The Bed Bug Life Cycle, Explained, Reader — s Digest

What Is the Life Cycle of a Bed Bug?

The bed bug life cycle has several stages, but it only takes about 37 days for this pest to go from egg to adulthood.

Crystal Eye Studio/Shutterstock

To defeat the enemy, you must understand its ways: The ability to recognize eggs, nymphs, and adult bed bugs during any of their five developmental life stages is indispensable for identifying and controlling them.

Bed bug eggs

The bed bug life cycle begins like that of most insects—with an egg. Bed bugs will only romance to fertilize eggs after a blood meal. They meet back up at their harborage (a community of bed bugs) and mating begins. According to the research of Dini Miller, PhD, at Virginia Tech, bed bug procreation is a brutal business: “The male pushes his paramere [reproductive organ] through the female’s body wall,” Dr. Miller says. “She does kind of have a receptacle for his paramere—called the spermalege—but he still wounds her in the process of ‘traumatic insemination.’” She then lays eggs and, six to nine days later, baby bed bugs hatch. Check out what bed bug eggs look like so you can find and eliminate infestations faster.


There’s no time for mom and nymph—or instar—to bond: After hatching, a nymph must find a host (you) and get some blood to grow into its next stage of life. This first-stage nymph is particularly vulnerable; because of its size (just 1.5 millimeters), it can’t travel as far as older nymphs to find a host. If the nymph is successful, the meal will also help it molt (shed its exoskeleton). Eggs and molted skins are signs of bed bugs, but here’s what else you should be looking for.

Nymph life

In this early stage of the bed bug life cycle, the clock is ticking for these tiny nymphs to find a blood meal. “A first-stage instar bed bug can only go an average of 20 days without feeding before it starts to die of dehydration,” says Miller. There are a total of five nymph (instar) stages, and the bugs must keep feeding throughout.

“For bed bugs, blood meals help them with moisture,” explains Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Being tucked in crevices under optimal temperatures of 70 to 90 degrees helps, too. This is why it’s hard to say how long they can live without a blood meal in real-life situations compared to laboratory settings where the climate is often controlled.” Here are pictures of bed bugs in and outside of the lab.

Adult bed bugs

With each stage of the bed bug life cycle, a bed bug grows about another half millimeter, reports the Environmental Protection Agency. After the fifth instar stage, the insect becomes a full-fledged adult bed bug of about five millimeters—and it’s ready to mate. How long bed bugs live is still a mystery, says Miller. She says the most recent research is from well-fed bed bugs in labs with optimal temperatures, where they live between 99 and 300 days. In your home, with varying temperature and humidity, the lifespan is bound to be different—but the causes of bed bugs remain consistent.

The Life Cycle of Bed Bugs

If you have discovered bed bugs in your mattress and bedding, then you are probably interested in learning how to get rid of them as quickly, cheaply and painlessly as possible. However, it is important to learn about the life cycle of bed bugs in order to fully understand what you are up against. If you notice several generations of bed bugs around your home, then it could be a sign that the infestation has been around for a while. This information would be helpful to an exterminator because this indicates the severity of the infestation.

The Life Cycle

In order to identify if there are several generations of bed bugs in your home, you need to be aware of what each stage looks like. There are essentially seven stages to a bed bug’s life cycle.

Bed bugs start their lives in eggs, which have a milky white color to them. These eggs are about one millimeter in length, so they can be a little hard to see because they are comparable in size to a couple grains of salt.

1st Stage Nymph:

There are five stages of growth that nymphs go through. 1st stage nymphs are 1.5 millimeters in length. As soon as they come out of their eggs, they can start feeding immediately. Throughout these nymph stages the bed bugs are not mature, so they will not begin to breed until they are fully adults.

2nd Stage Nymph:

Once a bed bug has gone through its first molt, it will become a 2nd stage nymph, which is about 2 millimeters long.

