Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs can prove very difficult to control and may require multiple types of treatments as well as repeated treatments. Successful management of infestations may require hiring a reputable pest control business. There are two general methods of pest control: non-chemical and chemical (pesticides). Using one strategy by itself, such as only using pesticides, typically will not sufficiently control bed bugs. A combined approach using both non-chemical and chemical methods is called integrated pest management (IPM).
EPA states that “Getting a pest management professional (PMP) involved as soon as possible rather than taking time to try to treat the problem yourself is very effective at preventing further (bed bug) infestations.”
Hiring a Pest Control Company
This section provides an introduction to an overall approach to managing infestations.
Critical Point: Bed bug infestations will not go away without intervention; the goal is complete eradication.
What is IPM?
- IPM stands for “Integrated pest management.”
- IPM is a common-sense approach to managing any kind of pest, whether the pest is a weed, a plant disease, a rodent, a bed bug or other insect, or some other unwanted organism.
- IPM relies on a combination of common-sense practices that provide the most economical means with the least possible hazard.
For more information about IPM in general visit EPA articles: What is IPM? and How do IPM programs work?
Successful IPM for Bed Bugs
- Accurate identification of the pest.
- Knowledge of bed bug biology and behaviors.
- Thorough inspection.
- Various control methods.
- Thorough post-treatment inspection(s).
- IPM treatment practices can include both non-chemical methods and chemical methods, although the use of pesticides is only one component of the whole program.
- Follow-up inspections are critical as missed eggs, nymphs (immature stages), and/or adults may lead to re-infestation or spread.
- Current best practices are rapidly changing.
EPA web page: Top 10 Bed Bug Tips
For more information about IPM for bed bugs visit EPA web page: Treating Bed Bug Infestations, University of California web page: How to manage pests: bed bugs, and the Additional Resources section.
Identification of Bed Bugs
As with management of any pest, it is essential to accurately identify which pest you’re dealing with. Positive identification of bed bugs involves distinguishing between bed bugs and other pests and identifying the species of bed bug. Positive identification of samples can be performed by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension – County Offices or a reputable pest control company.
Note that it is difficult to accurately diagnose a bed bug problem based on a person’s bite symptoms alone since the symptoms may be delayed and other pests and allergens can cause similar symptoms. See also Indiana University web page: Bed bug bites and bites of other arthropods.
Adult bed bugs are similar in appearance to a wood tick. They are small, approximately ¼ to ⅜ inch long, but visible to the naked eye. Bed bugs generally have a flat, oval-shaped body that is brown to reddish-brown in color but the shape, size, and color can vary following a blood meal.
Size of each bed bug stage compared to a
penny. Photo courtesy of New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are four species of bed bugs in Wisconsin. Currently, the most commonly encountered species is the human (common) bed bug: Cimex lectularius. These web pages focus on the human bed bug. The other, less commonly encountered, species are associated with birds and bats: Eastern bat bug, swallow bug, and chimney swift bug.
The bed bugs associated with birds and bats crawl into living spaces from nesting and roosting sites through windows, light fixtures, electrical outlets, and other openings. All four species will bite humans if given the chance but only the human bed bug can breed using human blood. Inspection and control methods will vary depending on the species of bed bug. For example, inspection for the bat/bird species would need to include attics/eaves and control would include nest elimination and animal exclusion.
Additional resources regarding bed bug identification:
Colorado State University fact sheet: Bat bugs, bed bugs and relatives
University of Wisconsin - Madison:
Bedbugs Diagnostic Lab Note – Phil Pellitteri
Bedbugs PowerPoint Presentation – Phil Pellitteri
Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force fact sheet (PDF, 2 pp., 206KB): Bed bug identification
Illinois Department of Public Health fact sheet (PDF, 1 pp., 132KB): Bed bug identification and inspection
Bed Bug Central web page: Bed bugs 101 - Identification
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BED BUG BIOLOGY AND BEHAVIORS
Image used with permission: ©MidMos Solutions Ltd. For more
information visit http://www.bedbugsalert.com.
PowerPoint presentation (6 page PDF - 1.4MB) providing more information regarding the bed bug life cycle and the size of bedbugs throughout the cycle. Used with permission: ©MidMos Solutions Ltd. For more information visit http://www.bedbugsalert.com.
Bed bugs are highly skilled at hiding during the day and usually cluster together. Examples of hiding places include mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, headboards, cracks/crevices, behind wallpaper, under objects around a bed, within furniture, and picture frames.
Both adult and immature bed bugs (“nymphs”), both male and female, feed on blood. Feeding usually takes place at night while people sleep and lasts approximately 3-10 minutes. Bed bugs typically feed every several days but can go without a blood meal for months.
Virginia Tech fact sheet (PDF, 4 pp., 536KB): Bed bug biology and behavior
National Geographic: video showing bed bug behaviors (2008)
University of Minnesota: Bed bug videos
See also the Additional Resources section
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INSPECTION look for and recognize:
A detailed, thorough inspection will identify where treatment is needed. It is essential to find all the places where bed bugs are hiding. Be prepared to thoroughly look for and recognize:
- Live and dead adults and nymphs
- Cast skins (nymph exoskeletons)
- Dark (rusty) colored fecal droppings/stains
- Eggs among droppings or in crevices
Dark-colored fecal droppings in the circled areas indicated a bed
bug infestation on a mattress. Image courtesy of Purdue University
Cooperative Extension Service.
Close-up view of adult bed bugs, nymphs and fecal
spot on a mattress. Photo courtesy of Stephen Kells,
University of Minnesota.
University of Maine video: How to look for and avoid bedbugs in hotel or motel rooms
For more information and pictures visit Virginia Tech’s fact sheet How to identify a bed bug infestation (PDF, 4 pp., 542KB), Indiana University’s article Bed bug inspection process, EPA’s web page Identifying Bed Bug Infestations, and the Additional Resources section.
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Successful control of bed bug infestations typically requires multiple control methods. Remember that if inspections do not reveal all hiding places and treatments do not control all eggs, nymphs, and adults then bed bugs may reinfest treated areas or spread to new areas.
- Using monitoring devices
- Removing clutter
- Sealing cracks and crevices
- Washing and drying washable clothes/linens
- Dry cleaning unwashable clothes/linens
- Heat treatments
- Cold treatments
- Mattress covers (encasements)
- Insecticide (pesticide) applications.
Further Information on Control Methods
University of Missouri video (October 2010): Bed Bug Prevention and Control
National Pest Management Association video: Treating bed bugs
For more information about chemical and non-chemical control methods visit EPA web page: Treating Bed Bug Infestations and the Additional Resources section.
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Post-Treatment Inspection (s)
- After treatment(s), repeating the same thorough inspection is critical for confirming bed bugs were eliminated by the chosen control methods.
- Missed hiding places can result in future problems as bed bugs may spread from untreated areas.
- If the post-treatment inspection reveals the presence of bed bugs, a repeat of the control measures may be required.
- If control is not achieved then further evaluation of the IPM program components, including the selection of control methods, may be required.