Pesticides alone should not be used to control bed bugs. The most effective program for eliminating bed bugs is one that utilizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is the use of all possible methods in a logical combination that minimizes risk of pesticide exposure, safeguards the environment, and maximizes effectiveness. Facilities should have a pest management plan in place, to deal with pests including bed bugs, before they are a problem. IPM methods include:

  • Inspect infested areas, plus surrounding living spaces
  • Correctly identify the pest
  • Keep records, including dates when and locations where pests are found
  • Clean all items within a bed bug infested living area
  • Reduce clutter where bed bugs can hide through storage and/or disposal of items
  • Eliminate bed bug habitats
  • Physically remove bed bugs through cleaning
  • Pesticide use by a licensed Pest Management Professional
  • Follow up inspections and possible treatments
  • Raise awareness through education on prevention of bed bugs
  • Thermal heat, steaming, and vacuuming

A facility may need several cycles of inspection, cleaning, and pesticide use before bed bugs are fully eliminated. IPM also includes prevention through education of residents, facilities managers, house directors and landlords.

Strategies that Do NOT Work

Abandoning rooms or even a whole facility is not a guarantee that bed bugs will be eradicated. Adult bed bugs can live without a blood meal for over a year and will wander to find a new host when one is unavailable.

The use of “bug bombs” or total release foggers is not advised. These devices release insecticide in small droplets that land on exposed surfaces and do not penetrate the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. This results in increased pesticide exposure to the resident and poor control of these pests. This has been linked to pesticide resistance and suspected repellency to bed bugs, causing them to spread.

Simply discarding beds and bedding is NOT a sound approach to bed bug management.

Bed bugs will spread quickly to walls, molding, ceilings, light fixtures, electronics, TV remote controls, alarm clocks, and spaces within and along floor boards, and the edges of carpets. If items are discarded they should be wrapped in plastic before transport and LABELED as “infested with bed bugs” or made unsalvageable.

Often people discard furniture and belongings that are infested with bed bugs. When doing so, it is a good practice to destroy or deface the items to prevent others from unknowingly collecting infested items. Bed bugs are likely being transferred from place to place through infested furniture and discarded objects. Slash mattresses and plush furniture, break box spring frames, and label items with the word “bed bugs” to prevent the spread of bed bugs in your community.

Responsibilities of Building Management and Staff

  • Encourage tenants or guests to report bed bugs (unreported and uncontrolled bed bugs will spread quickly).
  • Keep records of bed bug (or other pest) complaints on site in a log book.
  • Respond quickly to complains with an inspection and intervention.
  • Develop an aggressive bed bug control protocol with elimination as the goal.
  • Raise tenant or guest awareness about bed bugs.
  • Institute a prevention program, centered on awareness.
  • Refer tenants and guests to the proper sources of help (medical, mental health, financial, and social services).

Responsibilities of Residents

  • Read and follow all guidelines given by building management for reporting signs of bed bugs, and for cleaning and room preparation.
  • Cooperate with staff and management in preventing and controlling bed bugs whether your individual living space is infested or not.
  • Know the signs of bed bugs and check constantly for signs of them in your living space.
  • Encourage other tenants to follow guidelines and cooperate with management.

Room Preparation

Preparation of a room for bed bug treatment is essential to the successful management of these pests. Most pest managers prefer to conduct an inspection before any cleaning or rearranging has occurred. This gives the pest manager a sense of the full extent of the problem and prevents the disturbance and spread of bed bugs before treatment. However, once bed bugs are located and the size of the problem has been estimated, room preparation must be done, usually by the resident. Some residents will need help preparing their living space for inspection and treatment.

Suggested room preparation steps include organizing belongings and placing them in bags, laundering all clothing and bedding, moving furniture away from the walls, and emptying furniture of items for better inspection.

Reporting and Recordkeeping

It is critical for managers of multiple-unit housing of any type to encourage residents to report suspected cases of bed bugs to the facility manager. If a bed bug problem is not addressed immediately, it will grow quickly and spread throughout the facility room by room. Eliminating a widespread problem is MUCH more expensive and difficult than a limited one.

Management should keep the Following Pest Information Records for all Types of Pests:

  • Date of the complaint
  • Type of complaint (bites, bug sightings, damage to property)
  • Unit or room number
  • Date of first pest inspection
  • Results of the inspection, what was found, how much was found
  • Dates of pest management activities
  • What pest management strategies were used, such as cleaning, pesticide treatments, resident education

Educating Residents and Staff

The administrators and facilities managers of dormitories, student living, Greek houses, and other types of housing should seek to better educate residents about bed bugs and how to prevent them. Please see the other documents and links in this guidance for education materials.

Treatments for Bed Bug Elimination

Controlling bed bugs is a difficult and time and money consuming activity. However, bed bugs can be eliminated with a coordinated effort that includes cooperation of the residents and landlord or property management. There is no single tool or activity that, used alone, will eliminate bed bugs, including pesticides. Multiple techniques are always required because bed bugs are small, good at hiding, and reportedly live without feeding for up to a year. In some cases, bed bugs are resistant to the pesticides used against them, meaning that many will survive treatment. The reduction of household clutter is absolutely necessary for fighting bed bugs. Despite the challenges, the technology of bed bug control is getting better. Pest managers are becoming more knowledgeable as bed bugs become a greater issue. Treatment of a living area for bed bugs should focus on containment of the infestation. Do everything possible to avoid spreading bed bugs to new locations.

A Combination of the Following Steps Will be Needed for Bed Bug Control:

  • Clean and organize the bed, bedroom, other living areas, furniture and belongings, including elimination of clutter
  • Physical removal of bed bugs and eggs using a vacuum
  • Barriers, such as mattress encasements and sticky barriers (sticky traps may be useful for monitoring but will not help control bed bugs)
  • Steam (to kill all life stages)
  • Heat or cold treatments (to kill all life stages)
  • Eliminate bed bug hiding spots 
    • Fix peeling wallpaper and paint
    • Caulk or seal cracks and crevices around the room and on furniture
    • Seal floors or the spaces between floor boards or tiles
    • Make other repairs to the living area to reduce hiding spots
  • Chemical applications 
    • Low risk pesticides
    • Professional use pesticides
    • Professional fumigation
  • Prevention of re-infestation

It is important to consider that a bed bug infestation in a living area (bedroom, apartment, dormitory room, Greek house) might spread to adjacent units or those below, above or to the sides. This is especially true if the population is high or if pesticides are used in the original unit. Adjacent units should be inspected and if bed bugs are found or residents notice bites, they should be treated as if infested.