3rd Stage Nymph:

After molting again, bed bugs become 3rd stage nymphs. At this point, they are around 2.5 millimeters long.

4th Stage Nymph:

At this stage, bed bugs get to be 3 millimeters long.

5th Stage Nymph:

This is the final nymph stage, and once it is reached, bed bugs can get up to 4.5 millimeters long.


It takes about five weeks for a nymph to become an adult. At this point, they are able to breed. The lifespan of a bed bug is generally about four to six months. However, it is not unheard of for the pests to live up to a year.

How Fast Are Bed Bugs Able to Breed?

Thinking about a bed bug population booming is not necessarily the most fun thing in the world to think about. However, it is an important aspect to keep in mind because it is always better to curb the population before it gets out of hand. It may only take a few months before you have a full-on infestation on your hands.

Most people generally bring bed bugs into their home after staying at a hotel or another place that already had them. One or more pests may attach themselves to your clothes or luggage and get a ride back to your house without you even knowing it.

You may also start out with only a couple bugs. However, females are able to lay somewhere between one and five eggs a day. It takes about two weeks for the eggs to hatch, and as soon as they come out, the 1st stage nymphs will immediately begin to bite a host and feed on blood.

It takes five weeks for a 1st stage nymph to mature into an adult that is capable of breeding, so within two or three months, you could have a massive population on your hands. If no steps are taken to contain the infestation, then you could have tens of thousands of bed bugs around your home within 6 months. This is why early detection is so vital.

If you notice red bumps on your skin when you wake up, you should inspect your mattress thoroughly. Bed bugs are small but can still be noticed. They are generally reddish brown and have a flat appearance to them. Never wait to address the issue; acting swiftly is key to containing a bed bug population before it becomes a problem.

How Often Do Bed Bugs Feed?

Adult bed bugs generally only need to feed once a week. Therefore, you may not necessarily wake up every morning with red bumps, but it really depends on the size of the population you are looking at. However, it is possible for the pests to go longer periods of time without eating. Although a myth persists that bed bugs can go up to a whole year with eating, this is very rare and generally does not happen. Depending on the climate, the bugs may be able to go a month or two without eating. That means that even if you leave your house for a week or more for vacation, the bed bugs will still be waiting for you when you get back.

When a bed bug bites your skin for a meal, it usually takes about five to 10 minutes for it to get a full dinner. Due to the fact that bed bugs are very small, you may not even feel the bite when it is happening. You may only realize something is amiss because you are waking up with red bumps on your skin. These bumps can be itchy, but for the most part, they do not pose any serious health threats unless you are allergic to bed bugs. The bites are a mild annoyance for most people, so they are easy to ignore. However, as soon as you notice the bumps, you need to perform a thorough inspection of your bed and furniture so that you can identify any bed bugs and address the issue. It may be a hassle to get rid of them, but you will save time and money by dealing with this issue when it is still small.

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Act Fast to Rid Your Home of Bed Bugs

It can be a major headache to you have bed bugs in your home, but it is best to act quickly and contact the professionals to come out to your home to fumigate. Before you know it, you will be rid of the pests and can finally get a good night’s sleep once again.

About Author

Erin is a native Austinite that loves writing, wikipedia, online window-shopping for home goods, and riding on airplanes. When not writing articles at work, you can probably find her winding down with a glass of wine, a book, and her two favorite neurotic cats.


I have severe reactions to the bites. They itch LOTS and the only thing I have found that will give me relief is to run water that is as hot as I can tolerate w/o burning me over the bite for at least 45 seconds. This process is effective for several hours, but is not a cure. Is there anything I can apply to my skin which will kill the bug after biting me? That would be really nice! (our infestation was mild in comparison to some, but I’m still finding one or two every couple days.

Ronald Nicholson says

What I can’t understand is why bed bugs were a thing of the pass a joke in poems. ( Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite) why are they now coming back? we live in a small town here in Kansas and every one now not only have them but can’t get rid of them.

