Everyone knows that bed bugs are a nuisance. However, only a few understand how to deal with them. Learning all you can about these pests can help you design a comprehensive prevention strategy.

We've collected frequently asked questions about bed bug problems and provided essential answers to help you forget about these insects once and for all.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. They're known as bed bugs because they are commonly found on or near beds and other resting areas.

Their bites are problematic and can cause itchy welts on the skin, lead to secondary infection, and feel irritating and unsanitary. These insects can also spread from house to house or room to room with ease.

Although bed bugs do not fly and cannot jump, they hide themselves in your clothing, luggage, furniture and other items. As a result of them being so small and adept at hiding, you inadvertently introduce them to your own house when you return home, with bed bugs having hitched a ride on your personal items.

What do bed bugs look like?

Adult bed bugs grow 4-5 millimeters long and 1.5-3 millimeters wide (about the size of an apple seed), with a small head and larger oval-shaped body.

Newly hatched bed bug nymphs are tiny (1 millimeter) and either cream colored or translucent. If a bed bug has not recently fed, they are about the size of the tip of a pencil, which makes them nearly invisible to the naked eye because of their coloring and size.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are mostly found where people like to rest or sleep.

About 70 percent of any bed bug infestation is associated with beds and furniture, pictures, and baseboards next to a bed. Bed bugs hide in cracks, folds, tucks and in and around these areas.

The second most common bed bug harborage after beds is upholstered furniture, while a small percentage of any bed bug population may be scattered throughout a room on random items or fixtures.

Why are bed bugs becoming more common?

Once a common problem in homes and businesses, bed bugs largely disappeared from the United States when modern insecticides were introduced after WWII.

Since the late 1990s, bed bugs have had a significant comeback, and infestations have been increasing across the country. However, the reasons for this resurgence are not entirely understood. Factors such as increased international travel and immigration have likely contributed to the rapid spread of infestations.

How long do bed bugs live?

Bed bugs live longer than many other insects. Their typical lifespan is between four and six months. However, many bed bugs can live up to 10 months. In cold temperatures, adult bed bugs can survive for up to a year in a hibernated state without any food.

How fast do bed bugs reproduce?

After the female bed bug lays eggs, it takes about 10 days for those eggs to hatch. In the right conditions, a bed bug can reach its adult state in about 37 days.

A single bed bug can produce three to eight eggs a week. During its life, just one female bed bug can produce more than 300 eggs.

How do bed bugs spread?

Bed bugs can spread in one of two different ways:

  • They can simply crawl from one room to another. While they aren't fast, bed bugs can infest an entire house in just a couple of days.
  • They can travel in suitcases, on clothing and on linens.

Even if you don't have bed bugs in your house, you can easily bring them in from a hotel or a clothing store. This can cause infestations to spread quickly.

Who is at risk of getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk of getting bed bugs. Even if you clean and inspect your house for bed bugs regularly, they can arrive unexpectedly. People who travel often have a higher risk of bringing bed bugs with them inside luggage.

Are bed bugs typically associated with unclean or low-income areas?

Not at all. Many people mistakenly believe that bed bugs appear due to inadequate cleaning and poor hygiene. However, these little pests can make their way into five-star hotels, posh movie theaters and even upscale restaurants.

Just like mosquitoes, bed bugs feed on blood. For this reason, they can live wherever humans live.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

Signs of bed bugs may include small brown spots (fecal spots) on bedding and small blood smears on sheets.

Small, translucent bed bug eggs may be found in the tucks and folds of a mattress and box spring, behind headboards, along baseboards and hidden among any piece of furniture where the bed bugs are hiding.

Are bed bugs just in beds?

The simple answer is no. Bed bugs can live on clothing, on linens, in upholstered furniture, in cracks of bed frames, in the folds of curtains, inside box springs and many more places. While they are rather small, it may be easy to spot these annoying pests thanks to the evidence they leave in your home.

Do bed bugs get on clothing?

Yes, bed bugs can live on clothing. In fact, hitching a ride on clothes is their preferred method of travel. Bed bugs use clothing to move from one place to another and infest new buildings.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

While bed bugs are usually more annoying than harmful, they can pose health risks. This includes:

  • Secondary infection due to scratching of the bitten area
  • Allergic reactions
  • Sleep problems

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor. Even if symptoms go away quickly, it's also imperative that you deal with the bed bug problem to prevent reoccurrence. Even the slightest symptoms of bed bug bites can decrease your quality of life.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs themselves don't spread disease. However, you can get an infection at the bite area from scratching the skin and exposing a wound.

