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How to Identify and Get Rid of Bed Bugs

I am a property manager in Little Rock, Arkansas. I enjoy writing about various topics that I think may be helpful to others.

Learn how you can identify and eliminate bed bugs

Learn how you can identify and eliminate bed bugs

If You Are Reading This Article, You May Have Bed Bugs

And, I'm sorry! I've been there. Not only at my personal home but, as a property manager, I have unfortunately seen it a couple of times over the years.

Having bed bugs does not mean you aren't clean. In fact, it usually just means that you got a hold of some infected furniture. Usually, you bought it used, or maybe you're renting it.

Bed bugs can travel fast, so you want to treat them as soon as possible. There is some preparation work that you need to do before treating, which is covered in this article. I hope to help you identify and get rid of bed bugs for good!

This article will cover:

  • Signs you may have bed bugs
  • What bed bugs look like
  • Characteristics of bed bugs
  • Where bed bugs hide
  • What bed bugs look like
  • How do you get bed bugs?
  • Bed bug treatment preparation checklist
  • How to get rid of bed bugs using certain items
  • When you have to use pesticides
  • Natural remedies to get rid of bed bugs
  • What to do if nothing works

Signs You May Have Bed Bugs

If you wake up with itchy areas you didn't have when you went to sleep, it is possible you have bed bugs, especially if you recently purchased some used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

  • Bloodstains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bedclothes, and walls
  • Bedbug fecal spots, eggshells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
  • An odd, musty odor

What Bed Bug Bites Look Like

Bites are usually found on the hands, neck, shoulders, legs, neck, and arms. Typically the bites will be grouped together in a small area and may occur in a line or a zigzag pattern or even a triangle.

Bites normally look like small, flat, or raised areas that may become inflamed, itchy, and red. Reactions to the bite can sometimes take a few days.

Pictures of What Bed Bug Bites May Look Like


Characteristics of Bed Bugs

  • They are photophobic, meaning they will only eat at night.
  • They only feed on blood.
  • They are attracted to carbon dioxide and warmth.
  • Their life expectancy is 12–18 months.
  • They need their victims to be still (usually sleeping).
  • Bed bugs do not have nests, but they do tend to stay together for reproduction or protection.
  • They are not known to transmit diseases.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bed bugs typically stay within five feet of where they would feed. Since they feed while their victims sleep, it is most common to have an infestation in the bedroom. Some of the most common places they are found are as follows:

  • Box springs
  • Couches
  • Headboard and/or bed frame
  • Walls
  • Night stand/dressers
  • Curtains
  • Under rugs and carpet
  • Coffee tables
Where to look for bed bugs

Where to look for bed bugs

What Bed Bugs Look Like

Adult bed bugs will typically look as described:

  • If not fed recently, they will be long and brown with a flat, oval-shaped body.
  • If they have been fed recently, they will have reddish-brown color; they will be more elongated and swollen up like a balloon.
  • Their size is comparable to an apple seed.
  • They have six legs.
  • They have two antennae.
  • They don't have wings.

How Do You Get Bed Bugs?

You can pretty much get bed bugs from anywhere. Some of the more likely places are hotels, used furniture stores, and storage places. Be very mindful of the furniture you bring into your home, especially if it has been in a storage place for a long time or you are buying the furniture used.

Always thoroughly inspect each item before moving it in. In the apartment business, we tell people that "bedbugs come from Craigslist and furniture rental place." While that is not always the case, you are way more likely to get them from there.

Bed Bug Treatment Preparation Checklist

Before using any natural remedy or chemical, make sure you do the things on the list first. Getting rid of your problem won't help if you bring items back in that still are infested!

  • Take all clothing items out of dresser drawers and closets.
  • Take all bed linens off beds.
  • Clothing/bed linens should be washed in hot water and machine dried in a hot dryer. After being cleaned, clothing can be put in new bags and sealed tightly.
  • Remove dirty clothes and boxes of clothes.
  • Clean entire location. If you have vacuumed, the bag must be taken to a dumpster in a sealed plastic bag. Do not use the vacuum again until the bag is changed or the canister is cleaned.
  • Move all furniture away from walls.
  • Clean out cluttered areas (i.e., stacks of newspaper, magazines, files/file boxes, etc.)
  • Remove all boxes with stored items launder the following items before re-entering the treated area.
  • Wash all linens and bedding, towels, washcloths, etc.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Using Certain Items

Please make sure that whatever you do to get rid of them is safe and legal. To be on the safe side, you may consider a non-chemical method. To get bed bugs off of specific items such as clothes, towels, stuffed animals, try these ideas.

Some will be more useful than others.

  • Heat treatment using a clothes dryer on high heat, also placing items in black plastic bags in the sun or a hot, closed car (pest management professionals have other methods that are not suitable for non-trained individuals to use).
  • Cold treatment can be successful at home if the freezer is set to 0o F. You must leave the items in the freezer at that temperature for three to four days. (Always use a thermometer to check the temperature since home freezers are not always set to 0o.) Place your items in a plastic bag before putting them in the freezer. Also, please make sure all the food is out of the freezer.
  • Reducing the numbers of bugs with these and other non-chemical methods is helpful but is unlikely to entirely eliminate the infestation.

When You Have to Use Pesticides

If the natural treatments do not work, and you need to use pesticides, do so carefully according to the directions. You may also want to just hire pest control to come to your home. When dealing with these chemicals, you need to be very careful. When choosing your chemicals:

  • Look for EPA-registered pesticides.
  • Bed bugs must be listed on the label.
  • Use foggers (bug bombs) only with extreme care. Improper use can harm your health or cause a fire/explosion. Please do not spray any of these chemicals with your animals or children present unless the product states that it is ok.

EcoRaider Review

This product was amazing for my bedbug problem! I had never had an issue before and was stressing about what to do. I searched Home Depot, Walmart, & other Amazon products and ended up spending quite a bit of money and didn't get rid of the bugs.

After using one bottle, I could tell that most of the bed bugs were dead but completely gone after two. I would recommend buying two at a time just to attack completely (depending on your house size). I really liked the smell. Definitely did not smell like the normal bug chemicals! I wanted to get rid of them in a natural way, and maybe you will be successful doing that, but if not, I highly suggest this product.

Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

If you are a person who does not like to use harsh chemicals, here is a list of some natural ways to get rid of bed bugs. Probably only the milder cases could be treated this way, but it's always worth a shot!

Baking Soda

Spread some baking soda around the crevices and cracks or wherever you find bugs. Don't forget to vacuum the soda after a few days and re-apply it as needed.

Double-Sided Tape

You can attach double-sided tape around the bottom of your beds. The bed bugs get stuck if they try to sneak up on you. This is really more of a good method to find out if you do have bed bugs.

Cayenne Pepper

Take 1 tsp each of cayenne powder, oregano, and grated ginger. Boil them in water. Strain and spray the solution around the entering spaces of your room and areas where bed bugs may be hiding. The smell of this solution drives the bugs away and prevents them from spreading.

What to Do if Nothing Works

If you have tried everything and you still are having an issue, it's time to call pest control. They will have you do the same preparation checklist that I listed earlier. The price for them to come to treat can be anywhere from $400 to $1,500. Ouch! So I definitely recommend trying the natural remedies or the EcoRaider spray.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Sarah Spradlin


Sarah Spradlin (author) from Little Rock, Arkansas on January 28, 2020:

Thank you!

doorstephub502 on January 28, 2020:

Great article shared by you on bed bug control. This article is very useful for many users reading your blog like me. Thanks for sharing.