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What To Do If You Have Bed Bugs: A Complete Guide

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You may feel as though you have bed bug eggs in your hair, but it's highly unlikely that you do. Although, bed bugs feed on us, they actually prefer a cooler environment than our body to live and lay their eggs. But that doesn't mean that they won't bite your scalp, neck, face and forehead.

These pesty insects may feed near your hair line, but they rarely cross into your hair. This is because their bodies and legs are simply not designed to crawl thru hair. 

What is a Bed Bug?

Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are definitely irritating, but they don't transmit diseases like many other insects. However, because of their small size, and their preference to burrow into folds and crevices when they're not feeding, they can be difficult to find.

If you notice insect bites or brown bugs in your hair, it's most likely not bed bugs. It could be lice, fleas, or some other insect. Although, this may be small comfort since these "other" insects are easier to get rid of, and the "ick" factor is still pretty high!

What Does A Bed Bug Look Like?

If you're infested with bed bugs, you'll generally find eggs, nymphs, and adults nearby. Let's take a closer look at the characteristics of each type:

Life Cycle of a Bed Bug

Bed Bug Eggs

  • White
  • About the size of a pinhead
  • If more than 5 days old, an eye spot will be visible


  • May be whitish-yellow in color or translucent
  • Because of their smaller size and coloring, they can be difficult to see if they haven't recently fed

Adult Bed Bugs

  • Roughly the size of an apple seed
  • If recently fed, they will be reddish-brown in color, with an elongated, balloon-like appearance
  • If they have not fed recently, they will be brown with a flat and oval-shaped body
  • You may notice a musty-sweet odor

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How to Tell if You Have Bed Bugs

If you suspect that your home is infested with bed bugs, the earlier you take action the easier it'll be to treat. When an infestation becomes established, the likelihood of the bugs "hitchhiking" into other areas of your home increases.

You might be suprised to know, that finding bites on your skin is not a reliable indicator of having bed bugs. This is because some people don't have a reaction to bed bug bites, and those who do, find that the bites appear the same as other insects, such as mosquiteoes and fleas.

Knowing the physical signs of bed bugs can help you idenify an infestation and take action so you can remove them as soon as possible. In order to properly treat the problem, it's important to make sure that what you are seeing is, in fact, bed bugs. There are actually a number of different bugs that look similar to the bed bug.

Physical Signs of Bed Bugs

  • Bite marks (often in a line) on your skin that itch
  • Blood or rust colored spots on furniture, sheets or mattresses
  • A sweet, musty odor. (Used by the insect to communicate)
  • Exoskeletons, dead bugs or eggs
  • Small specks of blood filled excrement

Where to Look for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs hide when they're not feeding. In the beginning they'll generally be confined to the area around your bed. They may hide in the cracks of the headboard, or on the bed frame, or they may burrow into the crevices of the mattress, particularly the seams and piping.

If left untreated, they'll begin to venture into other areas of the room. They may infest other furniture such as chairs, or the joints of dresser drawers. A badly infested home may have bed bugs within their electrical receptacles, behind pictures hung from the wall, and even under loose wall paper.

Any crack that's the width of a credit card is fair game for a bed bug to crawl into and hide. 

Photo of a bed bug

Bed Bug Behavior

Understanding bed bug behavior is important for 2 reasons:

  1. So you can take action before an infestation becomes established.
  2. So you can monitor the results after you've treated an infestation.

Bed bugs aren't concerned about cleanliness. They don't care if they live in a clean or filthy environment. Their only worry is that there's a warm-blooded food source available.

An adult bed bug will live for roughly 1-year, and it's able to survive in temperatures as cold as 46°F. To make matters worse, they won't begin to die until their body temperature is 113°F!

In order to mate and produce eggs, both males and females need to feed at least every 14 days. Once the female mates, she'll lay 1 to 5 eggs each day in nearby cracks and crevices. The amount of eggs an adult female is capable of laying in her lifetime is estimated to be 113 by Virigina Tech, but we've seen estimates as high as 500 from other reputible sources. 

