How Bad Do Bed Bugs Spread

How do Bed Bugs Spread and How to Prevent it

People often wonder where bed bugs live, how they spread and the ways to prevent this. So, in this guide, we will mainly study how bed bugs spread from place to place and the important steps one can take to prevent this from happening.

Where are they commonly found?

Bed bugs are found throughout the world. The most common type of bed bug, the Cimex Lectularius, lives in cooler regions, and one can find it in many parts of North America, Europe as well as some parts of Asia. Similarly, the tropical bed bug (the Cimex Hemipterus) is found in tropical or warmer regions like Africa, Asia, South America and certain parts of North America.

How do bed bugs spread?

The answer to this question is very simple: bed bugs simply hitchhike their way into our homes through our luggage, on buses, trains and even airplanes. In most of the infestations, homeowners have either traveled to or stayed in infested motels or rental properties. Bed bugs also spread through discarded infested furniture, mattresses, shoes, books and other items that are innocently picked up by people.

The worst part is that bed bugs are difficult to spot. They hide in cracks and crevices in furniture, wall sockets and electrical outlets etc. The larvae and eggs of bed bugs measure less than 1/25” making it difficult to get rid of them easily.

How to prevent bed bugs from spreading?

People dealing with a bed bug infestation must feel a moral obligation in preventing bed bugs from spreading. It is often embarrassing to admit to an infestation in the first place, since most people feel that it is a sign of unhygienic conditions. While this is true to some extent; it is important to note that no matter how clean and spotless a home or a hotel is, bed bugs can still reside in it. And once they come into our homes, it is difficult to get rid of them.

However, there are ways of preventing the spreading of bed bugs.

  • When travelling, carry few trash/ plastic bags to store items in. Seal your shoes, clothing and other necessities in these bags to protect them from bed bugs.
  • Never place your luggage near furniture, walls and beds in motels and hotels as these are the areas that are frequented by the bugs. The best place to store your luggage and shoes in motels is the bathroom or your car, as bed bugs normally prefer inhabiting areas closer to the sleeping hosts.
  • If you see signs of bed bug activity on your hotel beds (such as rust colored fecal stains, discarded exoskeletons and other bed bug debris) do notify the hotel management staff. They might already be aware of the problem and even using an integrated pest management system. Most hotels will also offer to give you another room or it is best to change the hotel if possible.
  • If you have bed bugs in your home, inform potential guests beforehand so as to prevent bed bugs from spreading to their homes.

What to do if you see bed bug signs where you are staying?

  • The best thing to do is notify the owner or manager. Do not spray any pesticide as other people/guests (or house pets) could be allergic to these. Moreover, spraying ineffective pesticides can also be detrimental to the efforts of bed bug control programs that are already in place.
  • Seal all your items in trash bags or plastic bags and if possible, place your luggage in these bags. Store the luggage away from the infested room, preferably in the car or in the bathroom.
  • Inspect yourself and your clothes that you are wearing currently to see if bed bugs have crawled on them. Do not apply any insecticide on your person; rather brush or dust the clothing.
  • Once you are home, brush your clothes again. Open and unpack your luggage outdoors to contain the infestation.
  • Launder all clothing in hot water and on the highest heat setting to kill bed bugs, eggs and larvae. Keep all clothing sealed until it is ready to be washed. Do not leave infested items near beds, on the floor or near clean clothes.
  • Place the luggage (backpacks and duffel bags) in dryers for 30 minutes.
  • Never leave infested items that you wish to discard near trash cans as unsuspecting people might pick them up leading to the spread of bed bugs.

Call professional bed bug exterminators rather than dealing with large infestation on your own. This is the most important step for preventing the spread of bed bugs.

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.

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How Fast Can Bed Bugs Spread?

Silent Pests

Bed bugs have been in the news in recent years.After decades in which they seemed to have been almost eradicated, these pests are making a comeback. This is bad news for humans. According to the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky, bed bugs require a “blood meal” to survive, and they prefer the taste of human blood to that of other warm-blooded animals. These miniature vampires typically strike at night while people are sleeping, making a painless bite and sucking several drops of blood. Not known to carry infectious diseases, bed bugs nonetheless can cause allergic reactions to their saliva, and their bites leave itchy blotches similar to mosquito or flea bites. Hiding in inaccessible places, spreading out to all areas of a building and able to go months without feeding if necessary, they are difficult to find and control.

