Bed bugs in yard sales-Caveat emptor

Warnings have gone out from the U.S. all the way to Canada about bed bugs in yard and garage sale items and even some alerts about buying used clothes and furniture from web sites like I’ll be honest, I never thought about this even though for years I’ve warned clients about the possibility of bringing roaches home from these seemingly unlikely sources. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll find warning signs on the merchandise it might be a good idea to give this article a short read;

They need you to travel

Much like the german roach, the bed bug depends on you and I to travel and they’ve used us very efficiently. Once all but extinct the bed bug has roared back from the brink of oblivion and has circled the globe once again in the flaps and folds of suitcases, personal items and even furniture hitch hiking a ride to where ever these things are headed. Now with almost epic proportions the bed bug is considered by some as our new #1 pest and they’ll infest anything or anywhere as long as it’s near to a food source-warm blooded creatures-

With this in mind it’s time to start thinking twice about what we buy second hand at yard and garage sales. Now I love a bargain and sometimes you can find the coolest stuff that others are ready to part with but nothings worth the money you save if it comes infested with this blood sucking and most difficult pest. Also of note, don’t limit you’re hesitation to used couches, mattresses or luggage. Bed bugs can and do hide in literally anything such as picture frames, clothing, alarm clocks, boxes etc. etc. Anything that spends anytime close to a human or secondarily a pet is suspect and you should take steps to protect yourself before you take it home.

Looking over your purchase

I’d love to tell you that looking over the item would be enough but unfortunately this is not enough. Bed bugs hide in such tiny cracks deep in the item that you might never see them. The eggs are so small you might not notice them even if they were in plain sight. This said, a good once over is at least something you should do. Of course seeing the bugs themselves would clue you in but short of that look for blood specks (fecal matter) and caste skins. These visual clues are most likely on the backsides, in the flaps or folds or other secluded areas of an item and not out in the open. If you do happen to notice any such evidence, I’d move on- not to the next item but to the next yard sale!

What can you do?

Now if you simply can’t pass up an item and you simply have to have it you can still take some precautions. Leaving small items in your car parked in the sun when you get home can heat up the item enough to kill any bed bugs and their eggs. Larger things like a couch or bed should be treated regardless if you see evidence or not. Recently I read that smaller items can also be bagged up with a Nuvan pest strip placed inside and this ‘fumigation’ of sorts will kill any unseen bed bugs as well. I do not see however this approach listed on the label and it may be wise to call the toll free hot line listed on the label and is also in the article linked to. (love to hear what my peers say on this-check the comments below)

When it comes to yard sales and bed bugs in this day in time there is just one final thing I can say. Caveat emptor-“Buyer Beware”

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • I’d like to add to this a little. It’s not just what you refer to as ‘yard sales’ (a rare thing, if ever, in the UK). I read recently of a recurring infestation where there was much puzzlement until an ‘expert’ was called in. The set of Encyclopedia Britannica (where the little blighters were harbouring deep inside the book spines) had recently been delivered by post from a seller on a well known online auction site. Not so easy to examine before buying when purchasing in this way .
    Be careful folks…………………….

  • I can see it now– Bed bug free certification ads right next to the ‘buy it now’ button.
    Good observation, Thanks for sharing.

  • Bobby

    i did a job that this lady brought the bed bugs home in a public library book…..

  • Man–nothings safe!