Bug Identification: Is this small tubular, black bug a bed bug?

Bug Identification: Is this small tubular, black bug a bed bug?

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So I found this tiny bug on my wall in the bedroom of my apartment. I estimate it is about 3mm long by 1mm wide.

Is it a bed bug?

It does not seem to match any of the pictures I've seen online.

The apartment is very clean by most standards. The only other bug I've seen in here is the odd stink bug.

Northeast coast of USA.

I'm going to suggest it is the larvae of a carpet beetle. Initially I thought possibly the Varied carpet beetle because of the lighter patches near the posterior end similar to this picture from the wiki page on this species:

Having said that the geographical range might not be correct so it could be a similar species so I've dug a bit deeper. There are some 120 species in North America, from this link I'd say that the Buffalo carpet beetle is a contender.

Carpet beetles are classified as a pest species:

"larvae feed on natural fibers and can damage carpets, furniture, clothing and insect collections"

Not all bad though, the larvae are also known as wooly bears, how nice.

What's Eating You? Pictures of Parasites

Furniture, wallpaper, mattresses, and clutter provide nesting spots for these small, flat insects. They like to live near people or pets, and they come out while you’re asleep to feed on your blood. Bedbugs don’t cause disease, but you might have an allergic reaction to their bite. If you scratch too much, the bitten area could get infected. Use antiseptic creams or lotions, or take an antihistamine, to ease the itch.

These insects live on your blood. There are three types: head, body, and pubic. Only body lice spread diseases. Since they crawl, you can get lice through close contact with someone. They lay eggs on you, and the itching starts when they hatch. You can treat them with over-the-counter and prescription medications and shampoos.

Types of Tiny Black Bugs Found in the Bed

Insects are one of the last things you want to encounter in your bed, but microscopic creatures are nevertheless present in mattresses of all kinds. No matter how clean you keep your sleeping quarters, you may be frustrated to find that these uninvited organisms continue to make themselves known. Parasitic bugs are often hard to spot and even more difficult to get rid of, but factual information on the tiny pests will go a long way toward prevention and eradication.

How to Collect and Sample Specimens

Submitting Insect Specimens
Collect fresh specimens. Send a several if possible. Care should be taken to package insects so that they arrive unbroken. Package in a sturdy crush-proof container and pack with additional paper to prevent shifting.

Bed bugs should be submitted in a small leak-proof bottle or vial of 70 percent alcohol. Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol is suitable and readily available. Do not submit insects in water, formaldehyde or without alcohol as they will readily ferment and decompose. Do not tape insects to paper or place them loose in envelopes.

Ship in crush-proof container immediately after collecting.

Provide information detailing where they are found and what questions you would like to have answered. Incomplete information or poorly preserved specimens may result in an inaccurate diagnosis or inappropriate control recommendations. Badly damaged specimens are often unidentifiable and additional sample requests can cause delays.

Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory
LSPS-Room 101, Purdue University
915 W. State Street
West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-2054


Because of the complexity of inspecting and treating bed bugs, and the human exposure risks associated with bed bug control treatments, it is a good idea to hire experienced professional pest control firms to handle the bed bug infestations. There are many non-chemical and chemical methods to control bed bugs. Unfortunately, none of them alone will guarantee elimination of bed bugs. Multiple approaches, resident collaboration, and a long period of time (a few weeks to months) are required to successfully eliminate all bed bugs.

The following is a step-by-step approach for residents or property managers who want to control bed bugs themselves:

  1. Conduct a systematic inspection of the entire residence using a flashlight and collecting tools (brush, forceps, and glass jar for holding the bed bugs) (Figure 4 and 5). Collect or kill all bed bug eggs, nymphs, and adults found during inspection. Emphasis should be placed on beds, sofas, chairs, and wheelchairs where the residents spend most of their time. Turn over and disassemble the furniture if possible to find all bed bug hiding places.
  2. Use a hot steam machine to kill large numbers of bed bugs in heavily infested areas. Bed bugs are very susceptible to high temperatures (> 120 °F) (Wang et al. 2016a).
  3. Immediately put infested materials (clothes, bed linens, shoes, books, toys, small furniture, electronics, curtains, etc.) in heavy duty plastic bags and seal them to avoid recontamination. Wash and hot dry the items if possible. Non-washable items can be placed in a hot dryer or a freezer for a few weeks to kill all bed bugs present. Safely discard heavily infested items that can not be washed or effectively de-infested by hot steam.
  4. Remove or reduce clutter from the infested room.
  5. Install encasements around mattresses or box springs (Figure 6). This will permanently seal off many bed bugs that are missed during the inspection, eliminate bed bug hiding places, and make future inspections much easier.
  6. Apply a layer of silica gel dust to the corners, crevices, and holes on the disassembled bed frame (Singh et al. 2016). The same can be done to sofas, behind baseboards, and inside electric or telephone outlets. Liquid insecticides labeled for bed bugs can also be applied to bed frames, baseboards, and other areas where bed bugs are found for long-term protection. It is more effective to kill bed bugs by applying the chemicals directly onto bed bugs than relying on the dry residues. Due to prevalence of insecticide resistance in field bed bug populations, insecticides containing two different classes are more effective than pyrethroid-based sprays (Wang et al. 2016b). It is important to keep in mind that all pesticides must be applied following the label directions.
  7. Install pitfall style bed bug monitors under all bed and sofa legs. A commercial bed bug interceptor (CLIMBUP TM , Susan McKnight, Inc.) is very effective for detecting bed bugs that travel between the furniture and the floor (Figure 7) (Wang and Cooper 2012). Bed bugs moving to or from the bed and sofa will be trapped in the interceptor. The interceptor can also be placed around perimeters of the room or around upholstered furniture to monitor the presence of bed bugs and to verify whether bed bugs are eliminated in a room. The bed and sofa must be pulled away from walls so that bed bugs can only reach the furniture via the furniture legs.
  8. Seal holes and crevices in the wall.
  9. Repeat steps 1 and 2, and check the interceptors every 7&ndash10 days until no bed bugs are found for a month. During each inspection, remove the bed bugs caught in the interceptors. A hand-held magnifier will be needed to identify the small bed bug nymphs. Clean the interceptors with cloth. Add a thin layer of talcum powder if necessary after each examination.
  10. In multi-unit buildings, all apartments (rooms) and the common areas need to be inspected and treated (if necessary) following the above procedures.

