How Bed Bugs Jump

FAQ: Can bed bugs jump or fly? All about bed bug movement

A common question people have when determining if they have bed bugs is “can bed bugs jump or fly?” This stems not just from general comparisons to other pests, like fleas or roaches, but also from some common misconceptions about bed bugs. Let’s go over the basics of bed bug movement to better understand how they behave, and how we can use that to fight them:

First off, bed bugs are not equipped to fly. They do have front wings, but they are vestigial, meaning they have lost their function over time. The front wings on today’s bed bugs are reduced to small jointed pads, which aren’t capable of anything more than a slight wiggle while the bed bugs move or feed.

This is a common occurrence in evolution. Even humans have a few vestigial characteristics: we have muscles in our ears that allow some people to wiggle their ears slightly. These muscles are left over from when our ancestors had extended ears that could turn to the direction of a sound.

Unlike other insects that are incapable of flight, bed bugs can’t jump either. Their body is too wide and low to the ground, making it hard enough for their short legs to just keep them up and moving. While some people report bed bugs “jumping” from their walls or ceiling, this is more likely just a bug losing its grip and falling.

How do they move?

There really isn’t anything exciting about bed bug movement: they crawl. Due to their short legs and wide body, they crawl rather low to the ground at an even pace, about as quickly as an ant. While they can turn fairly quickly while moving, they’re not very good at picking up speed beyond their normal pace.

One thing bed bugs are fairly good at is climbing. They can make their way up most wood, cloths, paper, plastics, and even some metals. This is due to the small hooks in their feet, which grab onto small cracks and pores in textured surfaces. That reliance on hooks means that bed bugs have trouble climbing slick, smooth surfaces like porcelain or glass.

Due to their rather unathletic anatomy, bed bugs don’t do well in busy terrain, like hair or thick rugs. Their legs aren’t strong enough to push most materials aside, like most insects and other animals would when traversing through thick grass, brush, or hair. They also don’t burrow into skin or other materials, as they lack any sort of claws or other tools that would enable this.

How do they reach you in your bed?

Since bed bugs can’t jump or fly, they have to use their gifted crawling ability to reach you in your bed at night. They can do this by climbing up one of many possible access points, such as your bedroom’s walls, the legs of your bed frame, and any furniture or loose bedding that connects your bed to the floor.

To combat this, move your bed away from the wall and from other furniture, like nightstands and dressers. Also make sure that there are no hanging skirts or sheets that could be touching the floor, and that there’s no storage under the bed. Finally, place ClimbUp Interceptors under each leg of your bed. These have talcum-lined pitfalls that bed bugs can’t climb out of, preventing them from using your bed frame to reach you.

FAQ: Can bed bugs jump or fly? All about bed bug movement

A common question people have when determining if they have bed bugs is “can bed bugs jump or fly?” This stems not just from general comparisons to other pests, like fleas or roaches, but also from some common misconceptions about bed bugs. Let’s go over the basics of bed bug movement to better understand how they behave, and how we can use that to fight them:

First off, bed bugs are not equipped to fly. They do have front wings, but they are vestigial, meaning they have lost their function over time. The front wings on today’s bed bugs are reduced to small jointed pads, which aren’t capable of anything more than a slight wiggle while the bed bugs move or feed.

This is a common occurrence in evolution. Even humans have a few vestigial characteristics: we have muscles in our ears that allow some people to wiggle their ears slightly. These muscles are left over from when our ancestors had extended ears that could turn to the direction of a sound.

Unlike other insects that are incapable of flight, bed bugs can’t jump either. Their body is too wide and low to the ground, making it hard enough for their short legs to just keep them up and moving. While some people report bed bugs “jumping” from their walls or ceiling, this is more likely just a bug losing its grip and falling.

How do they move?

There really isn’t anything exciting about bed bug movement: they crawl. Due to their short legs and wide body, they crawl rather low to the ground at an even pace, about as quickly as an ant. While they can turn fairly quickly while moving, they’re not very good at picking up speed beyond their normal pace.

One thing bed bugs are fairly good at is climbing. They can make their way up most wood, cloths, paper, plastics, and even some metals. This is due to the small hooks in their feet, which grab onto small cracks and pores in textured surfaces. That reliance on hooks means that bed bugs have trouble climbing slick, smooth surfaces like porcelain or glass.

Due to their rather unathletic anatomy, bed bugs don’t do well in busy terrain, like hair or thick rugs. Their legs aren’t strong enough to push most materials aside, like most insects and other animals would when traversing through thick grass, brush, or hair. They also don’t burrow into skin or other materials, as they lack any sort of claws or other tools that would enable this.

How do they reach you in your bed?

Since bed bugs can’t jump or fly, they have to use their gifted crawling ability to reach you in your bed at night. They can do this by climbing up one of many possible access points, such as your bedroom’s walls, the legs of your bed frame, and any furniture or loose bedding that connects your bed to the floor.

To combat this, move your bed away from the wall and from other furniture, like nightstands and dressers. Also make sure that there are no hanging skirts or sheets that could be touching the floor, and that there’s no storage under the bed. Finally, place ClimbUp Interceptors under each leg of your bed. These have talcum-lined pitfalls that bed bugs can’t climb out of, preventing them from using your bed frame to reach you.

