Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small insects that have a broad oval shape.  Bed bugs do not fly because they do not have wings; they crawl and get rides on clothing, furniture and luggage.  It is possible for anyone, anywhere to have bed bugs.

Bed bugs in all stages of life are visible to the naked eye. Before feeding on blood, adults are about 5 mm long, flattened and brown in colour. After feeding they get bigger and turn dark red.

Bed bug eggs are white, pear-shaped and about the size of a pinhead. Clusters of 10 to 50 eggs are found on surfaces, cracks and crevices.

Bed bugs can be in hotels, motels, dorms, apartments, condos, homes and in some public places, such as businesses and offices. Bed bugs come into your home on objects such as furniture and clothing.

Bed bugs hide in small places such as:

  • Seams and folds in mattresses, box springs, pillows or bed sheets
  • Cracks in the bed frame and headboard
  • Under chairs, couches, beds and dust covers
  • Between the cushions of couches and chairs
  • Under rugs and the edges of carpet
  • Between folds of curtains
  • In drawers and bedside tables
  • Behind baseboards and around window and door casings
  • Behind electrical plates and under loose wallpaper, paintings and posters
  • In cracks in plaster
  • In telephones, radios, clocks, ceiling light fixtures and smoke detectors

Bed bugs travel mostly at night but you can see them during the day if there is a heavy infestation. 

How bed bugs survive

Bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood, but will also bite birds, bats and other mammals. 

  • Bed bugs bite all over the body, especially exposed areas such as the face, neck, upper torso, arms and hands.
  • Bed bugs are most active at night and like to hide close to where they feed but can travel long distances to get blood.
  • Bed bugs can survive up to one year without a blood meal.

The following signs can indicate a bed bug infestation:

  • Flat red marks on your skin, often in a pattern of three that is sometimes called breakfast, lunch and dinner 
  • Small raised red itchy welts on your skin are common
  • A lump filled with blood or fluid in people with high sensitivity to bed bug saliva
  • Dark red or brown spots or eggs on mattresses, sheets, bed frames or walls
  • A sweet musty smell and you see bed bugs during the day; this indicates a heavy bed bug infestation

Bed bug bite marks appear within minutes or days, usually on areas that are exposed while you sleep.

How bed bugs affect health

Bed bugs are not known to transmit infectious diseases to humans.

  • Bed bugs may cause an allergic reaction and itchy welts in some people.
  • Some people may have a reaction at the site of the bite.
  • Excessive scratching or picking at scabs from bed bug bites may cause infections.

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, your doctor can prescribe cream or antihistamines. Oral antibiotics can be prescribed for skin infections.

Hamilton’s Property Standards By-law No. 10-221 (PDF, 74 KB) requires dwellings or dwelling units to be pest free, including bed bugs.

Integrated Pest Management, also known as IPM, is the best approach to remove bed bugs because it combines pesticides and other techniques like routine inspections of living areas, elimination of bed bug hiding spots and physical removal of bed bugs through cleaning. 

Here are some things you can do to remove bed bugs from your home:

  • Check your mattress and bed frame for bed bugs, particularly the folds, crevices and the underside as well as other locations where bed bugs like to hide using a flashlight. 
  • Use a nozzle attachment on the vacuum to suck up the bed bugs and their eggs. Vacuum all crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards and any objects close to the bed. It is essential to vacuum every day and empty the vacuum immediately. 
  • Wash all clothing, bed sheets, pillows, mattress covers, blankets and pillowcases in the hottest water possible and put them in a hot dryer for 30 minutes. Consider covering your pillows and mattress with a plastic cover. 
  • Remove all unnecessary clutter from your home. 
  • Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, on wood bed frames, floors and walls with caulking. Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers and seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into your home, especially on shared walls between apartments. 
  • Check for bed bugs every day by setting out glue boards or sticky tape such as carpet tape to catch the bed bugs. Look closely at everything you bring into your home to make sure it does not have bed bugs on it. 

If you rent your home, notify your landlord or property manager that your rental unit has bed bugs so that they can arrange for treatment by a pest control professional.

  • Consult professional pest control services and talk about what solution has the least risk to humans and the environment.  The company should 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, to effectively remove bed bugs. 

Here are some things you can do to prevent a bed bug infestation in your home:

  • Use mattress covers to completely enclose the mattress and box spring.
  • Vacuum your mattress regularly.
  • Check for bed bugs when you change bed sheets. The earlier you find them, the easier it is to get rid of them.
  • Clean up clutter to reduce bed bug hiding places.
  • Clean regularly so you can spot any live bugs or other signs of new activity.
  • Check all used furniture or clothing for bed bugs before bringing these items into your home.
  • When traveling, check hotel rooms for bed bugs before you unpack your luggage. Leave everything possible in your luggage and keep the luggage on the shelf or away from the floor, furniture or bed.
  • Check your luggage as soon as you get home from a trip.  Wash and dry your clothes immediately after returning from a trip. Vacuum your luggage.

See how to check for bed bugs while travelling

Here are some places where you can get help for bed bugs in rental units:

Public Health Services
Call 905-546-2489 to speak with a public health inspector about identifying bed bugs or recommendations for Integrated Pest Management.

Hamilton Housing Help Centre
Hamilton Housing Help Centre provides assistance to tenants.
Phone: 905-526-8100

Landlord and tenant board
The landlord and tenant board helps with disputes between landlords and tenants about bed bugs.

If you receive Ontario Works or are in the Ontario Disability Support Program you may qualify for Housing Stability Benefits or other funding programs to help pay for the cost of preparation services. You should speak with your Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program worker to find out if you qualify.

Pest control treatment companies

Check with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to ensure your pest control treatment company is licensed.  For information on professional pest control companies check:

Structural Pest Management Association of Ontario
1-800- 461-6722

National Pest Management Association


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