Bed Bugs in Mattresses

Infestation of a room can lead to bed bugs infesting mattresses.

Bed Bugs in Seam (EPA)
Adults on a mattress
box spring with bed bug stains
On boxspring (EPA)
exoskeletons on mattress (source:
bed bugs on bed frame
on bed frame

How to Inspect a Mattress for Bed Bugs

To inspect mattresses and box springs, look for smears. These can appear to be streaks as if a small marker pen has been used on the mattress or box spring. Look for signs of dead insects, live insects, and even nymphs that can be clear and difficult to see, a bit larger than 1/32 of an inch in early stages. When inspecting box springs, remove the dust cover and inspect inside using a flashlight. Reattach the dust cover before putting the box spring back in place.

Check the Seams
Mattresses used to be constructed with buttons on both sides that were joined by a string. The mattress area under the button had a hole that allowed easy access for bed bugs to infest the mattress. Most modern mattresses are not as accessible to bed bugs, but the seams around the edges as well as the areas near any vents are vulnerable.

Check the Box Spring
Box springs are hollow frames with plenty of bed bug hiding places inside. There is easy access to the interior as the bottom screen, or dust cover, is not usually tightly sealed. Bed bugs in box springs are much more common than bed bugs inside mattresses today.

Treating a Mattress

What to Do If You Find Bed Bugs
If a mattress is found to be infested in the seams, or on the inside, it is best to purchase encasements. These professionally available encasements will seal the mattress so that any bed bugs in or on the mattress are trapped and those outside cannot get onto the mattress. If encasements are used, there is little reason to discard a mattress. Since bed bugs can live a year without feeding, the encasement should remain on the mattress until it is certain that no surviving bed bugs are inside.

A mattress can be treated using alcohol based materials if there is a minor infestation or prior to the placement of an encasing. Some exterminators can heat the mattresses and box springs in a chamber to control the bed bugs, but this leaves no protection from future infestations.

Box Spring Area
Box springs can be treated underneath, but encasements can also reduce time needed to control bed bugs. Encasing both a mattress and box spring will bring peace of mind that any infestation in these items will not get to the people sleeping on the bed. Note, however, that any infested areas beyond the mattress and box spring should also be inspected and control measures should be taken.

Moving & Disposal of Mattresses
Be careful moving mattresses as infested mattresses may spread bed bugs during the move. When buying new mattresses, inspect it when it is delivered. During delivery, old mattresses are removed and you don’t know if the previous delivery included the removal of an infested mattress that has been placed in the truck next to your new mattress.

While the mattress is the main place that many people expect bed bugs, mattresses are not always infested in a room that has bed bugs. Nevertheless, bed bugs in mattresses can be difficult to eradicate.