Bed bug infestations are increasing in the United States and internationally. Bed bugs are small (adults are no more than ¼ inch in length), wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. They can fill themselves with blood in less than 15 minutes and can lay between 1-5 eggs daily. Bed bug eggs hatch in about 10 days.
Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, but repeated bites may cause an allergic reaction to the saliva and continued scratching of the bite sites can cause an infection. Bite marks typically occur on the skin of the upper torso in groups of three.
Preventing & Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Safely
Bed Bug Brochure
The brochure above provides all the information needed to prevent and get rid of bed bugs, including:
- Trapping and killing
- Cleaning and disinfecting
- Sealing cracks and crevices
- Getting rid of infested items
- Non-chemical treatments
Risks of Improper Pesticide Treatment
Populations of bed bugs are increasingly becoming insecticide resistant because of the widely ineffective use of pesticides to treat dwellings. In some cases chemical treatments are used when there is not a bed bug problem.
A 2010 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that an increases in bed bug populations is causing bed bugs to become resistant to commonly available insecticides and might cause increased misuse of pesticides. Between 2003 and 2010 there were 111 cases of serious acute illness associated with the misuse of pesticides used to treat for bed bugs.
Identify Before Treating
Many people have started pesticide treatments who later found they do not have bed bugs. Look for:
- Living or dead insects
- Rust-colored smears on mattress seams, sheets, pillowcases, upholstered furniture
- Small black or brown marks on bedding, furniture, crevices, and baseboards
Identify On Your Own
Identify the bug yourself by placing them on white background and using a magnifying glass to compare them to one of the following:
Ask an Expert to Identify
An expert can examine the specimen and notify you of the bug’s identification.
- Place killed insects under clear tape on a card and place in a regular envelope
- Include your name, email, and phone number
- Mail via any postal or shipping service to:
The Plant/Insect ID and Diagnostic Clinic
E-215 Plant Sciences Building
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1177
Successful eradication of bed bugs in a home requires non-chemical as well as chemical insecticides treatments to be fully effective.
Use insecticide in all areas where bed bugs are present such as crevices in rooms, walls, and furniture especially bedroom furniture. Ensure pesticide directly contacts the bed bugs during application – use low volume but higher pressure application nozzles for crevices.
- Bed bugs that walk across a treated surface but do not directly come into contact with the insecticide will not be killed.
- Pesticides do not effectively kill bed bug eggs so areas must be retreated over time – usually up to one year later.
- Pesticides should never be applied to anything that comes into contact with the skin such as bedding.
Bed bugs live in cracks and crevices such as:
- Electrical outlets in walls
- Behind wallpaper, baseboards, and picture frames
- Between beds and around the creases of mattresses
- In bedding materials
- Within 15 feet of your bed
Bed bugs can survive with food for one year so multiple inspections and non-chemical and directed chemical treatments needed to eliminate them. Any effective control measure for bed bugs requires support from all residents in affected buildings and ongoing monitoring for infestation from other housing units. When hiring a pest control professional, make sure:
- The company only offers a treatment strategy after visiting your property and inspecting the areas affected. It’s best to walk around with the company during their inspection so you can see the extent of the problem and to be prepared to negotiate who does what actions to fully remediate your property.
- To have a service contract between you and the pest control company that outlines your responsibilities and the pest control company’s responsibilities
The company provides education about the life cycle of bed bugs and the proven methods used to control bed bugs to include:
- Basic identification, biology, and habits of bed bugs
- Why bed bug infestations are difficult to detect and to eliminate
- Techniques for bed bug prevention
- Specific actions that might be required such as: providing access and authorization for service and reducing clutter, laundering clothing, making repairs, etc.
Colorado Department of Agriculture at 303-239-4178.
Nonchemical methods to control bed bugs include:
- Professional heating of infested rooms to 118°F (48°C) for 1 hour or cooling rooms to 3°F (-16°C) for 1 hour
- Encasing mattresses and box springs with bed bug-excluding covers
- Vacuuming, steaming, laundering, and disposing of infested items
Experts recommend using pesticide treatments and all of the non-chemical practices to effectively eliminate bed bugs from your home. Professional pest control companies will know the safest types of chemicals to use and the safest methods to apply them and how to apply them directly on the bugs.
Important Components of a Bed Bug Service Plan
A bed bug elimination service agreement should be specifically for bed bugs, or include an addendum to a standard service agreement that addresses specific bed bug issues, and should include:
- A proposed schedule for completion of services
- A description of the service that will be provided and the specific areas to be serviced
- A description of the customer’s responsibilities, including preparations for service and obligations to keep the site in a condition that does not promote future bed bug infestations
- Limitations of liability (except for gross negligence) for damages from bed bug bites, disease, injuries, contamination, property damage, loss of income, etc.
- Exclusions for damages for replacement of mattresses, furniture, bedding, clothing, and other infested items
- Exclusions for damages expenses for bed bug bites and other health-related issues
- A comprehensive treatment plan that includes:
- Actions such as eliminating clutter in certain areas
- Treatments for adjacent units in multifamily housing
- Clarification about who does what, such as caulking and sealing crevices
- The number of visits anticipated to resolve the bed bug problem.
Many service agreement issues are unique to bed bug service (difficult pest to control, probability of re-infestation, need for cooperation, etc.).
- All service agreement wording related to bed bugs should be prepared or reviewed by an attorney familiar with the critical factors associated with bed bug service.
- All documents should be consistent with best management practices and in compliance with any state and local laws and regulations specific to structural pest control and bed bugs.
Tenant-Landlord Mediation Services
Boulder County Public Health does not mediate tenant/landlord issues. Mediation is available through the following organizations:
- City of Boulder, Community Mediation Service at 303-441-4364
- City of Longmont, Community and Neighborhood Resources at 303-651-8444
- CU Off-Campus Student Services at 303-492-7053
- State of Colorado Community Housing Services, Inc. at 303-831-1750
- Residents outside the cities of Boulder and Longmont, but inside Boulder County contact Community Assistance Mediation Program (CAMP) at 303-441-1752