delivering new furniture on same truck they took old furniture away on
  • Furniture donated through Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other thrift stores
  • Yard sales
  • Dumpster diving / curbside shopping


  • Feed exclusively on blood and take about five minutes to feed
  • Leave host after feeding and hide nearby
  • Life cycle - must take blood meal between life stages
    • Egg
    • Five instar stages
    • Adult
  • Seven days between each instar stage
  • 35 - 48 days from egg to adulthood
  • Females will lay one to five eggs per day (up to 200 in a lifetime)
  • Adults can live six to eight months (sometimes over one year)

Inspection & Detection

  • Equipment: flashlights, which are helpful in moderate to heavy infestations, bed bug detecting dogs, which are able to find a single egg / bug, traps, heat (hair dryers)
  • Where to look: box springs, bed frames, cracks, and crevices
    • 85% will be close to where host is when resting the majority of the time then they will go to ceiling corners in colder months


  • Nocturnal - normally move and feed at night
  • They do not jump or fly - they move into suitcases at night and can move fairly fast
  • Very mobile and can travel between apartments and dorms
  • 20% of apartments could be infested and not aware of the problem
  • Move into other units of adjacent walls of initial location
  • People that are bitten don't always have a reaction
  • Bed bugs will make bites in a line along the person's skin
  • Not vectors - they are not known to transfer any type of diseases

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