Within 6 to 10 days the eggs will hatch into nymphs, and the nymphs will shed their outer exoskeleton 5 times before it reaches maturity. Living in an optimal temperature of 72F, each egg will take 37 days to develop into an adult bed bug.

A bed bug population can double in size every 16 days

How Do Bed Bugs Feed?

Bed bugs are nocturnal by nature and tend to be most active in the early morning hours. However, if they're hungry, they'll feed during the day. When necessary, they can survive up to a year without food, but if a host is available, they'll typically feed every 5 to 10 days.

Spraying yourself with a bug repellent may work to deter mosquitos, but unfortunately, it's not effective with bed bugs. Research has shown that bed bugs seem to sense and avoid surfaces that have been treated with these products. However, when hungry, the bed bug will seek out a food source, even if it needs to cross a treated surface.

  • A bed bug will leave it's hiding place and travel up to 100 feet to spend 3 to 12 minutes feeding on it's host. 
  • Given the choice, a bed bug will almost always choose a human over another mammal.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

According to the University of Minnesota, "bed bugs were almost completely removed from North America due to mass treatments with highly toxic insecticides that are no longer in use. Frequent travel, improved treatment methods that target other insects without affecting bed bugs, and a lack of public awareness has led to a rise in the spread of bed bugs."

Since bed bugs can be found nearly anywhere, it's important to be aware of how they come into your home, so you can take steps to prevent an infestation.

It's much easier to focus on prevention than removal. Bed bug infestations are on the rise and they are the most difficult pest to control.

Tips to Prevent Bed Bugs

  • When using a laundromat, remove your clothing directly from the dryer and place them into a plastic bag. Fold your clothes at home.
  • Before bringing used furniture into your home, inspect it for signs of bed bugs.
  • Purchase a Zap Bug Oven  (portable heating chamber) to treat luggage and other non-washable items before you bring them into your house after traveling.
  • Keep your home clutter-free to reduce places for bed bugs to hide.
  • Frequently vacuum to help prevent hitchhikers from moving from one room to another.
  • Use a mattress protector to prevent bed bugs from hiding in the crevices of your mattress.
  • Especially if you live in an apartment, seal the cracks and crevices around your baseboards and electrical outlets. Also, install a door sweep to the bottom of your door.

Can I get bed bug eggs in my hair?

How Do Bed Bugs Spread?

There are 2 main ways that bed bugs move from one location to another. Being aware of how they spread, and taking preventative measures in each situation can save you a major headache. Let's take a look at the 2 most common ways bed bugs can be brought into your home:

Bed bugs can be brought into your home and go virtually unnoticed until you are fully infested.

How bed bugs spread: Second hand furniture

Secondhand Furniture

Bed bugs live in other areas besides beds. They can be found anywhere there's a hiding spot and a nearby food source. Areas such as sofas, dressers, chairs and night stands are just a few of the places these annoying pests hide and lay eggs.

If you bring secondhand furnature into your home, there's a risk you may be bringing in bed bugs too. Always do a complete inspection of any second hand furnature before it enters your house.


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Avoiding bed bugs when traveling


Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers. Hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts are common places for bed bugs to infest because they have a high amount of traffic. Once infested it's easy for these pests to find their way onto your luggage and clothes where they'll travel with you to your next location. 

You might be surprised to learn that bed bugs are more likely to "hitch a ride" on unworn clothes than the clothes you're wearing. This is because the unworn clothes are cooler than clothes that are on your body.