We got our home infested by a friend (?) Who needed a place to sleep for a weekend …

We’ve been doing the bombing and spraying and got rid of two beds …

What else can we do ?

purchase 91 percent alcohol and spray daily this strength alcohol kills them.

but will also kill you

Ronald Nicholson says

We have had these guys for over a year and I can not get rid of them. We have taken our bed apart, vacuumed, sprayed several different types of bed bug sprays, threw away furniture an washed our sheets pillowcases once a week in hot water and can not get rid of them. Is thee any spray that you can recommend to get rid of them?

Make sure the beds are clean…spray with high alcohol content in all crevices and cracks. Encase the beds if needed. Keep checking corners and areas for markings. Once the bed is clean/protected put bed bug interceptors on all the legs and don’t let anything touch the ground. This will keep your bed from getting re infected and let you sleep soundly. Then spread diatomaceous earth all around the ground in all areas you are worried about them. It takes time, but they will die and anytime they cross the floor they will die shortly after.

Unfortunately we too had a friend who brought theses into our home. Only tenting with Vikane gas killed them. It takes 10 times the normal amount of gas to kill the eggs. A good pest service should be contacted. In the meanwhile visits with friend now occur via skype as she is not as fortunate to be able to tent and still has them

How Bed Bugs Reproduce

In order to prevent the spread of bed bugs, it’s important to understand how they reproduce. Bedbugs reproduce via hypodermic insemination, also known as traumatic insemination. Male bugs use their genitalia to pierce the females anywhere on the abdomen, releasing sperm into the body. The sperm migrate through her abdominal fluiduntil they arrive at the ovaries, resulting in fertilization of the eggs.

The mating process is traumatic for female bed bugs, and they are frequently injured in the process. The wound can result in infection and leakage of blood, which reduces the lifespan of the female. For this reason, female bugs will avoid excessive mating where possible. After mating, they prefer to move to a location where they can remain undisturbed with a guaranteed food supply. In a safe environment, a female bed bug will typically lay between one to seven eggs each day, following each blood meal.

Bed bugs generally live for 12 to 18 months. During her lifetime, a female bed bug will lay up to 250 eggs. The milky-white eggs are roughly one millimeter long, and visible to the naked eye.The eggs are deposited in crevices and cracks on bed frames, baseboards, furniture and carpets. The female uses an adhesive layer to ensure the eggs remain in place.

Because mating results in scarring, females that have mated many times within a short period of time will produce fewer eggs. Females that have time to recover from the mating process will produce more eggs. This phenomenon helps increase the proliferation of bed bugs, because pregnant females will travel to new locations to avoid male bugs.

Eggs hatch within 1-2 weeks. The nymphs that emerge can feed on blood immediately, but are unable to reproduce until they have fully matured. Theyundergo five molting stages before reaching adulthood. During each stage they must feed at least once. The time taken to mature depends on the temperature – from three weeks in warm weather to four months in cold weather.

A female bed bug may mate with any of her adult offspring, and will lay eggs continuously assuming she has access to a blood meal. Thismeans a single pregnant female can easilycreate an infestation of five thousand bugs within six months.

A 2010 study discovered that bed bug nymphs release a pheromone that prevents males from attempting to mate with them. Scientists hope to eventually use this pheromone to disrupt bed bug reproduction and reduce infestations.

If you really want to get rid of bed bugs today try SayByeBugs! It was developed as a safe and highly effective alternative among a sea of products that rarely deliver on their promises.

Bed Bugs

If you think you have bed bugs, don’t panic. There is a lot you can do; learn more and create an action plan. Bed bugs are hard to control, even for professionals. When using pesticides, always read and follow the label directions. Be mindful of the possible dangers of using pesticides. These days, many bed bugs are resistant to common pesticides. Bug bombs (foggers) don’t work for bed bugs. Learn more, one step at a time.

