Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Bed Bugs

Published   5/15

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Adult bed bug

Adult bed bug.

Bed bug life cycle

Bed bug life cycle.

Inspect for bedbugs with a flashlight

Inspect for bed bugs with a flashlight.

Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that can feed on blood from sleeping humans and other animals. These insects hide along seams of mattresses, within box springs, or within cracks and crevices in furniture, personal belongings, and structural elements near sleeping and resting areas. Eliminating an infestation is best done by a professional pest control company and may require removing or treating all infested material and monitoring to be sure bed bugs are gone.

Bed bug identification and biology.

  • Adults are small (about 1/5 inch), flattened, oval, and rusty red. Nymphs, or immature bed bugs, are smaller and lighter colored.
  • Bed bugs feed only on blood and must have one blood meal prior to molting to the next stage.
  • Adults may feed every five to seven days but can survive many months without food.

What are associated health problems?

  • Bed bug feeding is usually painless; Sleeping victims are typically unaware.
  • Areas around bites might redden, swell, and itch several days later; some people have no reaction.
  • Bed bugs aren’t known to spread diseases, but scratching bites can lead to infections.

How does a bed bug infestation start?

  • People can carry hitchhiking bed bugs into their homes on luggage, clothes, bedding, furniture, or other objects. They sometimes pick them up in hotels or other places during overnight visits.
  • Hotels, homeless shelters, furnished apartments, and dormitories are most at risk of becoming infested.
  • Second-hand mattresses and bedroom furniture are known to be high-risk potential sources of bed bug infestations.

Detecting bed bugs.

  • Using a flashlight and magnifying glass, look for bed bugs, their dark fecal spots, and light-brown shed skins.
  • Focus on mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and other areas near sleeping and resting surfaces.
  • Bed bugs like to hide. Remove bedding. Look in cracks and holes. Turn furniture upside down and take apart frames if necessary.
  • Several kinds of bed bug detection traps are available to help determine if your home is infested.

Use nonchemical control methods to remove or kill small numbers of bed bugs.

  • Vacuum along mattress seams, baseboards, and other areas.
  • Wash all bedding and clothing in hot (120°F) water and dry in a hot dryer.
  • Specially designed mattress encasements might be helpful to prevent infestations and to seal bed bugs within so they can’t bite.

Serious infestations require professional help and may include insecticide treatments.

  • If you rent your home, make sure to contact your landlord or property owner so that they can help you manage your infestation.
  • Hire a reputable pest control company that has experience with bed bug management. They have access to the most effective monitoring techniques and management products.
  • Insecticides alone won’t control bed bugs. Remove or heat-treat infested materials, and seal hiding spots to prevent future infestations.
  • Inspect after treatments to be sure bugs are gone.

Read more about Bed Bugs.

Minimize the use of pesticides that pollute our waterways. Use nonchemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible. Read product labels carefully and follow instructions on proper use, storage, and disposal.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California

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