Facts to Help You Win the Bed Bug War
Because of how bed bugs feed, they need you to be very still so they can lift their bottoms up a bit to propel their feeding tube(s) into your skin. That’s why even if you move a little bit they have to start feeding again leaving the 2-3 bite pattern or as the pros call it, “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
You are not dealing with an evil mastermind. You are dealing with a primitive, yet highly evolved bug that only eats blood and reproduces like crazy. If you bring one into your home there is a good chance it will find you. Building a habit of not placing mail, packages or even your coat or purse on your bed can help reduce the chances of a bed bug making it to your bed.
Ideally if you did bring a bed bug home, you would not introduce it into your bed by setting bags, books, coats, jackets, purses, backpacks, or luggage on your bed. Make a bed bug have to travel in your home to get to you. Then it’s chances of dying in the process of trying to get to you is greater.
- A bed bug has 6 legs. Its antennae point forward and are about half as long as the body.
- Its head is broadly attached to its body and it has no wings.
- Eight legs indicate a tick or mite. Six legs and long antennae with two spikes coming off the back might be a roach nymph. Carpet beetle larvae have hairs all over their bodies. Carpet beetle adults have two hard wings. Your county health department, Vector Control, may be able to identify any insects you find in your home at no cost.
- A recently fed bed bug looks like a drop of blood with legs and antennae. It will be red, plump, and oval. After it digests its meal, it’ll be mahogany-colored, round, and flat. Unfed nymphs are light brown or beige.
- Eggs are oval, white, and stick to wherever they are laid. Bed bug eggs are so small that without a lighted magnifier you probably cannot “know” if what you are looking at is a bed bug egg or just normal house debris and dust.
- Eggs and just-hatched nymphs are tiny: 1/16” (1mm) long—the size of the “R” in “LIBERTY” on a penny until after they’ve fed.
- Adult bed bugs are easy to see. Before feeding they do look a lot like a flax or apple seed. After feeding they are plump and not flat. Adult bed bugs are about 1/4” long.
- Bed bugs can slip into any crack or crevice. If a credit card can fit, so can a bed bug.
- Bed bugs crawl—scurrying into dark, tight spaces to hide—they move as fast as an ant.
- Bed bugs don’t burrow into your skin, but they can wander into your ear, or hair.
- Bed bugs can feed on pets but prefer human blood. Do not use your pet as a bed bug decoy, it’s just not nice, tempting, but not nice.
- Bed bugs don’t nest in colonies but because they want to be close to their food source (you) as your infestation grows it can look like they form nests, but they don’t.
- If your infestation continues untreated you could have thousands of bed bugs mating, reproducing and feeding off of you within a several of months.
- Quick identification and treatment can prevent the scenario mentioned above. Act fast to either rule out bed bugs or if you have them, get treatment as soon as possible before their numbers grow.
- An impregnated female will lay between 2-5 eggs every day for weeks without being impregnated again and can continue to lay eggs for several weeks without another meal. That means a pregnant female bed bug who get’s lost in your purse or a box can be laying eggs every day in it even if she can’t feed on you.
How Fast Can Bed Bugs Move (approximately)
Adults can crawl about 4 ft/minute
Bed bug nymphs can crawl about 1 ft/minute
That’s 2½ minutes for an adult to make it from a TV stand to the pillow, 10 minutes for a nymph (University of Texas)
Bed Bugs and Laundry
Your dryer and washer are useful tools in killing bed bugs in fabric, clothing and bedding. Most dryers get hot enough after two cycles to kill bed bugs and eggs. Bed Bug Eggs take longer to kill with heat than live bed bugs do.
Wash Once and Dry Everything Twice.
You can put dry bedding into a dryer for two full cycles, but washing first will prevent live bugs from accidentally being shaken off and finding their way into the front of the lint trap in your dryer where they can survive and re-infest bedding and clothes as you remove them from the dryer.
Wet clothing and bedding may not get hot enough on the dry first cycle to kill bugs and eggs. That is why two cycles in the dryer are suggested, to ensure every wet item is heated high enough and long enough to kill bed bugs and eggs.
Ovens and Microwave Ovens
Never attempt to treat anything, ever, in the oven or the microwave. This is a serious fire hazard and cannot be said enough. Books and magazines may have glue that can melt or ignite and cause a fire in your home. Never cook anything that’s not food in the oven or microwave. We get this question a lot!
Bed Bug Resources
Bed Bugs Clearly Visible on Screw Head Under Chair (photo)
From Entomologist Lou Sorkin
Multnomah County Public Health listserve forum