Stages of a Bedbug&aposs Life

  1. Bedbug eggs hatch about after two weeks. The nymph then begins feeding right away. Bedbugs typically feed every 10 days and then molt, or shed their skin.
  2. Nymphs molt five times before reaching maturity (see nymph stages in the chart above).
  3. Adult bedbugs typically live from four to six months. It is possible, however, for them to live longer under the right conditions.

Bedbugs look very different at different ages. For example, in the egg and early nymph phases, they can be difficult to see because they are whitish unless they have started a meal. Then in their adult phase, they may be larger and a different color.

While young, the brown/red/black color signifies that the bug has had a blood meal. As a bedbug grows, it sheds its skin which is referred to as a cast. The human blood it eats is the energy source it needs to build new, stronger skin.

As they grow older, their bodies become darker. Some people think that bedbugs are black. Don&apost be surprised when people have a difference of opinion on the whole color matter.

Factors that determine the appearance of bedbugs:

  • A meal satisfies an adult and or baby bedbug for around two weeks.
  • Bugs try to eat until their back is fully rounded.
  • Bedbugs are at peak activity between 2 a.m. and dawn.


Control Overview

Bed bugs are considered to be one of the most challenging of all insects to control. This is due to widespread insecticide resistance, the current lack of effective insecticidal products, and the biology of the pest (the cryptic nature is such that bed bugs tend to hide in tiny cracks and crevices, making detection and control difficult). For homes that are heavily cluttered (particularly if the resident has hoarding tendencies), numerous bed bug harborages will be available, making control even more difficult. For pest managers to be successful in bed bug eradication, they need to have specialized training in the management of the insect. They need to have knowledge of the pest's ecology, they need to be extremely thorough in their eradication attempts, they must undertake ongoing surveillance throughout the control program, and, most importantly, they must not rely on a single management option. Successful pest managers embrace the concept of integrated pest management (IPM), whereby nonchemical means of control are employed in conjunction with the judicious use of insecticides (208). Pest managers must also work in close association with the client, which is essential if eradication is to be achieved (95). For those in the accommodation sector, risk management measures should be undertaken by staff to reduce the potential of bed bugs and the more serious financial consequences associated with this pest.

To assist in the management of bed bugs, recent key industry standards have been developed to encourage �st practice” in bed bug eradication. These standards include A Code of Practice for the Control of Bed Bug Infestations in Australia (there have been seven versions, with the eighth presently in development [85�, 93, 95]), the European Code of Practice, Bed Bug Management (with two versions to date [191, 192]), and the U.S. NPMA BMP Bed Bugs Best Management Practices (221). In the United States, a number of groups have also developed procedural guidelines for bed bug control (9, 11, 43, 118, 138, 168, 206, 283). However, if best practice is defined as the promotion of management technologies where there is evidence of efficacy through independent scientific evaluations (and preferably in peer-reviewed publications) or where there is evidence of efficacy through common practice (95, 102), many of the above-mentioned guidelines do not promote best practice. Most include technologies where evidence of efficacy is lacking. As bed bug management is extremely complex, the information presented herein is an overview, and the above-mentioned industry standards or key texts (239) should be consulted for greater detail.

The control process is broadly as follows: positive identification of the pest, inspection of the site to determine which areas require treatment, nonchemical control options, insecticide application, evaluation of the success of the treatment program, and risk management procedures. In hotels, student dormitories, apartment complexes, and other multiple-occupancy dwellings, the inspection process should include the examination of all rooms adjoining the room with the infestation, and ideally, risk management should be ongoing and be implemented even prior to infestations occurring.

The complete eradication of an infestation is usually the only acceptable outcome expected by the client (95). The failure to achieve this in an apartment complex can result in bed bugs spreading to adjoining units and a subsequent increase in costs before eradication is finally achieved. For example, in a staff accommodation facility attached to one of the major teaching hospitals in Sydney, Australia, one infested unit that was poorly treated resulted in bed bugs spreading to 68 of the 320 rooms (�%) (104). The final expenditure was approximately Aus$42,000, when the cost for the first treatment should have been around Aus$400 (based on contract pricing), a cost increase of 100-fold.

As indicated above, bed bug treatments are expensive. Beyond the facility mentioned above, we are aware of hotels spending over Aus$300,000 to achieve complete eradication after the initial infestation had spread throughout the facility (Doggett, unpublished). The dilemma of who pays for bed bug control in socially disadvantaged situations is leading some academics to suggest that bed bug suppression may be the only achievable outcome (210). However, this comes with the cost of continuing human suffering and the risk of spreading the infestation to other parts of society. Governments should provide financial support to those without the means if society wishes to reverse the current bed bug resurgence.

