FAQ

Topics

*Bed Bug Glossary of Common Words

Size and Physical Characteristics

Behavior

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Health Impacts

Bites

Pets

Spread and Prevention

Preventing and Limiting Spread

Control

Tenant Concerns (Ohio-Specific)

History

Myths and Trivia

Size and Physical Characteristics

 

Are bed bugs large enough to be seen?

 

Yes, bed bug eggs, nymphs, and adults can all be seen with the naked eye (assuming normal vision). The eggs and newly hatched nymphs (1st stage nymphs) are only 1/16 of an inch long (about 1 mm). The 5 nymphal stages are successively larger, with adult bed bugs being about a fifth of an inch long (about 4 to 5 mm). Some people find it useful to compare adult bed bugs to the size and shape of an apple seed, with nymphs roughly the size and shape of sesame seeds.People often do not see bed bugs because these insects typically hide during the day and come out at nighttime when they feed. During the day, you need to search thoroughly to find bed bugs, which typically are hiding (in cracks and crevices, on the underside of furniture, along mattress seams, and in other tight spaces).

How big can a bed bug get?

 

Adult bed bugs are about a fifth of an inch long (about 4 to 5 mm). Once they feed on blood, they become longer and fatter, about double their normal length. However, they do not become ‘giant’-sized bugs, like swollen ticks.

Why am I seeing very tiny bugs as well as larger bed bugs?

 

Bed bugs are insects that undergo gradual metamorphosis. Bed bugs proceed from the egg stage through 5 nymphal stages until they reach the adult stage. Furthermore, size differences can reflect the bugs’ feeding condition: bed bugs that have digested a blood meal will have a relatively flat shape whereas recently fed bed bugs will be swollen and elongated.

Do bed bugs have a smell (odor)?

 

Bed bugs are related to garden stink bugs, so if you are familiar with the distinctive smell of stink bugs, you can imagine how bed bugs smell. The smell is sometimes described as “sickly sweet,” like “rotting berries.” Some people describe bed bugs as smelling like cilantro, although since most people describe cilantro differently, this is not a useful description. Places where bed bugs congregate may smell of iron or flint, like dried blood.

Behavior

 

What do bed bugs eat?

 

Bed bugs eat blood. They prefer to feed on humans, but if a human host isn’t available, they will feed on other warm-blooded animals (such as cats, dogs, birds, rats, etc.). Bed bugs do not drink water. Bed bugs will not feed on blood oozing from a cut or wound, or from a dead body.

Are bed bugs only active at night?

 

Bed bugs are not only active at night. Bed bugs are technically nocturnal and prefer to feed and move around after dark, but they will feed during the day or in bright light conditions if that is the only time a host is available. As a result, sleeping with the lights on will not prevent bed bugs from feeding. In heavy infestations, numerous bed bugs can often be seen during the daytime.

Will bed bugs stay on my body?

 

No, bed bugs typically do not stay on a person’s skin for any longer than it takes them to feed (generally 3 to 12 minutes, depending on stage). Immediately after feeding, they seek a site off of the host’s body to hide and digest their blood meal. Bed bugs do not like to remain in constant contact with human skin. Particularly in very heavily infested homes, bed bugs may crawl onto an inactive person and hide in seams and folds of their clothing. Bed bugs typically do not get on people while they remain active.

Do bed bugs live outdoors?

 

No, bed bugs are an indoor-only pest. They need to be in human dwellings to have a ready supply of food and hiding places and proper environmental conditions. They will not crawl across yards to neighbors’ houses. However, if bed bugs are hiding in a mattress or other piece of furniture that is left outside, they can survive inside the furniture for a long time. Leaving furniture outdoors is not a reliable way to get rid of the bed bugs.

Can bed bugs jump, like fleas?

 

No, bed bugs cannot jump (they are not closely related to fleas).

Can bed bugs fly?

 

No, bed bugs have no wings and cannot fly.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

What is the bed bug life cycle?

