Bed Bugs How Do They Come

Department of Health

Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them

Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. They feed on blood, but are not known to spread any diseases to humans. Some people can be allergic to their bites. Getting rid of a bed bug infestation is not easy, but there are steps you can take to control the problem. There are also steps you can take to avoid bringing bed bugs home.

What are bed bugs?

How can bed bugs get into my home?

  • They can come from other infested areas or from used furniture. They can hitch a ride in luggage, purses, backpacks, or other items placed on soft or upholstered surfaces.
  • They can travel between rooms in multi-unit buildings, such as apartment complexes and hotels.

How can I avoid bringing bed bugs into my home?

  • When staying in a hotel, place your bag on a suitcase stand rather than on the bed or floor. Keep the rack away from walls or furniture. When returning home, wash the clothes from your trip and put them in a hot dryer.
  • Inspect new and used furniture before bringing it inside. Look in seams, tufts and under cushions.

How do I know if I have a bed bug problem?

  • You can see the bed bugs themselves, their shed skins, or their droppings in mattress seams and other items in the bedroom.
  • There may also be blood stains on sheets.

How do I control a bed bug problem in my home?

It can be done, but it usually requires what is called an "integrated pest management" (IPM) approach. This combines techniques that pose the lowest risk to your health and the environment. Try these strategies:

  • Clean and get rid of clutter, especially in your bedroom.
  • Move your bed away from walls or furniture.
  • Vacuum molding, windows and floors every day. Vacuum sides and seams of mattresses, box springs and furniture. Empty the vacuum or the bag immediately and dispose of outside in a sealed container or bag.
  • Wash sheets, pillow cases, blankets and bed skirts and put them in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. Consider using mattress and box spring covers –the kind used for dust mite control–and put duct tape over the zippers.
  • Seal cracks and crevices and any openings where pipes or wires come into the home.

Should I also try pesticides?

Pesticides may not be effective and can be dangerous if used improperly. If you decide to use pesticides, follow these rules:

  • Only use pesticides that are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (look for the U.S. EPA Registration Number on the label) and make sure they are labeled to control bed bugs.
  • Do not apply pesticides directly to your body (there are no repellents registered to control bed bugs that can be used on the human body).
  • Do not use outdoor pesticides indoors.
  • If you decide to hire a pest control company, make sure they have experience with bed bugs. They should follow the steps of IPM, along with any pesticide application. Use a company that is registered and employs licensed applicators. The Department of Environmental Conservation has a list of registered companies.

It takes time and persistence to get rid of bed bugs, and in some cases, the cooperation of landlords, neighbors and others. It can be physically and emotionally exhausting. It can also be expensive when pest control companies are called in. Just remember – bed bugs are more of a nuisance than a health concern and, with vigilance, you can avoid or deal with infestations.

See the following for more information on bed bug biology and control measures:

Photo courtesy of Dr. Harold Harlan, Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Library

What Attracts Bedbugs to Human Environments?

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Once considered a pest of the past, bedbugs now make regular headlines as they infest homes, hotels, and dormitories worldwide. As bedbugs spread, more people worry about them and want to know what causes a bedbug infestation.

Though it might seem as if bedbug infestations are on the rise, historical context indicates that bedbugs and other bloodsucking parasites have been associated with humans for thousands of years. Throughout that history, people have endured them feeding on their blood. Bedbugs all but disappeared when people started using DDT and other pesticides to keep insects out of their homes. Although news headlines suggest bedbugs are conquering the world, the reality is that bedbug infestations are still at historically low numbers.

Why are they called bedbugs? Once they settle into your home, they congregate where you spend a lot of sedentary time: chairs, couches, and especially beds. They are attracted to you by the carbon dioxide in the air you breathe out, and you do a lot of breathing over the hours you’re in bed. Then they feed on your blood.

Bedbugs Don’t Care If You’re Clean or Dirty

Contrary to popular belief, there is no association between bedbugs and filth. They feed on human and animal blood, and as long as a source of blood is available to them, they will happily take up residence in even the most pristine home.

Being poor doesn’t put you at greater risk for bedbugs, and having wealth doesn’t immunize you from a bedbug infestation. Although poverty doesn’t cause bedbugs, impoverished communities may lack the resources needed to control infestations, making them more persistent and pervasive in such areas.

Bedbugs Are Excellent Hitchhikers

For bedbugs to infest your home, they have to hitch a ride on someone or something. They don’t usually stay on their human hosts after feeding, but they might hide in clothing and inadvertently go along for the ride to a new location. Most often, bedbugs travel in luggage after someone has stayed in an infested hotel room. Bedbugs may even infest theaters and other public spaces and spread to new locations via purses, backpacks, coats, or hats.

Bedbugs Go Where the Action Is

Since bedbugs travel by hitchhiking, infestations are more common in places with high rates of turnover in the human population: apartment buildings, dormitories, homeless shelters, hotels and motels, and military barracks. Any time you have a lot of people coming and going, there’s an increased risk that someone will carry a few bedbugs into the building. In general, owners of single-family homes have a lower risk of getting bedbugs.

Bedbugs Hide in Clutter

Once in your home, bedbugs scurry quickly to select a new hiding place; in beds and other furniture, behind baseboards, under wallpaper, or inside switch plates. Then it’s just a matter of time before they begin multiplying. A single female may arrive at your doorstep already carrying enough eggs to produce hundreds of offspring. While filth does not benefit bedbugs, clutter does. The more cluttered your home is, the more hiding places there are for bedbugs and the harder it will be to get rid of them.

