Skip to main content

Pests in Public Buildings and Private Residences: Bed Bugs

A collection of resources regarding pests that infest public buildings and private residences.

All About Bed Bugs

So, what are bed bugs anyway?
Bed bugs are small, very flat (think credit card) wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals – mostly humans.  Anyone can be affected by bed bugs. They are not attracted to dirt, although clutter does provide them more available hiding places (harborages). They can be found almost anywhere, from five star hotels to housing projects, in planes, trains and automobiles, and most public places like libraries, schools, and even retail stores. 
They don't live on humans, but are easily spread by hitching a ride on clothing, handbags and suitcases, and upholstered furniture among other things. So if you you have bed's not your fault and you're not alone!
Bed bugs are usually active at night, preferring to feed under cover of darkness while their victims are sleeping. Once they've had their fill, they scurry back to their hiding places until time for the next meal.

What do bed bugs look like?

Adult bed bugs are a rusty-brown color, oval shaped and about ¼” long.  They swell up and become darker and more elongated as they feed. Baby bed bugs (nymphs) are much smaller and lighter in color.  Bed bug eggs are very small (1mm long) and translucent to milky white in color. They are visible to the naked eye but much more difficult to see.


Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bites are not dangerous but they can be extremely irritating. Bed bug bite symptoms vary and may be delayed as long as 14 days.
Bed bugs’ bites are painless when they happen. So most people don’t wake up and have no idea that they've been bitten until later when they show symptoms of allergic reaction to the bites.
Learn all about bed bug bites, what they look like and common bite symptoms in the bed bug bites section.  You'll also find tips for reducing how often you are bitten and tips for treating bed bug bites - including how to really stop the itch.
Bed Bug Detection and Identification

Bites are usually the first symptom of a bed bug problem.  But by the time you first notice the bites, you may already have more than one generation of bed bugs living under your roof!  

The most common signs of bed bug infestation include blood or fecal stains, shed skins (bed bug "shells") and bed bug nymphs or eggs.  Learn all about the 9 tell-tale symptoms of bed bugs and see pictures of the signs of bed bug infestation so you know how to identify them.

If you think you might have bed bugs, it’s time to get down and dirty. Inspecting for bed bugs is not as hard as it might seem, but it will take a little bit of time and effort.  There are a few things you will need to know before you start. You can learn them in the bed bug detection section of this site.

Bed bugs tend to stay close to their food source (where you sleep or sit for long periods of time) but they are crafty little creatures and because they are so flat, they can hide in surprising places. Finding them takes a little work and knowing where to look. Here are some pictures of where bed bugs hide that will help...

If a visual inspection doesn't yield proof an infestation, there are other methods of detecting bed bugs ranging inexpensive traps to hiring a company that uses bed bug sniffing dogs to search them out.

I'm pretty sure I have bed bugs...what now?
Basic Bed Bug DOs and DON'Ts

If you think you have bed bugs, read these basic DOs and DON’Ts and the specific bedbug control DOs and DON’Ts before you do anything else.  There are lots of things that seem like logical actions to take, but will make your situation worse.

Don’t assume you have bed bugs

Bed bug bites are not that different from many other insect bites and just because you think you are getting bug bites in bed, that doesn't mean its bed bugs.  Many don’t react to bites right away. So waking up itchy may be symptom of bed bugs, but is certainly not proof. Bites alone are never enough to diagnose a bed bug infestation.

Do inspect for signs of bedbugs
Familiarize yourself with the common signs of a bed bug infestation, and then get busy inspecting the places where bed bugs hide most often. If you can’t find visual evidence, try some of these methods of detecting bed bugs. Need help making a positive ID? Check out the bed bug picture gallery.
Don’t ignore the problem
If you have bed bugs, the problem is simply not going to go away on its own. Left untreated, a bedbug infestation can get pretty serious, very fast.  The longer you live in denial or try to ignore them, the more difficult it will be to get rid of them.
Do keep examples of bugs that you find
Some people can tell from pictures like these whether or not what they are dealing with is bedbugs. Some people need a little more help. Keep examples of the bugs you find and have them properly identified by a professional if necessary.  Read more about how to collect bed bug samples and where you can send them for a positive ID here. They will also come in handy for making a bed bug report to hotel managers and/or landlords.
Don’t Panic!
Bed bugs are annoying but not dangerous.  Anyone can get them at any time, so they are not a reflection of you or your standard of living.  They are difficult to get rid of but it can be done.  The key is to take your time to learn the right approach. Don’t jump the gun and make mistakes that will just prolong your suffering. 



From  ; accesssed August 1, 2017.




Bed Bugs in the Workplace

Bed bugs in the Workplace
It is becoming fairly commonplace to find bed bugs in public and private work places. Why? Bed bugs are small and they like to hide. Anyone could carry them into your building on their clothing, personal belongings and shoes. However there is no need to panic if you find them in your work place. Properly handled, the bed bugs can be eliminated with a minimum of disruption to your operations. Here is a strategy that you may want to consider adopting:
Know Some Basic Facts about Bed Bugs
  • Bed bugs don’t fly (they don’t have wings!)
  • Bed bugs cannot jump.
  • Bed bugs crawl fast.
  • Bed bugs are nocturnal insects, except in buildings where the carbon dioxide levels are at their highest during the day.
  • Bed bugs like to hide.
  • Bed bugs feed on human and animal blood.
  • Mature bed bugs can survive for at least a year without a blood meal.
  • Bed bugs are attracted to us by the heat and carbon dioxide that we produce.
  • Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease.


