Bed Bugs

What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown, oval insects that feed solely on the blood of people and warm-blooded animals while they sleep. Because they never develop wings, bed bugs cannot fly. They range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln's head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal. When bed bugs feed, their bodies swell and become bright red.
Are bed bugs harmful to humans?
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease but can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. They can sometimes cause allergic reactions from their saliva in sensitive people who have been bitten.

How do bed bugs invade a home?
In most cases, bed bugs are brought into a home by clinging onto someone's clothing, crawling into luggage, or are brought in the home along with new furniture or bedding. Bed bugs are increasingly being found in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, health care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools, and public transportation (bus, train, etc). Less common sites where one might pick up bed bugs include movie theaters, laundries/dry cleaners, furniture rental outlets and office buildings.
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to appear and may look similar to bites from other insects such as mosquitoes and spiders. A more accurate way to identify bedbug infestation is to look for physical signs of the insects:
  • the bed bugs' exoskeletons after molting
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets
  • eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and white
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture
  • a sweet musty odor
Bed bugs are most active in the middle of the night, but when hungry, they will venture out during the day to seek a host. Bed bugs tend to hide in cracks and crevices around the room and in bed frames, mattresses and box springs. Clutter around the room offers additional hiding places and increases the difficulty of eliminating bed bugs once they have become established.

You may see the bed bugs themselves, small bloodstains from crushed insects, or dark spots from their droppings.

Because many other kinds of small brown bugs may be discovered, it is critical to ensure that the bugs are correctly identified. It is often hard to see them because they hide in or near bed cracks, folds and creases in the bed linens, and seams of mattresses and box springs. They may also be found in pleats of curtains, beneath loose areas of wallpaper near the bed, in corners of desks and dressers, in wicker furniture, in laundry or other items on the floor or around the room.

How do I get rid of them?

If you are a homeowner, you may want to consider using a licensed pest management professional who is knowledgeable and experienced in managing bed bug infestations. The Chester County Health Department recommends that homeowners hire a pest control professional licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to evaluate what type of pest is present, and to handle insecticides.

You may also consider taking the following steps to eliminate bed bugs:
  • Thoroughly clean the infested rooms. Scrub infested surfaces with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs, and use a powerful vacuum to remove bed bugs from cracks and crevices. Dismantling bed frames will expose additional bug hiding sites. Remove drawers from desks and dressers and turn furniture over, if possible, to inspect and clean all hiding spots.
  • Wash all bedding, draperies and clothing in hot water.
  • Vacuum and steam-clean carpets.
  • Mattresses and box springs can be permanently encased in special mattress bags. Any bugs trapped within these sealed bags will eventually die.Be sure to put duct tape over the entire zipper of the mattress bag.
  • Make your bed into an island. Move it away from the wall.
  • When putting bedding back on your bed, tuck sheets and blankets in so they don't come into contact with the floor.
  • Caulk and seal all holes where pipes and wires penetrate walls and floor, and fill cracks around baseboards and cove moldings to further reduce harborages.