Date: October 22, 2018

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Bed Bugs

This page was reviewed or revised on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 1:17 PM

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small insects that feed on the blood of any warm-blooded animal, but prefer to feed on humans.

Bed bugs come out at night and feed when people are sleeping.

The adult bed bug is very small, about 6-10 mm long. It is brown and wingless. The insect has an oval-shaped body, shaped similar to an apple seed, and are flat as paper before feeding. After feeding, they darken in colour and swell slightly.


Eggs are whitish, about 1 mm long, and are very difficult to see. The eggs are sticky and are laid in cracks, crevices and similar hiding locations. Bed bugs can live for more than a year, and a female lays 200-400 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs hatch in about 10 days. Newly hatched bed bugs take 5 months to mature. They are shaped like adults but yellow-white in colour, and shed their skin as they grow.

Can I get sick from bed bugs?

Bed bugs do not pose a major health risk and are not known carriers of blood-borne diseases. Bed bugs can cause itchy welts and allergic reactions. Many people are not aware they have been bitten. As many as 70% of people do not react to bed bug bites. Allergic reactions can increase with exposure.

How do bed bugs get in my home?

Bed bugs are often carried in a home on objects such as furniture, luggage, and clothing. Although they cannot jump or fly, they move around a home through cracks in walls, pipes, and wiring. Even the cleanest homes and hotels can have bed bugs. They are most often found in areas with a large number of occupants and high turnover rates such as hotels, dorms, and apartments.

How do I know if I have bed bugs?

There are a number of possible signs:

  • Unexplained skin irritation: welts vary depending on sensitivity and usually appear in groups of 2-3.
  • Dark spots on sheets and clothes: digested blood or fecal matter
  • Dried remains of skin: nymphs will shed their skin (exo-skeleton) after each feeding.

If you think you have bed bugs, check the following areas for live bed bugs or shells:

  • Seams, creases and folds of mattresses and box springs
  • Cracks in the bed frame and headboard
  • Under chairs, couches, beds, dust covers
  • Between cushions of couches and chairs
  • Under area rugs and the edges of carpets

The flat body of bed bug allows them to hide in very small spaces.

Getting rid of bed bugs is difficult. They multiply quickly, so take care of the problem early. The best way to deal with bed bugs is to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM). It combines a variety of systems and products that pose the lowest risk to humans and the environment.

  • Inspect your mattress and bed frame, mainly the folds, gaps and underside, and locations where bed bugs like to hide.
  • Have a pest controller confirm you have bed bugs or call Lambton Public Health to talk about options with a Public Health Inspector.
  • Use a vacuum to capture bed bugs and their eggs. Vacuum all crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards and any objects close to the bed. Vacuum daily and empty the vacuum right away.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water and put in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Think about covering your pillows and mattress with a plastic cover.
  • Remove clutter.
  • Seal cracks and gaps between baseboards, on wood bed frames, floors and walls with caulking. Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten light switch covers and seal openings where pipes, wires or other utilities enter your home (especially shared apartment walls).
  • Use a glue board or sticky tape (carpet tape works well) to catch the bed bugs.
  • Inspect any item you bring home.
  • Call pest controllers and talk about options that pose the least risk to humans and the environment. Steam or heat may be used instead of insecticide.

If you choose to treat the problem with an insecticide, talk with professionals. Use a low-risk product and follow instructions.

Schedule a follow up inspection 2 weeks after treatment. You may see some living bed bugs for up to 10 days. If you continue to see a large number of bed bugs after 2 weeks, contact a professional pest control service; additional treatment may be needed.

What do bed bug bites look like?

When bed bugs bite, they inject saliva and that makes the skin red and itchy. People react differently. Some never notice the bites; others mistake them for flea or mosquito bites or other skin conditions.

There are 4 types of skin rashes:

  1. The most common rash is red and itchy. The typical bed bug bite may appear in a line of three bites called "breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
  2. Small, raised, red sores are common.
  3. In rare cases, people may develop large raised, often itchy, red welts.
  4. People, who are sensitive to bed bug saliva, may develop a lump filled with blood or fluid.
Bed bugs bite any exposed area of the body, including face, neck, hands, arms and legs.

How do I treat bed bugs?

Most bites go away and do not need treatment. Keep the skin clean and try not to scratch. If the bites are itchy, your doctor may prescribe something to relieve the itch. Antibiotics may be needed for any skin infection caused by too much scratching.

Prevent bed bug bites from entering

Regular house cleaning and vacuuming your mattress can help prevent problems.

  • Clean up clutter to reduce hiding spots
  • Take care when buying used furniture or clothes. Inspect items and ask the retailer if the items were checked for bed bugs.
  • Use caution when bringing home used furniture or clothes from the curb side. Items may be infested with bed bugs

Travel tips

  • Inspect the room and furniture. Check all cracks and crevices of the mattress and box spring. Look for blood spots or live insects. Ask for another room if you find evidence of bed bugs.
  • Protect your luggage. Keep clothes in your luggage and wrap luggage in plastic to help prevent bed bugs from getting inside. Keep luggage off the floor.
  • After coming home keep your luggage in an isolated area of your home, such as the garage. Inspect the luggage. Wash all clothes in the hottest water possible and put them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.

Fact Sheet - Bed Bugs Fact Sheet

For more information on bed bugs, contact Lambton Public Health at 519-383-8331, toll free 1-800-667-1839 or online at www.lambtonhealth.on.ca

Images used with permission of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)