Bed bugs

If you are waking up feeling itchy, bed bugs may be the problem. Bed bugs are small insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals at night. During the day they hide in dry, dark places.

Symptoms of bed bugs

Bed bug bites affect everyone differently. Some people have no reaction and do not even develop bite marks. 

Most people get a series of itchy bites similar to mosquito or sandfly bites. These may not show up until a few days after you have been bitten. 

Some people are allergic to bed bug saliva. This means they may get painful swelling, or enlarged bite marks. 

In very rare cases, people can have a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency. You should call 111 immediately. 

How to treat bed bug bites

Bed bug bites are not usually dangerous. Just like mosquito bites, the best thing to do is avoid scratching. 

If you have a mild allergic reaction, you can use an antihistamine.  

What bed bugs are

Bed bugs are small insects that feed on the blood of sleeping people and animals at night. During the day, they hide in dry, dark places.

Adult bed bugs

Adult bed bugs are a reddish brown colour. They have a flat oval body around 4 to 7 mm long.

Young bed bugs

Young bed bugs look like adult bed bugs, but are smaller. 

Bed bug eggs

Bed bug eggs are white and around 1 mm long. 

Where bed bugs live

If you think you may have bed bugs, have a look in and around your bed. Bed bugs hide in dry, dark places, such as:

  • mattresses
  • headboards
  • bed frames
  • furniture
  • drapes
  • cracks in walls and floors.

You may find live bugs, cast-off skins, eggs or faecal stains (small dark brown or black marks).

Check other bedrooms in the house too. Bed bugs cannot fly, but they can crawl short distances. 

How to get rid of bed bugs

You can kill bed bugs by washing and drying bedding and clothing at high temperatures. But it is important to figure out where the actual infestation is, as they often hide in furniture and walls.

Once you have found the bed bug infestation, you should use a pesticide to kill the bed bugs. Ask at your hardware store or supermarket. You could hire a pest control expert.

If concerned about pesticides, ask about eco-friendly products.

How to prevent bed bugs

Many people pick up bed bugs in their luggage when they are travelling. You can also bring them into your home in second hand furniture, bedding or clothing.


  • When you travel — within Aotearoa New Zealand or overseas — always check your hotel room for bed bugs. 
  • Keep your bags off the floor, and check them for bed bugs before you leave. 
  • When you get home, wash your clothes in the hottest water you can for the fabric type. 
  • Vacuum the inside and outside of your bags and pay attention to the creases. 
  • Empty the vacuum cleaner into a plastic bag and seal it. 

Second hand furniture, bedding or clothing 

  • Always check second hand furniture before bringing it into your home.
  • Avoid buying second hand mattresses.
  • Wash second hand bedding and clothing in hot water immediately - if the fabric can be washed in hot water.
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