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Environmental Health

Bed Bug Guidance

Quick Facts
  • Bed bugs bite people and feed on blood. 
  • They hide and can be challenging to see. 
  • They are great hitchhikers and can easily be moved by travelers. 
  • Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease to people. 
  • If you have bed bugs, don’t panic, they can be eliminated. 
  • It is very difficult to eliminate bed bugs yourself. It is best to contact a pest control service to control bed bugs. 

Bed bugs are parasites that feed on humans, using their blood to grow and reproduce. Bed bugs also feed on animals, including dogs, cats and other pets. 

Not all people are equally as sensitive to bed bug bites and some people can be bitten without realizing it. While some individuals break out in rashes from the bites, other people may not display any symptoms. Even among people sleeping side by side, one person may show severe reactions while the other has no evidence of being bitten at all. Bite reactions vary from no reaction to mild (a red spot) to severe (rash or hives). 

Bed bugs are found in many places, including hotels, homes, schools, retail facilities, office buildings, libraries and other public areas. 

Bed Bug Stages and Images

Adult bed bugs are oval, flattened, brown and wingless insects approximately 1/4 to 3/8 inch long (5-9 mm). They are similar in appearance to a wood tick.

Young bed bugs resemble adults in shape but are much smaller, 1/16 inch (1.6 mm) when they first hatch. They are nearly colorless except after feeding.

After the bug has taken a blood meal, its color changes from brown to purplish- red and becomes larger and more cigar-shaped.

Signs that you have bed bugs

Look where you sleep

Bed bugs typically group together in out-of-the-way areas. The best way to check for an infestation is to look for bed bugs where you sleep or rest.

In bedrooms, look on and around:

  • Box springs, mattresses, bed frames, folds and buttons on mattresses.
  • Furniture such as desks and chairs.
  • Behind wallpaper, clocks and pictures.
  • Cracks in wood floors and under the edge of carpet.

While bed bugs are most commonly found in bedrooms, infestations can occur in other rooms including bathrooms, living rooms and laundry rooms.

Bed bugs are small and very flat, so they can move into very tight corners and cracks. They have been found under picture frames between the glass and the frame, behind electrical outlets and in smoke detectors.

Look for spots or smears

Bed bugs will sometimes deposit fecal spots (digested blood) while they are feeding. These are seen as dark reddish or brownish spots or smears found on bed sheets, pillowcases and mattresses, or in nearby areas.

If you find a bed bug you should stop the inspection and begin control measures with a pest control operator.

Bed bugs will move from their hiding places once disturbed and could transfer to more areas.  Bed bugs will not go away on their own and will become much worse if they are not controlled.

If bed bugs are observed in a public facility such as a hotel, school, retail facility, shelter, or similar public venue you can report the activity to the Local Health Authority.

  • Carson City Health Services: 775-887-2190
  • Nevada State Health Division: 775-687-7550
  • Southern Nevada Health District: 702-759-1000
  • Washoe County Health District: 775-328-2434
How to get rid of bed bugs

We recommend that you seek assistance from a professional pest control company.

  • A licensed pest control company uses special equipment to move furniture, take it apart and control the infestation.
  • They perform careful inspections along with non-chemical controls (heat treatments, vacuuming, and steam treatments) and insecticide treatments.
  • The insecticides used are commercial products requiring special equipment and training.
  • Pest control services use heat treatment (118°F maintained for at least 70 minutes) in target areas.
  • All stages of bed bugs are killed when this is done properly.
  • Heat treatment does not prevent bed bugs from coming back.
  • Sometimes furniture is removed and heat treated in a container, but it is not necessary to move or throw away your furniture or belongings.

It is important to follow the advice from pest control services.

What can you do yourself?

When working with a pest control company there are some additional things you can do to help get rid of bed bugs.

Using Heat

You can use your washing machine and dryer to kill bed bugs infesting clothes and other washable items.

  • Clothes laundered in hot water and/or dried in temperatures hotter than 122°F for 20 minutes will kill all stages of bed bugs. This is usually the medium-high setting.
  • You can also heat curtains and other fabrics, rugs, shoes, backpacks, stuffed animals, toys and similar items by drying them at medium-high for about 30 minutes.

Mattress Encasements

An encasement is a covering that looks like a very large sack with a zipper and that completely fits around a mattress or box spring. They are useful when you want to protect a mattress you know is free of bed bugs (it has been heat treated or you have purchased a new mattress).

  • You can also use encasements on infested mattresses, box springs, and furniture to trap bugs inside.
  • You can keep using your bed as long as the encasements are not ripped or torn.
  • Buy encasements that are specifically designed for protecting against bed bugs.
  • You can buy mattress encasements online, from pest control companies, or from retail stores.

Bed Bug Interceptors 

Bed bug interceptors are small plastic trays with an inner and outer ring designed to help detect the presence of bed bugs. You place them under the legs of the bed or furniture. Bed bugs that try to climb up from the floor to the furniture become trapped in the outer well. Any bed bugs that try to climb down become trapped in the center well.

  • Bed bug interceptors not only help reduce the number of bed bugs that can reach the furniture, but they also help determine whether bed bugs are present.
  • You can buy bed bug receptors online, from pest control companies, or from retail stores.


  • Do not try to treat bed bugs yourself. The insecticides available in over-the-counter products or bug bombs are not effective in controlling bed bugs.
  • These products throw insecticide into the air and very little product comes in contact with the bed bugs hiding in cracks and behind and under objects.
  • It is easy for people to misuse or overuse bog bombs and can result in unnecessary pesticide exposure.



**Guidance adapted from the University of Minnesota Extension**