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WHAT TO DO IF YOU FOUND JUST ONE BED BUG

The most common way that people get bed bugs is by bringing them home from somewhere else. That’s why it’s natural for bed bugs to incite panic on first sight. When you spot a bed bug, you have no way of knowing how many countless more might be hiding nearby. How can you tell if the bed bug is a lone traveler or a sign of an infestation?

Bed bugs are masters of both hitchhiking and hiding. It’s hard to say for sure whether the bed bug you found is all alone or not. Yet that’s an important question to answer because it determines your next steps. Should you be working on prevention or eradication?


It may seem like an obvious thing: you found a reddish/brownish crawling bug that looks like the bed bugs you’ve seen online or on TV. Yet many supposed bed bug sightings are actually false alarms. Since different pests spread differently, and are treated differently, it’s important to be sure of exactly what you’re dealing with

Bed bugs have a distinct body shape, shell pattern, and color. They are especially distinguished as an adult, which is when you’re most likely to see them crawling around in the open. Unlike beetles and most other indoor pests, bed bugs have mostly flat bodies rather than rounded or bulbous abdomens. They have a reddish-brown hue and thick bands that make their shell appear vaguely striped. Most importantly, their abdomen ends in a point, similar to the narrow tip of an apple seedIf you found a dark round bug crawling on your bed or elsewhere in your home, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that it’s a bed bug. The pest might actually be one of many common indoor pests, such as carpet beetles, cigarette beetles, or flour beetles. If it’s smaller than a bed bug, it might actually be a mite or a tick. If the legs are much larger than a bed bug’s, it’s more likely a roach or a spider

Bed bugs are expert travelers. They can hitchhike from place to place by hiding on coats, backpacks, luggage, and more. This is the main way that infestations spread: a pregnant bed bug hitches a ride from one home to another through a public setting. This often occurs on planes, trains, buses, waiting rooms, and other public places with a lot of foot traffic.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand why you might spot a bed bug in public, and why that’s not necessarily reason for panic. When seen in public, bed bugs are most likely in the process of traveling between infestations. Bed bugs feed on sleeping humans, and as such need a consistent sleeping host nearby in order to thrive in one place. Since bed bugs won’t have a reliable food source in public, nests there are unlikely.

Seeing a bed bug near where you sleep is a bigger concern. Whether it’s a juvenile or an adult, appearing well-fed or not, you can’t be sure if the bug has recently fed on someone in your home. To make matters worse, the number of bed bugs you see out in the open offers no indication of how many bugs are actually in the area. For every bug you see out and about, there could be dozens more hiding out of sight.

Once you’ve identified at least one bed bug in your home, you’ll probably wonder if it came alone recently or was born there as part of a nest. Bed bugs feed and reproduce every 5-10 days. This means that the “window” from lone traveler to early infestation is only that narrow. If you’ve been on the go in the last 5-10 days, such as on a business trip or holiday, there’s a chance that this is the only bed bug in the home. If not, you’re most likely dealing with an established infestation.

Whole Room Heat Treatments

Whole room heat treatments involve a Pest Management Professional (PMP) bringing in specially designed equipment to raise the temperature in your home to kill the bed bugs. Bed bugs and eggs die within 90 minutes at 118°F (48°C) or immediately at 122°F (50°C). During a heat treatment, the air temperature in the room is typically between 135°F (57.2°C) and 145°F (62.7 °C). The (PMP) will place remote thermometers throughout the home, to make sure the right temperatures are reached. The PMP watches the thermometers closely to ensure that it gets hot enough to kill bed bugs. A heat treatment typically takes between six and eight hours, depending on the condition of the area being treated.

During the heat treatment pets and any heat sensitive items that may melt or be damaged at temperatures up to 150°F degrees should be removed from the area being treated. Make sure you discuss this with your PMP as anything not treated with heat will need to be treated in another way.

Heat treatments do not offer any residual effects and your home could quickly become reinfested after a heat treatment if prevention steps are not taken.

Often, a residual insecticide will be applied to the border of the home/room being treated for bed bugs as a prevention step

Insecticide Treatments

Insecticide treatments that are conducted thoroughly and correctly by a licensed PMP can be a very effective way of controlling bed bugs.  Three different types of insecticides should be used in order to achieve the best result. There are many different brands of insecticides but one of each of the following broad categories should be used.

  • A fast-acting, contact insecticide for use on surfaces that humans frequently touch, i.e. sofas.
  • A residual insecticide for inside furniture, cracks and crevices and the underside of surfaces we touch.
  • A dust insecticide for cracks, crevices and voids, such as electrical outlets and baseboards.

Your PMP may offer other services such as container heat treatments, steam applications, or freezing infested items. Usually, items treated with these optional controls do not require an insecticide treatment and therefore fewer insecticides are needed.A thorough insecticide treatment should involve 2-3 visits from the PMP, as it is unlikely all the bed bugs will be killed in the initial treatment.  An insecticide treatment typically takes about 30 minutes to 2 hours per room depending on size and condition of the room. Once the treatment is complete you should wait until all the insecticides have dried before reentering your home, or until the PMP says it is safe to re-enter.Before any treatment the PMP should provide you with a detailed list of instructions for how to prepare your home. It is very important to follow these directions closely as properly preparing the home is a very important step in any treatment process. Improper preparation is one of the main reasons that treatment for bed bugs fail.We strongly recommend against trying to conduct an insecticide treatment for bed bugs by yourself. Controlling bed bugs with insecticides is a challenging and time consuming process which requires expertise and in many states a license is required to apply the insecticides which kill bed bugs. The insecticides that can be purchased in a hardware store, such as foggers, are not effective in controlling bed bugs and we strongly recommend against their use.