Bed bug infestations are being reported everywhere people live and work: homes, dormitories, apartments, motels, hotels, schools, theaters, trains, buses, offices, hospitals, department stores – and the list goes on.

The best defense against them starts with knowing a little about them – what they look like, where they hide, and how they spread.


Bed bugs are difficult to find because they can hide in crevices the thickness of a business card. 

Photo by M. Potter,
University of Kentucky

How do I know it's a bed bug?

Adults are about ¼ inch long and reddish brown to dark brown in color.

  • They have oval, flattened bodies that resemble apple seeds.
  • They can’t fly, but can run quickly and disperse throughout a structure, much like roaches.

What are their feeding habits?

  • They feed at night using a piercing beak. These bites can cause an allergic reaction, producing red welts that look – and itch – like mosquito bites.
  • They prefer to feed on humans, but will feed on other animals, including pets such as dogs, cats and birds
  • They can live for months without a blood meal – which means they can survive while you’re away on vacation or while an unoccupied home is waiting to be sold.

How do they affect my health?

Despite the fact that they feed on blood, they are not known to spread any diseases. However, they can cause health issues.

  • Loss of sleep is the most common effect of a bed bug infestation – along with the issues caused by sleep deprivation, such as (but not limited to):
    • Irritability
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Decreased energy
  • Bed bug bites can cause itchy skin rashes or welts
  • Some people have allergic reactions to the bites.
  • Secondary infections can also be a risk* when itchy bites are scratched open.

*Please note: At-risk populations, such as diabetics or people with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to secondary infections.

How do they spread?

  • They spread easily by “hitchhiking” on people, clothing, and luggage – including computer bags.
  • Females lay 1 to 5 eggs per day and 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. A bed bug can develop into an adult in just 5 weeks.

Learn more about reading the signs of bed bug infestation.


For a closer look, watch our video on bed bugs. 

How do I rid my home of bed bugs?

The most effective form of treatment for bed bugs is fumigation. There are alternatives to fumigation, but you should know the facts about each before you decide.

For success stories about using Vikane® gas fumigant for treating a variety of structures for bed bug infestation, visit Vikane® Gas Fumigant at Work: Case Studies on this site.

Additional Resources for Learning about Bed Bugs:

The following resources will shed some light on the vampires who feed on people in their sleep. Also visit our Resources page to view studies cited throughout the site and for a more complete list of bed bug and termite information.

Podcast: Controlling Pesky Bed Bugs: Ellen Thoms, technical expert with Dow AgroSciences, discusses the burgeoning bed bug problem in the United States and how to treat for them.  Courtesy of Pest Management Professional magazine.

Fumigation, Steam, Dusting and Labor – A review of a successful formula for bed bug control developed by University of Florida.

Dini Miller webinar: A webinar by Dini Miller, Ph.D., Department of Entomology in Blacksburg, VA. Dr. Miller shares her knowledge about the bed bug epidemic and discusses facts about bed bug infestations in this country and worldwide, as well as evaluations of different types of treatment options for bed bugs.

Battling Bed Bugs (News Release)

Bed Bugs Featured on "Today" Show Segment: The "Today" show's Ann Curry talks with Gary Alpert of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Harvard University about these tiny pests.