For the accommodation sector, bed bugs are especially problematic, as they expose the facility to expensive litigation and unwanted publicity, thereby damaging brand reputations. In 2003, in a high-profile case of a brother and sister who stayed in a Chicago motel and were badly bitten by bed bugs, the court awarded damages of US$382,000 (295a). The judge's decision was based on the fact that the motel failed to take steps to eradicate the bed bug infestations or to warn clients of the presence of the insect. Thus, they failed in their 𠇍uty of care” to protect the health of their guests. To reduce the risk of potentially successful litigation, it is important for accommodation providers to show 𠇍ue diligence,” namely, to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that they have done everything possible to minimize the risk of bed bugs (192). To this end, it is essential that accommodation providers have a bed bug action plan (202, 203) or a policy and procedural guide (94) to direct the processes of bed bug management. A quality bed bug policy should include defining staff responsibilities, education and training (of staff, tenants, and contractors), documentation (especially in relation to documenting the processes of the eradication of active infestations), occupational health and safety, the eradication processes, preventative measures (i.e., risk management), and communication with the media (94).

Bed Bug Prevention (Risk Management)

It is impossible to prevent bed bugs however, there is the potential to minimize their impacts through risk management. For those in the accommodation sector, the key to reducing bed bug impacts is early detection. This minimizes the risk of the infestation spreading, control is more easily achieved, and the potential for clients to be bitten (with subsequent litigation and a damaged reputation for the organization) is reduced. Thus, early detection is about saving money and protecting the company brand. The early detection of bed bugs can be undertaken by various means, including the use of trained canines (now in widespread use across the United States and elsewhere). Regular and thorough inspections by housekeeping staff during routine room maintenance, or via pest managers, are important components of an early detection program. The use of bed bug monitors or traps may assist in early detection.

Canines have been evaluated to detect bed bugs in a controlled experiment within a hotel. They were found to have a 98% success rate in detecting bed bugs (236). The dogs did not give false-positive indications (i.e., indicating when no bed bugs were present) when tested against a range of other domestic pests, including an ant, a cockroach, and a termite species. However, in actual field trials, this success rate appears to be much lower. Dogs from seven canine firms in the eastern United States were evaluated for their ability to detect bed bugs, and the successful detection rate ranged from 11 to 83%, with an average of 43%, while the false-positive rate ranged from 0 to 38% (308). This demonstrates that canines are not as accurate as first thought but also highlights issues in the appropriate training of dogs for bed bug detection.

Bed bug traps, particularly of the “pit-fall” type, have been used for many years in research programs for the monitoring of populations. Mellanby (200) employed the Demon trap, a commercially available unit for cockroach trapping, which consisted of a hemispherical construction that insects could climb upon and drop into. Johnson (158) used a homemade trap that consisted of two petri dishes, one large and one smaller, with the latter being inverted and supported by a cork stopper. Paper bridges allowed the bugs to access the inner petri dish, where they would fall off and be trapped in the larger dish. More recently, the marketplace has been flooded with bed bug-monitoring devices. Broadly, these fit into two categories: those that are �tive” and have various attractants, such as heat, carbon dioxide, or various semiochemicals, and the “passive” type, which have no attractants and act as simple harborages (101). For the active type, those traps which utilize carbon dioxide as an attractant are more effective at detecting bed bugs than those that employ heat alone (7, 310). The rate of carbon dioxide flow will influence the success of the trap generally, the greater the flow rate, the more bugs attracted. A cheap homemade monitor employing solid CO2 as dry ice producing a flow rate of 731 to 800 ml/min collected around three times the number of bed bugs compared to that collected by two commercial units (both costing several hundred dollars) that have small CO2 cylinders producing flow rates of 42 and 161 ml/min (311). The downside of many of the baited detection traps is that they are more expensive and may not be economically viable to operate on a daily basis in all rooms of a hotel (97). To date, none of the passive-harborage-type traps have been demonstrated to be effective in independent scientific trials for the early monitoring of infestations, and there are few studies comparing the efficacies of commercially available active monitors. Similarly, no comparison between canine, trap, and human monitoring has been undertaken to determine the relative cost-effectivenesses and detection sensitivities of these early-monitoring methodologies. Another device, the ClimbUp Insect Interceptor, acts as both a barrier to bed bugs and a monitor. This device consists of an ultrasmooth plastic bowl with an outer bowl and has been shown to be more effective at detecting bed bugs than visual inspection, thereby contributing to the efficacy of IPM bed bug programs (309).

As early detection is crucial, technology in this area is rapidly evolving, and several new devices have been produced. These include “sniffer” technologies that are claimed to detect various emissions from the bed bug, such as carbon dioxide or a combination of carbon dioxide and various pheromones (31, 96). These devices have yet to undergo independent scientific evaluations. Research using acoustic indicators has demonstrated that such devices can successfully detect bed bugs (195), but as of July 2011, these have yet to appear in the marketplace.

While it is impossible to definitely prevent bed bugs, risk management is about undertaking various measures to minimize the potential of an infestation. There are four broad phases in the dynamics of a bed bug infestation: (i) the introduction of the pest, (ii) the establishment of the infestation, (iii) the growth of the pest population, and (iv) the spread of the insect (95). Strategies against all four phases can be undertaken. To minimize the introduction of the pest, the homeowner can learn how to recognize the signs of bed bugs while traveling, to determine if a room is potentially infested, and to know how to avoid bed bugs and how to treat luggage suspected of being contaminated. For student accommodations and other lodging groups, the banning of second-hand furniture and external bedding and linen can aid in reducing the likelihood of the introduction of bed bugs.

