Bed Bugs

Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control

Can you treat and eliminate the bed bugs on your own? Bed bugs are challenging pests to get rid of, since they hide so well and reproduce so quickly. In addition, the egg stage is resistant to many forms of treatment, so a single attempt may not be sufficient to complete the job.

Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including: 

Person inspecting furniture for pest infestation
  • Extent of the infestation.
  • Site-specific challenges.
    • Clutter.
    • Neighbors with infestations.
    • Ability of all of the residents to participate. 

Achieving complete control can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation, and everyone will need to cooperate and do their part. 

Before starting, you should lay out all of the steps on a calendar. The following steps will help you begin:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Develop a strategy
  3. Keep the infestation from expanding
  4. Prepare for treatment
  5. Kill the bed bugs
  6. Evaluate and prevent

Identify the Problem

  • Inspect infested areas, plus surrounding living spaces, to determine extent of infestation.
  • Correctly identify the pest.
    • Collect a sample to show an extension agent or other reliable expert in entomology.
    • Extension agents are trained in pest control issues and know your local area.
  • If you have bed bugs and live in an apartment, notify your landlord, because the units surrounding yours should be inspected.

Develop a Strategy

  • Using a calendar, map out each stage based on the recommendations in the following sections.
  • Plan to keep records through the whole process – including dates and locations when pests are found.
  • Leave time for long-term monitoring to make sure all of the bed bugs are gone.

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Keep the Infestation from Spreading

  • Anything removed from the room should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and treated.
    • Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left for an extended period of time to ensure any active bugs are dead (research shows variation in the length of time needed, but it can be as long as a year).
  • Empty the vacuum after each use.
    • Seal the bag and throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
  • Don't discard furniture if you can eliminate the bed bugs from it.
  • If furniture cannot be salvaged, discard it responsibly. Destroy it so someone else won't be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
    • Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
    • Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs." 
  • Take steps to have infested items picked up as soon as possible by the trash collection agency.

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Prepare for Treatment

Jumping straight into control is tempting, but won't work. Preparing for treatment is essential to getting successful control. It will also help by making it easier for you to monitor for bed bugs that haven't been completely eliminated. This preparation should be conducted whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.

Learn more about preparing for treatment

Learn about treatment options (PDF)(4 pp, 480 K, About PDF) Exit

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Kill the Bed Bugs

  • Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What's Legal, What's Not for more information.
  • Consider non-chemical methods of killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others.
    • Heat treatment using a clothes dryer on high heat, black plastic bags in the sun or a hot, closed car (pest management professionals have other methods that are not suitable for non-trained individuals to use).
    • Cold treatment can be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0o F. You must leave the items in the freezer at that temperature for four days. (Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0o.)
    • Reducing the numbers of bugs with these and other non-chemical methods is helpful, but is unlikely to entirely eliminate the infestation.
  • If needed, use pesticides carefully according to the label directions or hire a pest management professional.
    • Look for EPA-registered pesticides.
    • Bed bugs must be listed on the label.
    • Use foggers (bug bombs) only with extreme care. Improper use can harm your health or cause a fire/explosion.
      • Because foggers work with a broadcast spraying action, they should not be used as the sole source of bed bug control. The spray will not reach the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. 
      • See Should I Use a Fogger? 
  • Every few days after you complete your initial cleanup and control processes, carefully look for any evidence of bed bugs.
    • If you see bed bugs, that means that either the initial cleanup missed some individuals or that eggs have hatched (finding and removing or killing all eggs can be very difficult) and retreatment may be needed.
  • If repeated treatments are needed, consider using pesticides with different modes of action.
    • Desiccants (drying agents) can be particularly effective in some situations since they work by drying out the bug (which means the bed bugs can't develop resistance to it).
      • If using desiccants, be sure to use only products registered as a pesticide.
        • Do not use pool or food-grade diatomaceous earth - this type of diatomaceous earth can harm you when you breathe it in. The pesticide version uses a different size of diatoms, which reduces the hazard.
      • Desiccants can be very effective; however, they can take up to several months to work.

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Bed bug interceptor
Bed bug interceptor (place under furniture legs to catch bed bugs)

Evaluate and Prevent

  • Continue to inspect for presence of bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remained.
    • Interceptors (placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs; commercial and do-it-yourself versions available), traps or other methods of monitoring can be used.
  • Continue to implement preventive measures.

For additional information, please see:

Bed bugs: Do-it-yourself control options -- Texas A & M AgriLife Extension Exit

Bed Bug Control in Residences -- University of Minnesota  Exit

Bed Bugs Integrated Pest Management in and Around the Home -- University of California  Exit

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