How Bed Bugs Sense Humans

Bed bug behavior – What smell can tell

Bed bugs are on the rebound in developed countries. Traditionally, bed bugs are controlled with pesticides. However, traps with attractive human body odors are a promising alternative. In two interesting studies Harraca et al. investigated the response of bed bugs to human body odors.

Bed bug behavior – What smell can tell

Bed bugs on the rebound

Those of you who think that bed bugs belong to developing countries are wrong. Bed bugs are on the rebound in developed countries. Traditionally, bed bugs are controlled with pesticides. But the development of pesticide resistance has led to a need for alternative control methods.

Trapped in odors

For blood-feeding insects, traps baited with attractive odors are promising. Experimental biology therefore focuses on the host searching behavior of those insects. Once the attractive body odors are identified, they can be applied to traps to attract the blood-sucking insects.

What bed bugs smell

Harraca et al. investigated in two interesting studies which body odors are detected by bed bugs. They identified which sensilla on the antennae respond to which human odors. A strong response in the sensilla indicates that the bed bugs smell the odor well and that the odor may affect their behavior. Therefore, the odors that gave the strongest response in the sensilla were used to study the bed bug behavior. These were the aldehydes heptanal, octanal, nonanal, and decanal and the ketone sulcatone.

Harraca et al. used EthoVision to determine the preference of the bed bugs for areas with or without these odors and the tendency of the insects to explore their environment.


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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.


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.


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.


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."


Bed bugs are a nasty and uncomfortable problem. Signs and symptoms of bed bugs can be hard to detect at first, and even trickier to treat. To the untrained eye, bed bug bites can be confused with those of other biting insects.

Here are nine easy signs help you know if you have a bed bug problem.


People don’t often consider bed bugs until they’ve left their mark. The appearance of flat, red welts in zigzag lines or small clusters is a key sign of bed bugs on humans. Bed bugs can also leave their bites in straight rows and, while they don’t spread diseases to humans, their bites are quite irritating and scratching them can lead to bleeding and infection.


Bed bugs are most often found in the bed, where humans spend most of their nights. It makes logical sense for bed bugs to be most active at night while humans are in bed with them. Should you find yourself developing those itchy welts while laying in bed sleeping (or trying to sleep), it’s likely bed bugs are the problem.


Bed bugs tend to feed on exposed skin such as that on your arms and shoulders, which you may tend to leave uncovered while sleeping. This is different from, say, fleas and chiggers, which tend to bite around the ankles.


The first sign of a bed bug problem is obvious: the bed. After bed bugs feed on humans, they’ll leave behind blood stains resembling small rust spots. These will usually be found near the corners and edges of the bed. Bed bugs also shed their skin, or molt, several times as they mature, so you may find their oval brown exoskeletons during your search.


A strong, unpleasant, musty odor like that of a wet towel is another common bed bug symptom. Bed bugs release pheromones, and when in large numbers, the smell can be quite strong. Should you find your bedroom smelling like a dirty locker room, you may want to perform an inspection.

Remember, bed bugs aren’t confined to your home. They can be found wherever you sleep, including hotel rooms.

Here are some quick inspection tips to help you avoid a serious problem, whether on the road or at home:


Strip the mattress and box spring and thoroughly inspect the corners and seams. Use a magnifying glass and a flashlight. You’re looking for rust-colored, reddish-brown blood stains and/or small brown ovals (molted bed bug skin).


After searching the bed, it’s time to move to the rest of the room. Check anything upholstered, including chairs, couches, curtains and the edges of the carpet. Look in and behind dressers, underneath the bed and if possible, behind the headboard. Always be on the lookout for the signature reddish-brown spots.


Bed bugs can also cling to clothing, which is how they can travel and spread so adeptly. Be sure to look in your closets and check your clothing thoroughly. Bed bugs on clothes means bed bugs on humans.


As stated above, one way detect bed bugs is their smell. The scent of their pheromones can be quite strong. It’s often described as a musty odor.

Since it’s possible for people to go for long periods without being aware they have a bed bug infestation, knowing the key bed bug symptoms and how to find these pests will go a long way in combating them.

How Do Bed Bugs Find You?

August 23, 2018 by pb

Bed bugs can see you!

Well. No not really. They have eyes. But that’s not necessarily how they see you.

But what bed bugs do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills they have acquired over a very long period of time. Skills that make them a nightmare for people like you and me.

Although bed bugs aren’t quite on Liam Neeson level of finding people, they are excellent at finding humans.

So how do they do it? How do bed bugs find you?

Bed Bugs are attracted to the Co2 we exhale (especially to at night when a large cloud of it hangs over us like a large neon sign), the warmth of our bodies, and even our smell!

But, How Do Bed Bugs Find Us?

Bedbugs are adapted to find food (us) from thermal signature (heat) and then feed by locating and piercing skin. This approach has been used to make artificial feeders for laboratory studies and the work of the Sheffield University Entomology group in creating these feeders confirms that bed bugs cannot lap up blood from a heated pool.

Blood itself is not an attractive for bedbugs. The bugs find us by warmth and CO2.


