Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips

Bed Bugs

Published   6/11

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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 sleeping humans at night. These nocturnal insects hide along seams of mattresses, in box springs, or in cracks and crevices near sleeping areas. Eliminating an infestation requires 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), 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, larger nymphal stage.
  • Adults can feed every few days but can survive many months without food.

What are associated health problems?

  • Bed bug feeding is painless. Victims usually remain asleep.
  • Areas around bites might redden, swell, and itch. 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 bed bugs on luggage, clothes, bedding, furniture, or other objects and can pick them up in hotels.
  • Hotels, homeless shelters, furnished apartments, and dormitories are most at risk.
  • Second-hand mattresses and furniture can be a source.

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 areas around the bed.
  • Bed bugs like to hide. Remove bedding. Look in cracks and holes. Turn furniture upside down and take apart frames if necessary.
  • Bed bug detection traps are available.

Remove or treat all infested materials as soon as you detect 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.
  • Consider steam cleaning.
  • If possible, replace infested mattresses.
  • Specially designed mattress encasements might be helpful.

Serious infestations may require insecticide treatment.

  • Hire an experienced pest control professional. They have access to the most effective products.
  • Apply insecticides to cracks, crevices, baseboards, and bed frames but not directly to mattresses or bedding. Use special dusts for wall voids and other out-of-the-way spots.
  • Insecticides alone won’t control bed bugs. Remove infested materials, and seal hiding spots.
  • Inspect after treatment 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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