Bed Bug Travel Precautions

The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends the following when traveling and staying at a hotel:

  • Inspect the mattress for spots and stains. Focus on the corners and seams, and notifiy the management if you find any signs of bed bugs.
  • Inspect the room before you unpack. Pay special attention to the furniture and the bed's headboard.
  • If you find an  infestation and need to move rooms within the same hotel, do not move to a room that is directly above, below, or adjacent to the infested room. When an infestation begins to spread, it will typically  do so in nearby rooms. One reason for this is the ease in which bed bugs can hitchhike on housekeeping carts and luggage. They also can move between rooms thru electrical sockets.
  • You may want to consider storing your luggage in a trash bag while you're traveling. This prevents bed bugs from hiding within the seams.
  • When you return home, carefully inspect your luggage and wash all of your garments.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

According to the EPA, the most effective approach of eradicating these pests is with integrated pest management, which is basically using a variety of techniques.  

Most professionals will tell you that bed bugs are by far the most difficult pest to get rid of, and that prevention is critical. This is one of the reasons why many homeowners choose to hire an expert with the experience, equipment, and proven methods to get the job done.

However, there are methods to solving the problem on your own if you're willing to invest time and effort. Follow the 4 steps below to tackle a bed bug infestation yourself. Keep in mind that it's a process and it's going to take time. 

Best Way to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

If you want to tackle this problem on your own, the process isn't too difficult, although it is time consuming. You'll likely need to invest in some equipment and supplies, but once you have, you'll be prepared for any future outbreaks.

By following these 4 steps you'll be able to get rid of bed bugs without hiring a professional.

Step 1 - Clean and Encase Your Bed

The first thing you need to do is isolate your bed. Your mattress, box springs and bed frame are the most common hiding places for bed bugs, and often the first place an infestation begins. Once this step is complete, you'll be able to keep the bed bugs out of your mattress and prevent them from feeding on you.

  •  Remove all of the bedding from the mattress and place it into plastic trash bags before removing it from the room. This prevents bed bugs from invading other rooms in your house. 
  • Carefully place your bedding into the washing machine and use a hot water setting. (Be sure to seal the empty bags and remove them from your house as soon as possible). Then dry your bedding on a high-heat setting.
  • Remove your mattress and box springs from the frame. Using a vacuum, carefully run the nozzle along the seams and folds of your bed, frame and head board. The vacuum will remove eggs, droppings, and live bed bugs. We recommend using the Atrix vacuum. It's designed specifically for bed bug removal.
Atrix VACBP1 Ergo HEPA Backpack Vacuum, Standard Bundle, Black
Atrix VACBP1 Ergo HEPA Backpack Vacuum, Standard Bundle, Black
HEPA FILTER - The 8-Quart HEPA filter safely captures smalls particles
  • Once you finish vacuuming your bed, repeat the process using a steamer with a cloth attachment. The steamer penetrates deep into the material of the mattress and kills both the bugs and eggs. 
  • After the bed dries, it's time to spray the joints of the bed frame and the head and foot board with a contact insecticide such as Steri-Fab. Steri-Fab will kill any lingering bed bugs that survived the vacuum and steamer. However, it won't offer any residual protection.
Steri-Fab Mixed Insecticide Oz, Clear, 16 Fl Oz
Steri-Fab Mixed Insecticide Oz, Clear, 16 Fl Oz
Country of origin is China; The package dimension of the product is 8"L x 3"W x 3"H; The package weight of the product is 1.3 Pound
  • Next, spray the same areas with a residual spray. The residual spray will kill the bed bugs for the next few weeks. We recommend using Bedlam Plus
BEDLAM Plus 17 oz, Clear
BEDLAM Plus 17 oz, Clear
Kills bed bugs where they hide; Will not stain water safe fabrics and surfaces; For use on mattresses, wood furniture and carpeting
  • Place your mattress and box springs into a bed bug mattress protector. This prevents the bed bugs from entering or escaping your mattress. Be sure to encase both the mattress and the box springs.
  • You can now remake your bed with your freshly washed bedding. 

Step 2 - Isolate Your Bed

Now that your bedding is clean and your mattress and box springs are encased, it's time to isolate your bed. Bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, and when we're sleeping, any bed bugs that are nearby will climb back to your bed to feed. Step 2 prevents the bugs from feeding on you, thus, cutting off their food supply.

