Complete Information on Bedbugs

A bedbug requires food and shelter.  When you get bit, you are providing the food, and places like headboards, mattresses, and folds in cushions are providing the shelter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a bedbug look like?

A bedbug is a flat, brownish-red insect and can be anywhere from 1-7mm long.  The life cycle begins with an egg, which is the size of a pinhead and is virtually clear.

Even though they are small and difficult to see, canines can still smell them to let you know where they are!  The egg hatches to a nymph, which is about 1mm long and is very light in color until they bite you.

When they feed, they will darken, making them easier to see.  They will develop through 5 stages, getting slightly bigger each time they molt.  They are kind of like snakes because they lose their skin; actually, it is their exoskeleton.  So, if you see something that looks like a dead bedbug, you might actually have only found its old skin.

As gross as that sounds, it does not smell like anything to our dogs, so they aren’t interested in finding them.  An adult bedbug is 5-7 mm I length and is about the size and shape of a tick.

How do I know if I have bedbugs?

The first indication is probably going to be a bite. However, the bite alone cannot confirm the presence of bedbugs! So, you’ll probably want to investigate further.

Bedbugs feed on exposed skin areas such as legs, arms or neck and bites may be individual, clustered or linear.  So, sometimes additional information is needed to determine if bedbugs are the culprit.

In addition to bites, you may see them crawling.  Although they are sedentary, they can be rather fast when disturbed.  Bedbugs can be found in many places, but prefer to live in places close to their host.

Additionally, because they don’t fly or jump, they usually remain in areas where you are rather inactive, such as a bed, couch or chair.  Just because you see a bedbug, it doesn’t mean they are everywhere.  

In fact, it may have just followed you home and is looking for a place to live.  If you see several, there is a reason for concern and your next step is to give us a call!

Where should I look, and what do I look for when searching my home for bedbugs?

There are several places and signs of bedbug populations. They don’t clean up after themselves, and their table manners are atrocious. So, don’t just look for bedbugs or their old skin. You‘ll also want to look for fecal matter. This will look like black dots about the size of a pin’s head. In most cases, you’ll find this in a cluster. You can also look for blood trails. This is probably the easiest thing for you to see and is the strongest indication of an active bedbug population. I don’t try to find things like this; I’m only interested in live bugs and eggs.

How do I get rid of Bedbugs?

This is the tricky part! The biggest factor in eliminating bedbugs is knowing exactly where they are and how far they have spread. This is where canines can be incredibly useful!  If you know those things, treatment is much more effective.

If you know exactly where they are, you can pick a treatment method to work in that area.  Since treatments can be costly, there is no reason to treat your entire home unless there are bedbugs throughout.

    • If the bedbugs are on one item or something that is disposable – get rid of it!
    • If they are on something that can be put into the washer/dryer – do that! (Heat is the most effective way to eliminate all life stages-including the eggs.)
    • If you find them on your bed, wash your bedding and consider purchasing an encasement. However, there are sprays that also have some efficacy.
    • Using powders around the perimeter of the room is also helpful in minimizing travel – but be sure to follow the instructions on the label. There are other products, such as sprays, which are intended for topical or barrier treatments but can have different treatment methods, residuals, and directions – again, be sure you follow the label if you choose to treatments yourself.
    • Bug bombs DO NOT work – don’t bother using them for this type of insect control!
    • Lastly – if they have spread to areas beyond the normal scope – you will likely need to employ an exterminator to help you work through your options.

When searching for bedbugs, start by looking in the bedroom (they’re not called bedbugs for nothing).  Pay special attention to mattresses, box springs, and headboards.  While bedbugs are quite mobile, they’re also pretty lazy and like living in tight spaces close to where they eat.  

If there is a couch where people sleep or spend a lot of time, you’ll probably want to check that as well.  Make sure you use a flashlight and check all the little creases because bedbugs like tight spaces where they feel protected.

Just because you didn’t find bedbugs in your bed doesn’t mean they are not someplace in your home.  When it comes to finding food, they can be pretty smart.

They can crawl or hitchhike to other locations. So, you may need to expand your search to the laundry room or clothes hampers, drawers, stuffed animals, luggage, and gym bags.

Do bedbugs spread disease, or can they harm my family or me?

NO! Bedbugs have been studied extensively and have not yet shown the ability to spread disease from host to host. They have, however, been shown to carry diseases. Although they do not spread disease, they are a nuisance pest, and the bites can be a problem. Allergic reactions, secondary infections from itching, stress/anxiety, and insomnia are all related effects of bedbug infestations.

How did bedbugs get into my home?

Bedbugs are easily spread from place to place on things like luggage and clothing; however, they can be transferred through many other means. Those who travel are particularly susceptible! Hotels, airlines, buses, and taxis are all perfect ways for bedbugs to travel to your home. If a person lives in an apartment, bedbugs can migrate from neighboring units (adjacent, above, and below) by crawling through baseboards, outlets, or light fixtures.

One of the easiest ways for bedbugs to get into your home is in previously owned furniture. When you purchase a couch at a garage sale, for example, you may be bringing a bedbug’s home into your home. This could make an inexpensive piece of furniture a very expensive problem! Let’s face it, there are many ways bedbugs can get into your home, and once they’re there, It is important to get the introduction under control as soon as possible!

Dakota Bedbug Detection
Dakota Bedbug Detection

How Bedbugs Reproduce And Multiply

Bedbugs Eggs

Once mated, a female can lay 2-7 eggs a week (@500 a yr!) The eggs are attached to surfaces with a cement-like adhesive. This is done so that the eggs do not become disrupted and will remain safe until they hatch about 1-week later. The eggs are only about 1mm in length and are virtually clear, making detection very difficult. As with any insect, when temperatures are optimal, the life cycle moves along quite quickly. For a bedbug, the ideal temperature is about 80 degrees.

Feeding Process

When the egg hatches, the first life stage that emerges is called a 1st Instar “nymph.” The nymph will progress through a series of 5 instars, growing slightly and darkening in color as they transition from one stage to the next. A bedbug nymph will immediately seek out a blood host after hatching and will feed.

The feeding takes only minutes and then will need to be digested. This feeding process allows the bedbug the nutrition. Primarily the protein in your blood that is required for development. Feeding expands their body enough to shed their exoskeleton periodically and advance to the next growth stage. Progression through all 5 nymphal life stages takes approximately 5 weeks before reaching the adult stage. They are about 5-7mm in length when fully grown and reddish-brown.


Even without a host, bedbugs can live for several months, and even upwards of a yar if they are in a dormant state. They can remain dormant until a host and resources become available again. Because of this behavior, controlling them can be very difficult as finding and destroying the populations, rather than simply removing resources, is the only way to control their numbers.