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Bed Bugs

Basic Information

Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They tend to hide in small nooks and crevices during the day, only appearing at night while you're sleeping in order to feed.

Adult bed bugs look a bit like apple seeds: they have flat copper-colored bodies and are about 1/4 inch in length. When a bed bug feeds, its body swells and becomes bright red. Young bed bugs are very small, approximately 1/16 inch in length. Bed bugs can live for up to a year, and can survive months without feeding.

Having bed bugs in your home does not mean you have poor housekeeping. They can enter your home by stowing away in clothes and luggage, and can travel on their own between rooms and apartments.

Detecting Bed Bugs

The surest sign you have bed bugs is to see an actual bed bug. Bed bugs tend to hide close to beds, and in tufts, seams and crevices in mattresses and bed frames. They may also hide in surrounding furniture, in piles of books or papers, in carpeting, in linens, in electrical outlets or under peeling wallpaper. Visual inspection of these areas can uncover bed bugs if present.

Since they're excellent at hiding, you may not be able to find them. Also look for these other signs of bed bug presence:

  • Red welts can appear on the skin of people after a bed bug has fed. Bed bugs have an anesthetic in their saliva so you don't feel it when it feeds, but an allergic reaction can take place leaving an itchy welt when you wake up in the morning. Some people don't initially have an immune response to bed bugs, showing no welts post-feeding.
  • Small rust-colored spots on sheets. Bed bug feces leave a rust-colored stain, and crushed bed bugs can leave larger blood spots on sheets.
  • Discarded exoskeletons. As bed bugs grow, they shed parts of their outer skin.
  • Collect a dust sample for Bed Bug DNA Detection. If you suspect bed bugs but are seeing no clear signs of their presence, a dust sample can help your investigation.

What To Do If You Have Bed Bugs

Once a bed bug infestation is detected in a home, swift treatment of the problem is advised to help prevent the problem from spreading to different rooms or units in a building. Female bed bugs can lay more than 200 eggs in their lifetime; they can live for weeks to months without feeding. And bed bugs can travel more than 100 feet on their own, spreading from room to room on clothing, luggage and bedding. Early detection of an infestation is key to controlling it.

The California Department of Public Health recommends that property owners hire a pest control professional licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Structural Pest Control Board to evaluate the infestation and to exterminate if necessary.