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) received hundreds of calls last year from all over the country about bed bugs. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am — 12:00pm PST), or email at [email protected]

Bed Bugs

  • Identify the pest. Carpet beetles, fleas, and bat bugs are often confused for bed bugs.
  • Work with others. A professional is often needed, and a landlord can make a big difference.
  • Find their resting places. Check bed sheets for blood stains. Inspect the seams of mattresses, look inside box springs, and look behind head-boards.
  • Use encasements on mattresses and box springs to trap and starve bed bugs.
  • Vacuum up bed bugs frequently and discard the contents promptly. You can also freeze the vacuum bag for several days to kill the bugs.
  • Use the high heat setting on your dryer to kill bed bugs on bedding and clothing.
  • Steam-clean mattresses, carpets, or upholstered furniture to kill bed bugs and their young.
  • Place infested items in your freezer for several days to kill bed bugs, if appropriate.
  • Reduce clutter in your home to limit bed bug hiding places.
  • Coordinate treatment with neighboring apartments. Bed bugs migrate between units.
  • Caulk or seal cracks and crevices which may allow bed bugs entry.
  • Check your clothing, bags and coat when leaving a potentially infested area. Bed bugs are great hitchhikers.

If you choose to use a pesticide, read the label before you buy. Try a lower toxicity product first.

If you have a pesticide product in mind, have your label handy and click here for information about that product.

Where to Start with Bed Bugs?

It’s hard to sleep when you have bed bugs crawling on you or your bed. If you think you may have bed bugs:

  • First, don’t panic! Quick, rash decisions may lead to unneeded, costly, and dangerous actions. You are not alone in this battle; lots of people across the country have had bed bugs. Also, bed bugs are not a sign that your house is dirty. However, bed bugs can easily hide in cluttered spaces.
  • If you find bed bugs near your bed, or bite-marks on your skin, don’t sleep in another part of the house. The bed bugs could follow you, spreading the infestation and making it more difficult to treat. Instead, try to make your bed an island of safety by following some simple tips.
  • Do not discard furniture immediately. You could spread the bed bugs throughout your house, making treatment more difficult. You may also cause new infestations if others take home your discarded items. If you must discard items, clearly mark them with an image of a bug to warn others.
  • Bed bugs can be easily confused with other insects such as bat bugs, so correct identification is important. Also, you cannot determine if you have bed bugs by bites alone. Learn more about how to identify bed bugs. If you need assistance, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service or pest management professional for help identifying your bugs.
  • Next, learn about bed bug biology and behavior. This will help you understand where to look for bugs, how to collect samples, and whether you are dealing with an introduction or an infestation.
  • If it is confirmed that you have bed bugs, the next step is to decide whether to hire a professional. Bed bugs can be very hard to control, even for trained professionals. When selecting a bed bug control provider, this fact sheet may help you decide what to do. Whether or not you decide to hire a professional, make sure you think through the treatment options.
  • If you rent your apartment, consider talking with neighbors and landlords about making a group effort to treat the problem. Bed bugs are easily capable of moving through cracks and crevices from one room to the next, and pesticides can make them scatter.
  • If you don’t receive an adequate response from your building manager, consider contacting your city’s code enforcement or buildings department. Regulations may require that a licensed applicator apply any insecticides that are used.
See also:  How to get rid of fleas in the house, Yahoo Answers

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) received hundreds of calls last year from all over the country about bed bugs. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am — 12:00pm PST), or email at [email protected]

Additional Resources:

  • Tackling Bed Bugs: A Starter Guide for Local Governments — University of Washington
  • Video: Identifying an Infestation (8:14) — Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Bed Bug Management Decision Flowchart — Michigan Department of Community Health
  • How to Identify a Bed Bug Infestation – Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Insects in the City: Bed Bugs – Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
  • Bed Bug Fact Sheet – Seattle and King County Public Health
  • Managing Bed Bugs – University of Nebraska Lincoln
  • Stay Legal and Safe in Treating for Bed Bugs — US Environmental Protection Agency

Bed Bug Biology and Behavior

Bed bugs are stow-a-ways. They enter homes by hiding in the cracks and crevices of incoming luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes and other objects. Bed bugs feed on human blood. Their presence has little to do with the cleanliness of the home, although clutter can provide hiding spaces for bed bugs and make them difficult to control. Once bed bugs are established, they rapidly reproduce and spread from room to room.