  • Remove or tuck in any hanging skirts from your bed. Since bed bugs can't jump or fly, the only way they can reach you is to climb. If a bed skirt touches the ground, the bed bug will climb the skirt until it reaches the top of the bed.
  • Remove anything stored under your bed, as well as any unused pillows. 
  • Next, move your bed away from the wall.
  • At this point, the only way a bed bug can reach you is by climbing up the leg of the bed. We'll use interceptors to prevent access to the legs of the bed. The bed bug will climb up the interceptor and then fall into a "pit" where they'll be unable to escape. Intercepters come in a variety of different sizes, so you should be able to find one that fits your needs.

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Step 3 - Clean the Room

In steps 1 and 2 we not only constructed a safe place for you to sleep, but we also created a lure to bring bed bugs out from their hiding places and into the sprays and powders that we'll be using in step 4. But first, we need to clean the room.

  • Remove any unecessary clutter in the room. Items such as shoes, books and clothing can give bed bugs a place to hide.
  • Any items that can be laundered should be washed and dried on high heat. Other items, that can not be laundered, such as books, shoes, and luggage can be placed into a Zap Bug Oven. A Zap Bug Oven will kill the bugs without damaging your possessions. Or, you can place the items in a trash bag and set them outside in the sun.
ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service
ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service
Efficient: Heats large items above 120℉ 50℃; Easy to use: One person set-up, load with items, and press on, no need to bag items
  • Use your Atrix Vacuum along the deep crevices of furniture, window seals and baseboards.
  • Then repeat with your steamer, moving slowly to allow the steam to fully penetrate.

Step 4 - Treat the Room

Now that your room is clean, it's time to set up a long lasting defense to prevent the bed bugs from returning.

  • Using the contact insecticide Steri-Fab that we used in step 1, spray along baseboards, below and behind night stands, and under drawers. Also spray furniture,  along the zipper, seams, and other deep crevices. There's no need to spray the entire surface area, just the crevices where bed bugs hide.
  • Spray the same areas with your residual insecticide Bedlam Plus to provide protection for the next several weeks. 
  • Next, use a residual powder for areas that you're unable to access with the sprays. This works great for spots such as behind electrical outlet plates, along deep crevices in door frames, or under appliances.
Rockwell Labs CXID032 CimeXa Dust Insecticide, White
Rockwell Labs CXID032 CimeXa Dust Insecticide, White
Ants, crazy ants, cockroaches, firebrats, silverfish; Spiders, mites, bed bugs, lice, fleas, chinches de cama
  • Following these steps should protect you for the next 2 weeks, at which point you'll need to reapply the contact and residual insecticides. Then, in another 2 weeks reapply again. After 3 applications you should be bed bug free! 
Killing bed bugs with chemicals

What Chemicals Kill Bed Bugs?

The EPA has 300 chemicals registered to control bed bugs. These products fall into 7 different chemical classes, each with a different approach, known as mode of action. Using a variety of chemicals that differ in their mode of action can help prevent bed bugs from developing a resistance to any one type of chemical.

Let's take a closer look at the 7 chemical classes that are designed to kill bed bugs:

Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids

Both of these compounds have the ability to kill bed bugs, even when they are in their hiding places. Pyrethrins are made from chrysanthemum flowers, and pyrethroids is a synthetic insecticide that functions in the same way.

These 2 compounds are the most commonly used products. However, many bed bugs have or will develop a resistance to their use. 

Insect Growth Regulators

Insect Growth Regulators can work in one of two ways:

  1. Change the composition of the compound (chitin) used to form the bed bug's exoskeleton or external shell.
  2. Change the pace of development of the insect. Either by stopping their development or making them develop much quicker than they should.


Neonicotinoids is a synthetic form of nicotine that works on the nervous system by causing the nerves to fire until failure. It's a good alternative for bed bugs that are resistant to other chemicals since it uses a different mode of action.