In order to reduce the risk of the establishment of an infestation, rooms in accommodation lodgings can be made less susceptible to bed bugs via reducing potential harborages. This can be achieved by ensuring that cracks and crevices are minimized in the room, that furniture and beds are constructed of materials such as smooth metals and plastics rather than timber, and that mattress encasements are installed on the bed (95). Mattress encasements, as well as providing fewer hiding areas for bed bugs, have the additional benefits of being white, making bed bug detection easier furthermore, some are bite-proof and encase infested mattresses to prevent the escape of bed bugs, which means that the mattress does not have to be discarded (76). Barriers can be fitted to minimize the risk of bed bugs accessing the bed (107, 309, 311).

Strategies against the growth phase involve mainly early detection, as discussed above, and include the training of housekeepers in bed bug detection and the educating of tenants on bed bug recognition to encourage early reporting. Limiting the spread of bed bugs can be achieved through the immediate implementation of control measures upon bed bug detection, the quarantining of infested rooms, and ensuring that infested items are bagged within the room before removal and are treated before relocation (95). It should be noted that many of the above-described recommendations are based on the knowledge of the pest's biology rather than the scientific evaluation of such procedures.

Nonchemical Control

Various nonchemical means of control can be undertaken to either reduce the biomass of the bed bug infestation or achieve complete control. Nonchemical technologies tend to have a more immediate effect on reducing bed bug numbers and have the added advantage of being generally less hazardous than insecticides (244). Usually, some level of insecticide application will be needed, although an integrated program utilizing nonchemical means of control will reduce the amount of insecticidal product required.

The simplest form of nonchemical control is the disposal of infested items. These items need to be sealed in plastic before removal to prevent them from becoming a contamination risk. Furniture earmarked for disposal should be either destroyed or rendered unusable to prevent others from taking the items and subsequently acquiring the infestation. Disposal is not always necessary, as many items can be treated, but the disposal of infested items may be the only economically viable option for heavily cluttered premises.

Vacuuming can very rapidly reduce the bed bug biomass in an infestation and even remove many eggs (90, 106). Vacuum machines are cheap, require little training or operator licensing, and present a minimal risk of spreading an infestation. It is important that the vacuum machine has a disposable bag, which is immediately removed and sealed in plastic after use. Vacuum machines may not remove bed bugs in deep harborages.

Heat is a very practical and effective means of nonchemical bed bug control. The exposure of C. lectularius to 45ଌ for 1 h will kill all stages (158), and at temperatures over 60ଌ, all bed bugs are rapidly killed (213). Heat can be applied via the use of steam, through the laundering of infested clothing and bedding, via hot washing and drying (213), and through the use of contained or circulated heat treatments (122, 233, 234). The heating of whole rooms comes with the risk of spreading the infestation, as bed bugs will seek cooler areas above temperatures of 30ଌ to 35ଌ (140), and there can be thermally protected areas which do not reach the required temperatures to kill all bed bugs, especially in cluttered rooms (245). The application of heat after insecticide application was found to increase bed bug mortality, as the heat draws the insecticide out of porous surfaces (211). In contrast, the wrapping of infested mattresses in black plastic and exposing them to the sun for thermal control was found to be unsuitable for bed bug management (100).

Conversely, cold temperatures can also be lethal to bed bugs. Infested items can be placed into the freezer temperatures of �ଌ for at least 2 h are required to kill C. lectularius (213). There are various systems that employ gases to instantly freeze bed bugs however, these can operate only under high pressure, and it is known that small air currents can disperse bed bugs (114). Such devices have been excluded from the Australian bed bug code of practice for their propensity to blow bed bugs about nonlethally and thereby potentially spread an infestation (95).

Keeping a room vacant to starve bed bugs is not a practical option, as bed bugs are long-lived insects. For example, at 18ଌ, a once-fed bed bug can live for up to 277.1 days (297), while for a typical hotel room set to a constant temperature of 22ଌ, once-fed bed bugs can survive for around 135 days without a blood meal (91).

Insecticidal Control

Insecticides are usually employed in bed bug management, excepting small infestations. The right type of product and the right formulation are critical for achieving a successful eradication. In light of the insecticide resistance seen in recent bed bug strains and the relatively few products available today, the following discussion will focus on the more recent literature pertaining to insecticide efficacy. Other texts should be consulted for historical information on insecticide use and efficacy (57, 240, 297).

The main groups of insecticides in use worldwide today against bed bugs includes pyrethroids, silicates, and insect growth regulators (IGRs). In some parts of the world, the carbamates and some organophosphates are still in use, while more recently, neonicatinoids and arylpyrroles have begun to be employed.

