Introductory information 

In an effort to help preserve the well-being of the Ohio University community, the content of this site provides answers to frequently asked questions about bedbugs and the University's response to them.

What is a bedbug?

Bedbugs are insects that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. They are fast-moving insects that are nocturnal feeders, hiding during the day in dark, protected sites close to humans. Adult bedbugs are slightly smaller than a lady bug.

Adult bedbugs are slightly smaller than a lady bug or about the size of Lincoln's head on a penny. They are reddish-brown in color with flat oval-shaped bodies. Bedbugs are wingless insects with six legs. They cannot jump or fly.

The average lifespan of a bedbug is 12 to 18 months. Bedbugs can live for months without feeding. 

Are bedbugs a concern at OHIO?

Bedbugs are a growing worldwide problem emanating from increased global travel and decreased use of pesticides. They have been found in five-star hotels, hospitals, major retail stores, government offices and college residence halls.

Bedbugs are most frequently found in dwellings where many people sleep and where there is a high rate of occupant turnover. They can travel easily on clothing, linens and furniture. Bedbugs do not discriminate against any social or economic status, and bedbug occurrences are generally not a reflection of poor hygiene or uncleanliness. 

Do bedbugs transmit disease?

Bedbugs are not known to transmit disease, including blood-borne diseases such as HIV or AIDS.

Although bedbug bites can cause severe itching, they are relatively harmless. An estimated three in 10 individuals exhibit no reaction to the bite of a bedbug.

When a bedbug bites, it releases a salivary liquid that can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions over time. Scratching the bites can cause secondary infections and scarring. The amount of blood loss due to bedbug feeding typically does not adversely affect an individual.

How do I know if I have bedbugs?

A bedbug occurrence can be identified by:

  • Tiny dark excrement stains or blood stains from crushed bedbugs that typically appear on sheets, pillowcases and mattresses and in seams, cracks or crevices of beds and furniture.
  • Molted skins and eggs shells, which look like small white-ish casings, that typically are found in seams, cracks or crevices of beds and furniture.
  • Crawling or dead bugs.
  • In cases of severe infestation, a musty sweet smell may be present.

Insect bites may also indicate the presence of bedbugs. Bedbug bites are identified by small welts similar to mosquito bites that appear in the morning or the middle of the night. These welts often occur in rows of three or more and can cause itching and discomfort.

A bedbug occurrence cannot be confirmed by examining a bite alone, and it is impossible for a medical professional to diagnose a bite as a bedbug bite. Insect bites, however, should be examined by a medical professional as they often mimic other conditions, such as scabies, contact dermatitis, poison ivy, and allergic reactions to detergents, body sprays, lotions, etc.

To check for bedbugs, examine areas around the bed and sleeping quarters for signs of bedbug activity, including excrement spots, skin casings and live or dead bugs. Bedbugs prefer areas around fabric, wood and paper. Areas that should be checked include: folds or seams in bedding and linens; seams, corners and buttons on mattresses and box springs; bedroom furniture, especially around the corners and crevices of headboards and footboards; and baseboards, moldings and carpet seams near and around the bed. Bedbugs often travel up, so you should also check the areas above your sleeping quarters, including artwork, wall hangings, curtains and walls.