Identify Them

  • Even bed bug eggs and juveniles are visible. (A flashlight and magnifying glass make it easier to see them.)
  • Bed bugs are reddish brown and shaped like a
  • To see photographs of bed bugs and bed bug bites, visit
  • Bed bugs bites cause itchy welts in about 70% of the people who’ve been bitten. The welts typically occur in groups on exposed skin, but they look like other insect and spider bites. They can cause scars.



Survey the Premises

  • Train your staff to know what bed bugs look like and how to identify them.
  • Carefully inspect the area where the suspected bed bug was found as soon as you can.
  • Because bed bugs like to hide, it is important to know where to look for them: check the folds and seams in upholstery, lockers, baseboards, cubicle walls, furniture joints and corners, electrical outlets, switches, piles of papers and other nooks and crannies.


Respond To Your Findings: If you find more bed bugs…

  • Don’t kill them or crush them! It is impossible to make a positive identification from smashed bug parts!
  • Put the live bug(s) in a pill bottle or a tightly sealed plastic bag so that your pest management professional (PMP) can make a positive identification.
  • Try to isolate the area where the bug(s) were found.


Act Quickly

  • Contact your PMP immediately.
  • Once onsite, he should verify that you have bed bugs, and he should provide you with a treatment plan that explains the chemicals he will use, how he will apply them, if traps will be set, and when follow up inspections and treatments will be scheduled.
  • Treatment should not occur while people are in the area.
  • If you need help finding a PMP who has experience treating bed bugs, please refer to:


Protect Yourself And Your Employees

  • Staff and clients should not be in the area where the bug(s) were found, if possible.
  • Coats, purses and other personal belongings should be placed in a tightly sealed plastic bag, or a plastic container with a tight fitting lid.
  • Keeping a pair of shoes for use in the work place until the bed bugs are gone helps to prevent infestations in employees’ homes and cars
  • Reduce clutter if at all possible.
  • Advise staff to check their shoes and other clothing when they at the end of the day.
  • In high risk work places, consider installing a dryer on the premises for the employees to use.


Communicate with Your Staff and Customers

  • There are many things that you can do to reassure the people in your office.
  • Recognize that silence is your worst enemy because it leads to speculation, and speculation leads to distrust and panic.
  • Assure everyone that the bed bugs will be killed by a licensed pest management professional.
  • Define the area of the office that will be treated. Most people will assume that the entire building will be treated, but that is highly unlikely.
  • Explain to your staff that the chemicals that will be used are approved by USEPA and that they are considered safe when they are applied according to the label.
  • Avoid using the terms “infestation” or “infested.” A few bed bugs in one or two locations in your office is not an infestation, it is an occurrence.
  • Have copies of the material safety data sheets for the chemicals that will be used to kill the bed bugs available for you staff


Debunk the Misconceptions

  • When one or two bed bugs, are found, most people assume that there are many more in the building, which isn’t always the case.
    • Assure employees that bed bugs do not transmit disease.
    • Bed bugs are a pest, but they shouldn’t be a cause for panic. There is no need to suspend your operations, especially if the bed bugs were only found in a few isolated places.


What about an employee who has bed bugs at home?

  • Develop a plan for dealing with an employee who is living in a bed bug infested home.
  • Dealing with an employee who has bed bugs requires sensitivity. People feel ashamed that they have the bugs, and they are reluctant to talk about their problem with anyone.
  • Blaming or accusing the employee won’t solve the problem. Getting bed bugs is no one’s fault
  • Deciding whether to exclude the employee from the workplace is your decision. There are no health or OSHA guidelines that you can turn to for guidance.


Strategies to try

  • Discreetly speak with your employee, and…
  • Ask them to bring a change of clothing with them that had been dried and sealed in a plastic bag just before leaving home. Provide a place for them to change. A space without carpeting or upholstered furniture is preferred.
  • Have them place the clothing, coat, and shoes that they wore to work in a tightly sealed plastic bag or plastic container.
  • Encourage the employee to keep a pair of shoes in the workplace that they only wear at work.
  • The employee should be encouraged to bring as little as possible with them from home
  • If the person lives in rental housing, and the landlord refuses to treat their unit or building, refer them to this fact sheet on our website: Bed Bugs: Top Questions.



Bed bugs are a manageable problem! With a little education and a surveillance program, you can keep them from becoming a major disruption in your workplace.

From; accessed August 1, 2017.

Bed Bugs in Public Libraries

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Prevention and Treatment of Bed Bugs in Public Libraries

Six months after the introduction of one mated, female bed bug into a location, an infestation scenario could look something like this:

  • 121,409 nymphs
  • 7,848 adults
  • 169,490 bites

Other information to know:

  • Female bed bugs will lay between one and five eggs a day.
  • Eggs hatch in 6-15 days, depending on the temperature.
  • Each developmental stage lasts about 1 week.
  • Six weeks after hatching, a female could be ready to mate and start the cycle again.

 From; accessed August 1, 2017.


Bed Bugs and Other Bad News: An Opportunity for Media and Public Relations

"Problems in libraries, such as inappropriate behavior, leaks, and pests occur from time to time. Deciding when, what, and to whom to communicate this information is an essential part of the recovery process and can make the difference between acceptance and fear. Making a decision to communicate about any situation in an academic library can be based on similar principles for managing bad news in a corporate environment. For example, one common principle of media relations is to bring the story to the media rather than having the media come to you. Transparency and honesty are also cornerstones to turning a bad situation into one where the public is able to have compassion and begin to trust the organization."

From; accessed August 25, 2017.


Bed Bugs in Schools

Bed Bugs and Schools

On this page:
Health concerns
Bed bug fact sheets and other resources
Steps for success in dealing with bed bugs in schools