Frequently Asked Questions

I was exposed to bed bugs. How do I avoid bringing them home?

Hopefully you're reading this before you returned home. If so, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk. Bag everything, especially sleep clothes, luggage and purses if they were on or near the bed. Do a visual inspection of the clothes your wearing and coats and shoes. Those steps should minimize the risk to your vehicle before you travel home.

Upon arriving to your home, don't bring ANYTHING inside. Even those clothes you are wearing if possible. If you have a garage, remove your outer clothing before entering and bag them. Take the bags to the dryer if you have one and dry everything possible for at least 30 minutes. Dispose of the bags outside of your home. The larger items like luggage, shoes, and bags can be inspected thoroughly outside and steamed or wiped down with alcohol before bringing inside. Leave luggage in the garage or outside shed when not using them if possible.

Why do I keep getting bites but never see bugs?

In some small infestations, it may be rare to see live bugs since they are experts at hiding and rarely active for more than just a few hours over night. So it's very possible to have bites but not see bugs, especially if you don't have experience knowing where to look. However, if you think you are getting bites for over a month or two and still haven't found a single bug or seen any signs of bugs, you should consider other possibilities that could be causing your skin irritations. I recommend using interceptor monitors which are much better at catching bugs than the human eye is.

Should I throw out my bed?

Usually, that's not necessary. For most recent small to medium sized infestations, treatments and other management methods will eliminate all bugs from your mattress and bed. Afterward, you can encase your mattress with a protective cover that will make it easier to inspect for future scares. In some rare cases, if the mattress or bed is heavily infested and does not have much value, you may be better off tossing it. If you do, be careful to seal it up in a plastic mattress moving bag before moving it to avoid spreading bugs and eggs to other rooms in your home or the hallways of apartments. Also spray paint or damage the mattress in a way the discourages others from wanting to take it from the curb to their home.

Should I isolate my bed?

Sure but don't expect it to completely protect you from getting bit. Isolating your bed is not an alternative to treating for bed bugs. You should do both! It's unrealistic to think that if you put interceptors under your bed legs and always keep the sheets off the floor and move the bed away from the walls that you are safe and don't have to worry about bugs anymore. For one thing, the bugs are most often on the bed itself so you have to focus on getting them completely cleaned off the bed and mattress for isolation to be effective. Even after that, if they are in other parts of your home, they will find you somewhere else eventually in your living room chair or sofa so the problem still needs to be addressed until they are eradicated. Isolating the bed can help reduce bites at night and improve your sleep. You can also get good information from the interceptor traps on the legs to see if bugs are coming to the bed or leaving and from which corner and tell you where to focus your treatment efforts.

Why am I the only one getting bit?

You probably aren't. Everyone reacts differently to bites. Some have no reaction at all and others break out into severe hives. Some take days to show bites and others like me start to feel them within hours. If you have confirmed bed bugs in your home and others are sleeping in the same bed as you, they are most likely getting bit as well. If you haven't yet confirmed bed bugs, be sure to do so before treating. Your skin irritations may be coming from another source or allergy.

Will leaving the lights on keep me safe?

While they generally avoid the light, they have to eat and will walk around in broad daylight to get a meal if given the choice of starving. The same applies to light colored sheets and furniture. They are attracted to dark colors to be less noticeable but will walk on any color when they're hungry.

Can I freeze them to death?

It is possible to kill bed bugs with cold temperatures but it's very difficult to do. It takes at least 4 days of below zero temperature to kill all stages of bugs and eggs. So if you're thinking about leaving something outside in the cold to kill any bugs on it, remember that if the temperature fluctuates above zero during the day for just an hour one day, it could keep them alive. And the temperature inside garages, vehicles, and sheds will be significantly warmer than the air. So your best bet for killing with cold is a controlled environment like a freezer and it would be best to use a thermometer to verify the temperature in it if you want to try it. I would rather kill them instantly with steam or heat.

What if I turn up the heater really high?

Please don't! Heat does kill them but requires a lot of training, specialized equipment, and hours of preparing the home for it to be done safely and effectively. Leave it to the professionals. If you don't cause a fire trying it on your own, you will end up making the bugs just uncomfortable enough to spread out and make it even more difficult to treat your home. And don't try it in your car either. There's way too many cool spots in a vehicle for the heat to reach lethal temperature. Steaming is the best way for us non-pros to use heat to kill them and even that should be done with caution.

Can they bite through clothes?

Not easily. If it's a shear fabric that has large enough spaces between the threads to fit their head, they can reach you. But most clothing is too thick and tightly woven for their feeding tube to reach the skin. They would much rather walk over to exposed skin which they can sense from our body heat. You might find bites underneath lose clothing which probably indicates that they crawled inside or that your clothing shifted as you moved in your sleep. So what if you wore long sleeve pants and shirts and socks and gloves? You would get bit in the face. I'd rather sacrifice my feet or arms personally. Clothing isn't a defense. Focus on treatments and your Integrated Pest Management strategy.

Do bed bugs live on our body?

No, they would much rather be hiding in a tight crack somewhere on the bed or seam on the box spring. They spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes on humans at most as they are feeding and then scurry back to their safe place to digest for 5 days until the next time. They minimize the amount of walking that they do on our skin to avoid detection. If you find one on you, you probably caught them on their way to eat.

Do bed bugs feed on pets?

Not if there's a human in the home. They prefer our biology and don't like navigating through a bunch of hair and fur to get their drink. I've never heard of a confirmed case where someone's pet was being bitten during an infestation but I wouldn't say it's impossible.

Is it safe to visit someone with bed bugs?

It can be done safely if you take precautions. If possible, it would be better to meet in a public place like a park or coffee shop. If you do go into a home that has an active infestation, avoid sitting on fabric furniture, especially in the living room and of course, avoid the bedrooms. Sitting at a dining room table minimizes the risk. You could also sit in a metal folding chair or stool. Don't bring in any bags or anything at all if possible. After leaving and before getting into your vehicle, do a visual inspection and brush off all clothes and shoes. Upon arriving home, follow the instructions above on how to avoid bring home bed bugs. (See also Protecting Others)

Should I let my friends or family come over?

As the above answer explains, it is possible to visit someone with bed bugs safely but you should NOT let someone visit you without warning them of the risk! To avoid that embarrassing conversation, you could meet in public instead. If you warn them and they are willing to accept that risk maybe to help you out with something, then have them take the precautions listed under the section, Protecting Others.

How can I move without bringing them with me?

Moving during an active bed bug infestation is extremely complicated and should be avoided if at all possible. The more that furniture is moved and the environment is changed, the greater the chance that bugs will spread beyond one room or a couple of hiding places. Even if the bed is left behind or tossed out, bugs are frequently located on other furniture and items besides the bed.

Leaving behind the bugs is unlikely. There are some moving services that I've heard of that will heat treat your stuff in the moving truck before unloading it. I'm not sure how effective it is but it seems like it could work in theory. Otherwise, expect to have treatment in your new place. The bugs may be lurking in unopened boxes and bags for months complicating treatment and dragging out the process so be prepared for a long battle. Monitoring new activity and using the full array of non-chemical methods available in addition to the treatments will be crucial for success. (see The Tools of Fighting Bed Bugs)

When is it safe to let my guard down after treatment?

After your last treatment, you should stay vigilant until at least 6 to 8 weeks have passed without any bite or signs of bugs. After that, you should be in the clear.

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