 

The bed bug live cycle includes the egg, 5 nymph stages, and the adult stage. In order to have the energy to molt and move to the next stage, a nymph must feed. Adult females must also feed before they can lay eggs. After mating, a female can store sperm in her body and use it to lay eggs for up to 3 weeks. A female bed bug can lay about 150 eggs during her lifetime.At room temperature (around 73°F or 23°C), it takes about 3 months for bed bugs to complete the life cycle from egg to adult; however, they will grow faster if the house is kept warmer. At 86°F (30°C), it takes about 3 weeks for bed bugs to develop from egg to adult.

How long do bed bugs live?

 

An adult bed bug can live about a year, which is a long time by insect standards.

How long to bed bug eggs take to hatch?

 

Bed bug eggs take about 6 to 10 days to hatch. The timing of egg hatching is important to the IPM treatment strategy used to control bed bugs, especially considering that eggs tend to be more resilient against pesticides than nymphs or adults.

How long can bed bugs live without food?

 

Most bed bugs ordinarily go 6 to 7 days between each feeding. Bed bugs have been known to survive starvation for several months (around 140 days) at room temperature (around 73°F or 23°C). They can survive much longer in cooler temperatures since low temperatures slow their growth and metabolism. Hence, bed bugs can survive many months without food. However, bed bugs will not starve themselves if a host is available.

Are both male and female needed to reproduce?

 

Yes, bed bugs reproduce sexually so both male and female are needed—a female that never mates with a male will never lay eggs. However, once a female has mated, she can store sperm inside her body for up to 3 weeks and continue to lay eggs without mating again.

Health Impacts

 

Are bed bugs public health pests?

 

Yes, bed bugs are recognized as important public health pests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Both of these federal agencies strongly encourage the involvement of local public health agencies since bed bugs pose numerous health risks.Many people experience unpleasant itchy bite reactions, and the bite sites can become infected if they are scratched open. In some cases, bed bug bites can be so numerous and prolonged that the person experiences anemia due to blood loss. Some people have very severe reactions to bed bug bites and experience complex (bullous) reactions, which are medically significant as they are associated with local, highly destructive, inflammation of the blood vessels (cutaneous vasculitis). Bed bugs and their shed skins can also trigger asthmatic reactions in humans.

People living with bed bugs often experience sleeplessness, anxiety, and stress. Others also may experience depression. Bed bugs can cause feelings of fear, anger, frustration, embarrassment, paranoia, and social stigmatization. Such an array of health effects caused by bed bugs can make a person more susceptible to common diseases.

Bites

What are the health implications of bites?

 

While bed bugs have not been shown to spread disease, they still can cause severe adverse health effects. Seven out of ten people are allergic to bed bugs and have itchy welts at the site of a bite. Bites can cause more serious allergic reactions, exacerbate existing health issues, and cause psychological distress. See the above Q&A for more information on their public health impacts.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

 

Based on current evidence, bed bugs are not known to transmit human disease. This issue requires more research.

How can you tell bed bug bites apart from other insect bites?

 

A firm diagnosis cannot be made unless a bug is seen. Even a doctor can’t tell a bed bug bite just by looking at the bite mark. However, some signs that it might be bed bugs:

  • Bite marks occur on the skin exposed while sleeping – for example, if you sleep shirtless, bite marks may be on your chest and back
  • Bite marks on neck and face
  • Bite marks often occur in rows or groups
  • You wake up with new bite marks

Everyone else in my household is getting bitten, so why aren’t the bed bugs biting me?

 

If you live with bed bugs, they are most likely biting you, but you simply are not showing any signs of their bites. Approximately 3 of 10 people do not have an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, so you may be among that number.

Why don’t the bites on my friends look exactly alike?

 

For those 7 out of 10 people who do react to bed bug bites, the bite reaction can look different from person to person depending on their body’s allergic response. Some people are only mildly allergic, while others may be more sensitive.