Once an infestation is underway, the property owner faces a tough eradication process that will require the services of a professional exterminator.This must be done sooner rather than later because they are hardy and they spread very quickly.

Reproduction

In the outdoors, bed bugs infest nests of birds, bats and other animals.These flightless insects, which measure 1/4 inch at maturity, enter a house, motel or apartment building by hiding in luggage, clothing or fabric. Once in place, the bugs set about reproducing, which they can do with impressive speed. Female bed bugs lay between one and five tiny eggs per day. Hatchlings are no bigger than a poppy seed.Once hatched, according to the School of Public Health at Harvard University, a baby bed bug or “nymph” requires only a single blood feast to molt and move into its next stage of development, which occurs five times before adulthood.

The nymphs reach maturity in a month or more, depending on conditions such as temperature (bed bugs like it warm) and the availability of blood. Assuming an average daily production of three viable eggs, simple math would indicate that at the end of one week, a single female would lay more than twenty eggs. Some weeks later, given a steady blood supply, these 20 bedbugs are adults. If half of them are females and each one lays twenty eggs in a week, this means a second generation of nymphs numbering approximately 200, all of which come from just one female bed bug. The production of three generations of bed bugs in a year is not uncommon.

Locational Spread

Bed bugs can spread from one room or apartment to another through door frames, windows, or holes or cracks in the walls, ceilings and floors. They can contaminate wood furniture by laying eggs in cracks and recesses, and when that furniture is moved, these eggs (which can stay viable for years) may hatch in a new location. Weeks or months without blood do not harm these tough insects.As a result, if bed bugs are found, one should consult an exterminator immediately.

Bed bugs have been in the news in recent years. After decades in which they seemed to have been almost eradicated, these pests are making a comeback. Not known to carry infectious diseases, bed bugs nonetheless can cause allergic reactions to their saliva, and their bites leave itchy blotches similar to mosquito or flea bites. These flightless insects, which measure 1/4 inch at maturity, enter a house, motel or apartment building by hiding in luggage, clothing or fabric. Some weeks later, given a steady blood supply, these 20 bedbugs are adults.

How do Bed Bugs Spread?

Bed bugs are wingless insects that have been with us for a very long time. One of the earliest mentions of this pest has been found in ancient Greece around 400 BC. They were common in the United States before World War II but almost vanished during the 1950s because of improved hygiene and the widespread use of the pesticide DDT.

Although Bed bugs were being neutralized in the United States, they remained prevalent in other regions of the world including Central/South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. With today’s globalization and the simplicity of domestic and international travel, it is very easy and common for bed bugs to hitchhike with the traveler to another location allowing them to spread and multiply throughout the world.

Infestations are increasingly being encountered in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, dormitories, shelters and some modes of transport like cruise ships. The bad news is that in recent years, bed bugs have made a comeback in the United States.

How do bed bugs spread?

MOTIVATION

In order to answer that we need to know what motivates them? The number 1 thing that makes bed bugs active is HUNGER! They exist to feed and will search for a host until one is found. A logical conclusion is that bed bugs will search out the easiest and most convenient host that can meet that need. How “clean” an environment has very little to do with bed bug infestations. Their primary method of identifying a suitable host is through heat recognition and CO2 emissions. The good news is that the bed bug cannot detect these two elements beyond 5 feet.

The second-bed bug motivator is something that we all need – a safe shelter (harborage) so they can breed and rest between blood feedings. Details on common bed bug harborages can be found in the Signs of bed bugs section of this website.

DETECTION

Because bed bugs and their eggs are so small and operate late at night, to early in the morning, when most people are asleep it is very easy for them to go undetected, giving the impression that they have just “magically” appeared from nowhere. Bed bugs easily escape detection by crawling into suitcases, boxes, and belongings. This is a major problem for hotels, motels, and apartments, where guests and occupant turnover is continuous or high and there is an abundance of warm-blooded meals.

AGGREGATIONS

Bed bugs live in aggregations (or communities) that offer them safe harborages, potential mates and help them resist desiccation. It is believed that they do this because the community provides benefits for the bed bugs involved that is not present when they are solitary.

Some of the possible advantages of aggregation are that they provide safe harborages from other natural bed bug predators; it can assist the adults in mate-finding as well as allow for higher resistance to desiccation (dehydration) than a solitary bed bug.