The pyrethroids are the most common insecticide products in the marketplace and constitute, for example, around 95% of the products registered for bed bug control in Australia (95). However, resistance to these products is well documented (45, 171, 185, 209, 261, 282, 284, 303, 323). The pyrethroids are classified according to when they were discovered and are placed into four generations (48) generally, the older the generation, the less effective against bed bugs. For example, in resistance testing comparing a modern resistant strain of C. lectularius with an old susceptible strain, the lethal dose to kill 50% of the test bugs (i.e., LD50) was 1.4 million times different with permethrin (a third-generation pyrethroid) and around 430,000 times different with deltamethrin (fourth generation) (106, 185). When fourth-generation pyrethroid products were applied directly onto adults of a resistant C. lectularius strain at label rates, after 10 days, only around 60% mortality was achieved (with the control mortality rate being 20%). When the same bed bug strain was placed onto dried residuals of pyrethroids treated at label rates, the rate of mortality was reduced to around 30% after 10 days (106, 183, 184). The addition of a synergist, such as piperonyl butoxide (PBO), can increase topical mortality by overcoming the resistance mechanism in some (but not all) strains of C. lectularius and C. hemipterus likewise, the addition of PBO does not always enhance residual efficacy (151, 184, 258). Thus, the pyrethroids generally have poor efficacy, particularly when applied as a residual, against modern resistant bed bug strains. The other disadvantage is that when exposed to sublethal doses of pyrethroids, resistant bed bugs can become excited (259). The implication is that sublethal doses may lead to the dispersal of an infestation in poorly treated premises. In contrast, a susceptible strain was not found repellent (207). Natural pyrethrins have also been found to be ineffective against a modern resistant C. lectularius strain (183, 184).

A number of groups are now marketing permethrin-impregnated fabrics such as mattress ticking and mattress covers, with the claim that they are able to control bed bugs. As indicated above, permethrin has very poor efficacy against resistant bed bug strains, and it is almost expected that when such products have been evaluated in independent studies, they have proven to be ineffectual against modern strains C. lectularius (103). Thus, there appears to be no benefit in the use of permethrin-impregnated fabrics in a bed bug management program.

There are a number of silicate products available around the world in an aerosol or dust formulation, with the most common being diatomaceous earth dust (DED). The silicates have a very different mode of action from those of the other insecticides. Most products disrupt the insect's physiology, but the silicates have a physical action: they absorb lipids on the waxy surface of the epicuticle such that the insect can no longer maintain moisture and dies from dehydration (275). The silicates offer a number of benefits they have a very long shelf life, very low mammalian toxicity, a long residual life, and a low possibility of resistance developing due to the physical action of the product and are one of the few products that could be used as a prophylactic insecticide (104). Their main disadvantage is that they are slow acting. One study found that DED took up 6 days to achieve 100% mortality in adult bed bugs (the species was not stated but was presumably C. lectularius from the images of dusted bed bugs) (257). Against an Australian strain of adult C. lectularius, DED took up to 15 days to yield 100% mortality, although the rate was dose dependent higher doses produced a faster kill (104). First-instar bed bugs succumb more quickly to DED, and most die within 3 days of exposure (104). Another advantage of the slow action of DED is that dusted bed bugs can transfer the insecticide to untreated bugs, thereby inducing a high rate of secondary mortality. By placing dusted adult bed bugs with first-instar C. lectularius insects, 80% nymphal mortality was achieved within 4 days, and all had died by day 12 (Doggett, unpublished).

IGRs function to disrupt the physiology of the insect, and the pest tends to die during subsequent molts after being dosed. One IGR, (S)-methoprene, was found to be effective in laboratory trials at killing both susceptible and resistant strains of C. lectularius in the United Kingdom (212). When another IGR, hydropene, underwent field evaluations, being used in conjunction with pyrethroids, a 95% reduction in bed bug populations was achieved, although it was impossible to determine the relative contribution of the IGR to the suppression of the bed bug populations (207). There are, however, ethical issues surrounding the use of IGRs. When the product is applied to the nymphal stages, there are few direct adverse effects rather, the insect needs to obtain a blood meal for the insecticide to work. Thus, the product relies on people being bitten (97). Potentially, this product could present a litigation risk to pest managers a litigious customer may not appreciate the use of a product that is reliant on their being fed upon.

There is also resistance to the carbamate group of insecticides (45, 185), although the degree of resistance is much lower than with the pyrethroids. In one of the resistance studies mentioned above, bendiocarb had an LD50 that was only 238 times different between the resistant and susceptible strains of C. lectularius (185). In topical and residual trials against a resistant C. lectularius strain, bendiocarb applied at label rates performed similarly to the pyrethroids however, when applied at half the label rate (termed a “maintenance” dose in Australia), the level of efficacy did not noticeably decrease, while the pyrethroids failed to provide any level of control (183, 184). As noted above, there have been attempts in the United States to have propoxur reregistered for bed bug control. However, propoxur is a carbamate, and therefore, some level of resistance must be expected, and this has been observed in our laboratory trials (Doggett, unpublished). Bed bugs from Thailand were also found to be resistant to propoxur (284). Propoxur also has an unpleasant odor, meaning that many clients would not want products with this active ingredient applied in their facility or home.

In Europe and the United States, organophosphates (OPs) are no longer available for bed bug management, except in impregnated strips, although they are employed in many other countries (246). One OP, pirimiphos methyl, has been assayed against a pyrethroid-resistant strain of C. lectularius, and no resistance was detected (185). When the insecticide was applied directly to this strain at label rates, all bed bugs died within 5 h (184). The pyrethroid-resistant strain was also exposed to aged deposits of pirimiphos methyl with the surface treated at label rates even 52 weeks after the initial application, 100% mortality was achieved within 24 h of exposure (106 Doggett, unpublished). The major downside of these OP products is that although they are still registered, they have staining and odor issues such that they tend not to be widely used by pest managers in Australia. Dichlorvos (2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate [DDVP]) is another OP that is used as a vapor toxicant in many countries, whereby the product is impregnated into plastic strips. It is used for the small-scale fumigation of infested items items with bed bugs, such as luggage or small electronic devices, can be placed into sealed plastic bags with the strips, and high levels of control can be achieved over some days (242). The speed of efficacy of dichlorvos can be increased substantially through the application of heat, which increases the volatility of the insecticide (233).