Do bed bugs always bite in 3s?

 

Bed bugs do not always bite in 3s, but they are known to leave bites in rows or groups. Since bed bugs prefer to gather together, clusters of bites will occur from several individual bugs feeding near each other. In some cases, a bed bug may have inserted its mouthparts several times (probed the skin) before reaching a blood vessel—the first few bite marks will be smaller (due to milder allergic reaction), followed by a bigger bite mark.

Pets

Will bed bugs feed on my pets?

 

Yes, bed bugs will feed on any warm-blooded animal (e.g., cats, dogs, birds, bats, and rodents), but they prefer to feed on humans. If they feed on a pet, they typically feed on those areas with little fur or feathers. Once a bed bug has finished feeding, it is unlikely to remain on the animal.

Will my pet spread bed bugs when I take it to a neighbor’s house?

 

While bed bugs might bite a pet, they don’t live on bodies, so pets themselves are very unlikely to spread bed bugs. However, bed bugs will hide in pet bedding and pet carriers, and transport of those items can allow bed bugs to spread to new sites.

If a dog or cat lives with a bed-bug infested person, should the pet be treated?

 

No special treatment is necessary for your pet. Fortunately, standard flea and tick treatments provided by a veterinarian often help control bed bugs on pets. Bed bugs prefer to bite humans rather than pets in a bed bug-infested house. If you still have concerns, you can speak to your veterinarian about the issue.Although pet flea and tick treatments can protect pets from bed bugs, they are not safe for use on humans and there is no evidence that they protect humans from bed bugs. In addition, never use dog flea or tick treatments on other animals, as this can seriously poison them. Look for treatments specific to each kind of pet.

Will my pets be safe from bed bug treatment of my home?

 

In general, the pesticide treatments applied by pest management professionals are safe for pets, as long as you follow the professional’s directions exactly. Bed bug treatments vary widely, so ask your pest control professional about what pesticides he or she uses and how to keep your pets safe during treatment. You probably will be instructed to take your pets out of the house during treatment, and then to return after several hours which allows time for the pesticide to dry. If you have an aquarium, make sure it is completely covered during treatment so that pesticides do not drift into the water.Be aware that while pyrethrins or pyrethroids are safe for use around people and dogs, they are extremely toxic to cats, and even small doses can lead to life-threatening poisonings. Never use dog flea or tick treatments on cats; be sure to use cat-specific treatments. Be extremely careful when considering any “grocery store” pesticides in your house if you have cats—a large number of these products contain pyrethrins or pyrethroids that can harm your cat.

Preventing and Limiting Spread

How can people prevent the spread of bed bugs?

Everyone:

  • Check for bed bugs at hotels and refuse to stay in a room showing signs of bed bugs
  • Store luggage on a luggage rack and/or in the bathtub to prevent hitchhikers
  • Never pick up furniture left at the curb or side of the road
  • Avoid any second-hand furniture that is upholstered – stick to plain wood, plastic, or metal, and check the cracks for signs of bed bugs
  • Bag second-hand clothing immediately and wash it before bringing it into your home
  • Cut down on clutter in your house so that any future infestation can be discovered more easily and treated faster

If you visit an infested area:

  • Visit during the day if you can
  • Bring as little with you as possible, and keep it either with you, or in a sealed plastic box, bag, etc. and keep it by the door, not near beds or sofas
  • Don’t sit on beds or sofas – stick to standing or sitting on non-upholstered furniture
  • Check your shoes before you leave
  • Change clothes before entering your home and bag the old clothes in a sealed zip-top bag until they go into the washing machine

 

If you get an infestation:

  • Treat as soon as you discover bed bugs, before their population takes off (or, in apartments, before they spread to other units)
  • Don’t throw away your furniture unless absolutely necessary – it can almost always be treated, including bedding
  • If you have no choice but to discard furniture, make sure to wrap it securely in plastic sheeting, and either write BED BUGS or destroy it so that others don’t use it
  • Don’t give away or share items with others until you have treated your infestation
  • Decontaminate your clothing and other washable items by washing them and then drying them for 30 minutes on medium to high heat
  • Items that can’t be washed but can survive the dryer (shoes, stuffed animals, etc.) can be decontaminated in the dryer for 30 minutes on medium to high heat
  • Check your shoes before leaving your house so that you don’t track bed bugs around
  • Don’t store your backpack, briefcase, etc. near your bed, and leave it in a sealed plastic bag or plastic tote when you go to work or school
  • At school, make sure children don’t intermingle their coats, backpacks, etc. They should stay in individual cubbies, bins, etc.

How should clients coming from heavily-infested homes be handled?

While you should try to limit the spread of bed bugs in your facility, do not make the person feel stigmatized or discriminated against. Many people are ashamed of having bed bugs, but bed bugs are nothing to feel shame about. You can reassure an embarrassed person that anyone can get bed bugs.

  • Ask the client to wait for you to come to them, rather than having them walk through the building to you
  • Keep clients in one room if possible, so that only one room needs treatment
  • Provide non-upholstered seating if possible (for example, plastic or wood)
  • If bed bugs infest a walker or wheelchair, offer a replacement for them to use as long as they are in the building
  • If infestation is severe, offer fresh clothing at the entrance and ask them to change before coming further into the facility
  • If the person is leaving items with you, instruct them to seal the items in Ziploc bags or other sealable, plastic containers

If I visit a bed bug infested apartment, how can I help protect myself from getting bed bug hitchhikers?

Remember that bed bugs are most active at night, so daytime may be best for your visit. Take as few items as possible with you into an infested apartment. Bed bugs are most likely to bite you or perhaps climb into your clothing if you are sitting, sleeping, or lounging on infested furniture. Remember that the bugs also may crawl into your belongings if you have placed them on an infested item. In particular, avoid sitting on upholstered furniture or beds, and don’t place any of your belongings there. Consider standing or sitting at a kitchen table since bed bugs often are less numerous in areas where people don’t rest for long periods of time. Otherwise, you are not very likely to get bed bug hitchhikers unless there is a very heavy bed bug infestation. If the apartment is very heavily infested and bed bugs are in the carpet, then the bugs may hide on your shoes, especially the underside, where they can crawl into gaps created by the shoe tread. It is especially important to inspect your shoes after exiting. A good practice is to change into fresh clothes and shoes; be sure to immediately place any potentially infested items into a bag and seal it until you can launder the items. Put any potentially infested clothing through the dryer on medium to high heat (120°F is needed) for 30 minutes to kill any bed bugs.

Control

What is the silver bullet to control bed bugs?

There is no silver bullet! Bed bug control typically takes lots of time and effort. It is a good idea to consider hiring a knowledgeable pest management professional to control bed bugs.

Treatment Practices

Once a treatment has been completed and no bugs are seen for one year, can there be bed bugs remaining from the previous infestation which will resurface as a new infestation?

This is very unlikely after a gap of that much time. What is most likely happening in cases like these is that new bed bugs have been introduced to form a brand new infestation.

What is the least expensive treatment that still works?

You can increase the effectiveness of a pest control visit by taking some steps yourself.

  • Declutter your home so that bed bugs have fewer places to hide
  • Wash and/or dry items that can survive the dryer (30 minutes at medium to high heat)
  • Steam treat other items, such as furniture
  • Vacuum as thoroughly as possible, paying special attention to cracks and crevices
  • Use diatomaceous earth (DE) or silica gel dust where appropriate – focus on places where liquid insecticide can’t be used, such as electrical sockets
  • Move your bed away from the wall and remove bed skirts or dangling sheets to isolate it from the walls and floor. Place a pitfall trap under each leg of the bed so that bed bugs cannot move from the floor to the bed and vice versa (if your mattress is on the floor, invest in a bed frame to elevate it).
  • Mattress encasements eliminate mattresses and box springs as a place for bed bugs to hide and are a great way to “finish” a treatment

Insecticides are still the best treatment, but these added steps will help ensure the pesticide is as effective as possible and the infestation does not return.