As with all good things aggregations will eventually reach a point where they are no longer beneficial to the individual bed bugs. The disadvantages are that now they become more attractive and visible to their natural predators due to larger numbers, competition becomes fiercer for food because of the overuse of resources and inbreeding becomes more prevalent. The general consensus is that when the individual bed bugs no longer benefit from the aggregation they will disperse or spread.

MATING/BREEDING

A common theory for bed bugs dispersing or spreading has to do with their unique mating behavior. Bed bugs copulate through traumatic insemination.

This is a process where the male pierces the female’s abdomen (cuticle) with his genitalia (paramere) and injects sperm through the wound near the female’s reproductive tract. Because of the traumatic insemination, it is highly probable that females will leave an aggregation in order to avoid multiple inseminations.

Bed bugs can breed all year and it is typical in the Northeast when they are inside and the conditions are ideal with an ample supply of food that they can reproduce up to three generations. If the female produces two to five eggs a day an infestation can grow to a very large number in a matter of months. If left unchecked a bed bugs population can grow to the thousands in a small period of time. That is why early detection is so critical in the control of bed bugs and their infestations.

HITCHHIKING

By far the most common way that bed bugs spread is by hitchhiking. It is their primary method of travel and they are extremely efficient at it. They will usually hide in or on luggage, clothing, second-hand beds & furniture where the eggs are almost impossible to see due to their small size.

Bed bugs are quick movers. An adult can crawl about 4 feet per minute and the nymphs can crawl about 1 foot per minute. Their legs are adapted for crawling and the tarsal claw at the end is used for gripping rough surfaces or their host for feeding. They can easily climb any fabric wood or paper surface by hooking the claw in and around the fibers. This design is why some of the passive bed bug traps monitors used have smooth slick surfaces on the inside. Once the bed bug falls in they are trapped because they can’t climb out.

When understandinghow do bed bugs spreadit is important to remember that in order for a new infestation to become established, they must first be introduced into a previously un-infested environment.

How do bed bugs spread?

The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is through constant vigilance and early detection. If you suspect that you might have bed bugs see the articles on bed bug bites, what do bed bugs look like and how to get rid of bed bugs yourself.

Bedbugs

What should you know about bedbugs?

Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, oval insects that feed by sucking blood from humans or other warm-blooded animals. The effect of bedbugs on human health and reports of bedbug infestations of certain hotels has received media attention in recent years.

How big are bedbugs?

Bedbugs do not fly. Adult bedbugs are 5-7 mm in length.

Where do bedbugs live?

Bedbugs are pests that can live anywhere in the home. They can live in cracks in furniture or in any type of textile, including upholstered furniture. Bedbug infestations are most common in beds, including the mattress, box springs, and bed frames. Bedbugs are most active at night. These pests may bite any exposed areas of skin while an individual is sleeping. Common locations for bedbug bites are the face, neck, hands, and arms.

Are bedbug bites painful?

A bedbug bite is painless and is generally not noticed. The bites may be mistaken for a rash of another cause. Small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin are the most common sign. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and itching.

How do you know if you have bedbugs?

Fecal stains or rust-colored dark spots, egg cases, and shed skins (exuviae) of bedbugs in crevices and cracks on or near beds are suggestive of infestations, but only observing the bugs themselves can confirm an active infestation. A professional pest-control company may be required to help identify and remove bedbugs from the home.

What home remedies and medications treat and get rid of bedbugs?

Home remedies for bedbug bites include measures to control itching, such as oatmeal baths or cool compresses. Typically, no treatment is required for bedbug bites. If itching is severe, steroid creams or oral antihistamines may be used for symptom relief.

Picture of Bedbug Bites

The first sign of bedbugs may be red, itchy bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows of bites, unlike some other insects that leave bites here and there.

Bedbugs do not seem to spread disease to people. But itching from the bites can be so bad that some people will scratch enough to cause breaks in the skin that get infected easily.

What are bedbugs? What do bedbugs look like?

Bedbugs are small oval-shaped non-flying insects that belong to the insect familyCimicidae, which includes three species that bite people. Adult bedbugs reach 5 mm-7 mm in length, while nymphs (juveniles) are as small as 1.5 mm. Bedbugs have flat bodies and may sometimes be mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Bedbugs feed by sucking blood from humans or animals.Cimex lectulariusis the scientific name for bedbugs.

Adult bedbugs are reddish brown in color, appearing engorged and more reddish after feeding on a blood meal. Nymphs are light-colored and appear bright red after feeding. The wings of bedbugs are vestigial, so they cannot fly. However, they are able to crawl rapidly.