The 5 Kinds of Bugs That Can Jump

The science behind their leaps

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Most bugs crawl and many bugs fly, but only a few have mastered the art of jumping. Some insects and spiders can hurl their bodies through the air to escape danger. Here are five bugs that jump, and the science behind how they do it.

Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers, locusts, and other members of the order Orthoptera are among the most skilled jumping bugs on the planet. Although all three pairs of their legs consist of the same parts, the hind legs are noticeably modified for jumping. A grasshopper’s hind femurs are built like a bodybuilder’s thighs.

Those beefy leg muscles enable the grasshopper to push off the ground with a lot of force. To jump, a grasshopper or locust bends its hind legs, and then rapidly extends them until it’s nearly on its toes. This generates significant thrust, launching the insect into the air. Grasshoppers can travel many times their body length just by jumping.

Fleas

Kim Taylor/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

Fleas can leap distances up to 100 times their body length, but don’t have beefy leg muscles like grasshoppers. Scientists used high-speed cameras to analyze the flea’s jumping action, and an electron microscope to examine its anatomy at high magnification. They discovered that fleas may seem primitive, but they use sophisticated biomechanics to accomplish their athletic feats.

Instead of muscles, fleas have elastic pads made from resilin, a protein. The resilin pad functions like a tensed spring, waiting to release its stored energy on demand. When preparing to jump, a flea first grips the ground with microscopic spines on its feet and shins (actually called tarsi and tibias). It pushes off with its feet, and releases the tension in the resilin pad, transferring a tremendous amount of force to the ground and achieving lift-off.

Springtails

Tony Allen/Getty Images

Springtails are sometimes mistaken for fleas and even go by the nickname snowfleas in winter habitats. They rarely measure longer than 1/8 th of an inch, and would likely go unnoticed were it not for their habit of flinging themselves in the air when threatened. Springtails are named for their unusual method of jumping.

Tucked under its abdomen, a springtail conceals a tail-like appendage called a furcula. Most of the time, the furcula is secured in place by an abdominal peg. The furcula is held under tension. Should the springtail sense an approaching threat, it instantly releases the furcula, which strikes the ground with enough force to propel the springtail into the air. Springtails can reach lofty heights of several inches using this catapult action.

Jumping Spiders

karthik photography/Moment/Getty Images

Jumping spiders are well known for their jumping prowess, as one might guess from their name. These tiny spiders hurl themselves in the air, sometimes from relatively high surfaces. Before jumping, they fasten a silk safety line to the substrate, so they can climb out of danger if need be.

Unlike grasshoppers, jumping spiders don’t have muscular legs. In fact, they don’t even have extensor muscles on two of their leg joints. Instead, jumping spiders use blood pressure to move their legs quickly. Muscles in the spider’s body contract and instantly force blood (actually hemolymph) into its legs. The increased blood flow causes the legs to extend, and the spider goes airborne.

Click Beetles

Getty Images/ImageBROKER/Carola Vahldiek

Click beetles are also able to go airborne, flinging themselves high in the air. But unlike most of our other champion jumpers, click beetles don’t use their legs to leap. They’re named for the audible clicking sound they make at the moment of lift-off.

When a click beetle gets stranded on its back, it can’t use its legs to turn back over. It can, however, jump. How can a beetle jump without using its legs? A click beetle’s body is neatly divided into two halves, joined by a longitudinal muscle stretched over a hinge. A peg locks the hinge in place, and the extended muscle stores energy until needed. If the click beetle needs to right itself in a hurry, it arches its back, releases the peg, and POP! With a loud click, the beetle is launched into the air. With a few acrobatic twists in midair, the click beetle lands, hopefully on its feet.

"Springtails," by David J. Shetlar and Jennifer E. Andon, April 20, 2015, Ohio State University Department of Entomology.

"Grasshoppers," by Julia Johnson, Emporia State University.

The Encyclopedia of Entomology, by John L. Capinera.

The Insects: Structure and Function, by R. F. Chapman.

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.

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

Do Bed Bugs Jump?

Bed bugs do not have wings and are not capable of flight. Unlike other wingless insects such as fleas, bed bugs also are not equipped to jump long distances. Bed bugs may move from host to host, although this is typically accomplished by crawling.

Bed bugs are insects that belong to the order Hemiptera, or true bugs. They are blood-feeding insects that have piercing sucking mouth parts. Bed bugs undergo gradual metamorphosis which includes eggs, nymphs and adults. Nymphs look very similar to the adults with the main difference being the adults can reproduce. Female bed bugs typically lay only a few eggs per day.

The common bed bug prefers to feed on human hosts and does not prefer pets or other furry animals. They are transported by people, most often in personal belongings like luggage, purses, gym bags or other items which are kept close to sleep areas. Bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans. However, their bites can cause skin irritation which can be severe in certain individuals.

If you think you think you have bed bugs, it is best to contact a pest control professional. Homeowners are not likely to resolve a bed bug infestation on their own, due to the bug resistance to many over-the-counter products and the bugs’ ability to hide.

Bed Bug Control

Cimex lectularius L.

Learn what Bed Bugs look like, and how to detect if you have a Bed Bug Infestation.

Find out how Bed Bugs infiltrate your home and where they are attracted to.

Learn about Bed Bug bites. their feces and how they can impact your health.

Learn how Orkin handles Bed Bugs, homeopathic cures and the cost of Bed Bug extermination services.

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