Bed Bug FAQs

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parasites - Bed Bugs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

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

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale 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 develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

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How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea -- a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

 How do I protect myself once I discover Bed Bugs

Once bed bugs are discovered there is always a wait time before treatment can be started. Do not try to deal with bed bugs by yourself. If you are in a Multi-unit environment (Apartments, town homes or Condos), contact the manager or Condo board. Most will have something in place to deal with the issue. If not then check into various options of treatment. Heat Strike Pest Control provides a heat treating process which has proven to be highly effective. We realize that there is preparation for treatment to be done before a treatment can be done and therefore a delay in time which is typically a week or more. The better you can sleep, the more rested you are and the process will go more smoothly with less stress.

The best way to protect yourself is to create an island for yourself so you can sleep at night. Bed bugs are nocturnal which means they only come out at night and will feed on you while you are sleeping. They typically feed in the early hours of the morning as they are attracted to Carbon Dioxide which you breath out. Once they detect this they realize there is food close by and will exert the energy to look for the food which unfortunately is you. Bed bugs only feed on blood as their source for food. Therefore if you can prevent them from getting to you, they cannot get the food. There are commercial products out there such as Climb up Interceptors (which are available through HSPC - ). However a quick method can be achieved by using plastic containers (old margarine containers or Tupperware as an example) under the bed legs.

To properly create the island follow these instructions:

1) Tear the bed down to the frame and if it has a wood headboard remove it until treatment can be done

2) Vacuum the frame off completely - every little nook and cranny

3) Place the Climb up Interceptors or plastic bowls under each leg making sure to keep the bed about an inch away from any wall. Bed bugs need to climb up to their food. They do not jump, fly or climb up the walls and drop on you from the ceiling.  If the head board has legs that touch the floor, place them in plastic bowls as well or remove it until treatment can be done.

4) Now vacuum the box spring very carefully to make sure you get every little crack or fold.

5) Place it on the frame and do not put any bed skirts on or anything that touches the floor.

6) Then vacuum the mattress and pay close attention to every little nook and cranny

7) Make the bed with clean sheets and blankets.

8) while sleeping, make sure the pillow is not pushed against the wall. This will create the island as the only path to the food is up the legs of the bed which are protected by the interceptors or plastic bowls.

Note: The one unfortunate concern would be if the bed did not have legs. The option maybe to sleep on the couch which can be vacuumed and legs put into plastic containers to create the island effect.

HSPC's heat process take approx. 7 hrs. to complete and will kill all forms of the pest in a single Chemical Free treatment. You can then put the place back in order. However if the management decides to proceed to treat with chemicals, then this method will protect you for the 6 to 8 weeks it takes to go through their treatment.


Canine Inspection for Bed Bugs

Heat Strike Pest Control (HSPC) uses an independent source for canine inspection due to the fact it is not a conflict in interest. Meaning if I have my canine, I can create a lot of work for myself. If a company does use their canine to inspect the unit then they should use another source to clear the unit after treatment.

It is very important when getting a canine inspection that the inspector produces physical evidence the pest is present. Bed bugs always leave evidence whether it is the bug itself, spotting, eggs or shells. If a canine inspector cannot produce physical evidence and only goes by their canine indicating then I would be very cautious. We have dealt with various inspectors and treated several units that were indicated to have an issue and nothing was found during treatment. The advantage of doing the heat process is the process does take several hours and the bugs are attracted to the heat. Therefore they will more than likely come out. Also our techs are in there several times during the process moving items around and looking for issues.

One of our canine inspectors we deal with and have had very good success stated the following. "The canine is there to tell the handler where to look". This should be the same as dogs trained for drugs. If you went to court and the handler told the judge that there were drugs in the unit because my dog sat down. Judge would reply "Where is the evidence?" Therefore if they cannot find the evidence then there is no proof the problem exists.

If you hire a canine inspector, ask if they find physical evidence to prove the problem exists. Listen to their response and if they rely solely on their canine then it might be a suggestion to find one that will. They need to produce physical evidence.

Check out our Links Page for recommended Canine Inspectors

Apartment or Multi-Unit Complex

These structure are more than likely to have bed bugs spread though them more easily than a single family unit. The reason is the closeness of the units and the number of people in the complex. Also they can travel from unit to unit by various openings in the wall and under the common wall between units. One area of particular concern is the Hot Water heating pipe that goes from room to room. The basic setup is a 1" pipe usually going through a 2" hole. This is a large opening the bug can crawl through from unit to unit or room to room. We need these spots closed off before treatment due to the fact if the bug can escape the heat, they can survive. It is recommend to apply Diatomaceous Earth in these areas and then seal the holes with Spray Foam. We recommend to seal the wall to the floor by removing the baseboard, applying silicone along the gap where the wall meets the floor and applying a light dusting of the Diatomaceous Earth before putting the baseboard on. All this is for is to prevent movement from unit to unit and therefore reducing the spread. Another conduit through the building is the water pipes and drain pipes in the building. It is also recommended to seal these holes as well.

Allot of this is for an education purpose and though our process we come across various items that are good to pass along. Education is the big point here and the more we learn the quicker we can respond and treat the situation properly. Here is an scenario we ran into. Treatment of 25 rooms was done to a hotel and all was good for about 6 months. The first treatment was done in May and all was good through the summer and when fall came around, 3 particular rooms kept getting bugs in them every 2 months. It was hard to believe that people could always bring them back into those 3 rooms. A close inspection of the room found mouse dropping behind the baseboard and we traced the problem to a large hole under one of the common walls for electrical service. The hotel arranged to seal this hole, first by packing with steel wool and then spray foaming it in place. The steel wool prevents the mice from chewing the foam and gaining access. These 3 rooms were treated again and the problem was solved. Further investigation on the Internet confirmed that mice can transport the pest through the structure.

Another point I would like to make is the way the Chemical companies are doing their treatment. They must obviously know their product spreads the bug through the complex. This is why they are treating a total of 9 unit to treat one single unit. They are HOPING to trap the bug !! Seems odd as we can treat the one unit and not spread them through the building, provided this is the only unit affected. We are at a facility now that 3 months ago had 28 room that required treatment. I went to talk with the manager and found out that actually they had 6 rooms that had confirmed bed bugs. They had already committed to the chemical treatment and proceeded that route. So 28 units went through the Chemical process procedure of washing and bagging ALL clothing and moving ALL furniture to the center of the room etc. etc. etc. Now I get a call 2 1/2 weeks ago and we have to go to the complex to treat the ORIGINAL units that had the bugs. Expensive live and learn process as we were originally HALF price to do the treatment due to the fact we only had to treat the affected units.

Heat Strike Pest Control heat process is effective and more environmentally friendly as way to control these pests and make the whole process easier to deal with. One Time, Chemical Free process seems like a better solution than trying and hoping to trap the bug.