Temperatures between 70 F-80 F are most favorable for bedbugs, allowing them to develop into adults most rapidly and produce up to three generations per year.

Where are bedbugs found?

Bedbugs are found all over the world. Bedbug infestations were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT for pest control began in the 1940s and 1950s. They remained prevalent in other areas of the world and, in recent years, have been increasingly observed again in the U.S. Increases in immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of stronger insecticides may be factors that have led to the relatively recent increase in bedbug infestations. While bedbug infestations are often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are poor or when birds or mammals (particularly bats) are nesting on or near a home, bedbugs can also live and thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bedbug infestations.

Bedbugs can live in any area of the home and use tiny cracks in furniture as well as on textiles and upholstered furniture as hiding places. They tend to be most common in areas where people sleep and generally concentrate in beds, including mattresses or mattress covers, box springs, and bed frames. They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as commonly as cracks and crevices associated with the bed frame and mattress, including mattress seams. Other sites where bedbugs often reside and potential infested items include curtains, edges of carpet, corners inside dressers and other furniture, cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed), and inside the spaces of wicker furniture.

Since bedbugs can live for months or even longer under favorable conditions without feeding, they can also be found in vacant homes.

SLIDESHOW

Are bedbugs found in hotels?

Bedbugs are found all over the world. Bedbug infestations were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT for pest control began in the 1940s and 1950s. They remained prevalent in other areas of the world and, in recent years, have been increasingly observed again in the U.S. Increases in immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of stronger insecticides may be factors that have led to the relatively recent increase in bedbug infestations. While bedbug infestations are often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are poor or when birds or mammals (particularly bats) are nesting on or near a home, bedbugs can also live and thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bedbug infestations.

Bedbugs can live in any area of the home and use tiny cracks in furniture as well as on textiles and upholstered furniture as hiding places. Bedbugs tend to be most common in areas where people;

  • sleep,
  • they usually concentrate in beds, including;
  • mattresses or mattress covers,
  • box springs and bed frames,
  • matttress seams and cracks,
  • curtains,
  • edges of carpet,
  • corners inside dressers and other furniture,
  • cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed),
  • recently used suitcases, bags, and other things that you have taken outside of your home, and
  • inside the spaces of wicker furniture.
  • They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as commonly as cracks and crevices associated with the bed frame and mattress, including mattress seams. Other sites where bedbugs often reside and potential infested items

    Many news reports in recent years have focused on the discovery of bedbugs and their health effects (even in upscale five-star hotels), and a number of lawsuits have been filed by guests of fashionable hotels who awoke to find hundreds of bedbug bites covering their skin. Searching on travel-review web sites regularly reveals information and even photos confirming the presence of bedbugs in numerous hotels.

    Since bedbugs can arrive on the clothing or in the suitcases of guests from infested homes or other hotels harboring the pests, hotels can be an easy target for bedbug infestations.

    In addition to hotels, bedbug infestations have been found in;

    edbugs are found all over the world. Bedbug infestations were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT for pest control began in the 1940s and 1950s. They remained prevalent in other areas of the world and, in recent years, have been increasingly observed again in the U.S. Increases in immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of stronger insecticides may be factors that have led to the relatively recent increase in bedbug infestations. While bedbug infestations are often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are poor or when birds or mammals (particularly bats) are nesting on or near a home, bedbugs can also live and thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bedbug infestations.

    Bedbugs can live in any area of the home and use tiny cracks in furniture as well as on textiles and upholstered furniture as hiding places. They tend to be most common in areas where people sleep and generally concentrate in beds, including mattresses or mattress covers, box springs, and bed frames. They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as commonly as cracks and crevices associated with the bed frame and mattress, including mattress seams. Other sites where bedbugs often reside and potential infested items include curtains, edges of carpet, corners inside dressers and other furniture, cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed), and inside the spaces of wicker furniture.

    Since bedbugs can live for months or even longer under favorable conditions without feeding, they can also be found in vacant homes.

    How do bedbugs spread?

    Bedbugs live in any articles of furniture, clothing, or bedding, so they or their eggs may be present in used furniture or clothing. They spread by crawling and may contaminate multiple rooms in a home or even multiple dwellings in apartment buildings. They may also hide in boxes, suitcases, or other items that are moved from residence to residence or from a hotel to home. Bedbugs can live on clothing from home infestations and may be spread by a person unknowingly wearing infested clothing.

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