How Do Bed Bug Infestations Occur
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
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.
Bed Bug Infestation
Bed bugs are flat and small in size, allowing them to hide easily from view during the day when they are not active. They hide in mattresses, bed frames, bedding, furniture, carpets, baseboards and bedroom clutter. They are most commonly found in the seams of mattresses or inside box springs. However, it is not necessary to locate a specimen to identify an infestation. Their excrement leaves brown to black stains on mattresses and linens, and bloodstains may be visible where bed bugs have been accidentally crushed.
Bed bugs are commonly transported within luggage, allowing them to spread anywhere humans settle. Infestations have become a problem in domestic households, hotels, dormitories and other places of residence. Because of their small size and propensity to hide within mattresses and furniture, controlling a bed bug infestation can prove difficult.
The presence of only one fertile female bed bug in a friendly environment such as a single or multiple family dwelling is an infestation that is waiting to happen. Since a healthy, blood-fed female bed bug can produce from 200-500 healthy eggs during her lifetime and may lay from 2-5 eggs each day, the likelihood of an infestation of bed bugs is extremely high unless bed bug control efforts by your pest management professional are employed to eliminate the infestation.
Mattress Infested With Bed Bugs
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.
How do bed bug infestations occur
Understand how bed bug infestations occur and learn what are the possible methods to prevent bed bugs infestations in the house.
How Does a Bed Bug Infestation Occur
There are many ways a dwelling can become infested with bed bugs. In most common cases, bed bugs are unknowingly picked up from infested areas such as hotels, hostel or motels and transported to non-infested areas when they cling onto someone’s luggage, or clothing that is then brought into homes.
Bed bug infestations can also occur in homes because contaminated furniture, especially used bedframes, mattresses, wardrobes or couches are introduced to the home. Toys such as stuffed dolls can also be infested as well.
Since bed bugs are able to live for several months without feeding it is possible for them to be hiding in vacant apartments and homes that appear to be clean. It also possible for bed bugs to migrate from apartment to apartment through small crevices and cracks in walls and floors.
Bed bugs can also live on birds, rodents and household pets and that can be easily carry into a home, allowing the bugs to spread in this manner.
How to Detect the Seriousness of a Bed Bug Infestation
Here are some simple signs that will let you identify infestation and whether the area is heavily infested or if it is a mild bed bug infestation.
- Bed bug bites are usually the first clue in identifying an infestation. The bites will leave red bumps on the back, legs and arms. Since they feed while you are sleeping it is hard to catch them in the act. They can look like other insects bites except they will appear in groups or rows of bites and usually are accompanied by a rash. You will also notice that you are getting bitten just about every night and you are going to see the bumps regularly.
Bed bugs leave behind a great deal of waste in infested areas and it is another method of identifying an infestation. You will notice small bloodstains on your bed sheets from crushed insects, or dark spots from their droppings around your mattresses. Also you will find the skin that is shed during molting, empty egg shells and dead bed bugs in the seams and tufts of your mattress or inside the box spring. The more waste that is found the more heavily infested the area is.
A great way to go about identifying infestation is to use double sided tape. You should line the edges of your mattress and box spring with the tape as well as place it on the floor around the bed. The more heavily infested the room is, the more bugs will be on the tape.
Methods to Prevent Bed Bug Infestations
Some of the things you can do yourself to stop bed bug infestations in your home include:
- You should regularly inspect all possible hiding places of your home for evidence of bed bugs, especially the mattresses and your bedframe.
Repair and seal any cracks that may be present in you the interior and exterior of you home to prevent bed bugs from entering and escaping.
Be sure that windows have screens and repair existing screens to keep birds and other rodents from entering.
Regularly remove excess clutter and clothing because they can be additional hiding spots for bed bugs.
Vacuum the mattresses, bed frames, carpets and upholstered furniture regularly to remove any possible bed bugs and their eggs. Immediately after vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag in an outdoor trash bin.
Use a bed bug spray to treat any suspected infested areas or furnitures. A spray is also a handy tool to help kill off any bed bugs on sight.
Bed Bugs Travel Prevention Tips– Checklists and tips on how to avoid bed bugs while you travel.
Bed Bug Traps– Monitors and traps for the detection and trapping of bed bugs in the house.
Bed Bug Repellent– Get the truth about the effectiveness of bed bug repellent for skin.
