Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small oval shaped insects. They do not fly; they crawl and attach themselves to surfaces such as clothing, furniture and luggage.  They are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale and can affect anyone at any time. 

Bed bugs are most active at night and are usually found where people sleep. They can also be found in any public space, such as businesses, offices and areas where people gather.

Bed bug on a pencil

What they look like

  • Bed bugs in all stages of life are visible to the naked eye.
  • Eggs and early stage bugs may be hard to see.  Eggs are the colour white, pear-shaped and about the size of a pinhead.
  • Clusters of 10 to 50 eggs are found on surfaces, cracks and crevices.
  • Adult bugs are about the size and shape of an apple seed. They are 5 mm long, flattened and brown in colour. After feeding they get bigger and turn dark red.

Bed bug on skin

Bed bugs are not known to transmit infectious disease to humans. If bitten, some people may have an allergic reaction that presents as itchy welts. The mental health impacts to people living with bed bugs can include anxiety and insomnia.

Bed bug bites

These bite marks appear within minutes or days and are usually on the face, neck, upper torso, arms and hands. Not everyone reacts to a bed bug bite.

The following signs can indicate a bed bug bite:

  • Small, raised red itchy welts on your skin, often in a pattern of three.
  • A lump filled with blood or fluid in people with high sensitivity to bed bug saliva.

Bed Bug bites on woman's back

Most bed bug bites go away on their own and do not need treatment.

  • Keep your skin around the bites clean and wash with antiseptic soap.
  • Avoid scratching bites. If the bites are itchy, you can use over-the-counter antihistamine cream. 
  • Oral antibiotics can be prescribed by your doctor for skin infections.

How to find bed bugs

Bed bugs are most active at night and are usually found where people sleep. They can also be found in any public space, such as businesses, offices and areas where people gather.

  • Use a bright flashlight to look for bed bugs or their dark droppings on bedroom furniture.
  • Use a hot hair dryer and an old business card or playing card to force them out of hiding spaces and cracks.

Bed bug activity can be identified by the following:

  • Finding live or dead bed bugs, or finding bed bug skins in your home.
  • Dark red or brown spots or eggs on mattresses, sheets, bed frames or walls.
  • Flat red marks on your skin, often in a pattern of three. 

Place glue boards, double sided tape or bed bug interceptors under your bed legs to monitor and catch the bed bugs.

Places to look for bed bugs include:

  • Behind headboards.
  • In the seams and tufts of your mattress.
  • Inside of a boxspring.  Remove the dust cover on the bottom of the box spring so you can check inside.
  • Along bedroom baseboard cracks.
  • In and around bedside tables and night stands.
  • Cracks and corners of dresser drawers and other furniture.
  • Telephones, radios, clocks, ceiling light fixtures and smoke detectors.
  • Other bedroom items, including window and door casings, pictures, moldings, nearby furniture, loose wallpaper, cracks in plaster, and clutter.

Reporting Bed Bugs

It is important to take immediate action if you suspect that you have bed bugs. Bed bugs can spread rapidly so it is important to report these pests as soon as you suspect that they are in your home.

  • If you live in rental housing, report the bed bugs to your landlord as soon as possible. The landlord is responsible for providing pest control services. You are responsible for reporting the pests and helping to prepare your home for pest control treatment. If your landlord does not respond by arranging for pest control services, please call Public Health.
  • If you own your own home, hire a licensed pest control company. Delaying the start of treatment will lead to a more difficult and costly effort to get rid of the bed bugs.

When you have reported bed bugs to your landlord or hired a licensed pest control company, follow their instructions on how to prepare your home for treatment. In addition, you can begin taking the actions recommended below for bed bug removal. 

Bed bug removal

Removing bed bugs from your home can be a challenge.  A licensed pest control company can help plan for an effective treatment.  If you live in rental housing, the landlord is responsible for providing pest control services and you are responsible for helping to prepare your home for treatment.  Combining the use of pesticides with activities performed by the resident has been shown to be an effective way to fight bed bugs. 

Careful cleaning activities are the first step in effectively removing bed bugs. Every resident must clean prior to chemical pest control treatments by a licensed pest control company. Pay special attention to anywhere you see bed bugs during the inspection. Completing these activities will greatly increase the effectiveness of a chemical pest control.

Vacuum

  • Be sure to vacuum cracks, open spaces and anywhere bed bugs were found during the inspection.
  • Scrub mattress seams with a stiff brush to dislodge bed bugs and their eggs, then vacuum the mattress, box spring, bed frame, bedside furniture, floors and carpets. 
  • If a box spring, couch or upholstered chair has a dust cover attached on the underside, remove it and vacuum inside the space.
  • After vacuuming, carefully empty the vacuum cleaner contents into a plastic bag. Seal it tightly and dispose of the bag in an outdoor garbage container.

