1/5 inch long and 1/8-inch wide


Reddish-brown to mahogany; red after a blood meal

When bed bugs are suspected, a thorough inspection should be undertaken in areas where people sleep or if the inspection site is a home or businesses like hotel, Motel Dome, Apartments etc.., it is important that the housekeeping staff be interviewed. Such staffs are more likely to have detailed knowledge about an infest than the management.

Bed bugs are typically active at nighttime, with a maximum attack period about an hour or two before sunrise, though given the chance, they may try to feed at other times throughout the day. Attracted by warmth and the presence of CO2, the bug penetrates the skin of its host with two hollow injector tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while the other tube withdraws the blood from its host. After a five minute blood meal, the bug returns to its hiding area. The bites can’t usually be felt until a few minutes or hours later. Although bed bugs can live for up to 20 months without a meal, they usually look for blood every five to ten days. Bed bugs are often falsely associated with dirt. They are attracted by exhaled CO2, not by filth, and they feed on blood, not garbage. The cleanliness of their surroundings has no effect on bed bugs. Bed bugs have been known to carry pathogens in their bodies, including plague and hepatitis-B. But they have not been linked to the transmission of any diseases and are not a medical threat. Some people can get skin irritations and scars from scratching bed bug bites. While these bugs are not thought of as a vector of transmissible diseases, they are a serious irritator and will create a lot of worry and alarm. With some people, it may precipitate mild cases of delusory parasitosis.

Human are the preferred host for the common bedbug, but it will feed readily on other animals such as poultry, mice, rats, dogs, canaries and cats blood.

The bite is painless. The salivary fluid injected by bed bugs typically causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed, although individuals can differ in their sensitivity. A small, hard, swollen, white welt may develop at the site of each bite. This is accompanied by severe itching that lasts for several hours to days. Scratching may cause the welts to become infected. The amount of blood loss due to bed bug feeding typically does not adversely affect the host. Rows of three or so welts on exposed skin are characteristic signs of bed bugs. Welts do not have a red spot in the center such as is characteristic of flea bites. Some individuals respond to bed bug infestations with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease.

Bed Bug Prevention Tips

Travelling Tips:

  • Inspect mattress and headboard with flashlight.
  • Keep bags, luggage, and backpacks off the bed. Inspect and then use a luggage rack.
  • Never place clothes, or jackets, on bed or couch. Do not store clothes in dresser.
  • If you are connected about exposure, after travel, seal all items in plastic bags until time for washing or treatment.
  • Unpack clothes directly into washer/dryer.
  • Inspect luggage closely with flash light and magnifying glass for bed bugs upon returning home.


As difficult as it can be to eradicate bed bugs, it makes great sense to take precautions to avoid them in the first place.

Day-to-Day Prevention:

  • Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers, so be extra careful when travelling.
  • Change and wash bedding regularly.
  • Do not bring second-hand furniture into your home unless you have  thoroughly inspected and cleaned the items first.
  • Reduce clutter.
  • Householders should be vigilant when acquiring used furnishings, especially beds and couches.
  • Curbside items should be avoided, and secondhand articles should be examined closely before being brought into the home, and perhaps laundered or placed in a dryer.
  • Preventative inspection by tenants, housekeeping staff, or pest control firms is the best way to uncover infestations in their initial stages when they are easiest to control.
  • Concerned travelers may want to get in the habit of checking their bed for signs of bed bugs, a common practice in the past. This would entail examining the bed sheets and upper and lower seams of the mattress and box spring, especially along the head of the bed. Some professionals also suggest removal and examination behind the headboard, a frequent hiding place for the bugs in hotel rooms. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves. If bed bugs are discovered, travelers can request another room, preferably in another area of the building.
  • Vigilant travelers may also want to elevate suitcases off the floor on a luggage stand, tabletop or other hard surface.
  • Should travelers experience itchy welts suggestive of bed bug bites during their stay, it would be prudent upon returning home (before unpacking) to place all clothing in disposable plastic bags and directly into the washer and/or dryer.
  • Inspecting or vacuuming luggage upon arrival home is less useful since it’s hard to spot bed bugs inside a suitcase. The suitcase itself can either be treated or discarded.



Where Can I Find More Information on Bed Bugs?

The following Web site contains accurate and detailed information about bed bug biology and bed bug control.

Michael F. Potter

Department of Entomology, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
S-225 Agricultural Science Center North, Lexington, KY 40546-0091 | 859.257.7450

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