U.S. EPA on Bed Bug Control
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on controlling and treating bed bugs.
Cornell University Bed Bug Guide
Guidelines for prevention and managment of bed bugs in shelters and group living facilities.
Bed Bugs FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions on bed bugs from the National Pest Management Association.
This website’s mission is to provide comprehensive information about bed bugs .
Popular topics include how to kill bed bugs , bed bug rash , bed bugs treatment and what do bed bugs look like .
Learn About Bed Bug Infestations So You Will Be Better Equipped to Fight Yours!
A bed bug infestation is a big deal. It can disrupt your sleep/life, and you may have no idea what is happening to you or how to stop it. Bed bugs are different from most other household insect pests and are much more difficult to live with and to get rid of.
Bed bugs are keen to find a way into your house, and you have to be aware of their “migration tactics” in order to thwart them. You need to know how they move from house to house and room to room, how fast they can spread, where they are likely to hide, and what options you have for killing them.
Make no mistake. A bed bug infested home means your home has just become a war zone. You can’t let the enemy sneak by unnoticed under your radar, and knowing the facts about bed bugs is winning half the battle.
Table of Contents
Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?
Bed bugs are quite willing to enter your premises uninvited, take up permanent residence, and help themselves to a blood feast. But where do they come from to begin with?
The fact is, bed bugs live primarily in human habitations all over the world, be it in mattresses, box springs, carpeting, picture frames, cracks in floor, furniture, or a host of other locales.
Of course, bed bugs ultimately hail from the great outdoors, and you may find some still living there in tall grasses, but they are overwhelmingly an “indoor insect.”
Transferred from Person to Person
Unlike fleas and lice, bed bugs do not tend to live permanently on human beings or animals. Instead, they will generally hide is some hard to reach nook or cranny and come out at night to feed. That’s why they like to live in or near beds and other places people sleep or sit for long periods.
But, it is still possible for bed bugs to be transferred from person to person.
- They can get into your clothes, purse, laptop bag, jacket, or anything else you wear or carry about.
- From there, they can get onto clothes of others you are in close contact with.
Their eggs can also be found on clothes sometimes, and if egg-infested clothes of yours touched someone else’s clothes, even the eggs could get transferred.
So, while it’s not very likely, it is possible for bed bugs to move from person to person.
Spread From House to House
Bed bugs, as clever as they are, do not generally walk long distances between buildings. They have other ways of getting into your house.
These stealthy home-invasion strategies include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Hitch a ride on your laundry, luggage, or other possessions that you bring back from a bed-bug-infested hotel room.
- Your pet might pick up a bed bug while visiting another house (or even outdoors) and then bring it back to your place.
- Bed bugs may be hiding in furniture in one house, but the owner may sell it at a garage sale or put it on the curb to dispose of it. Then, you take that old bed-bug-ridden piece of furniture into your house, thinking it’s a great find.
- You sleep over at a friend’s house where bed bugs live. Bed bugs get into your stuff or on your person, and you unknowingly transport them home with you.
- If you live in a multi-unit home or apartment complex, these bugs can crawl down the hall, through vents, and through cracks in the walls to get into your living quarters.
Spread from Room to Room
You may, perhaps, imagine that bed bugs can’t get around too fast. It’s true they have small legs and can’t hop or skip, but they can walk up to 100 feet in a single night. They just “keep going till they get there.”
Bed Bug Hiding Spots
And bed bugs are known to move through the inside of walls, which they will access via outlets if not through cracks. They can run inside of in-wall piping for a quicker move from room to room. It really doesn’t take more than a single night for them to migrate to a new room. And they can even get into your vacuum cleaner so that you are helping them spread quicker as you clean the carpet.
It could be a matter of days before your entire house is infested, given you have enough of a bed bug population and your bed bugs are motivated to look for food/water/blood somewhere other than where they are at the moment.
I found a bed bug, you say, so where should I look for more? Can I map out the infestation so I can map out an eradication plan?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to be sure of all the nooks and crannies your unwelcome guests may be hiding in, and they may even move around from night to night. All you can do is know the likely spots and apply bed bug killer.
I Have One Bed Bug. Does It Mean an Infestation?
A single bed bug may or may not indicate you already have a true infestation.
But if you do find a bed bug, here are some things to keep in mind:
- A single impregnated female can produce a whole population. She will lay the eggs and then breed with her own offspring.