  • Bed bugs are found living with humans worldwide.
  • Bed bugs have five immature life stages before becoming adults (see image above). In order to shed their “skin” (molt) and grow to the next life stage, bed bugs must have a blood meal. In ideal conditions it takes about 37 days from when eggs are laid until the bed bugs become adults.
  • Adult bed bugs are the size of an apple seed, while eggs are the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
  • Bed bugs usually feed every 3-7 days.
  • An immature bed bug or a male bed bug introduced into a home will not start an infestation, but one pregnant female can quickly reproduce. Preventing introduction is key.
  • Females lay eggs anywhere they wander, either separately or in a group. Eggs can take 6-10 days to hatch. For this reason, repeated and persistent monitoring is key when trying to control bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs can survive for months without feeding, so they may be present in vacant, clean homes when new tenants unpack.
  • A bed bug can survive for up to three months without feeding at room temperature. At cold temperatures they can survive much longer without feeding.
  • It is usually drying out, rather than starving, that kills isolated bed bugs. If the moisture in the air is low, they will dry out much faster.
  • Bed bugs can carry diseases within their bodies, but transmission to humans has not been found.
  • Populations of bed bugs across the country have been found to be resistant to many common pesticides. Control requires an Integrated Pest Management approach.


  • Bed bugs hide during the day, and typically feed at night.
  • Bed bugs hide near areas where people rest for long periods of time, mostly on and around the bed. Couches, wheelchairs, and recliners are also common hiding places.
  • Bed bugs like to hide in tight areas, such as cracks, crevices, under mattress tags, in box springs, and any place dark and sheltered. In these hiding places you can find eggs, all ages of bed bugs, shed “skins” (which look like empty bed bug bodies), and dark spots or stains, which are the dried droppings from the bugs.
  • Bed bugs feed when their food source (host) is sleeping, usually at night. It takes 3-10 minutes for a bed bug to feed, but the bite is painless so people don’t know it’s happening.
  • Reactions to bed bug bites vary widely, and one third of people may show no reaction at all.
  • Bed bugs can be found on buses, on subways, in taxis, in movie theaters, in libraries and many other areas.
  • Large infestations and disturbances such as pesticide applications can cause bed bugs to spread to other areas of the home, or to neighboring apartments.

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) received hundreds of calls last year from all over the country about bed bugs. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am — 12:00pm PST), or email at [email protected]

Additional Resources:

  • Bed Bug Biology and Behavior – Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Managing Bed Bugs: Interactive Publication — University of Nebraska Lincoln
  • Bed Bug Fact Sheet — University of Kentucky
  • Bed Bug Myths: Rely on Research for Facts — University of Nebraska Lincoln
  • Bed Bugs: Get Them Out and Keep Them Out — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Bed Bug Clearinghouse: Biology – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


  • Bed Bugs and Integrated Pest Management (7:27)– Rutgers University
  • Bed Bug Prevention and Control (23:20) – University of Minnesota

Bed Bug Control Methods

Bed bugs can be very difficult to control, even for trained professionals. Many insecticides are not effective at killing the eggs, so a second treatment is often necessary to kill the juveniles after eggs hatch. Even worse, many populations of bed bugs have developed resistance to common insecticides, making some sprays ineffective. Regular, thorough inspections and a variety of treatment methods are often needed. Those methods may include heat and steam treatments, fumigation, and cold treatments. A trained professional must do some of these treatments.

Where to start:

  • If you believe you have bed bugs, the first step is to properly identify them.
  • If you share walls with neighbors, talk with your neighbors and landlord about making a coordinated effort to treat the problem.
  • Read more about getting started here.