Insecticides

Do you need a license to apply pesticides?

You do not need a license to apply pesticides within your own home. However, all other applications are regulated and require a license. For example, a landlord cannot apply pesticides to his or her owned units unless he or she is also a licensed applicator.

Are there any non-pyrethroid pesticides available over-the-counter (OTC) to the public (such as Temprid, Transport, Phantom, etc.)?

No. These kinds of pesticides are ordinarily not available OTC.

Are there over-the-counter (OTC) options for bed bug treatment?

Two of the only OTC products that are effective for bed bug treatment are dusts, such as diatomaceous earth (DE) and silica gel dust, and mattress encasements. You can apply these yourself as part of a control strategy, where they do a good job of complementing insecticide treatment. However, used all by themselves, they are not likely to solve your problem.

Will over-the-counter insecticides control my bed bug infestation?

No. Many over-the-counter insecticides are contact insecticides (look for this wording on the product label) that kill only those bed bugs that are directly sprayed with the product. They do not kill bed bugs that are hiding in cracks and crevices (behind the baseboards, under the carpet, along mattress seams, etc.). Over-the-counter products generally have little effectiveness after they have dried. “Grocery store” bug sprays and bug bombs are not only ineffective, but they can make the problem worse by causing bugs to scatter. Most “natural” products are ineffective as well.

Can DDT kill bed bugs? Is DDT going to come back?

Bed bugs developed resistance to DDT in the 1940s, so it is not useful against them anymore. In addition, DDT has serious environmental problems that make its comeback very unlikely.

Should I use ‘bug bombs’ against bed bugs?

No. Total release aerosol insecticides (a.k.a. ‘bug bombs’) are not effective in controlling bed bugs. Bug bombs may make the problem worse by scattering the bugs throughout your home. Researchers have documented the ineffectiveness of several bug bomb products against bed bugs (Jones, S. C., and J. L. Bryant. 2012.)

If bug bombs are no good for bed bugs, are they still good to kill cockroaches, ants, and other insects?

Not really. Bug bombs and DIY foggers can’t reach inside crevices, where cockroaches and other insects live. As with bed bugs, cockroaches and other pests may simply be scattered by bug bombs, dispersing deeper into your home.

Do pesticides kill bed bug eggs?

They can, although eggs are more resilient than live bugs. All pesticides are different; the best pesticides have been tested to kill eggs.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) and Silica Gel Dust

What is diatomaceous earth (DE) and how does it work?

DE is a whitish powder made of the remains of microscopic creatures called diatoms, which are a kind of algae that has a skeleton made of silica (glass). When an insect walks through DE, the tiny glass skeletons scratch open the waxy outer coating of the insect, causing it to lose water uncontrollably and die. The insect must contact the DE for this to happen.

What is silica gel dust and how does it work?

Silica gel dust, like DE, is a whitish powder made from silica, but instead of being made from algae skeletons, silica gel dust is manufactured artificially, often from sand. When an insect walks through silica gel dust, the particles absorb the oils from the waxy outer coating of the insect, causing it to lose water uncontrollably and die.

Do DE/silica gel dust work to control bed bugs?

Yes, but like any bed bug control, they need to be used in tandem with other forms of control, and the effectiveness of the products depends on being used correctly. For instance, these dusts should be deposited in a very thin layer, not clumps that the bugs will simply walk around. Also, DE must be applied after liquid insecticides have dried, as DE that becomes wet at any point loses effectiveness.

Where can DE/silica gel dust be purchased?

DE and silica gel dust meant for insecticidal purposes are relatively easy to find and can be found at hardware stores or other places where pesticide is sold. Be sure to avoid pool-grade or filter-grade DE, as this is not more effective as a pesticide but is much more hazardous to breathe.