In late 2011, resistance to the OPs was reported for both C. lectularius and C. hemipterus bed bugs from Thailand (284) and for C. lectularius bed bugs collected from Denmark (171). Those investigations appear to be the first modern reports of resistance to OPs. In the Danish study, the frequency of resistance in bed bug populations was found to be low, and when the resistant populations were tested against a microencapsulated formulation of the OP chlorpyrifos, high morality rates ensued. This indicates that the degree of resistance is presently not high. Molecular evidence shows that bed bug populations are genetically heterogeneous across different locations (303), with the implication that they are continually being spread across different nations. The translocation of OP-resistant strains elsewhere in the world to locations where resistance to this insecticide group is not currently present may make future bed bug control even more challenging.

Of the arylpyrrole insecticides, the active ingredient chlorfenapyr is registered in a number of countries for the control of bed bugs. This product has a very different mode of action from that of the pyrethroids, and therefore, resistance is unlikely. The published efficacy data have demonstrated variable findings, although they consistently show that the insecticide is very slow acting. In the first laboratory trial published, Phantom Insecticide (the commercial product name of chlorfenapyr), when tested as a contact insecticide against C. lectularius, was so ineffective that the treated bed bugs mated and laid eggs, and many of the hatching nymphs survived (207). The authors of that study also evaluated Phantom Insecticide in conjunction with other insecticides in field trials, whereby the bed bug population was reduced by 86% (208) however, again, it was impossible to determine the relative contribution of each insecticide to the reduction of the bed bug population. In a field trial in Cincinnati, OH, 15 bed-bug-infested apartments (presumably C. lectularius bed bugs) were treated with Phantom Insecticide on a monthly basis. Additionally, some nonchemical means of management were undertaken, along with a limited application of silicaceous products to nine of the apartments (243). It took an extraordinary 5 months before bed bugs could no longer be detected in 12 of the apartments, and 3 remained infested. Such a prolonged time to achieve only 80% control suggests that this product has limited practical value, particularly as other control methodologies were coemployed. However, laboratory trials from that same research group found that the product could control both pyrethroid-susceptible and -resistant strains of C. lectularius albeit slowly: the calculated lethal time to achieve 90% mortality was up to around 9 days (260). Those authors also observed that the bed bugs did not avoid treated surfaces, suggesting that the product is nonrepellent, and that aged deposits of insecticides of up to 4 months were as efficacious as freshly dried deposits (260). Similarly, a trial from Thailand found that chlorfenapyr was effective against multiple-insecticide-resistant C. lectularius and C. hemipterus bed bugs (284). In contrast, another laboratory trial evaluating Phantom Insecticide against C. lectularius observed almost no efficacy (103). The product was applied to susceptible and resistant strains of C. lectularius via direct spray at label rates, and the mortality was monitored for up to 22 days postapplication. At that time, both test and control mortality rates were 70% and not appreciably different with either strain. When applied as a residual, mortality was again poor after 22 days, the test mortality rate was only around 20% greater than that of the controls. Chlorfenapyr is the only insecticide tested by our laboratory to date that has failed to control an insecticide-susceptible strain of C. lectularius. The reasons for the reported variations in efficacy with chlorfenapyr are unknown and could relate to the different experimental protocols, variations in strain efficacy, or, possibly, batch variation with the insecticide. Presently, it is not known if such variations in efficacy have been widely translated to the treatment of field infestations.

Within the neonicatinoid insecticides, imidacloprid has been evaluated against resistant strains of C. lectularius and C. hemipterus, and no resistance to this insecticide was found (185, 284). In one trial, for the direct topical application of formulations of this product at the label rate, 100% mortality was achieved within 2 h against pyrethroid-susceptible and -resistant C. lectularius strains (185). When applied as a residual treatment, the product was less effective, producing a mortality rate of around 50% after 12 days of exposure to the pyrethroid-resistant C. lectularius strain (Doggett, unpublished). Another research group tested the insecticide against C. hemipterus and found that imidacloprid was less efficacious than some pyrethroids (151), but the susceptibility of the bed bug strain used was not stated, as resistance in colonized strains can be lost over time. Despite the poor residual effect, imidacloprid should prove beneficial to the pest manager for the control of bed bugs, and this insecticide is starting to appear on the market in commercial formulations.

In the United States, there are a number of chemicals with insecticidal properties being marketed for bed bug control that are exempt from EPA registration. These include 𠇎nzymes” (95) and cedar oil. The modes of action of these chemicals are not known, and published efficacy data are lacking. A preliminary report from an independent group indicated that Best Yet cedar oil can kill all bed bugs (species not stated) within 1 min and has a strong ovicidal effect, with no nymphs emerging from treated eggs, although residual control is poor (19). Further efficacy work is required to determine if these products have a real benefit for the control of field infestations.

The type of insecticide formulation can influence treatment success, as the product needs to be applied directly onto the insects. Insecticide 𠇋ombs” (which apply insecticides to open spaces via aerosols), space sprays, and incendiary smoke generators tend not to place the insecticide into cracks and crevices where bed bugs harbor. These products tend to have pyrethroids as the active insecticide and may induce a flushing effect, thereby potentially spreading the infestation.