How can I avoid picking up bed bugs (and bringing them back with me) when I travel?

Follow these guidelines to help avoid a run-in with bed bugs:

  • Check the mattress, headboard, bed frame and pictures for any signs of bed bugs like blood spots or eggs.
  • Keep your luggage on the luggage rack (after making sure it has no signs of bed bugs). Avoid placing your luggage on the bed or floor.
  • Hang any clothing that can be hung and avoid storing clothes in a dresser.
  • Check travel reviews before visiting a hotel and be careful of those with multiple reports of bed bugs.

Why are bed bugs an issue for hotels, visitors and homeowners?

Bed bugs spread easily and cause discomfort to people who have to live with them. Besides unpleasant signs like brown spots on furniture and bloodstains on linens, bed bug bites can cause allergies and lead to secondary infections from scratching.

Living with bed bugs is stressful and uncomfortable. That's why it's imperative to get rid of them as fast as possible.

How do I get rid of bed bugs?

At Terminix®, we employ a range of treatments for residential and commercial infestations, suitable for homes, hotels, apartments, food processing plants and organic industries.

Our pest control specialists conduct a thorough inspection and offer up customized solutions by room and infestation level, using multiple techniques to solve the problem.

Among some of the solutions we employ include installation of interceptor devices that quickly detect any new bed bug activity. We also conduct a follow-up inspection to ensure your problem was taken care of. Best of all, you do not have to remove your bed or throw away your mattress. We use mattress encasements to preserve your bed long after bed bugs are gone.

Terminix also uses other safe, effective treatments such as steam to help ensure that an infestation ends as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Can bed bugs feed off pets and animals?

Yes, bed bugs can feed off of your pets and other animals. While bed bugs prefer humans, in their search for food, they are often ready to feed on cats, dogs and other warm-blooded pets.

Why are bed bugs so hard to treat?

Bed bugs are resistant to many types of treatments that usually kill other insects. Over time, these annoying pests have developed a resistance to common pesticides. In addition, they can survive for a long time without food and reproduce quickly.

Can alcohol kill bed bugs?

If you spray rubbing alcohol on a bed bug, it can kill it. However, to fight a bed bug infestation, you would need to find every single bed bug in your home and pour alcohol on it.

This isn't just an impossible task. It can be dangerous for your household members, as alcohol is a hazardous and flammable chemical. Plus, it doesn't fully solve the problem because nymphs and eggs are resistant to alcohol.

Can bleach kill bed bugs?

Just like alcohol, bleach can destroy a bug if it comes into direct contact with it. However, nymphs and eggs are resistant. Not to mention, finding every bed bug in your house and spraying them with bleach is a tough task, and one that would expose your family and possessions to the harsh chemical.

Can mothballs kill bed bugs?

Mothballs don't hurt or kill bed bugs. However, they contain dangerous chemicals and are a choking hazard for children.

Does steam kill bed bugs?

Yes, steam can kill bed bugs. In fact, it can destroy bed bugs at every stage of their development.

By exposing bed bugs to temperatures around 110 °F for about 20 minutes, you can get rid of them for good. However, the treatment will only be effective if you apply it to the entire house at once.

Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?

Getting rid of bed bugs on your own is nearly impossible. Dealing with a bed bug infestation requires a comprehensive strategy and professional equipment.

You could spend months trying to remove bed bugs from your home only to miss a couple of bugs that can produce hundreds of new pests within weeks.

What assurance is there that bed bug treatment will be effective?

Not all bed bug treatments are effective, especially when completed with home products or as a DIY project. Luckily, Terminix offers the following bed bug treatment guarantee:

  • Terminix will customize treatment to eliminate bed bugs from your home.
  • As part of your treatment plan, if bed bugs are found in a treated room within 30 days of treatment, Terminix will re-treat at no additional cost.
  • If mattress encasements are purchased and installed for each mattress and box spring in the home, this guarantee will be extended to 90 days.

Is there a wrong way to treat a home for bed bugs?

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to control and eliminate. You should only work with recognized, reputable pest control professionals who have specific training and proven methods for dealing with bed bugs.

It takes a comprehensive approach and years of experience to be successful against bed bugs. One product or technique, used alone, is not likely to be effective. You can trust Terminix to use the most up-to-date techniques and products to help solve your bed bug problem. Contact us today for a quote on a treatment plan for your property.

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