What do bed bugs look like?
Adult Bed Bugs are about 3/16 –¼ inch long, brown in color and do not have wings. Depending on how recently they ate, they are either flat and oval shaped (hungry) or plump, balloon-like and reddish-brown (well fed). Young Bed Bugs, or nymphs, are smaller and translucent to whitish-yellow. If they haven't eaten, they are almost invisible. As they age,they become plumper and darker in color. Bed Bug eggs are about the size of a pin head and pearly white.
Both adult Bed Bugs and their nymphs feed on human blood. Their feeding doesn't transmit disease but it does cause various degrees of allergic reaction and irritating itching.
The Bed Bug life cycle
Female Bed Bugs lay 200-500 eggs over their lifetime. Eggs hatch in 6-10 days. Young nymphs begin looking for a meal immediately. They go through five molts (shedding their skin) before becoming adults, which at room temperature can take about five weeks. Adults usually live 4-6 months, but can live much longer in cooler conditions or without food.
How do you get bed bugs?
Bed Bugs are great hitchhikers. They can travel to your home from neighbors' houses, hotels and schools –almost anywhere that is infested. Their mode of transportation includes furniture, clothing, luggage or anywhere they can find the smallest nook and cranny to hide.
Checking for Bed Bugs
It takes some hard work, and a lot of it is done on your hands and knees with a flashlight and magnifying glass. Prior to searching, make sure you know exactly what all the life-stages of Bed Bugs look like. Other insects look similar and some can cause similar, itchy bites.
Places you'll need to check thoroughly include your beds, nearby furniture, walls and trim, windows and doors, drapes, curtains and other window hangings, electrical systems, wall decorations, floor coverings and any upholstered furniture. Inspect every nook and cranny, crack and crevice, top to bottom. If necessary, use a putty knife or playing card to probe the smallest cracks. Smash or vacuum any Bed Bugs you find.
What are the signs of Bed Bugs?
Look for all life-stages of Bed Bugs, living and dead. You may also find the dried, pale yellow skins shed as they grow from one stage to another, and small black dots, which are fecal matter. Reddish-brown stains on sheets and mattresses may be crushed Bed Bugs.
Controlling Bed Bugs
If you find Bed Bugs, don't panic. Although it will take some planning and effort, they can be controlled using a variety of methods.
For the do-it-yourselfer out there, start with an insecticide like Home Pest Bed Bug & Flea Killer. It kills pyrethroid-resistant Bed Bugs and keeps on killing for up to 30 days. The non-staining formula can be used on mattresses, furniture and luggage. For hard-to-reach areas, try Continuous Spray. It can be sprayed at any angle, even upside down! It kills Bed Bugs and their eggs before they hatch.
In many cases, getting help from a pest management professional may be the best option. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a thorough Bed Bug website that covers everything from identifying the pest to prevention and control. Your local Cooperative Extension System office and county or state health department can also provide information