Insecticide dusts are often more effective than their liquid counterparts. One study evaluated the pyrethroid cyfluthrin as a dust, with all pyrethroid-resistant bed bugs (presumably C. lectularius) being killed within 24 h (257). Why a dust formulation would be more effective is unknown the authors of that study concluded that the carriers in the dust may facilitate insecticide uptake or have insecticidal properties themselves. Similarly, aerosol formulations tend to be more effective than nonaerosolized liquids, often producing a complete kill within 2 h, but tend to perform poorly as dried residuals (Doggett, unpublished). This finding suggests that either the carriers or the propellants are increasing insecticide absorption or have an insecticidal action.

Fumigation is the process of employing gaseous insecticides to control insects and can be undertaken on whole structures or smaller contained areas. The great advantage of fumigants is their ability to penetrate into all areas. Fumigation with sulfuryl fluoride was successfully undertaken on an 80-room apartment building in Pennsylvania (204). The decision to use this process was based on the high number of premises (40 out of 80) that became infested despite repeated spray treatments. Generally, however, for bed bug management, whole-structure fumigation is rarely undertaken, as it is expensive and presents logistical problems when treating whole apartment complexes, as all residents must be relocated during the treatment. Fumigants are highly toxic to humans and require specialized training for their application. It is not appropriate to treat single rooms within apartment complexes, as the gas cannot be tightly contained. Thus, there is a high risk of injury to others in the same building, and there have been deaths due to the inappropriate use of fumigants (103). Off-site containment fumigation for controlling bed bugs in infested furnishings and other transportable items has been found to be effective and poses less of a human health risk, as the application can be undertaken away from residences (306).

The Future of Insecticides

The cost to develop and market new insecticidal agents is prohibitively expensive. It was estimated in 2006 that the introduction of a new active insecticide would cost over US$180 million (317). This means that it is highly unlikely that new active insecticides will be developed specifically for bed bug control, as the financial returns may not cover this expenditure, and thus, no magical “silver bullet” will be forthcoming. Rather, insecticide manufacturers will be forced to look into existing active agents registered for other insect applications or to examine currently registered compounds and develop “smarter” formulations that can better deliver the insecticide to the pest or increase the contact of the pest with the insecticide. Bed bugs are extremely waxy insects and are very resilient to dehydration (40). We have observed water-based insecticides beading on the cuticle of bed bugs in laboratory trials (Doggett, unpublished), which means that in field applications, the products may bounce off the insects during spray operations. In laboratory trials, we have found that an insecticide placed directly onto the insect and allowed to dry produces a higher rate of efficacy than the same product applied via spray (103). Thus, a product that better adheres to the insect may provide improved efficacy.

The addition of bed bug alarm pheromone components to silicate desiccant dusts has found to increase efficacy against C. lectularius (39), although there can be odor issues with such compounds. Other researchers have suggested that pheromones may be used for the control of bed bugs (139, 141, 316), but such products may be some time off from entering the marketplace.

One of the major issues with insecticide is that many products presently on the market are ineffective. This stems from the fact that government insecticide registration authorities around the world fail to insist on appropriate efficacy evaluations of new products and old products when reregistration is required. In Australia, for example, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority often requires no data on efficacy against bed bugs to be included on insecticide product labels and does not insist that when data on efficacy against bed bugs are required, they are gathered from modern resistant strains, despite the many publications on the existence of resistance (103). This, unfortunately, is a common scenario and one which some companies have exploited to the full. There have been claims that permethrin-impregnated fabrics can kill bed bugs within 48 h (although they have shown not to do so in independent tests with a modern pyrethroid-resistant field strain [103]) and that various pyrethroid products can knock down 𠇊ll” bed bugs within 25 min, which is highly improbable with modern resistant strains. Unfortunately, researchers may be in a difficult position and are reluctant to publicly contradict manufacturers of inefficacious products for fear of litigation or offending potential funding sources (193). The result of this misinformation is confusion for the pest management industry and repeated treatment failures.

Recently, in 2011, the NPMA released a public policy position statement on the registration of pesticides for bed bugs (222). The NPMA is encouraging the U.S. EPA to expedite the registration of new products for bed bug control, to consider the impacts on society of not registering a particular insecticide, and to ensure that efficacy data must be required for all insecticides claiming to control bed bugs. Of course, as stated above, the efficacy data must be obtained for modern resistant strains. This stance by the NPMA should be applauded, and all pest managers and researchers around the world should use this position statement as a model to encourage policy change with their own respective registration authorities.

Bed Bugs

  • Colour Reddish brown, with abdomen darker as blood is digested
  • Size Adults are approximately 4 to 5 mm long, size of an apple seed
  • Description Bed bugs are an oval shape, they have a flattened body, two antennae and six legs

Quick Links

How to identify bed bugs?

Bed bugs are an oval shape and are up to 4-5 mm long when fully grown. Adult bed bugs have a flattened body and their skin colour is either rust brown or a deeper red brown.

Due to the flattened body of a bed bug they can easily hide in small places such as baseboards, cracks in floors, under carpets, behind loose wallpaper, bed frames, sofas, behind picture frames and many other places which makes them very difficult to detect. They tend to stay together and large infestations will give off a sweet but unpleasant smell.

What are some key signs of bed bugs?

If you suspect bed bugs, or want to be proactive, look for live or dead bugs or the skins they can leave behind when they are molting. After feeding, bed bugs will regularly leave behind small spots of reddish-black fecal matter on your bedding, mattress or box springs. They will lay their eggs (1/32″ to 1/8″ in size) in dark crevices near feeding areas.

Bed bug bites can also go unnoticed, and are even often misdiagnosed, making detection that much more difficult. Discover more answers to bed bug questions here.

