How Do Bed Bug Live

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.

Bedbugs

Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.

Check if it’s bedbugs

Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo

Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.

Signs of bedbugs include:

  • bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
  • spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
  • small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)

Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.

Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo

Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.

How you can treat bedbug bites

Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.

Things you can do include:

  • putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
  • keeping the affected area clean
  • not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
  • antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
  • the redness around the bites is spreading

You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.

Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP

It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

How to get rid of bedbugs

contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides

wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes

put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)

clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early

do not keep clutter around your bed

do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first

do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs

Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
Next review due: 21 January 2022

WHERE DO BED BUGS LIVE?

Are you in your room and worried about bed bug? Today, bed bugs can be found in almost every region of the world and in all 50 states. With bed bugs hitchhiking on humans and their belongings, it is natural to wonder, “where do bed bugs live?”

Bed bugs are active mainly at night and prefer to feed on humans. During the daytime, they will typically hide in close proximity to their host. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices. In your room, the cracks and crevices closest to the host are most commonly found right on or around the bed.

WHERE DO BED BUGS LIVE?

Due to their transitory nature, bed bugs can come back home from you when traveling. Or they can be in a hotel room that you check into. Whether you’re worried about bed bugs at home or in a hotel room, perform a quick inspection to see if there is any evidence of infestation, especially before unpacking in a hotel.

The top three places you should always check for bed bugs in a room are:

The box springs.

The bed frame including headboard.

The mattress – look all over, including the tufts, folds and buttons.

While the mattress, box spring and bed frame are the three most common areas to find evidence of a bed bug infestation, bed bugs are found on furniture, such as desks and chairs, behind wallpaper, clocks and pictures, cracks in wood floors and under the edge of carpet.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF BED BUGS?

Here are the top signs of bed bugs in a room:

Dark spotting and staining, which is the dried fecal matter of the bed bugs.

Bed bug eggs (about the size and color of a small grain of rice).

Shed skins of juvenile bed bugs.

Adult bugs or bug carcasses.

Rusty or reddish smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushed, engorged bed bugs.

Before returning home from traveling, or if you have been in an area where you suspect bed bug activity, it is also a good idea to check your luggage before entering your home. By staying alert for signs of bed bugs, you can avoid unwanted exposure and infestation.

If you suspect activity while traveling, alert the hotel management. If you find evidence of bed bugs in your home, call Terminix®.

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs (picture on the left) likely get their name from their habit of feeding on humans while they sleep in their beds. They are found in virtually every place people tend to gather, including residences, hotels, schools, offices, retail stores and even public transportation.

If you do identify bed bugs in your home, contact a pest professional promptly. They will be able to inspect your home, confirm the species and recommend a course of bed bug treatment.

Pest Stats

Color

Unfed adults are mahogany; engorged bed bugs are red-brown. Nymphs are nearly colorless.

Shape

Flat, broad oval when unfed; swollen and elongated when fed.

Adults are 1/4 inch long. Nymphs range from 1.3 mm to 4-5 mm.

Antennae

Region

Found throughout U.S.

Bed Bug Photos

Photo of an unfed adult bed bug on the skin

Photo of a male and female bed bugs with eggs

Photo of a bed bug to scale on a penny

Close-up photo of the head and thorax of a bed bug

Photo of a bed bug on human skin

Photo of an adult bed bug on a piece of velcro

Photo of bed bug skins – a telltale sign of a bed bug infestation

Photo of a baby bed bug and fecal spots

Snapshot of the appearance and distribution of bed bugs

Videos View All Videos

This video will take you on an educational trip through the history of bed bugs, teach you how to be vigilant to minimize your risk of encountering them and how to effectively deal with this resilient pest if you have an infestation.

Watch this demonstration on the proper way to inspect for bed bugs.

Here are some tips to avoid bringing bed bugs inside your home after traveling.

Bed bugs feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts. If you are bitten by a bed bug, the most common threat is from the bite-mark itself, which can turn into a large, raised, itchy welt. For more on this blood-sucking pest, check out the bed bug pest guide.

Bed bugs are NOT known to transmit disease to humans. They also do not transmit MRSA, or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. For more information on bed bugs, visitAll Things Bed Bugs.

