While there are many things that consumers can do to prevent a bed bug infestation and aid in control, EPA cautions that getting a pest management professional involved as soon as possible rather than taking the time to try to treat the problem yourself is very effective at preventing further infestations.
As is so often the case with pest control, the best offense against bed bug infestation in your home is a good defense. A few simple precautions EPA lists to help prevent bed bug infestation are:
- Check secondhand furniture, beds, and couches for any signs of bed bug infestation before bringing them home.
- Use a protective cover that encases mattresses and box springs which eliminates many hiding spots. Light-colored encasements also make bed bugs easier to see. Be sure to purchase a high-quality encasement that will resist tearing and check it regularly for holes.
- Reduce clutter in your home to reduce hiding places for bed bugs. When traveling:
- In hotel rooms, use luggage racks to hold your luggage when packing or unpacking rather than setting your luggage on the bed or floor.
- Check the mattress and headboard before sleeping.
- Upon returning home, unpack directly into a washing machine and inspect your luggage carefully.
- Educate yourself on bed bugs and their prevention
Integrated Pest Management
If you do get a bed bug infestation, EPA recommends an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, to include:
- Inspect infested areas, as well surrounding living spaces
- Correctly identify the pest as being a bed bug
- Keep records and jot down dates when pests are found, and locations where they were sighted
- Clean all items within a bed bug-infested living area
- Physically remove bed bugs through cleaning
- Use approved, bed-bug-labeled pesticides carefully, according to all label directions
- Follow up with after-treatment inspection, and possible treatments
While none of these may provide complete control in and of themselves, they can be beneficial to the overall IPM program and in maintaining long-term control
- Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs.
- Heat infested articles and/or areas through to at least 113 ºF for 1 hour. The higher the temperature, the shorter the time needed to kill bed bugs at all life stages.
- Cold treatments (below 0 ºF for at least 4 days) can eliminate some infestations. Again, the cooler the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
- Use mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements to trap bed bugs and help detect infestations.
Chemical control is one component of IPM, and there are currently over 400 products registered by EPA for use against bed bugs - the vast majority of which it says can be used by consumers. To assist in the selection of a product that meets one's needs, EPA developed an Online Search Tool.
The tool asks a series of questions, the answers to which will bring up products that best match the need. Questions include:
- Where do you want to use this product? (Mattress, Whole Home, Whole Room, Crack/Surface/Void)
- Which product are you interested in?
- Are you interested in a particular active ingredient? (A list will pop up for selection.)
- Are you looking for a specific company name? (A list will pop up for selection.)
- Do you know the EPA registration number of the product you are looking for?
None of the fields are forced, so any―or even all―can be left blank to best-fit one's needs and provide a greater number of options.
In the tool, EPA cautions that users be sure to use a product that fits the needs and ensure that label directions are followed.
Bed Bug Pesticide Alert
In addition, EPA notes the following precautions:
- Check if the product is effective against bed bugs―if a pest isn't listed on the product label, the pesticide has not been tested on that pest, and it may not be effective. Don't use a product or allow a pest control operator to treat your home unless bed bugs are named on the product label.
- Before using any pesticide product, READ THE LABEL FIRST, then follow the directions for use.
- Keep in mind that any pesticide product without an EPA registration number has not been reviewed by EPA.
Never use a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use; it is dangerous and does not solve the problem. If you use the wrong pesticide or use it incorrectly, it can make you sick. Also, it can make the situation worse by causing the bed bugs to hide where the pesticide won't reach them.