Los Angeles County West Vector & Vector-Borne Disease Control District
or bed bugs are small
of the family
commonly Cimex lectularius).
The term usually refers to species
that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding
exclusively on the
animals. The name “bedbug” is derived from the insect's preferred habitat of
houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bedbugs, though
not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding
unnoticed on their
More of a nuisance than a health hazard,
they’re showing up to suck blood from people in hotels, college dorms, and
hospitals. Take an informative look at bedbugs: what they are, where they lurk,
and how to spot them before they get you.
Know the Enemy
Bedbugs are small, flat, wingless insects
with six legs that, like mosquitoes, feed on blood from animals or people. They
range in color from almost white to brown, but they turn rusty red after
feeding. The common bedbug doesn't grow much longer than 0.2 inches (0.5
centimeters) and can be seen by the naked eye to the astute observer. Bedbugs
get their name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses.
Am I at Risk for Infestation?
Bedbugs are most often found in hotels,
hostels, shelters, and apartment complexes where lots of people come and go.
Because bedbugs hide in small crevices, they can hitch a ride into your home on
luggage, pets, furniture, clothing, boxes, and other objects. Bedbugs are found
worldwide, but are most common in developing countries. Once rare in North
America, they may be on the rise due, in part, to increases in international
These nocturnal creatures can hide in beds,
floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day. We humans usually
become their dinner during the night, with peak biting activity just before
dawn. They can obtain their meal in as little as three minutes, after which they
are engorged and drop off the host, then crawl into a hiding place to digest
their meal. Bedbugs can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.
Signs and Symptoms of Bedbug Bites
Amazingly, these sneaky little bloodsuckers
dine on you without waking you. You don't feel their stealthy bite because they
inject a numbing agent into your body, along with an anticoagulant to keep your
blood flowing as they suck. The first sign of bedbugs may be itchy, red bites on
the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows
Bedbug bites do not usually require
treatment. If a secondary infection occurs (usually from scratching), apply a
local antiseptic lotion or antibiotic cream or ointment. Creams with
corticosteroids and oral antihistamines may be advised in the presence of
allergic reaction or larger skin reactions. In these more severe cases, you may
need to see your doctor.
Do Bedbugs Transmit Diseases?
Bedbugs are more of a nuisance than a
health hazard. In a recent study, researchers reviewed 53 recent studies on
bedbugs and their health and medical effects. There is little evidence to
suggest they are carriers of human disease.
Bedbug or Imposter?
Don't assume your bites are bedbugs. Bites
can be hard to identify, even for doctors. Rule out mosquitoes, fleas, mites,
and biting gnats by conducting a visual inspection. It's best to collect and
identify bedbugs to confirm bites. Look for the bugs themselves or their
bloodstains, especially along the seams of mattresses. Further, look for dark
spots of insect waste where bedbugs might crawl into hiding places on furniture,
walls, and floors.
Management and Control of Bedbugs
Eradication of bedbugs frequently requires
a combination of
pesticide and non
pesticide approaches. Get rid of infested mattresses and box springs or cover
them with a plastic mattress bag to trap the bugs. Wash clothes and bedding in
hot water, and dry on high heat. Clean furniture and vacuum cracks in wood
floors and doors where bugs may hide. Shake out suitcases.
Use an insecticide in the cracks of floors
or bed frames, but read the label; do not apply to areas that come in direct
contact with skin. Pesticides that have historically been found to be effective
Resistance to pesticides has increased significantly over time and there are
negative health effects
from their usage. Mechanical approaches such as vacuuming up the insects and
heat treating or wrapping mattresses have been recommended.
propoxur is highly
toxic to bedbugs, but the
Agency (EPA) has been reluctant to approve such an indoor use because
of its potential toxicity to children after chronic exposure.
Predators and Biological Control
Natural enemies of bedbugs include the
masked hunter (also
known as "masked bedbug hunter"), cockroaches,
Pharaoh ant's (Monomorium
venom is lethal to
Biological pest control
is not very practical for eliminating bedbugs from human dwellings.
Bedbugs can be difficult to
completely eliminate on your own from a dwelling. In most cases, it is necessary to call in
a licensed private pest control operator that specializes in bedbug control and
Click on the thumbnails below to access additional
information from the CDC, State Health Department and others.