Open Integrated Pest Management Education Resource

Bed Bugs 101: Prevention and Monitoring



  • Bed bugs are insects that feed on human blood while a person is sleeping. The bed bug’s decades-long disappearance from the public consciousness made them virtual strangers to the general public. The lack of information and understanding about them has made it easy to fear them.
  • Most people don’t look for information about bed bugs until they’re already confronted with an infestation. But education can do a lot by way of prevention. The more you understand the biology and behavior of a pest, the better able you are to prevent and control them.
  • Some pest proofing practices can inhibit the harborage and spread of bed bugs. Although most prevention for bed bugs is based on the habits of the people living in the space. By incorporating the following routine you can catch bed bugs early and prevent large infestations.
Bed Bugs 101: Prevention and Monitoring

Where Do Bed Bugs Live?

  • Bed bugs live in any crack or crevice where a business card edge can fit.
  • Found on mattresses, box springs, fabric seams, headboards, baseboards, and chairs and sofas where people sleep or nap.
  • Look for live bed bugs and eggs, blood stains from crushed bed bugs, droppings that are usually reddish brown or dark brown to black, and shed skins of young bed bugs, which are light colored.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live?

How Do I Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation?

  • When traveling, inspect the bed and furniture on arrival and departure. Keep suitcases off the floor, and launder all washable items once you return home.
  • Store luggage in sealed plastic bags or bins and if possible out of the bedroom.
  • Don’t bring bed frames, mattresses, box springs, or upholstered furniture found on the street into your home.
  • Inspect used furniture before bringing it into your home.
  • Reduce clutter around the bed area and seal cracks and crevices around your home to prevent hiding places.
How Do I Prevent a Bed Bug Infestation?

What Should I Do If I Find Bed Bugs?

  • Do not self treat with bug sprays or foggers (bug bombs). These insecticides will not get rid of bed bugs. They may move bed bugs to new locations. This could make bed bug eradication more difficult and costly to achieve.
  • Inspect your bed and general sleeping area. Remove or destroy bed bugs with soapy water, vacuum cleaners, or a sticky lint roller.
  • Install mattress and box spring encasements to trap missed bed bugs. This prevents staining of your bed and makes other bed bugs identifiable and removable.
  • Install monitoring traps on the legs of the bed to capture bed bugs moving to or from your bed.
  • Hire a professional company that follows best practices and is a certified IPM service provider.
What Should I Do If I Find Bed Bugs?

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

  • Adult bed bugs are 1/5 inch long, oval-shaped and are brown or dark red.
  • Younger bed bugs are 1/20 - 1/5 inch long and are yellow-gold.
  • Eggs are 1/20 inch long, oval and are white.
  • Bed bugs don’t jump or fly.

Bed bugs have been enlarged to show detail and are not to scale.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Can Bed Bugs Affect My Health?

  • Bed bugs cannot pass diseases along to humans.
  • Bed bug saliva injected into the host during feeding can cause allergic reactions.
  • Those with sensitive skin can develop secondary skin infections from scratching.
  • Bites can cause emotional reactions such as stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep.
Can Bed Bugs Affect My Health?