When you’re going to bed, most likely you’re the warmest thing in a bedroom (especially if you’ve given up incandescent light bulbs and switched to LEDs). All of the furniture in the room is at about room temperature, usually between 68 and 85 degrees as determined by the temperature outside or your home’s ventilation system.

So you’re lying there in bed with a toasty core temperature 98.6 degrees, with a skin temperature of about 91 degrees. Bed bugs are attracted to this warmth and will seek you out.

Your body heat is an attractant but only close up, like 8-10 inches. Other factors may entice the bed bugs from further away (CO2) but once they get in range and can feel the heat that driving element takes over and the bugs come right for you.


Did you know that bed bugs can sense Carbon dioxide? Yeah, weird right?

There have been numerous entomological studies showing not only the bed bugs attraction to C02 but specifically the appeal of the release of CO2 that is consistent with our sleeping patterns.

There was a presentation at the National Pest Management Association’s national conference on bed bugs (PestWorld) where C02 was used as an attractant between two diametric poles with nearly 85% of the bugs moving towards the C02 pole.

The numbers of bedbugs captured were 656 and 5898 in traps without and with CO2 , respectively. The numbers of bedbugs of all development stages captured were significantly greater in traps with CO2.

CO2 is a universal thing around humans. We exhale it with every breath we take. When we sleep, we emitted carbon dioxide, and a cloud of it sits in the room, lingering. That lingering CO2 is a giant flashing neon arrow over your body advertising an “all you can eat buffet” to bed bugs.

You might try sleeping with a ceiling fan on, which can distribute the carbon dioxide evenly throughout the room. That might work well if it were their only way of detecting you, but unfortunately, they can also locate you other numerous ways.

Your Smell

Bed bugs like the smell of us!

An interesting twist to the bed bugs phenomenon is their attraction to dirty laundry.

In an article on, discusses bed bugs attraction to dirty laundry and how researchers tested their hypothesis.

Researchers asked volunteers to wear white cotton t-shirts and socks for three hours in the afternoon, then placed the soiled items into plain cotton tote bags. Then they fed precisely 10 bed bugs a diet of fresh human blood and placed them in a container at the center of a controlled room. Four bags, two

with dirty laundry and two with clean versions of the same clothes, were spaced at even intervals in a cross pattern around the bugs.

Once the bed bugs had acclimated to their new home, the container was lifted; they had four days to explore the room. In some runs, the room also contained a block of dry ice to simulate a sleeping human. When the group repeated this multiple times and gathered all the data, they found that bed bugs were twice as likely to make their home in dirty laundry as they were clean laundry. They didn’t wander aimlessly around the room or hide in a corner—they actively chose to live inside the clothes that smelled of human.

This is an excellent thing to remember when you’re on vacation. Keep your dirty laundry in a sealed bag and throw in the dryer when you get home to be sure to kill off any traveling bed bugs.

What Happens When You Squish a Bed Bug?

One of my friends who was infested with bed bugs always has a scotch tape around him. He used it as a bed bug sticky pad :). As if you squish a bed bug blood will pop up and smell also making things messy.

The other friend who was also in the same situation caught the bugs and put them into a water bucket – Drowned!

Bed bugs are tiny creatures that depend on human blood for their survival. They are not so harmful because they cannot spread diseases.

However, in some cases, people can get allergic reactions due to bed bugs bites. There are too small as it is impossible to see them with a naked eye.

You can use a handheld spray or hire a professional if you want to squash a bed bug in your hand because only a dead bed bug is a good bed bug.

You should try to avoid squashing bed bugs in your hands. However, if you succeed, they’ll drain and leave a nasty stain.

Can You Squish a Bed Bug?

Yes. It’s very easy to squish these bugs. You can squish them with your shoe or by hammering something against the bed bugs.

The most crucial thing in this process is to save your carpet or bedding from bed bugs stains.

These bugs are easy to kill, but if they feed recently, they will leave a red spot, which is due to the victim’s blood.

They leave blood marks on the floor or bedding if you squish them when they are bloated with blood.

If you know anything about blood stains, you know that it’s difficult but not impossible to get blood out of your carpets or garments.

Many people don’t know that bed bugs can digest the blood as humans digest their food.

When the bed bugs feed human blood, their color turns to red. After completing the digestion process, their color turns back to brown.

I Squished a Bed Bug and Blood Came Out

Will bed bugs pop when you squeeze them? Whether you can squeeze a bed bug or not relies upon whether they have recently fed.

A bed bug that did not feed for a long time has a hard shell, which makes it difficult to squish.

But if they recently feed the blood, you can pop them easily. Did you even realize that you ever wake up in the morning, bed bugs have bitten you?

When you lift the sheet, there’s a big spot of blood—not just drops, but quite a lot? That is the thing that happens when you squash a bed bug that is fed.

Are Bed Bugs Contagious?

No, pests can’t be contagious like a cold. These are bugs, and they are alive to skitter wherever they see fit. It means bed bugs can move from one home to another home.

Hotels and flats often have infestations that will start in one room and spread to other rooms, floors and other places.

If you go to your friend’s home, it is possible that the bug can hide away in your socks, purse or anything else. If this happens, there is a possibility you may pick up a female bed bug that will populate your home, causing a potential infestation in the future.

