Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped insects that are brownish to reddish in color. They feed on the blood of people and animals. An adult bed bug’s body shape and size are similar to an apple seed. After they feed on blood, they appear more red in color. Bed bugs cannot fly, but they quickly scurry when exposed to light. The nymphs have to shed five times before becoming mature adults, and they need a blood meal before they can shed. Although they don’t spread disease, bed bugs are a nuisance, and scratching their itchy bites can lead to skin problems. Understanding where they hide, how they get in and what to look for can help you take action and get rid of a bed bug infestation.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bed bugs like dark, warm places. They hide in clothing, luggage, mattresses and furniture. They are particularly fond of hiding in box springs, bed frames and mattresses because these places give them easy access to the blood they need for growing. Bed bugs can also hide in carpeting, cracks in walls, furniture seams and the space between the carpeting and the wall.
How Bed Bugs Get Into Your Home
There are a number of ways bed bugs can get into your home. These include:
- Used books, including library books
- Used clothing
- Used furniture or mattresses
You are most likely to get bed bugs by bringing them home from a hotel. A guest whose home is infested could infest yours by bringing the bed bugs in their suitcase, duffel bag or purse. Bed bugs can easily hide in secondhand goods purchased at thrift stores, rummage sales or book stores. Bed bugs can even hitch a ride on your clothing if you visit a place with a heavy infestation.
Identification of Bed Bug Bites
Bed bugs feed overnight. They don’t hurt when they bite. Bed bugs bite any area of your skin that’s exposed while you sleep. The bites look like small red welts. You might notice intense itching when you get up in the morning.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
Waking up with new bites or itchy areas you didn’t have the night before suggests a bed bug infestation. You might also notice tiny blood stains on your pillowcase or sheets. Look closely at your bed linens and mattress. Remove everything from the bed frame and check in the corners, crevices, seams and gaps of the bed frame, box spring and mattress. If you see shed skin, egg casings, little rust spots or brown or red dots, these are signs of bed bugs.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Heat kills bed bugs. After traveling, keep your luggage in the trunk of your car or in a black plastic garbage bag. Expose the luggage, clothing or linens to direct sunlight or intense heat for at least 12 hours. On the highest heat and drying settings, launder curtains, linens, rugs and stuffed animals. Use a stiff brush to scrub your mattress. Vacuum the mattress and carpet around your bed. After getting rid of bed bugs, buy a new mattress and encase it for at least one year. Bed bugs can go for a year between feedings.