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Bed bugs

Bed bugs have become a significant problem in Canada and around the world.

They are easily spread and difficult to treat resulting in rapid growth in the number of bed bug outbreaks around the world.

The key to beating any bed bug infestation is to raise awareness of what to look for and to ensure bed bugs are dealt with quickly once discovered.

The impact of bed bugs

The food source of bed bugs is blood, thus they are classified blood feeders. Bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, feed on the blood of humans and other mammals.

While it is possible for bed bugs to transmit disease, conclusive evidence of transmission is lacking. Instead, the primary concern is the irritation, distress and for sensitive individuals, secondary infection caused by bed bug bites.

Bed bug bites are not painful. Itchiness can result from the body’s reaction to bites, causing discomfort.

Treating the bites can soothe the irritation, but with multiple bites, it can still be very distressing.

Multiple bites and contact with bed bugs can also lead to an itchy rash or eczema. Consult a medical professional for advice and treatment if this occurs.

Identifying bed bug bites

It is difficult to identify bed bugs from their bite because our bodies react very differently to them.

It is more important to look at the overall pattern and timing of bites and other factors to identify whether bites are caused by bed bugs.

Bed bug bites

  • Bed bug bites are unlikely to wake the victim and can occur anywhere on the body, but are often close to blood vessels near the skin.

  • A single bed bug may bite more than once in the same area. However, bites on different parts of the body indicate being bitten by several bed bugs.

  • Early in a bed bug infestation, the victim may not feel any itchiness as they’ve yet to become sensitized to the bites.

  • Small droplets of blood on the sheets will indicate the presence of bed bugs.

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Sources of bed bug infestations

Bed bugs usually enter a property by being carried on clothing or inside furniture.

Bed bug infestations can often be traced back to hotels: Hotels and motels lodge many travellers from all over the world. Bed bugs or their eggs get into clothing or suitcases and are then transported home.

If there are any signs of bed bugs when staying at a hotel, particularly if you notice bites or see blood spots on sheets, take great care in bringing your personal belongings home.

Consult with hotel management to assess the risk - it may be necessary to launder, fumigate or treat clothes to ensure they are safe to introduce to your home.

The same applies in transferring furniture - Rentokil can treat furniture for bed bugs before bringing it into your home if there may be a risk.

Do not spread bed bugs

If you discover a bed bug infestation in your home, please do not risk spreading it by taking clothes, suitcases or furniture to hotels or the homes of your friends and families.

Bed bugs can also migrate to adjoining properties through wall or floor cavities. If your home has bed bugs and you live in a flat or a terraced property, please be considerate to your neighbours and act promptly.

Check for bites

Bites are one of the most common bed bug infestation signs that property owners will notice. Bed bug bites will often go unnoticed as the parasitic insects inject chemicals into their host while feeding so that the host does not feel the bite. 

Bed bug bites often appear as red marks that can either be raised or flat and in a line unlike mosquito bites which often appear randomly. 

However, bed bug bites are not a clear indicator of a bed bug infestation by themselves. Bed bug bites cannot be 100% distinguished from other types of insect bites. 

Check areas on your body near blood vessels, including arms, legs, torso, neck, face, neck and hands. 

People's sensitivity to insect bites can vary with some individuals developing itchy welts. 

It is impossible to identify a bed bug infestation solely by bites. Looking for other signs of bed bugs along with identifying any bites will help you to confirm the presence of bed bugs. 

Check for live or dead bed bugs

The best way to confirm if you have bed bugs is finding live or dead bed bugs on your property. However, accurately identifying bed bugs versus other types of insects can prove difficult without professional training. 

Bed bugs are roughly the size of an apple seed making them hard to spot. Featuring a flattened, oval body and a reddish-brown color, bed bugs are 5 mm in length and have no wings. 

The nocturnal creatures are rarely active during the day which is why it is recommended to request a pest control professional to carry out a bed bug inspection. 

Common insects that are often confused with bed bugs include:

Check for other signs of bed bugs

While the confirmation of live and dead bed bugs is the most accurate way of determining if a property is infested, there are other signs of bed bugs one can look for. 

Fecal Spotting - The fecal stains left behind by bed bugs is one of the most commonly encountered signs of bed bugs. On fabric, the stains will look like black sharpie marks while on hard surfaces fecal stains will look more like small bubbles. 

Cast Skins - You may encounter bed bug exoskeletons from previous molts when inspecting for bed bugs. Bed bug nymphs will molt and shed their exoskeletons five times before reaching full adulthood.   

Blood Smears - When bed bugs are crushed they can leave behind blood stains on a surface. However, it is difficult to determine if blood smears are caused by bed bugs or not. 

What causes bed bugs?

Travel is widely recognized as the most common cause of bed bug infestations. Bed bugs will hitch on to travellers or their luggage and being accidentally transported to other properties.

Bed bugs are extremely proficient at going unnoticed by humans. Being small, wingless insects with flattened bodies, helps bed bugs them hide in tight, secluded spaces.

Their flat bodies also help to protect them from being smashed if one of their hosts rolls over onto them in the middle of the night.  

Although bed bugs prefer to remain hidden, they will move out of their hiding spaces to feed when a host is nearby. But, even then, bed bugs are cautious about their actions. To avoid detection, the reddish-brown insects typically wait until the middle of the night before beginning their quest for a blood meal and moving towards a host.


Alongside food poisoning and lost luggage, worry about bed bugs is a top concern for travellers.

Lack of awareness and the “it will never happen to me” attitude have greatly contributed to the spread of bed bugs - or ‘travel bugs’ as they may be dubbed one day in the future.

In the last decade, bed bugs have made a major resurgence around the world and are a major source of stress for many property owners in Canada. 

Increased global travel is often cited as one of the biggest contributing factor to increase in bed bug infestations globally in the two decades. 

Increased travel from Canada to distant locations where bed bugs are more common, especially, have led to the increasing problem. 

Second hand furniture

Another common cause of bed bugs is the popularity of second hand furniture. Bed bugs can often be introduced to a property when an infested piece of furniture is brought into a home or business

Likewise, rented furniture can also be to blame if they are rented and then inadequately inspected upon their return and rented again. Bed bugs can survive for many months without a blood meal so simply isolating an infested piece of furniture will not get rid of bed bugs. 

Homeowners often unintentionally bring furniture into their homes by picking up discarded furniture on the curb and bringing it into their homes. Not all infested items that are thrown out are marked as being bed bug-infested.  

Bed bugs FAQs

  • What do bed bugs look like?

    Bed bugs are approximately 5-6 mm in length before a blood meal, extending about 7mm when fully engorged with blood, are oval and flattened from back to underside with well-developed legs and wings absent. They are also red to brown in color.

  • What are the common signs of bed bugs?

    Common signs of bed bugs being present are finding small blood spots on bed sheets, fecal pellets, distinctive smell and of course live insects.

  • Is there any potential harm of having bed bugs?

    The harm of bed bugs is customers can be bitten. Bed bugs move around easily and if not treated in a professional way quickly, can quickly reach an epidemic level. Specialist solutions only available to professional pest control companies offer the most reliable way to get rid of bed bugs.

  • What do bed bugs feed on?

    Bed bugs feed on human blood.

  • What steps can I take against bed bugs?

    It is not recommend you try removing bed bugs on your own and should seek professional help.

  • What bed bug treatment is best?

    Entotherm heat treatments are very effective and typically the approach we recommend when appropriate.

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