Is DE/silica gel dust safe?

DE and silica gel dust are nontoxic and considered generally safe, but as a dust both can pose a respiratory hazard, so be sure to wear a face mask and goggles and avoid breathing in dust when working with these dusts. Make sure children and pets have left the area until you are done applying the dust and it has settled. Do not allow children or pets to play with or eat either dust; while it is not toxic, it can cause stomach upset.

Household Items

Should I throw away my furniture now that I have bed bugs?

No, it’s not necessary or desirable to throw away furniture, including mattresses. Your first step should be to treat the residence and the furniture to kill the bed bugs. If you decide to throw away any furniture, be sure to completely wrap each item in plastic sheeting so that bed bugs don’t fall off as you are moving the items. Deface or damage each item, and write “Bed Bugs” on it in paint or marker, so that nobody else wants to remove it from the trash.

How should I treat my clothing?

Fortunately, it’s easy to treat clothing and other washable items for bed bugs. Keep suspect items sealed in a zip-top bag until you can wash them. Wash them as usual first to avoid odors or stains. Next, dry the items normally, then when the items are no longer damp, continue to dry them for 30 minutes on medium or high heat. This is the step that kills the bed bugs. If you have dry-clean only items, dry cleaning also kills bed bugs.

What about other items?

If an item can survive a trip through the dryer (such as shoes, stuffed animals, seat cushions, pet beds, etc.), you can throw it in the dryer for 30 minutes on medium to high heat. For other items that can’t be put in the dryer or treated with insecticide, you may consider a portable heat-treatment unit to kill bed bugs hiding within. This is much less expensive than heat-treating your whole house but just as effective at killing bed bugs within items.

Are mattress encasements effective?

Yes; they perform their role effectively, though they will not solve an infestation by themselves and are usually used as a final step in a treatment or as a preventative measure. They should be applied to both mattress and box spring. When used correctly, a mattress encasement will trap all bed bugs currently in the mattress inside the encasement, which they cannot pierce to feed, causing the trapped bugs to eventually starve. The encasement also prevents new bed bugs from moving into the mattress. Encasements are an excellent alternative to discarding your mattress, as they are much less expensive than a new mattress.

Do treated mattress covers work? Are they safe?

Yes; treated mattress covers are impregnated with permethrin and act as a residual insecticide for your bed. They are safe to use and most people tolerate permethrin-treated fabrics well. If concerned, you can invert the liner so that the treated surface is not being laid upon when you sleep. However, if you have cats, you may want to do further research or consider other options, as permethrin is extremely toxic to cats.

Can I make my own encasement with garbage bags?

In theory, yes. However, you will need to be absolutely certain that all possible gaps are sealed securely with strong tape (such as duct tape), and check periodically to ensure no tears or rips have formed. Even the smallest opening will prevent the encasement from working.

Other Treatments

Do bed bug sniffing dogs work? How?

Bed bug sniffing dogs can work, though their effectiveness varies from dog to dog, and is dependent on many factors (airflow, severity of infestation, tiredness of dog, etc.). Recent research has shown that the effectiveness of canine inspections varies greatly between individual dogs. There are also limitations on a dog’s abilities; a heavy infestation will overwhelm the dog. Canine detection is most useful in large areas that would be too labor-intensive to search by hand, since the dog can quickly sweep a building and alert at concentrated infested spots. No one knows exactly what chemical the dogs are reacting to; bed bugs secrete many different odors, and it is possible different dogs are cluing in to different odors.

Does heat treatment work?