- The odds are in favor of your not having found the only bed bug in your house. Where there’s one, there are probably more.
- Bed bugs can go 6 months or more without a blood meal, and many individual bugs may not feed more than once a week on average. Thus, you won’t see them all out searching for food at the same time.
- Is the bed bug red-bodied? Then it was feeding. If they’re feeding, chances are they’re breeding.
Once in your bedroom, bed bugs will have no trouble finding your bed. They are attracted to carbon dioxide such as warm-blooded animals exhale and to your body heat. As soon as they sense CO2 and heat at night, they will go to your bed because you, their target, are lying on it.
Bed bugs can get into your bedroom on your dirty clothes, on the clothes you are wearing, or by hiding in suitcases, hand bags, boxes, furniture, or anything else you bring into your room that offers them good cover.
Do bed bugs live in walls? The answer is: sometimes. Walls are not necessarily their number one or preferred hideout, as with cockroaches, but when no better shelter exists near their feeding zone, they’ll be quick to reside inside wall cavities.
Of course, there has to be an entry point for them to get into the wall. So if your walls have cracks or small holes in them, caulking it up, painting over it, or otherwise sealing it off may deny your bed bugs a hideout.
Yes, bed bugs can live inside wood flooring. They can even crawl along inside the seams between wood planks, even when those seams are rather tight.
The pancake-flat bodies and small size of bed bugs allow the to get into and live in even the most inaccessible areas. There are few wood floors, if any, that are so tightly put together that bed bugs couldn’t get into them.
You may be wondering what to do if you have bed bugs, and how long you have before they overrun you. You may be waking up at night, staring at the clock, and wondering, “How long do I have?”
How Long Does It Take for Bed Bugs to Infest?
Here are four facts you should know that will give you an idea as to how long it takes for a bed bug infestation to get started and to get into “full swing:”
- Female bed bugs can lay from one to five eggs per day and ultimately 200 or 250 eggs in a lifetime.
- Eggs will hatch in five to 10 days’ time, and the emergent nymphs will immediately begin looking for a blood meal.
- It takes around four or five weeks for a bed bug to reach maturity, going through five molts along the way.
- Bed bugs will live around four to 10 months, but life spans may vary quite a bit based on conditions (and on your extermination efforts!)
The Life Cycle of a Bed Bug
Conclusion: an infestation can get rolling in less than a week, become unbearable in one to two months, and reach peak population levels in six months to a year, given the right conditions and plenty of blood.
What You Should Know
You may be wondering, “Do bed bugs go away if I just leave them alone a while?” Wishful thinking may have its merits, perhaps, but no, they normally won’t just go away on their own.
My Apartment Is Infested With Bed Bugs. Now What?
If your apartment definitely has a bed bug infestation, what can you do about it? You’ll need to learn how to kill bed bugs and how to keep them from coming back.
Here are Five Key Steps you can take to eradicate your blossoming bed bug population:
- Clear away all the clutter from your bedroom or other infested area. In fact, clean and organize your whole house like you were getting ready for white glove at college.
- Wash and dry all your clothes and linens that could possibly have gotten exposed to bed bugs or their eggs. Use the high-heat setting.
- Spray bed bug killer along the baseboards, into cracks and crevices, onto mattresses, box springs, upholstered furniture, and anywhere else it’s safe to spray it. Also apply diatomaceous earth under and around your bed, set up CO2 bed bug traps, and use rubbing alcohol to protect your exposed skin at night.
- Use a one-two punch bed bug fogger bomb approach. The first bombs will kill off adults mostly. Wait two weeks so the surviving eggs can hatch, and then bomb to wipe out the hatchlings before they mature and repopulate.
- You can repeat the four steps above several times, but if the problem persists, call in a professional who can safely heat your home to 118 degrees Fahrenheit to kill every bed bug.
Three Steps to be Bed-Bug-Free
Can They Come Back After Treatment?
Bed bugs can return the same way they got into your home to begin with, even after you totally eradicate them.
Thus, you need to think about how they may have gotten in. Stop bringing in garage sale or curbside furniture, routinely sprinkle diatomaceous earth along your door’s bottom if you live in an apartment complex, or change whatever else it takes to keep them out!
Learn how bed bugs spread into and throughout houses and how their population explodes. Take measures accordingly without delay to kill them and prevent a return. Knowing the facts about your bed bug infestation will help you end it!
You can find further details of Bed Bugs Control here.
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