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NPS Arrowhead National Park Service
US Department of the Interior
Office of Public Health 1201 Eye Street, NW
Room 1131
Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202-513-7215
Fax: 202-371-1349
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Office of Public Health - Bed Bug Management Factsheet
Points Of Contact
(202) 513-7217
Assistant to Director for Science
(202) 513-7097
(505) 248-7806
Assistant to Director for Field Operations
(202) 513-7056
National Capitol Region
Northeast Region
(215) 597-5371
Southeast Region
(404) 507-5730
Mid-West Region
(402) 661-1718
Intermountain Region
(505) 988-6040
Pacific West Region
(510) 817-1375
Alaska Region
(206) 220-4270
The Common Bed Bug:Bed Bug

Common bed bugs become established in structures when they hitch a ride in boxes, baggage, furniture, bedding, laundry, and in and on clothing worn by people coming from infested sites. Poultry workers can carry bed bugs to their residences from their places of work. Bat bugs, poultry bugs, swallow bugs and others are typically transported to new roosts by the principal host. An accurate identification of the bed bug species involved is essential to an effective control strategy. Many control failures can be traced to an incorrect identification.

Common bed bugs are active only at night, usually just before dawn. During the day they hide in cracks, crevices and seams in walls, floors, beds and furniture. They prefer narrow crevices, with a rough surface, where their legs and backs touch the opposing surfaces. Wood and paper surfaces are preferred to either stone, metal or plaster, although in the absence of preferred sites or during high population numbers the later will also be utilized. The aforementioned cracks and crevices should be filled with appropriate fillers such as caulking. When only a few bed bugs are present, they live close to human sleeping areas; when numerous, they can be found in many rooms of the house. A characteristic 'bed bug odor' is frequently present in buildings infested with bed bugs.

Bed bugs will frequently hide in the crevices of upholstered furniture and mattresses created by folds, buttons and cording. Thoroughly vacuum all upholstery (undersides, too), mattresses and pillows. Launder bedding and dry in a warm air dryer.

Pesticides can be applied to cracks and crevices of dressers, wooden bed frames and headboards, door and window trim, baseboards and similar sites. Three classes of insecticides are reviewed:

1) Botanical insecticides containing natural pyrethrins will repel insects and can "knock down' bed bugs for a period of time, but natural pyrethrins quickly deteriorate and do not provide the necessary residual action of some other materials. Finishes on furniture and other wood items may be damaged from the petroleum carriers contained in aerosol pyrethrins.

2) Inorganic materials such as silica gel, boric acid and diatomaceous earth will provide long-term control provided they are used in an environment with low humidity. These inorganic materials have very low repellency, have a long residual life, and can provide good control if thoroughly applied to cracks and crevices. However, they are typically white in color and may leave the surface of items with an undesirable film unless they are carefully applied.

3) Synthetic pyrethroids such as deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and others can provide good control if they are carefully and thoroughly applied to suspected bed bug harborages. They are relatively long-lived residuals and will not damage materials that are not harmed by water. Consideration should be given to the fact that people typically spend in excess of 8 hours per day in the bedroom. If the insecticides are properly applied, there should be little risk of exposure. During the management decision process, consideration should be given to potential guests that have multiple chemical sensitivity and/or pesticide hypersensitivity.

Bed Bugs Associated with Bats or Birds:

The Eastern and Western bat bugs come into homes in the spring with colonies of bats. They will be found in the living quarters of homes in many of the same places as common bed bugs, but the source of the infestation is located within walls or attic areas. Chimney swift bugs will enter buildings via chimney flues.

For bed bug infestations other than the common bed bug, C. lectularius, the bird or bat that has occupied the structure should be removed and exclusion measures taken to prevent the re-entry of the animals. Materials such as hardware cloth, expandable foam and other caulking, and the replacement of damaged siding, soffits and facias will frequently prevent animals from gaining entry.

The pesticides listed for the common bed bug will also control the other bed bug species providing that treatment considerations are given to the potential harborages (i.e., crevices between rafters, cracks in chimney flues) that will differ from the common bed bug. With all pesticide applications, care must be given to follow the label instructions and to apply materials only to sites labeled for that use.


Catalog of the Heteroptera, or True Bugs, of Canada and the Continental United States. Thomas J. Henry and Richard C. Froeschner, Eds. 1988. E.J. Brill, New York. 958 pp.

Handbook of Pest Control. Arnold Mallis. 1997. Mallis Handbook and Technical Training Company. Eighth ed. 1453 pp.

How to Know the True Bugs. J.A. Slater and R.M. Baranowski. 1978. Wm. C. Brown Company. 256 pp.

Monograph of Cimicidae. Robert L. Usinger. 1966. Entomological Society of America. 585 pp.

S.B. JACOBS (2003)

If you have any questions, please contact the nearest Point of Contact, park sanitarian or the Washington Office.

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