Yes, but it must be done correctly. Bed bugs die at 120°F, so the temperature in all cracks and crevices must reach at least 120°F to work. Therefore, the heat must usually run for up to 8 hours to penetrate all hiding places, and the air temperature required to achieve this may be well above 120°F. Any bugs that survive will continue to infest the house after the heat treatment unless a residual (insecticide) or follow-up treatment is used as well. Performing a whole-house heat treatment is difficult and requires specialized equipment operated by a professional. Therefore, it is more expensive than insecticide treatment. However, it may be considered if insecticides cannot be used for some reason. It is also possible to use your laundry dryer or small, portable heat-treatment units to treat specific items rather than the entire house.Do not try to heat-treat your house by yourself; turning your furnace to high heat, or leaving the air conditioning off during the summer, will not reach the necessary temperatures, and in fact will encourage the bed bugs to reproduce faster.

Does cold kill bed bugs?

Yes, but in general, it is not as effective as heat. Storage at 19°F (-7°C) for three weeks, or 5°F (-15°C) or below for four days, is sufficient to kill all bed bugs and eggs. If you have access to a freezer that keeps consistent low temperatures, you can decontaminate small items, such as suitcases, by freezing. This method depends strongly on the item remaining at or below target temperature for the entire time period; bed bugs can survive if allowed to warm up.It is vital to monitor the item with a thermometer to ensure the target temperature is held for the entire length of time. Be sure any items treated this way can survive prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures.

Important caution: Most stand-up refrigerator-freezer units are “frost-free,” which means they cycle between warmer and colder temperatures; these cannot be relied on to kill bed bugs unless you are able to turn off the frost-free feature or manually control the temperature.

Can I leave my items outside over the winter to treat them?

No. Even the coldest Ohio winters may not completely eliminate bed bugs, as temperatures rarely remain below 19°F, day and night, for three weeks, or below 5°F for four days. The bed bugs can simply slow their metabolism until warmer temperatures return.

Can you use alcohol to control bed bugs?

No. Alcohol is not an insecticide and simply spraying bed bugs with alcohol will most likely not kill them. In addition, spraying or dousing with alcohol creates a serious fire hazard.

Can you stand in front of car exhaust to kill bed bugs on your clothing?

Do not do this. Car exhaust is dangerous to breathe and there is no guarantee it will kill bed bugs. Removing your clothing, sealing it in an airtight bag on the way to the laundry room, then washing and drying it for 30 minutes, is a very effective way to eliminate bed bugs and eggs from your clothing, so there is no need to stand in front of car exhaust.

Can bug repellent (DEET) keep me safe?

It only repels bed bugs for a short time (~1 hour). It may have some use when visiting an infested site, but it is not suitable for constant use or for use while sleeping. Hungry bed bugs will still bite a person wearing DEET.

Are ultrasonic devices effective against bed bugs?

No. Researchers have documented the ineffectiveness of ultrasonic devices against bed bugs (Yturralde, K. M., and R. W. Hofstetter. 2012). Bed bugs don’t have ears! Independent research repeatedly has shown that ultrasonic devices are not effective against any type of insect or vertebrate pest. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a regulatory agency, has filed charges for deception, false claims, etc. against some ultrasonic manufacturers.

Are glue traps effective?

In general, glue or sticky traps are not effective on bed bugs. The best way to trap and detect bed bugs is using pitfall traps with steep, slick sides.

What kind of slippery product is used on pitfall traps to keep bugs from getting out?

Some traps are made with very slick material (think Teflon) that gives bed bugs no way to cling to it. Others are coated in talc or other powder that prevents the bugs from getting a firm foothold, and need to be re-dusted periodically to remain effective.

If bed bugs are attracted to odor, would essential oils be effective as a deterrent?

No. Bed bugs are attracted to odor, but that is not the only way the find a host (they are also attracted to warmth, CO2, etc.).

Are there plants that repel bed bugs?

No. Bed bugs are not effectively repelled by plants or their leaves, flowers, etc.

Tenant Concerns (Ohio-Specific)

Who is responsible for bed bug treatment in Ohio?