Physical methods:

  • Find and remove as many insects as possible. A crevice tool on a vacuum can be used for the tight areas where bed bugs like to hide. Immediately seal and dispose of the vacuum bag if bed bugs are suspected to be present. Clear packing tape or extra sticky lint rollers can also be used to remove bugs and eggs from surfaces.
  • For bedding, clothing, and other heat durable items, drying them on high heat for 30 minutes will kill all bed bugs, including the eggs. Use dissolvable laundry bags or plastic bags that can be disposed of outside to transport clothing to shared laundromats. After drying, items should be stored in sealable plastic bins or bags to stop bugs from moving back in.
  • If you discard infested items, clearly mark them by drawing a picture of a bug on the item(s), which can be understood by people who speak a different language. Also, wrap your items before moving them to keep bed bugs from spreading.
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Making your bed a bug-free island:

  • Pull your bed away from the wall and other furniture. Inspect your bed frame, box spring, and mattress thoroughly and remove any bugs you find.
  • Place traps under your bed legs to stop bed bugs from climbing up to bite during the night. You can buy traps or build your own. Do not allow linens to touch the floor.
  • Mattress and box spring encasements can be used to salvage infested beds or protect replacement beds. They will trap bugs inside that are already present, remove hiding areas, and make future inspections much easier. If only one encasement can be afforded, the box spring should be encased first.

Chemical methods:

  • Always read and follow the label directions for any pesticide product, and make sure the pesticide is intended for treating bed bugs. The EPA has a bed bug product search tool.
  • If you are working with a pest management professional or a landlord, talk to them before using any pesticides on your own.
  • Do not use more of a pesticide than the label directions say to use. It could make the problem worse by causing bed bugs to disperse. It could also cause health effects.
  • Avoid daily spot treatments for bed bugs. It can cause the pesticide-resistant population to grow, making elimination of the bed bugs more difficult.
  • «Bug bombs» or total release foggers are not effective against bed bugs according to the National Center for Healthy Housing. The pesticide droplets generated by foggers typically do not penetrate the hiding spaces used by bed bugs.
  • Typically, dust products should be applied in small amounts within the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. Read the label to be sure.
  • Infested items that cannot be treated with pesticides (bedding, clothing, electronic items) can be treated with heat or cold to kill hidden bed bugs. See the resources below for the specific treatment methods.
  • Large infestations may also be treated using structural fumigation.

The bullets above contain a menu of options, not recommendations. Only a professional familiar with your situation is qualified to recommend specific strategies to eliminate your infestation.

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) received hundreds of calls last year from all over the country about bed bugs. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am — 12:00pm PST), or email at [email protected]

Additional Resources:

  • A Guide to Controlling Bed Bugs in Your Home — MI Department of Community Health and MSU Extension
  • Bed Bug Prevention, Detection and Control — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely — New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • New IPM Methods for Bed Bugs — Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC)
  • Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs in Homes — University of Minnesota Extension
  • Bed Bugs and Your Apartment – Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
  • Bed Bug Action Plan for Apartments — Virginia Tech
  • What’s Bugging You? How to Deal with Bed Bugs — Cornell University
  • Managing Bed Bugs — University of Nebraska Lincoln
  • Managing Bed Bugs: Interactive Publication — University of Nebraska Lincoln

Tools to Control Bed Bugs:

  • Bed Bugs: Do-it-yourself Control Options – Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
  • Vacuuming to Capture Bed Bugs — University of Minnesota
  • Using research and education to implement practical bed bug control programs in multifamily housing — Purdue University
  • Pesticides to Control Bed Bugs — US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Bed Bug Educational Package — Tribal Pesticide Program Council (TPPC)
  • Cost-Effective and Money-Wasting Bed Bug Control Methods — Rutgers University
  • How to Make a Bed Bug Interceptor Trap out of Common Household Items — University of Florida Extension
  • Do-It-Yourself Bed Bug Trap — University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Bed Bug Product Search Tool — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • How to Select a Bed Bug Control Provider — Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
  • Bed Bug Treatment Using Insecticides – Virginia Tech
  • Non-Chemical Bed Bug Management – Virginia Tech


