Bed Bugs

How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

Adult, nymphs and blood spots on wood.

Adult, nymphs and blood spots on wood. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health & Safety, Harvard U.

Bed bug nymph feeding.

Bed bug nymph feeding. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health & Safety, Harvard U.

Bed bug eggs on mattress fabric.

Bed bug eggs on mattress fabric. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health & Safety, Harvard U.

Bed bugs hitchhike on people’s belongings and hide in crevices near where they rest. To prevent an infestation of bed bugs, you need to keep them from coming into your home and detect new infestations early. Basically, no silver bullet exists. Pest control has changed and we are still working on the best solutions for bed bug management. Rely on the pest management professional (PMP) for all pesticide use. Focus on preventing introduction and detecting them early. Educate residents and staff about how to prevent bed bugs from hitchhiking on their belongings. Make sure procedures are in place for prompt and proper furniture removal from the property. Install mattress- and box-spring encasements and bed bug interceptors. Offer products and services for free to incentivize cooperation. Teach residents and staff to inspect often. If a unit is being treated for bed bugs, have a staff person check on the preparation progress before the pest management professional arrives.

Bed Bug Basics

What they look like

Adults look like apple seeds with legs. Young bed bugs—nymphs—look like adults, only smaller. Newly hatched nymphs are poppy seed-sized. Eggs are tiny, white, and hard to spot.

Where they live

In cracks and crevices of bed frames, floors, walls, furniture, electronics, mattresses—any spot they can wedge themselves near where people rest.

What they do

Feed on you as you sleep, but if you’re not around they can go over a year without food. Bites look like a rash or welts—or you may not notice them at all. Bed bugs don’t transmit disease.

How to deal with bed bugs

Don’t bring home hitchhikers: Working in an infested unit? Remember, bed bugs can’t jump or fly. And they spend a lot of time hiding. You’re likely to see them before they crawl on you. Don’t sit or set your equipment down near where people rest. If you have to move an infested object, wear a disposable suit and booties. Keep a change of clothes in your car, change at work, and dry your bed bug clothes for 20 minutes on high heat as soon as you get home.

Buying used furniture, bedding, clothes? Inspect thoroughly. Look for the bugs or the spots they leave behind. Wash and dry bedding and clothes with hot water and high heat. There are other heat options like steam too.

Detect before the infestation grows and spreads: Keep bedroom furniture an inch or two from the wall and a flashlight handy for easier cleaning and inspecting. Bed bug-proof mattress covers, light-colored bedding, and insect interceptors make them easier to spot. Offer professional services and bed bug products for free to incentivize cooperation.

Pesticide options: Leave it to the professionals. Some sprays simply repel bed bugs, spreading them around. Make sure pesticides are labeled specifically for bed bugs. Always read and follow the instructions on the label. The pros may ask the resident to prepare for bed bugs service. The preparation requirements should be least disruptive to the bed bugs and customized to each infestation—bed bug prep is not always time consuming.

This page “How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs” has been translated to Portuguese by Artur Weber. See the translation here: COMO SE LIVRAR DE PERCEVEJOS?


Policy and planning

Factsheets and educational resources

Case studies



Resident Materials

Stop Bed Bugs! picture-based guide

Use picture-based materials to communicate with residents like the “Stop Bed Bugs!” guide pictured above.

Northeastern IPM Center

See results from the Northeastern IPM Center’s resources database