Ohio is currently a regulatory patchwork when it comes to bed bugs. The Ohio Healthy Homes Network describes some of the areas of Ohio where bed bug regulations are in place. Where applicable, tenants may petition their landlords for treatment within 30 days of bed bug discovery. Check your local regulations for more information.Unfortunately, the financial responsibility of bed bug treatments is not settled law. If a landlord treats for bed bugs, they may seek reimbursement for the costs from a tenant. In addition, some landlords may have bed bug statements in their lease agreement. Always check your lease first to see what it says about bed bugs.

If a tenant moves into a unit, and two months later reports to the landlord he saw bed bugs in the unit, who is responsible for paying to treat them?

There is no legal consensus in Ohio about who is responsible for bed bug treatment. However, landlords can seek the costs of treatment from tenants.

History

Why are bed bugs coming back now?

Three main factors are thought to contribute to the resurgence of bed bugs. More people are traveling now than ever before, spreading bed bugs between countries, states, and cities. Many people now move housing frequently, which contributes to the spread of bed bugs. Finally, bed bugs have become resistant to many common insecticides, making them difficult to kill once established.

How were bed bugs eradicated before?

Bed bugs were never truly eradicated; they persisted in less-developed parts of the world where resources to treat bed bugs were not easy to come by. In the US, DDT and other insecticides were used commonly, driving down the bed bug population. However, as bed bugs developed resistances, and as certain insecticides were found to be problematic and stopped being used, bed bugs were able to rebound.

Are bed bugs ancient?

Bed bugs are not as ancient as cockroaches, but they are still very old. Aristotle talked about them (~350 BC), so we know they have been plaguing our ancestors for millennia. Fossils suggest they may have been living with cave-dwellers in ancient human history (Adams, M. E., and D. L. Jenkins. 2017.)

Myths and Trivia

Can smoking bed bugs get someone high?

No. They do not secrete any chemicals that could be used as a hallucinogen, narcotic, etc. This is an urban legend, and there is no evidence that anyone has actually attempted to smoke bed bugs.

In an apocalypse, who would last longest, cockroaches or bed bugs?

It depends on the apocalypse! But, in general, bed bugs are individually fragile. They only eat the blood of live mammals, so they cannot scavenge like cockroaches can. They are easily killed by sustained high temperatures. In general, you should bet on cockroaches.

Bed Bug Glossary of Common Words

Nymph = one of five immature, or juvenile (i.e., “baby”, “child”, and/or “teenager”), stages that bed bugs pass through before becoming adults. Newly hatched nymphs are small (1/16 inch, or 1 mm) but nymphs get larger by molting to reach the next stage. A nymph must eat before it can molt and thereby pass to the next stage. The process of a nymph growing up to become an adult is called metamorphosis.

Molt = to shed the skin. All insects molt, including bed bugs. A bed bug nymph must molt in order to grow and reach the next stage. Molting no longer occurs once a bed bug becomes an adult. When insects molt, they leave behind the old skin. These “cast skins” can be a sign of a bed bug infestation.

Metamorphosis = the process of a juvenile insect growing and changing on its way to becoming an adult. Each stage in the change is marked by the insect molting. Bed bugs go through gradual metamorphosis, which means that they start out looking like a small version of the adult, and they look more and more like the adult with each molt. (Note, in contrast, a butterfly goes through complete metamorphosis, with caterpillar, pupal, and adult stages, none of which resemble each other.)

Fecal Spotting = the spots left behind by bed bugs when they poop (defecate). Bed bug feces are partially digested blood, so the spots of feces (poop) sometimes can look like spots of dried, darkened blood. Fecal spotting is one of the important signs of bed bug presence. In addition to dark spots, bed bugs also can produce yellowish white to white spots, which are deposits of uric acid (a nitrogenous waste product).

IPM = integrated pest management, a multi-faceted strategy to control pests, including bed bugs. IPM involves correctly identifying the pest in question, understanding the biology and behavior of the pest, and creating a treatment plan based on that knowledge, using several techniques for achieving control, including pesticides (of which multiple kinds are often used), but also other treatments, such as desiccant dusts, as well as non-chemical treatments, such as decluttering and using mattress encasements.