Bed bugs spread

Once established, bed bugs tend to stay put but can spread due to any of the following

  • Being disturbed (i.e. disassembling furniture or incorrect pesticide application)
  • A food shortage (i.e. no host) may cause them to migrate to neighbouring rooms
  • A shortage of harbourage spaces may cause them to migrate to neighbouring rooms
  • Infested furniture moved down a hall, or passed on to others
  • Vacuum cleaners used for multiple rooms
  • Commercial laundry machines

What to do if traces of bed bugs are found?

  • Disturb the room further. Leaving the “scene” untouched will help Orkin Canada diagnose the problem.
  • Take any items out of the room. Doing so will only help the bed bugs spread.
  • Stop using the room and “quarantine” it
  • If the room is occupied, work with management to move guests to a new room
  • Contact a professional pest control company immediately in order to inspect the infested room and/or pre-treat rooms to which any guests might be moved. In British Columbia you can only pre-treat when evidence of an infestation is found.

How can I prevent bed bug infestation?

Look for live or dead bugs or their skins, Check beds for red spots of fecal matter, Clean and vacuum bedrooms regularly, Protect mattresses and boxsprings with certified bed bug encasements, Use light coloured sheets to spot stains, Check all furniture near sleeping areas, Look around seams, crevices, and folds, Seal cracks in walls, trim, and bed frames.

Since bed bugs are such good hitchhikers and often hide in hard to reach areas the best way to truly rid yourself of bed bugs is often professional pest control. Orkin Canada uses specially trained bed bug dogs, to detect anywhere live bed bugs and their eggs are hiding – and uses customized control strategies to make sure they’re gone for good.

Habitat, Diet, and Behaviour

What is the lifecycle of a bed bug?

Bed bugs undergo gradual metamorphosis (egg, nymph, adult). Nymphs are smaller versions of the adults and will go through several molts until fully grown.

Females lay 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime, 10 to 50 at a time, on rough surfaces. Eggs then hatch within 6 to 17 days, with adult bedbugs having the ability to survive over 1 year without feeding.

Commonly Asked Questions

Why do I have bed bugs?

Bed bugs are seeing a resurgence in Canada and even the cleanest of homes can fall victim to these painful pests. At night, bed bugs feed on sleeping humans, but by day, they hide in dark undisturbed areas like inside furniture, baseboards, floorboards, carpets, and even wallpaper.

Bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide and warmth that humans emit, which makes them particularly drawn to multi-unit buildings with lots of turnover like hotels or rental apartments, where they are often brought in on luggage or used furniture.

Bed bugs do not cling to people but they are notorious hitch hikers and can hide in our belongings (i.e. suitcase, purse, laptop bags). From there they can be introduced into a home, hotel, office, hospital, or any other building as well as modes of transportation. Sanitation is not a factor in whether or not you get bed bugs.

They are known to travel more than six metres from hiding in order to feed, but generally hide within two metres of their host, in large infestations that give off a sweet but unpleasant smell.

Why are bed bugs back?

Bed bugs never really left. They are common in many nations around the world. We are seeing a resurgence in North America for several reasons including a reduced use of pesticides, the use of second hand furniture and increased international travel as bed bugs are notorious hitch hikers.

The combination of re-introduction, increased international travel and the fact that pest control professionals no longer use older pesticides (such as DDT, Chlordane and Lindane) means that bed bugs have been able to stage a resurgence and become a very serious pest in the 21st century. They have a unique ability to hide and due to their ability to spread, new inspection and control methods must be far more thorough and extensive than with many other pests.

Bed bugs are parasitic insects that live near their hosts. Since they feed on humans (their hosts) their habitats include houses, hotels, or any property that we frequent. All they require is a protected area in close proximity to a feeding source. Bed bugs bite people when they are sleeping usually on exposed skin.

When looking for a meal bed bugs can move very quickly to feed and then back into hiding after their meal. Bed bugs have been known to travel over 20 feet from hiding in order to feed but will generally hide within 3-6 feet of their host. Unless you know specifically how to look for bed bugs these pests can be easily overlooked.

How worried should I be about bed bugs?

You may find red spots of fecal matter on your bed after being bitten by bed bugs, but it can be maddeningly difficult to detect where the bugs are actually hiding.

Bed bugs multiply quickly, with females laying up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. In just six months, a few of these pests can turn into a full-on infestation of more than 13,000 bed bugs. Adults can also survive for a year without feeding, so even if you leave, they might not.

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Bat bugs and other bed bug relatives

Bat bugs

Another bed bug species that can be found in homes is the bat bug (Cimex adjunctus). They are reasonably common.

  • They can bite people but much less frequently.
  • Bat bugs look almost identical to bed bugs they are identified by the longer hairs near the head.
  • Bat bugs live in attics and eaves associated with bats, so inspection and control measures must be expanded to include areas where bats may be found.

Other bed bugs

There are other species of bed bugs that may be found in Minnesota but are much less common.

  • The chimney swift bug (Cimexopsis nyctalis) and the swallow bug (Oeciacus vicarius) feed primarily on birds.
  • They are sometimes found in houses when host birds are nesting in the home (including the attic and eaves).
  • These species can also feed on humans if their normal hosts are absent.

White Pine Weevil

In the eastern United States, the white pine weevil, Pissodes strobi, may attack at least 20 different tree species, including ornamentals. However, eastern white pine is the most suitable host for brood development. Two other North American pine weevil species—the Sitka spruce weevil and the Engelmann spruce weevil—also should be classified as Pissodes strobi.

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