Concerned about bed bugs and disease? Dr. Parada assures us there is no evidence that bed bugs transmit disease to humans. Learn more about bed bugs here.

Think you may have bed bug bites? Dr. Parada explains the signs and symptoms of bed bug bites, which can be difficult to tell. Learn more about bed bug bites here.

How do I know if I have bed bugs? Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), shares some advice. Visit All Things Bed Bugs for more information about this elusive pest.

Why are bed bugs so hard to control? Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist with the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), has the answer! Learn more about bed bugs in the All Things Bed Bugs hub.

This public service announcement highlights the dangers of bed bug infestations. It features close up footage of bed bugs feedings on human skin.

Bed bugs (picture on the left) likely get their name from their habit of feeding on humans while they sleep in their beds. They are found in virtually every place people tend to gather, including residences, hotels, schools, offices, retail stores and even public transportation.

If you do identify bed bugs in your home, contact a pest professional promptly. They will be able to inspect your home, confirm the species and recommend a course of bed bug treatment.

Pest Stats

Color

Unfed adults are mahogany; engorged bed bugs are red-brown. Nymphs are nearly colorless.

Shape

Flat, broad oval when unfed; swollen and elongated when fed.

Adults are 1/4 inch long. Nymphs range from 1.3 mm to 4-5 mm.

Antennae

Region

Found throughout U.S.

Videos View All Videos

This video will take you on an educational trip through the history of bed bugs, teach you how to be vigilant to minimize your risk of encountering them and how to effectively deal with this resilient pest if you have an infestation.

Watch this demonstration on the proper way to inspect for bed bugs.

Here are some tips to avoid bringing bed bugs inside your home after traveling.

Bed bugs feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded hosts. If you are bitten by a bed bug, the most common threat is from the bite-mark itself, which can turn into a large, raised, itchy welt. For more on this blood-sucking pest, check out the bed bug pest guide.

Bed bugs are NOT known to transmit disease to humans. They also do not transmit MRSA, or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. For more information on bed bugs, visitAll Things Bed Bugs.

Concerned about bed bugs and disease? Dr. Parada assures us there is no evidence that bed bugs transmit disease to humans. Learn more about bed bugs here.

Think you may have bed bug bites? Dr. Parada explains the signs and symptoms of bed bug bites, which can be difficult to tell. Learn more about bed bug bites here.

How do I know if I have bed bugs? Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), shares some advice. Visit All Things Bed Bugs for more information about this elusive pest.

Why are bed bugs so hard to control? Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist with the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), has the answer! Learn more about bed bugs in the All Things Bed Bugs hub.

This public service announcement highlights the dangers of bed bug infestations. It features close up footage of bed bugs feedings on human skin.

Habits

Bed bugs like to travel and are good hitchhikers. They will hide in suitcases, boxes and shoes to be near a food supply. They are elusive, nocturnal creatures. They can hide behind baseboards and in cracks, crevices, and folded areas of beds, bedding and adjacent furniture, especially mattresses and box springs. Bed bugs can also hide in electrical switchplates, picture frames, wallpaper and nearly anywhere inside a home, car, bus, or other shelter. Bed bugs usually come out at night for a blood meal. However, they are opportunistic insects and can take a blood meal during the day, especially in heavily-infested areas. Bed bugs usually require 5-10 minutes to engorge with blood. After feeding, they move to secluded places and hide for 5-10 days. During this time in the bed bug life cycle, they do not feed but instead digest their meal, mate, and lay eggs.

Habitat

So where do bed bugs live? Bed Bugs like to hide in small cracks and crevices close to a human environment. They can be found behind baseboards, wallpaper, upholstery, and in furniture crevices. Bed bugs are also known to survive in temporary or alternative habitats, such as backpacks and under the seats in cars, busses and trains.

Threats

Although bed bugs can dine on any warm-blooded animal, they primarily dine on humans. Bed bugs do not transmit diseases, but their bites can become red, itchy welts.

