Sleep Tight, Don't
Let the Bedbugs Bite!
Tim Gibb, Insect Diagnostician, Department of
Entomology, Purdue University
Bed bugs have long been associated with people and
homes. Elderly people often remember bed bugs from their youth
and can recount the frustrations of trying to control them. Recently,
bed bugs have made a comeback throughout the United States and
are now fairly commonly found in homes, hotels, hospitals and residences.
Even though they are not brand new pests, most people have not
had a lot of experience with them. Extension educators should know
what they look like and how to answer the two most commonly asked
questions; (1) will they hurt me? and (2) how do I control them?
bed bugs are about 1/4 inch long, oval, reddish-brown, and wingless.
Their body is very flat, and they possess long, slender legs and
Bed bugs require blood in order to complete
their life cycle and reproduce. They normally live in or near
beds or furniture where they can come out at night and bite people.
There is no evidence that bed bugs are involved in the transmission
of any disease agent, thus are a much less serious pest than are
The effect of bed bug bites varies from person
to person, but they normally only produce small red welts that
may itch for a short time. The bites themselves are not painful
and often are not noticed, especially during the night-time.
However, high populations of bugs can disrupt people’s sleep
and the itching can make them irritable. Just knowing that biting
bugs are in ones bed also may cause emotional distress in some
Preventing bed bugs from becoming established
is the best protection. Acquiring used beds or furniture is especially
risky. Thoroughly search for bed bugs or signs of infestation in
any bedding, upholstered furniture, or packing materials that might
be introduced into a home or apartment. Look for feces, eggs, and
shed skins, as well as for active bed bugs. Infested materials
should be discarded or thoroughly treated BEFORE being brought
into the home.
Bed bug control is dependent upon a series of management
techniques. Our experience has shown that exclusive reliance upon
any single method of control will fail to control them. Frequent
inspections, attention to furniture and materials coming into the
residence, steam treatments, proper selection and placement of
pesticides and mattress encasements are all part of an effective
bedbug management program.
For details see E-249