A Close up of a Bed Bug

Bed bugs are blood-sucking pests that bite while you sleep. They must feed on blood to lay their eggs and complete the different stages of their lifecycle.

The life of a bed bug starts with an egg. The egg hatches into a nymph. The nymph progresses through five stages, or instars, before it becomes an adult. The entire cycle takes four to five weeks.


Each adult female bed bug can lay 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime, which means a bed bug infestation can quickly get out of control. Bed bugs are active indoors year-round, but they reproduce faster in hot, humid weather.

Bed bugs are nocturnal, or active at nighttime, and their secretive behaviour makes them hard to find and eliminate. They hide deep in cracks and crevices where they won’t be disturbed, emerging only to feed. This helps a bed bug infestation go undetected for some time.

How long do bed bugs live? Bed bugs live a long time, about 316 days, when they have access to a blood meal. And they also can live for many months without feeding.

Bed bugs have been a household pest for more than 3,300 years. They were nearly eradicated in the 1950s but made a comeback in Canada in the early 2000s.


What does a bed bug look like?

Bed bugs are reddish brown in colour. They are oval shaped, flat and 4 to 5 mm long, or about the size of an apple seed.  Juvenile bed bugs, called nymphs, are pale and translucent.

Bed bugs are found near the bed and where people sleep, which may be the recliner, sofa or floor mat. When not feeding at night, the insects hide in tight cracks and crevices, usually within close distance to where people sleep or spend time. With large infestations, however, bed bugs travel further distances, even through walls into other rooms and apartment units.

Bed bugs are found in the seams of mattress ticking, in the wood joints of bedside tables and bed frames, behind baseboards and pictures on the wall, in the seams of upholstered furniture, even in the mechanical workings of motorized wheelchairs and laptop computers. In a severe bed bug infestation, large groups of bed bugs will huddle together. In very bad infestations, they may gather in the corners of ceilings.

It’s easy to mistake bed bugs for other pests including fleas, baby cockroaches, book lice, carpet beetles, spider beetles, bat bugs and bird bugs, which are similar in size or colour.

A tell-tale sign of bed bugs, however, is the poop they leave behind. This look like tiny black polka dots, called spotting, and it is composed of dried blood. If you dab the spots with a wet paper towel, they will smear and turn a rusty red colour.

What do bed bug bites look like?

If you have itchy, red spots on your skin, you may have bed bug bites. These often occur in a line or cluster and may be located anywhere on the body. Most often they are found on the neck, face, arms, shoulders, back and legs. The bed bug bite images shown here are common examples of what bed bug bites look like.

A bed bug bite is painless and doesn’t usually awaken people. Still, getting bit is unsettling, considering it takes 10 to 20 minutes for an adult bed bug to get its fill of blood. Bed bugs do not transmit disease when they bite, but the bites can cause rashes, allergic reactions and infections.



Bed bug bites also cause psychological distress. People lose sleep worrying about bed bugs. The thought of blood-sucking bed bugs attacking them or their defenseless children and loved ones while snuggled in the safety of their beds takes an emotional toll. There’s nothing whimsical about the nursery rhyme “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” for anyone dealing with this pest.


How do you get bed bugs?

You get bed bugs by bringing infested items into your home or business. This includes luggage, used furniture, backpacks and purses. Bed bugs are very good hitchhikers. You can pick up bed bugs while traveling, on public transit, in stores, movie theaters and hotels, at work, at the homes of friends and family and when friends and family visit you. Employees also bring them into their workplaces.

If you live in an apartment or condominium building, you can get bed bugs from a neighbouring unit that has a severe infestation. Bed bugs can crawl under and through shared walls from a unit adjacent to, above or below your unit. Bed bugs will travel in walls along electrical wires and pipes and under baseboards.

Having bed bugs has long carried a social stigma of living in a dirty home, of engaging in risky behaviour or of having low income. None of these are true. Bed bugs cause problems for all people regardless of their socio-economic standing.


How do you get rid of bed bugs?

Getting rid of bed bugs is time consuming and requires thoroughness and patience. Following are the best bed bug pest control products and ways to get rid of them:


  1. Inspect – Using a flashlight and magnifying glass, carefully look for bed bugs, eggs and spotting in the seams of mattresses, behind wall hangings, and in the cracks and crevices of box springs, bed frames, dressers and nearby furniture. If you sleep on a recliner or sofa, look in crevices where fabric overlaps, in seams, under dust skirts, under labels, and the underside (springs) of furniture. Inspect motorized scooters, computers, desks and desk chairs, along carpet edges and baseboards.


  1. Vacuum – Remove live bed bugs using a professional, high-efficiency vacuum with a HEPA filter. When done, discard the vacuum bag in a plastic garbage bag and place outdoors in the garbage bin. Sucking up visible bed bugs will not solve the problem on its own, but it does significantly reduce the number of bed bugs left to kill.


  1. Washing and Drying – Throw your dirty clothes/bedding and soft goods in the washer without allowing bed bugs to escape. You can also put infested bedding, clothing and soft goods (stuffed animals, backpacks, etc.) in the dryer and run on a high-heat cycle to kill bed bugs and their eggs. Use separate garbage bags or bins to transport items so you don’t accidently reintroduce bed bugs to the heat-treated items.


  1. Encase your mattress and box springMattress encasements designed specifically for bed bugs will trap and kill any bed bugs in your mattress and box spring and prevent future bed bugs from getting into their nooks and crannies on. Encasements provide a smooth, white surface that makes it easy to see signs of future bed bug activity.


  1. Use bed bug trapsBed bug monitors prevent bed bugs from crawling up the legs of beds and other furniture. Instead of reaching where people sit and sleep, the bugs get trapped in the devices and cannot get out. Other bed bug traps use lures to attract bed bugs away from sleeping and resting areas. As well, pest control traps help you monitor for future bed bug activity. Check traps regularly for early signs of bed bug introductions so you can act quickly before an infestation develops.  


  1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – Also called bed bug powder in Canada and exterminator dust, DE is a natural bed bug pesticide. Lightly apply it to bed bug pitfall traps, baseboards, and the cracks and crevices of bed frames, box springs, mattress seams, dressers and furniture using a dry paint brush or hand bulb duster. Bed bugs walk through the DE, which scratches their waxy exoskeleton. This causes them to dry out and die. Bed bugs are growing increasingly resistant to bed bug pesticides, which makes DE is one of the best bed bug killers in Canada. Learn about DE and how to use it.


  1. Bed bug killer spray – Pest HQ sells professional bed bug spray to the DIY or do-it-yourself market. This includes aerosol bed bug pesticide, which is a most effective bed bug treatment when applied according to the label directions. The label explains how to use the aerosol, where to apply it, how often it can be applied, and more. Bed bug spray in Canada is regulated by Heath Canada and the label is the law.


  1. Prevent bed bugs from coming back - Once you get rid of bed bugs, you never want them to come back. As such, be careful to not reintroduce them to your home or business. Before traveling, check the bed bug registry for hotels with bed bug problems. Ask visitors to store backpacks and purses in a plastic bin by the door. Keep a bin at work to store your personal belongings. Thoroughly inspect used furniture before bringing it home. Use bed bug traps and monitors to identify early signs of bed bug activity.


Also read: 

Signs of Infestations

When to call a professional


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