Bed bugs are found all over the world. These reddish-brown insects are oval, flat , and don't have wings. They prefer to feed off human blood. They hide during the day, coming out mainly at night. They like to hide near a food source so that they can eat in the early morning hours.
When unfed, the adult bed bug is about 5 mm by 3 mm. Once fed, the bed bug gets longer, wider, and its colour changes to a dull red. The change is so great that you may think that you're looking at two different insects.
Each female bed bug can lay about 200 eggs at one time. The eggs take 10 days to hatch. In ideal conditions (23°C and regular feeding) the female bed bug can lay eggs up to 3 times a year (that's up to 600 eggs a year!). The eggs are sticky, making it easier for them to develop without being disturbed. It takes 2 months for the bed bug to become an adult. They're very hardy insects—they can live more than a year without food! Bed bugs don't spread any infectious human diseases.
Bed bug infestations have increased worldwide over the last few years. Some reasons for the increase in bed bug infestations may be:
increased world travel
changes in pesticide use
not knowing what they look like
not knowing how to prevent and control infestations
more resistant to chemical control measures
Bed bugs are found wherever there are people. They like dark, cool hiding places that are close to a food source, where people sleep. Their favourite places are covers and mattresses (especially along the seams). Later, they spread to crevices (gaps) in the bed frame and box spring. When the infestation is really bad, bed bugs will spread to gaps in places like:
Bed bugs spread when infested clothing, mattresses, or furniture is moved. They can crawl from one room to another—even from one apartment to another! They can be brought into your home by infested luggage and clothing. If you've been travelling, check your luggage and clothing carefully before you bring them into your home.
You'll know if you have an infestation because you'll see bloodstains and dark spots on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls. Sometimes you may even notice a sweet, musty, raspberry-like smell.
You need to find all the places bed bugs hide. Because they usually come out only at night, they can be hard to find.
You can buy sticky glue paper at most hardware or garden stores. Place the paper around walls, the legs of the bed, or wherever you think they are. You can also use carpet tape, which is sticky on both sides.
It takes a temperature of about 45°C to kill a bed bug. This means that you can use a steam cleaner in cracks and gaps.
Use a nozzle attachment to vacuum all corners, mattress seams, and gaps in upholstered furniture. Vacuuming will remove both the bed bugs and the eggs. Put any waste from the vacuum in a plastic bag and put it outside.
Prevent bed bugs from moving onto furniture by coating the legs of furniture with petroleum jelly (like Vaseline), or by wrapping the legs with double-sided tape.
Regularly clean your home, wash all bedding and clothing, and vacuum often. Clothing that has been cleaned can be stored in plastic bags that are tied tightly.
Before using a pyrethrin spray or aerosol, make sure you vacuum the area well. Remove dust and lint from covers, mattresses, floor corners, and furniture. Put any waste from the vacuum cleaner in a plastic bag and put it outside.
You can use the pyrethrin aerosols on cracks and crevices, including mattress seams, bed frames, furniture, electrical boxes, baseboards, carpet edges, and loose wallpaper.
Don't use pyrethrin spray on mattresses or upholstered furniture unless the product label says you can. Sprays are usually used on crevices and cracks in the floor.
To learn more, call your nearest
Environmental Health office.
Common questions about bed bugs
Current as of: July 6, 2022
Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.