Do Bed Bugs Have Hard Shells?

Bed bug shells are generally inflexible. That is because their shell is an ‘exoskeleton.’

Insects have a hard shell that acts like a human skeleton. It gives their body structure and is hard enough to last through a fight. It is inflexible that’s why they shed their shell so frequently throughout their lives as they grow.

However, the back area of their body is progressively flexible. When they feed, the back portion of their body extends so that they can feed more and more

After they feed, then, they become easy to pop. Before they feed, their shells are almost similar to a fingernail, which makes it difficult to crush them.

However, when they have fed, they’re easy to squash among your fingers as a cooked bean or pea. Nymphs are considerably easier to crush since they haven’t yet developed a thick shell.

Can You Crush Bed Bug Eggs?

They squash simply as young bed bugs do, and it doesn’t take much effort.

The main issue is that bed bug eggs are hard to pick up or scratch off of a surface. The reason is that bed bugs lay their eggs at some hidden places so that the eggs won’t be disturbed.

Also, when they lay them, they use a glue-like secretion that will bond them in place on fabric, wood, or other material. It makes it hard to lift them to squash them.

However, if you would like to squash bed bug eggs, you can crush them where they were laid. Take a tissue and squeeze it over the egg. That should be sufficient to squash them.

However, it’s essential to emphasize that killing bed bug eggs by squeezing them is ineffective. Instead of doing this, you should use a spray because it takes less time and is effective against fully-grown bed bugs too.

Crushed Bed Bug Stain

If you squish a bed bug, they leave a stain behind. This stain is the blood that they have eaten and was about to digest. There may also be some blood that they have started to digest, which is darker and heavier.

H, you should avoid crushing bed bugs so that you don’t make pigments like these. But if you wake up and you have crushed a bed bug by chance, there isn’t anything you could have done to avoid that. If that’s the case, go over the following process.

  1. However, if the stain is fresh, wet the region with cold water to make the stain simpler to clean. At that point rub it with cleanser until you’ve made a limited quantity of lather before washing.
  2. If the stain is an old one, utilize a pre-treatment stain remover to release the blood and touch on a limited amount of ammonia with a Q-Tip before washing.

You may find that even this won’t get the stain out. If you try many things are not working, don’t waste your time to buy a new bed sheet.

Do Bed Bugs Smell When You Kill Them?

Bed bugs use smell to help them to understand the world. They use the smell which helps themselves to find their way back home again like the underside of your mattress. They can surround the area with a strong scent. What you think when you kill them, do they produce a scent?

Bed bugs use ‘alarm pheromones,’ which they discharge when they sense they’re at risk.

They’ll discharge them when their harborage is exposed, for instance, by you flipping the mattress over. The fact is to ‘tell’ other bed bugs that something wrong is going on, so they better run.

Their alarm pheromones smell similar to their regular fragrance but hold different chemicals that the bed bugs can pick up on. According toScientific American, the scent is like coriander, or like something fusty (like clothes that have been in the washing machine for too long).

If they have just fed, there is another scent that you might notice. That’s the scent of blood. Blood smells both sweet and metallic. It contains sugars and iron, which is what you smell. As it takes a while for the bed bug to digest the blood they take from you; it will quiet smell ‘fresh.’

Can You Pop a Bed Bug Bite?

Bed bug bites and other pest bites may change from spots. These spots may be caused by an allergic reaction, where the area around the bite swells up. It is known as the histamine response.

It’s brought by the small amount of saliva that the bed bug uses to numb the area that they bite. It causes white blood cells to stream to the area, the same as a pimple.

However, there’s one key distinction. With a pimple, the pressure constructs and fabricates because the pore is obstructed by something.

That is not the situation with a bed bug bite. The pressure can’t develop, which implies that there’s nothing to pop.

A few people have revealed that squeezing the bite forces a little amount of whitish liquid/discharge from the wound, like a pimple. That is brought about by the white platelets. In any case, doing that won’t make the bite pop or go away.

Other Bugs That Bleed When Smashed

If you squished, a bed bug blood would come out. Many bugs bleed when you squash them, even though none are easily confused with bed bugs.

You are more likely to notice blood if the pest you squash is one that feeds on the stuff. That includes:

  • Fleas
  • Mosquitos and midges
  • Ticks
  • Lice and mites
  • Certain kinds of fly

None of these creepy crawlies looks much like bed bugs, aside from ticks. At the point when ticks feed, the back portion of their body grows, much the same as the bed bug’s back portion grows. You can squash them, as well, on the off chance that you need to get blood all over your hands.

These bugs don’t drain when you squash them. Pests don’t have blood like people. They have hemolymph, which does the same as blood does in mammals. It isn’t red. Instead, it’s blue-green shading, since it contains copper instead of iron.

Wrap Up

You can squash a bed bug with your shoes or anything else hammering against them. When you squash a bed bug, the blood will come out. However, if a bed bug has not fed for a long time, it may have a strong shell. So, it may difficult to squash a bed bug when they have not fed for a long time. On the other hand, if the bed bugs recently fed, you can pop them effectively.

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