Laundry

  • Put all bedding, linens, curtains, rugs and clothing into large plastic bags and seal the bags tight. Bring the laundry to the laundry area in the sealed plastic bags and wash the items.
  • In order to kill bed bugs and eggs, laundry should be placed in the dryer on the hottest setting; high heat kills bed bugs. Items need to remain in the dryer on the hottest setting for at least 20 minutes after the items are dry. 
  • Wool items, plush toys, shoes and other items that can’t be washed can be placed dry into a clothes dryer on the hottest setting for 30 minutes to get rid of bed bugs.
  • Put empty plastic bags used to carry the laundry into a garbage bag and seal tightly.  Dispose of them outside.
  • Put clean or heat treated laundry into new, clean plastic bags or sealable containers.  Do not open them until the chemical treatment is finished.

Reduce clutter 

  • Dispose of unneeded items by placing them into plastic bags, seal tightly, and dispose of the bag in an outdoor garbage container. Clutter acts as ideal hiding spots for bed bugs and other pests.
  • Be careful not to spread the bed bugs. 
    • Don’t move items from the infested areas to non-infested areas.
    • Don’t donate infested items to someone else. 
  • Throw away excess magazines, newspapers, all cardboard boxes and trash. Put items directly into plastic garbage bags and dispose of them in an outdoor garbage container.
  • Keep all clothing off the floor.  

Make your home unfriendly to bed bugs

  • Cover both the mattress box spring in a zippered mattress encasement (a bed bug cover) that is labelled “allergen rated”, “for dust mites” or “for bed bugs”.  Keep the encasement on the mattress and on the box spring for at least one year.
  • Make the bed an island.  Bed should be 6 inches (15 cm) away from the wall. Ensure no blankets or bedding touches the floor. This makes it difficult for the bugs to climb into bed with you.
  • Keep clothing off the floor. 
  • Place bed bug interceptors or glue pads under each leg of the bed. 
  • Seal cracks in walls that allow bed bugs to travel between apartments.  Seal baseboards, wall switch and plug covers, and where pipes enter the room.
  • Apply weather stripping to the doors into your home.  

Hire a licensed pest control company

Chemical pesticides can be an effective tool when all other recommended steps are taken as well.  Only a licensed pest control profession should handle chemical pesticides. 

If you live in rental housing, the landlord is responsible for hiring a licensed pest control contractor.  Work with the contractor to keep your home pest-free. 

The pest control contractor should inspect your home, describe the treatment and tell you how to prepare your home for treatment.  Treatment should be done at least two times, 10 to 14 days apart, in order to effectively remove bed bugs and eggs that can survive after the first treatment.

Be careful about using pesticides yourself.  Pesticides can be harmful to people and to pets.

  • Never use cockroach spray, ant spray or any pesticide that does not have bed bugs listed on the label.
  • Never spray pesticides on a mattress or sofa.
  • Never spray pesticides in areas where children or pets are present.
  • Do not use an “insecticide bomb” or “fogger” in your home.  These products can spread harmful chemicals throughout the home and are likely to be ineffective against bed bugs.  

Prevention

There are some things you can do to prevent bringing bed bugs into your home. 

  • Check all used furniture or clothing for bed bugs before bringing these items into your home.  Learn how to better inspect used furniture. (PDF, 51 KB)
  • When traveling, check hotel rooms for bed bugs before unpacking any luggage. Leave contents in the luggage and keep it on the shelf or away from the floor, furniture or bed.
  • Inspect all luggage as soon as you get home from a trip. 
  • Wash and dry your clothes immediately after returning from a trip.
  • Vacuum all luggage before storing it.

Learn how to check for bed bugs while travelling.

If your work requires that you visit homes that may have bed bugs, take simple precautions to avoid bringing them home. Learn more about what precautions you can take.

Make checking for bed bugs part of your cleaning routine and check regularly.  The earlier you find them, the easier it is to get rid of them.

  • Check for bed bugs when you change bed sheets.  Vacuum your mattress regularly.
  • Throw away clutter to reduce bed bug hiding places.
  • Clean regularly in order to spot any live bugs or other signs of new activity.


Where to get help

Public Health Services
Call 905-546-2489 to report bed bug or other pest infestations. 

Landlord and tenant board
The landlord and tenant board helps with disputes between landlords and tenants about bed bugs.
1-888-332-3234
www.ltb.gov.on.ca

Hamilton Housing Help Centre
If you are low-income and unable to prepare your home for bed bug treatment due to a disability, you may qualify for help.  You should speak with the Hamilton Wentworth Housing Help Centre to find out if you qualify.
Phone: 905-526-8100
www.housinghelpcentre.ca

Pest control treatment companies

More information on professional pest control companies in your area can be found at:
Structural Pest Management Association of Ontario
1-800- 461-6722
www.spmao.ca

Contact us

Public Health Services
Phone: 905-546-2489
Email: publichealth@hamilton.ca