How Bed Bugs Enter Home

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 – How Do You Get Bed Bugs

How do you get bed bugs in your house? Anyone who has ever woken up with a chain of red blisters from the bites of night parasites would wonder where bed bugs come from. In most cases, bed bugs are not transferred to the apartments. The thing is that they live there for decades, not revealing their presence at once. Mostly these insects spread from one apartment to another, but where do bed bugs come from?

It is impossible to answer this question because they just spread through the building being attracted by the presence of humans. How do bed bugs get in bed? After penetration into the premises, insects hide under the beds, in the wardrobes, under the carpets, behind the baseboards, in the cracks of furniture and in mattresses. These insects prefer to settle in places where they can bite people during night time.

In suburban areas bed bugs find human dwelling using their sense of smell. Then insects move to the buildings from chicken coops and rabbitries, where they parasitize on the skin of medium-sized animals. However, bed bugs parasitism on other mammals and birds is more like an exception, because these insects usually feed on human blood.

Bed bugs are not very mobile insects. They cannot fly and run much slower than cockroaches, but they can survive without food for quite a long time. Thus, bed bugs can travel for long distances. How do bed bugs spread? Despite the fact that these parasites cannot run fast, they spread through the apartment considerably quickly. They move freely through ventilation holes, electrical wiring channels and cracks in doors. Due to flat shape of their bodies these insects are able to crawl even where no cracks or holes are visible. It is impossible to isolate an apartment from bed bugs because they come through the outlets and by the outer walls through the windows. It is especially true for the apartments in old high-rise buildings and the houses built in the countryside.

How Do You Get Bed Bugs in Your House

First, people get bed bugs by bringing them home from journeys. For example, bed bugs can be in the luggage and the things brought from the trips, to the warm countries in particular. Tropical Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia and India seem to be a paradise for thermophilic bed bugs. Thus, travelers have to remember that the last place they traveled to before the bugs appearance is the most likely to be a historic homeland of the blood-sucking parasites. In this case, you can bring a single adult female that may lay eggs and give rise to a new population. You should be cautious because these insects can hide or accidentally fall into the pleats of the clothes, into the suitcases, bags and footwear, and travel through several time zones. This way of getting bed bugs is particularly relevant for backpackers, who often change hotels.

One more common method of how bed bugs come to the new house is hiding in the furniture, especially in the new one. In furniture factories or stores bugs have nothing to eat; thus, new products are not infested. Pieces of furniture from infested houses and apartments are, on the contrary, the main breeding ground for these parasites.

People can also get bed bugs on clothes. Although these insects prefer to bite open skin areas, they often hide in the clothes left in the apartment or taken off before going to bed. Thus, you can bring bugs into your house by visiting the infested house or taking guests from such a place. Moreover, there are known cases when bed bugs were found in expensive clothing shops in unworn clothes. The insects got there from people who lived in the infested apartments or from neighboring premises.

Furthermore, bed bugs can get into the house with new appliances. These insects prefer to spend the daytime in warm places. Thus, they can stay in laptops, tablets, scanners, microwave ovens, and any other appliances, and be transferred to a new place from the store.

Moreover, bed bugs can get into the apartment being carried by animals. It is a very rare way of transferring these insects, but it may happen too. Despite the fact that bed bugs do not feed on cats and dogs because they cannot bite their skin tissue, these pets can transfer the parasites. Moreover, bats and birds can be transmitters of these parasites as well.

Thus, once appeared in the house, bed bugs can spread through the entire apartment. They can inhabit all the places where they can be caught only by the professional desinfectants. Moreover, bed bugs can fall into anabiosis because of the absence of food. Thus, the bugs can stay in uninhabited apartments for more than a few months. A flat can be perfectly clean at first glance, but insects and their larvae will crawl out of the cracks as soon as they smell a human body.

10 Ways to Bug-Proof Your Home

You Can’t Keep Out All the Bugs But You Can Make it Harder for Them to Get In

Rudolf Vlcek/Getty Images

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Let’s be honest: It’ pretty much impossible to bug-proof your home completely. Like it or not, some insects are going to find their way inside. Although an occasional ladybug or stinkbug is inevitable, you don’t have to make it easy for them to breach the perimeter. You especially want to avoid biting insects, but don’t have to worry as much about the ones that don’t bite, like clover mites. When bug-proofing your home, the goals is to keep out as many bugs as possible and to make your house inhospitable to the few that do find their way in. You’re going to need to do two basic things: prevent insects and spiders from getting inside in the first place and eliminating existing habitats in your house. By investing a little time and money into some simple maintenance and housekeeping tasks, you can greatly reduce your chances of a serious pest infestation.

Install and Maintain Screens on Doors and Windows

Use fine-mesh screening to prevent all but the tiniest insects from entering your home. If you don’t have screen doors, install them. Inspect all window screens regularly for tears and holes and promptly repair or replace any damaged ones.

Seal Around All Doors

Gary Ombler/Getty Images

If air or light is getting in around your outside doors, bugs can get in too. Install tight-fitting thresholds and door sweeps at the bottom of exterior doors and use door seals to fill in gaps around the sides and top of each door as well.

Seal Cracks in Foundation, Walls, and Vents

Any crack in an exterior wall of your home is like a welcome sign to insects. Grab a tube of caulk and inspect your home from top to bottom. Seal any cracks you find. Insects can also get in through tiny gaps around your dryer vent, gas line, or even a cable wire. Seal these areas from the inside using a spray foam product or caulk, as appropriate.

Take Out Garbage Often and Rinse Recyclables

If you can smell it (even a little), it’s going to attract bugs. Even ifyoucan’t smell it, bugs can. Insects are much more sensitive to odors than humans. One of the best ways to keep pests out of your home is to empty the garbage often. Line your cans with plastic garbage bags and make sure to tie them tightly before you take them outside for pickup.

Don’t forget the recycling bin; it’s a smorgasbord for bugs. Soda cans, beer bottles, and pet food cans all attract insects if they aren’t rinsed out thoroughly. Rinse each item before dropping it in the can.

Bedbugs

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Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.

Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.

Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

When Bedbugs Bite

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.

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Signs of Infestation

If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

  • Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
  • Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
  • An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands

If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.

Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.

If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.

Bedbug Treatments

Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:

  • Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
  • Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
  • Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
  • Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
  • Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
  • Get rid of clutter around the bed.

If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.

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Bedbug Extermination

While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.

Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.

Sources

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."

The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."

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

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