These pesticides dehydrate the bed bug by destroying their waxy, protective outer coating. Bed bugs can not develop a resistance to desiccants because it attacks their physical body, unlike many other products that work on a neurochemical level. 


Pyrroles are a new class of chemicals, called pro-insecticide. The compound is activated after entering the bed bug and then changes into a different chemical that disrupts the cells. At this time, the only pyrrole pesticide for bed bug treatment is Chlorfenapyr.


In 2012, the EPA registered cold pressed neem oil as an effective product in controlling bed bugs. To this day, it's still the only biochemcial pesticide registered. The insecticidal compounds of the oil have been found to be effective in controlling bed bug eggs, nymphs and adults. 

Neem oil comes from the seeds of the Neem tree, which is a tropical evergreen tree found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Neem oil is also known for it's medicinal properties, and is commonly used to make products such as toothpaste, soap and shampoo. 


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Hiring a Professional to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Although, you can treat a bed bug infestation yourself, it's best to hire a professional.  Since these pests can survive for extended periods of time without food, and they're capable of hiding in the smallest of crevices and cracks, they've developed the reputation of being one of the most difficult insects to get rid of.

Bed Bug Treatment Cost

The amount of money you'll spend on treating a bed bug infestation will vary depending the following factors:

  • How badly your home is infested
  • The size of the room(s) that require treatment
  • The type of treatment required

If you're not badly infested, you may be able to get the problem professionally treated for about $300. However, if your bed bugs have set up residence, and you live in a large house, you may be looking at as much as $5,000!

Homes that are heavily infested require more product and labor, and they may even need several visits to thoroughly eradicate the bed bugs.

Most homeowners fall in the range of $1,000 to $2,500 to have their bed bugs professionally treated. 

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Hiring a trained professional has a number of advantages, not to mention, they typically offer a guarantee. You'll also have peace of mind that the job is being completed safely and correctly. In addition, you won't need to purchase the equipment and supplies as you would if you did the job yourself.  

Here are several of the different methods a professional may use:


The exterminator uses heat to kill the bed bugs by raising the temperature to above 120F. This is an effective method to eleminate the pests, however it doesn't prevent them from returning. If you choose to use a thermal treatment, you should also use a residual treatment for long term success.


Having your home fumigated is usually extremely successful at removing bed bugs, unfortunately, it's also one of the more expensive methods. The exterminator uses a tarp to isolate your home, and then pumps gas inside. Bed bugs, ants and any other pest within your house will be killed. 

The chemicals used for a structual fumigation are extremely volatile, so it's critical that the company is licensed and experienced.

One of the biggest disadvantages of fumigating, is you'll need to be elsewhere for several days, adding even additional expenses if you don't have a place to stay.


Steam is a very effective method of killing bed bugs, nymphs and eggs. When steam is properly applied to cracks, mattresses, and furniture, it can deeply penetrate and eleminate the pests without the use of chemicals. However, just like the thermal treatment, there isn't a long lasting deterent, so a residual treatment is important for long term success.


Both powder and liquid toxic chemicals are used to eleminate bed bugs. For best results, chemicals should not be used by themselves. However, they are extremely effective when used with another method, such as steam or thermal.


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Tips for Hiring a Professional

Hiring a professional exterminator can be a daunting task, but it doesn't need to be. Here are a few things we recommend looking for when screening contractors:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Do they have experience removing bed bugs?
  • Are they licensed? (Not all states require exterminators to be licensed, but if your state does, you shouldn't hire anybody who isn't licensed)
  • Do they use an Integrated Pest Management approach? (It's typically best to use a combination of prevention and chemicals to solve the problem)
  • Will they do a consultation? (It's common to have an exterminator come to your home to see the problem first hand. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions and attain a more accurate bid. Don't be suprised if you need to pay for a consultation, so it's a good idea to be serious about which company you're considering hiring before committing to having them visit your home)

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Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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