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Bed Bugs Fact Sheet

Bed bugs are considered a general nuisance and have not been known to spread disease.

Bed bugs can come into a home on infested furniture, luggage, bedding and personal clothing. They can hide in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, furniture, floors and walls. Places infested with bed bugs can be difficult to treat. A comprehensive, two-pronged approach will be needed to effectively rid your house or apartment of bed bugs. It will be necessary to:

More guidelines for bed bug inspection, treatment and prevention are below.

What are bed bugs and their characteristics?

Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood from mammals, usually from humans. They are reddish brown and have a flattened oval shape. Young bed bugs, called "nymphs," are smaller in size, lighter in color and are often mistaken for ticks. Bed bugs undergo five different molts before reaching their adult stage. Adult bed bugs can lay three to four eggs per day and over hundreds of eggs during their lifetime. The eggs of the bed bug usually hatch in six to 17 days. Bed bugs live close to their food source and are active at night.

How do bed bugs affect humans?

Bed bugs are not known to spread any infectious diseases to humans. Bed bugs can cause itchy skin rashes, which are the result of their bites. The bite of a bed bug is usually painless, and the skin may become irritated and inflamed in the area of the bite. The rash can range from small bite marks to significant welts. These red and white welts may appear based on the sensitivity of the individual or in severe cases of bed bug infestations. The rash can be extremely itchy. If a person scratches the skin forcefully or repeatedly, it can cause open sores. People with severe rashes should see their health care provider.

How do I inspect my home for bed bugs?

Skin bites are generally the first sign of a bed bug infestation. If you notice skin bites or suspect a problem, a thorough inspection of your house or apartment is recommended. Using a flashlight, inspect bedrooms, closets and sleeping areas for live bed bugs, bed bug eggs or the skeletons of dead bed bugs. Homeowners and tenants are encouraged to inspect the following areas for bed bug infestation: the seams, folds, edges and labels on mattresses and box springs; bedding and bed linens; window curtains; cracks and crevices in furniture and in baseboards; areas behind peeling wallpaper, wall hangings, receptacles and light switch covers; and areas along the edges of carpeting. Check bedding and bed linens for dried blood or dark red or brown spots. This suggests signs of bed bug feeding and can also indicate a bed bug infestation. Where any of the above conditions are found, the property is considered infested with bed bugs and treatment is recommended.

How do I treat my house or apartment for a bed bug infestation?

Eliminating bed bugs will require intense cleaning, detailed work and a series of treatments with an approved pesticide that is applied by a certified pest control operator. Pest control companies typically require at least two to three inspections and treatments at two-week intervals. Check with your pest control operator to see whether you can remain in your apartment or house during treatment. Before treatment occurs, reduce clutter and dismantle beds, bed frames and bedroom furniture. All personal belongings, including bedding, bed linens, curtains and clothing must be laundered to a minimum temperature of 120 F. This is accomplished by placing clothing and personal belongings in the washer and dryer on the hottest temperature setting possible. Items that cannot be laundered to a temperature of 120 F must be placed in tightly sealed garbage bags and then placed in the hot sun. Treating clothing and personal belongings at a temperature of 120 F for one hour will kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs. Areas infested with bed bugs must be cleaned and vacuumed. The contents of the vacuum and items used for cleaning must be disposed of in a sealed trash bag and discarded in your regular trash pickup.

How can I prevent bed bugs from infesting my house or apartment?

To prevent infestation, inspect both new and used furniture before moving it into your home or apartment. Use protective covers on mattresses and box springs to prevent bed bugs from affecting them. Keep clutter inside your home and your apartment to a minimum. This provides less area for bed bugs to hide.

When traveling, store luggage off the hotel room floor. Thoroughly inspect luggage and personal belongings when returning home. Clean and vacuum luggage and launder clothing and personal belongings based on recommendations provided above. Place items in tightly sealed plastic garbage bags until laundering or treatment can occur.

For more information, see Bed Bug Control or contact:

Housing and Food Protection Services
Bureau of Environmental Health
Anne Arundel County Department of Health
3 Harry S. Truman Parkway
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
410-222-7238

Bed Bugs Fact Sheet