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

Where do bedbugs come from?

Frantisek Dulik/Shutterstock

Bed bugs—just the thought of them makes you itchy, doesn’t it? These tiny critters feed on human blood and love to hide in and around the cracks and corners of our beds. And even though they don’t carry disease, they do cause a red, itchy rash.

When were the first bed bugs recorded?

These bugs have been around for thousands of years. Scientists have fossilized bugs that are more than 3,500 years old. Its believed they originated in the Middle East, in caves that were used by both humans and bats, and in the ancient world they were often used as a home remedy. The Egyptians used to drink them to cure snake bites!

Do they exist everywhere?

Bed bugs can be found all over the world, but perhaps surprisingly, the worst infestation problems tend to occur in developed countries where people use bed frames and soft bedding. Between 1930 and 1980, they were almost eliminated because chemicals like DDT were used to tackle infestations, but since DDT was banned, there’s been a huge increase. Many are now immune to today’s pest control chemicals. And increased levels of international travel are helping fuel the problem, as bedbugs can travel on clothing and in suitcases and bags.

Where are the worst outbreaks of bedbugs?

The U.S. cities with the most frequent recorded outbreaks are: New York City, Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland. The states with the worst record for infestations are: New York, California, Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and Maryland.

What’s the best way to get rid of them

Bed bugs are very difficult to eradicate, especially the eggs, so first it’s important to try and prevent an infestation in the first place. Follow the steps in this detailed guide. But once they’re established, they breed rapidly. An adult will lay around 250 eggs in their life cycle and they only take 6 to 10 days to hatch.

It is possible to treat your home yourself? Here’s our DIY guide to getting rid of bedbugs. If you’ve tried and still have a problem, professional help will be needed to eliminate them completely.

Bed Bugs

If you miss just one pregnant female bed bug you can be reinfested withover 300 adultsand1000 new eggsin three months.

Bed bugs are troublesome household pests. They’re sneaky, hard to find, and can pose potential health risks for you and your family. Armed with pest control capabilities backed by science, over 100 years of experience, and state-of-the-art tools and products, Orkin is well-equipped to assess your bed bug problem and mount a strategic response to rid your home of the pest and provide maximum protection.

Inspection & Treatment For Active Infestations

To the untrained eye, rooting out a bed bug infestation can prove difficult, and even if discovered, home remedies and over-the-counter deterrents are often ineffective. Utilizing our A.I.M. protection process, a highly-trained Orkin specialist will assess your home, implement a solution, and monitor activity to ensure the effectiveness of our efforts and offer added peace of mind.

Ongoing Bed Bug Detection Service

Bed bugs multiply quickly, and in just six months, a few can turn into a full-on infestation of 13,000 or more. Detection is critical to break the bed bug life cycle before they become a bigger problem. Orkin Bed Bug Detection Service gets to the root of the problem with targeted inspections of common bed bug hiding places in your home and ongoing monitoring to ensure the pests never return.

Ongoing bed bug detection service may not be available in all markets. Inspection fee may be necessary for bed bug detection.

Get A Bed Bug Inspection, Schedule a call with an Orkin Specialist

The Orkin Process

The A.I.M. Process: How We Help Get Rid of Bed Bugs

If you have seen evidence of bed bugs or want to help protect your home against this multiplying intruder, your Orkin specialist will come and inspect your home.

Bed bugs are sneaky and hard to find, but your Orkin specialist is trained to pinpoint evidence if they are around. On the first visit, we will examine your entire home including the bed, furniture, rugs, and linens. We will conduct an inspection of target areas, and if required, use tools to check cracks and crevices.

Your Orkin specialist will usually start in the bedroom and work their way through your home, concentrating on the furniture and the areas immediately surrounding the furniture.

Upon completion of the inspection and an assessment of the situation, your Orkin specialist will recommend the best course of action. If the inspection confirms an infestation, Orkin will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of the infestation and your preferences. We will use the best tools and science to address the causes and treat your bed bug problem in the best way for your family, pets, and the environment. This implementation method targets bed bugs as well as the bed bug larvae — preventing them from maturing into breeding, biting, and potentially disease-carrying adults.

Bed bugs can be difficult to eradicate; so your Orkin specialist will perform a follow-up visit to help ensure the effectiveness of the professional treatment that was performed. Additionally, your Orkin specialist will document the visit and recommend next steps to ensure the best maintenance approach for your home.

How to Identify Bed Bugs — 0:54

Bed bugs can multiply quickly, so early detection is critical to help prevent an even larger infestation. Our integrated A.I.M. protection process works to assess your home, implement solutions, and monitor any bed bug problems you may face.

At Orkin, we never stop learning from bugs. We use the latest technology and unparalleled training, so we can protect your home with an effective plan suited to your specific needs. Simply put, we have Pest Control Down to a Science®.

Bed Bug Resources

What do bed bugs look like?

Learn the unique characteristics of adult and newly-hatched bed bugs. Learn more >

What are the signs of bed bug bites?

Learn bed bug bite characteristics and how they can impact your health. Learn more >

What are the signs of a BED BUG infestation?

Learn the signs to look for to determine if you might have a bed bug infestation. Learn more >

HOW DO YOU GET BED BUGS?

Learn how bed bugs travel into your home, what they’re attracted to, and where they hide. Learn more >

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