What's Bugging You?


Kansas Department of Health & Environment

What's Bugging You?

Bureau of Environmental Health

 

What do they look like?

Bed Bug

Bed bugs are small, oval, non-flying insects that belong to the insect family Cimicidae, which includes three species that bite people. Bed bugs have flat bodies and may sometimes be mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Bed bugs feed by sucking blood from humans or animals. Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color, appearing more reddish after feeding on a blood meal.


Where do they live?

Bed Bug Hiding Places

Bed bugs can live in any area of the home and can live in tiny cracks in furniture as well as on upholstered furniture. They tend to be most common in areas where people sleep and generally concentrate in beds, including mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as commonly as cracks associated with the bed frame and mattress. Other sites where bed bugs often live include curtains, edges of carpet, corners inside dressers and other furniture, cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed), and inside the spaces of wicker furniture. Bed bugs live in any articles of furniture, clothing, or bedding, so they or their eggs may be present in used furniture or clothing. They spread by crawling and may contaminate multiple rooms in a home or even multiple dwellings in apartment buildings. They may also be present in boxes, suitcases, or other goods that are moved from place to place or from a hotel to home. Bed bugs can live on clothing from infested homes and may be spread by a person unknowingly wearing infested clothing.


Are bed bugs harmful to my health?

Bed Bug Bites

Although bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, they are a pest of significant public health importance. Bed bug bites can be very itchy and irritating. Most welts heal in a few days but in unusual cases, the welt may persist for several weeks. Usually an anti-itching ointment will help, but if bites become infected, people should see their doctor. Bed bugs detect carbon dioxide emitted from warm-blooded animals and respond to warmth and moisture as they approach the potential host. On humans, they tend to feed on exposed surfaces such as the face, neck, arms, and hands. Again, the bites are painless, and the host typically is not disturbed while bed bugs feed.


Tips for Travelers

Bed bugs are often found in places that experience a high volume of overnight guests, such as hotels and motels, hostels, and dormitories. Remember, they feed at night while you’re sleeping, then retreat to a sheltered crevice by morning. That shelter might be within your luggage or souvenirs.

When visiting a hotel, check the room quickly for signs of bed bugs, such as blood stains on the pillows or linens.

Inspect the seams of the mattress carefully. Peek behind the headboard and wall decor. Bed bugs will hide in these places; if you don’t see them or their signs, there should be no problem.

If at all possible, move the bed away from the wall. Tuck in the linens and keep the blanket from touching the floor. Unfortunately, leaving the lights on will not unduly stress bed bugs.

If you visited an infested place, inspect your luggage and souvenirs before bringing them back into your home. If infested, clothing should be placed in hot dryers; cold
treatments might be appropriate for other items.


How do I get rid of bed bugs?

Preventing bed bug infestations is the best approach. This involves thoroughly searching for bed bugs or signs of infestation in any suitable hiding place, such as bedding, upholstered furniture, or packing materials that might be introduced into your home or apartment. You should search for feces, eggs, and shed "skins" of larval bed bugs, as well as for active bed bugs. However, if you do encounter a bed bug infestation there are some options for pest management.

While KDHE will not endorse any specific method, company or product, we will provide the most common options for the prevention and control of Bed Bugs in Kansas.

Further information on specific companies providing the services mentioned below may be found on the internet by typing “Bed bugs + Kansas” into your browser.

There’s no getting around it: if you want to get rid of bed bugs, you need to clean and get rid of all the clutter, especially in your bedroom. Remove things they could hide behind or underneath, such as pictures, posters, and area rugs.


Vacuum

Vacuuming is an effective way to remove bed bugs and the dirt that provides them with shelter. To manage bed bug infestations, it is best to vacuum each area thoroughly, every day. Tilt the mattress, box-spring, and furniture upside down so you can reach all sides. Concentrate on seams, creases, folds, and around any tufts or buttons. Empty the vacuum immediately. If your vacuum has a bag, you can close the bag, and then place the bag in a freezer for at least 24 hours before disposing of it; this will kill the bed bugs.


Clean Bed and Linens

Bed bugs are sensitive to extreme temperatures in all of their life stages; the young are more vulnerable than the adults. Throw your sheets, pillowcases, bed skirt, and blankets into a hot (140°F) dryer for 20 minutes to kill bed bugs. Steam cleaning is another option if it is done thoroughly at a high temperature.


Make Your Bed and Island

Move your bed away from the wall, and make sure the linens, bed skirt, and blanket do not touch the floor. You may also want to slip the mattress into a cover that zips closed all the way around.


Seal Crevices

Use caulk areas, such as around window sills or along baseboards, but if you need to fill cracks in the floorboards, furniture, or the bed frame, you may wish to consult with a furniture maker (there are removable caulks that may be appropriate). Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, and tighten any loose light switch covers.


Give it time

Whatever techniques you use to manage the infestation, give them time. It's extremely difficult to penetrate all of the bed bugs' hiding places, so even if your IPM (integrated pest management) approach is working, you may see a few living bed bugs for a week to ten days. After two weeks, if you still see many bed bugs, restart your IPM efforts.


Wrap up

For most people, bed bugs are more of a nuisance than a medical threat.

Humans are generally responsible for introducing bed bugs into new areas; they have a limited home range, and spread slowly by themselves. So with some diligence, you should be able to eliminate the infestation using an IPM approach.


Resources:

  • Kansas Environmental Public Health Tracking Program:
    https://keap.kdhe.state.ks.us/Ephtm/

    Environmental Public Health Tracking Program
     
  • Kansas State Research and Extension Office
    123 Umberger Hall,
    Manhattan, KS 66506,
    785-532-5820

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