Top 10 Myths about Bedbugs

The insects, making a comeback around the globe, cannot fly and are really not interested in hanging out on your body–but they do occasionally bite during the day

  • By Megan Scudellari on May 27, 2011

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Once a pest of the past, bedbugs now infest every state in the U.S..Cimex lectularius—small, flattened insects that feed solely on mammalian and avian blood—have been living with humans since ancient times. Abundant in the U.S. prior to World War II, bedbugs all but vanished during the 1940s and ’50s thanks to improvements in hygiene and the use of pesticides. In the past 10 years, however, the pests have staged a comeback worldwide—an outbreak after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney was a harbinger of things to come. This revival may be the worst yet, experts say, due to densely populated urban areas, global travel and increasing pesticide resistance—something to consider as the summer travel season gets underway.

"By every metric that we use, it’s getting worse and worse," says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Health authorities and pest control operators are regularly flooded with calls, and the epidemic may not have yet peaked. And because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are no high or low seasons throughout the year, he adds, only continual bombardment. "It’s just the beginning of the problem in the U.S.," Schal says.

Spreading rapidly with the bedbugs is a mass of misinformation about their biology and behavior. Straight from the experts, here are the facts behind some of the most notorious myths about the diminutive bloodsuckers.

Myth 1: Bedbugs can fly
Bedbugs lack wings, and therefore cannot fly. That is unless you put a blow dryer behind them, says Stephen Kells, a bedbug researcher at the University of Minnesota. Then they’ll fly about 1.2 meters. On their own, bedbugs crawl about a meter a minute, he says.

Myth 2: Bedbugs reproduce quickly
Compared with other insects, bedbugs are slow to reproduce: Each adult female produces about one egg per day; a common housefly lays 500 eggs over three to four days. Each bedbug egg takes 10 days to hatch and another five to six weeks for the offspring to develop into an adult.

Myth 3: Bedbugs can typically live a year without a meal
Scientists debate this point, but evidence suggests that at normal room temperature, about 23 degrees Celsius, bedbugs can only survive two to three months without a blood meal. But because they are cold-blooded, their metabolism will slow down in chillier climates, and the insects may live up to a year without feeding.

Myth 4: Bedbugs bite only at night
Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they’re like humans—if they’re hungry, they’ll get up and get something to eat. "If you go away to visit a friend for a week and you come back and sit down on the couch, even though it’s daytime the bedbugs will come looking for you," Schal says. Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.

Myth 5: Bedbugs live exclusively in mattresses
"’Bedbug’ is such a misnomer," Kells says. "They should also be called pet bugs and suitcase bugs and train bugs and movie theater bugs." Bedbugs spread away from beds into living areas and can be seen on any surface, he says, including chairs, railings and ceilings.

Myth 6: Bedbugs prefer unsanitary, urban conditions
"Bedbugs are terribly nondiscriminatory," Schal says. Bedbugs can be found anywhere from ritzy high-rises to homeless shelters. The prevalence of the bugs in low-income housing is therefore not a result of the insect’s preference, but of dense populations and the lack of money to pay for proper elimination strategies. "Any location is vulnerable," Kells says. "But some people are going to have a harder time getting control of them because it is such an expensive treatment."

Myth 7: Bedbugs travel on our bodies
Bedbugs do not like heat, Kells says. They therefore do not stick in hair or on skin, like lice or ticks, and prefer not to remain in our clothes close to our bodily heat. Bedbugs are more likely to travel on backpacks, luggage, shoes and other items farther removed from our bodies.

Myth 8: Bedbugs transmit disease
Bedbug bites can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness and even secondary infections, but there have been no reported cases of bedbugs transmitting disease to humans. They do, however, harbor human pathogens: At least 27 viruses, bacteria, protozoa and more have been found in bedbugs, although these microbes do not reproduce or multiply within the insects. Canadian researchers announced (pdf) in the June issue ofEmerging Infectious Diseasesthat bedbugs isolated from three individuals in a Vancouver hospital carried methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA. Still, there have been no reported cases that the bugs actually transmit human disease.

Myth 9: We should bring back DDT
When the controversial pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, most bed bugs were already resistant to it, Schal says, and today’s populations are even more widely resistant thanks to the use of a new class of pesticides. Pyrethroids, the main class of pesticides used against bedbugs today, targets sodium channels in bedbug cells, just like DDT. Consequently, as bedbugs develop resistance to pyrethroids, they also become cross-resistant to DDT.

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