Bed Bug Trend Heats Up

Bed bug treatment costs infographic

Sources: Molly Steadfast, Virginia Tech and Northeastern IPM Center. Photo: Lihua Lu

Bed bugs are showing up in hotels and apartments, and require effective prevention and management strategies without scaring off potential guests and residents. The subject is so popular that a recent webinar attracted nearly 1,700 participants. Another 2,700 watched the recording on YouTube during a recent seven months.

Attendees of the sought-after online screenings have learned how to identify bed bugs, detect them early, prevent their spread, and educate staff and residents about them.

The webinar was hosted by the Northeastern IPM Center with funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dini Miller and Molly Steadfast, scientists at Virginia Tech, presented the session.


Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. They’re wingless, dorsally and ventrally flattened, and have piercing and sucking mouthparts. They only consume blood—not skin or furniture. They leave bites on humans—and on furniture they drop molted skin and feces that look like black dots.

“The preventative steps needed to avoid bed bugs are going to be part of our lives,” said Steadfast. “You’re going to need to calmly and rationally cope with the possibility of bed bugs from this point forward.”

Active early detection

Managers of apartments, hotel rooms, single-family homes, hospitals, classrooms, and dormitories all can take active measures before bed bugs arrive. Proof that your property has been inspected for bed bugs will protect you from potential lawsuits and unwanted negative publicity, as well as control costs.

Residents who are elderly or mentally or physically disadvantaged may be unable to recognize the signs of an infestation.


Start with IPM: Inspect and monitor. Scale the treatment to the level of infestation.

Heat chambers will work. They’re expensive, about $6,000 to purchase, but worthwhile for multi-family housing units. Suppose you have a sofa that the public uses in a facility. Put a sofa in it, heat it, and it reliably kills bed bugs.

The clothes dryer is very effective. Apartment owners can have a couple of them on site reserved solely for bed bug duty.

Miller recommends trying a desiccant dust for a safe and long-lasting alternative to harsher chemical sprays and dusts. Some desiccant dusts can irritate people and animals, so only an experienced technician should apply them.

A good rule of thumb for bed bug treatment: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If any product was as great as it sounds we would all be using it.


The Northeastern IPM Center promotes integrated pest management for reducing risks to human health and the environment. If republishing our news, please acknowledge the source (“From Northeast IPM Insights”) along with a link to our website.