  • Homemade Bed Bug Interceptor Trap (3:00) – University of Florida Extension
  • Control Bed Bugs at Home (5:19) – University of Minnesota
  • Controlling Bed Bugs by Hand (5:30) – University of Minnesota
  • Laundering Items to Kill Bed Bugs (4:03) – University of Minnesota
  • Bed Bugs and Integrated Pest Management (7:27) – Rutgers University
  • What NOT to Do When you Have Bed Bugs (2:37) – University of Minnesota

Preventing Bed Bug Infestations

The best offense is a good defense. Traveling, overnight stays, and used furniture can increase the risk of bringing bed bugs home. You may also be at higher risk if you share walls with neighbors. Bed bugs are stow-a-ways that hitchhike from one location to the next. They can also walk to nearby rooms through cracks or crevices in walls.

  • Familiarize yourself with what bed bugs look like, their range of sizes, and their typical hiding places.
  • Familiarize yourself with bed bug eggs, molted skins, and fecal marks.
  • Returning home from a trip is your best opportunity to prevent bed bug infestations. Inspect luggage thoroughly before bringing it into your home and do not store luggage near resting areas. Dry all clothing on a hot setting for thirty minutes before putting them away.
  • Do not use pesticides as a preventative treatment. Modern pesticides usually have to hit the bed bugs in order to be effective, rather than leaving effective residues.
  • Repair cracks in plaster, wallpaper, and paint on the walls and ceilings. Seal crevices around windows and baseboards.
  • Remove clutter around sleeping areas, and do not store items under the bed.
  • Thoroughly inspect and clean any used furniture before bringing it home.
  • Used clothing should be dried for at least 30 minutes on high before bringing it home.
  • Change and wash bedding regularly, inspecting sheets, mattress seams, and under tags for signs of bed bug activity.
  • When arriving at a hotel or other sleeping place, avoid placing your luggage on the bed or the floor until you have conducted a thorough inspection. You can use the luggage rack (after inspecting it) or put your luggage in the bathroom.
  • The resources below explain how to prevent bed bugs from entering your home.

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) received hundreds of calls last year from all over the country about bed bugs. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am — 12:00pm PST), or email at [email protected]

Additional Resources:

  • Recognizing Bed Bugs and Their Signs – Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
  • Preventing and Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely — New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Bed Bugs: How to Protect Yourself and Your Home — Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Bed Bug Prevention Methods — Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Bed Bug Prevention, Detection and Control — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Traveler Q & A: Preventing bed bugs from hitchhiking to your home — University of Minnesota Extension
  • Bed Bugs: Get Them Out and Keep Them Out — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Bed Bug Clearinghouse: Prevention – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Bed Bug Action Plan for Home Health Care and Social Workers – Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services


  • Keeping Yourself Safe From Bed Bugs While Traveling (5:54) — Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Hotel Tips (4:13) — Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • How to Prevent Bed Bugs from Entering Your Home (2:17) — University of Minnesota Extension
  • Travel Bed Bug Free (9:10) — Bed Bug Central TV
  • How to Inspect a Bed for Bed Bugs (8:42) — Bed Bug Central TV

County Extension Offices

Through its county agents, the Cooperative Extension Service gives individuals access to the resources at land-grant universities across the nation. These universities are centers for research in many subjects, including entomology (the study of insects) and agriculture. Each county within the United States has an Extension office, which is staffed with agents who work closely with university-based Extension specialists to deliver answers to your questions about gardening, agriculture, and pest control. You can find the phone number for your local county extension office in the local government section (often marked with blue pages) of your telephone directory or by clicking on the map below. You may also consider contacting your EPA Bed Bug Regional Office.

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