How Do Bed Bugs Just Appear

What Attracts Bedbugs to Human Environments?

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Once considered a pest of the past, bedbugs now make regular headlines as they infest homes, hotels, and dormitories worldwide. As bedbugs spread, more people worry about them and want to know what causes a bedbug infestation.

Though it might seem as if bedbug infestations are on the rise, historical context indicates that bedbugs and other bloodsucking parasites have been associated with humans for thousands of years. Throughout that history, people have endured them feeding on their blood. Bedbugs all but disappeared when people started using DDT and other pesticides to keep insects out of their homes. Although news headlines suggest bedbugs are conquering the world, the reality is that bedbug infestations are still at historically low numbers.

Why are they called bedbugs? Once they settle into your home, they congregate where you spend a lot of sedentary time: chairs, couches, and especially beds. They are attracted to you by the carbon dioxide in the air you breathe out, and you do a lot of breathing over the hours you’re in bed. Then they feed on your blood.

Bedbugs Don’t Care If You’re Clean or Dirty

Contrary to popular belief, there is no association between bedbugs and filth. They feed on human and animal blood, and as long as a source of blood is available to them, they will happily take up residence in even the most pristine home.

Being poor doesn’t put you at greater risk for bedbugs, and having wealth doesn’t immunize you from a bedbug infestation. Although poverty doesn’t cause bedbugs, impoverished communities may lack the resources needed to control infestations, making them more persistent and pervasive in such areas.

Bedbugs Are Excellent Hitchhikers

For bedbugs to infest your home, they have to hitch a ride on someone or something. They don’t usually stay on their human hosts after feeding, but they might hide in clothing and inadvertently go along for the ride to a new location. Most often, bedbugs travel in luggage after someone has stayed in an infested hotel room. Bedbugs may even infest theaters and other public spaces and spread to new locations via purses, backpacks, coats, or hats.

Bedbugs Go Where the Action Is

Since bedbugs travel by hitchhiking, infestations are more common in places with high rates of turnover in the human population: apartment buildings, dormitories, homeless shelters, hotels and motels, and military barracks. Any time you have a lot of people coming and going, there’s an increased risk that someone will carry a few bedbugs into the building. In general, owners of single-family homes have a lower risk of getting bedbugs.

Bedbugs Hide in Clutter

Once in your home, bedbugs scurry quickly to select a new hiding place; in beds and other furniture, behind baseboards, under wallpaper, or inside switch plates. Then it’s just a matter of time before they begin multiplying. A single female may arrive at your doorstep already carrying enough eggs to produce hundreds of offspring. While filth does not benefit bedbugs, clutter does. The more cluttered your home is, the more hiding places there are for bedbugs and the harder it will be to get rid of them.

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

How long before bed bug bites appear ?

Bed bugs are very tiny and like hiding in dark, cool places. They are very active in the night. Their bites cause several psychological issues and allergic reactions, including skin rashes, itches, swelling, red discolorations, bumps, and welts. Due to the tiny amount of anesthetic fluid it secretes before feeding when bed bugs bite you, you’re likely not going to feel it right away. So, “How long before bed bug bites appear?” it varies between individuals. While some people will react within minutes, others might have delayed reaction. But a common reaction is the appearance of a red bump which may present itching, swelling, and a burning sensation. These reactions can be very severe depending on the individual’s skin sensitivity.

Do you feel a bed bug bite immediately?

This question is one of the questions people ask when they feel they have a Bed bug infestation at hand. They want to know for specific the steps they can take to identify these bites. This could be very difficult because most people can’t feel a bed bug even if it were crawling on them, which is understandable because these insects are tiny. Adults grow to 4-5mm (0.16-0.20 in.) long and 1.5-3mm (0.59-0188 in.) wide. Also, since their activities take place during the night, their presence is likely to go unnoticed. What happens during the bite itself? You won’t feel that also. Their mouth parts are tiny to start with, so there’s every likelihood you won’t feel any pain. And again, the anesthetic property of their saliva provides a soothing relieve during their bites. The bites only become apparent when your skin starts to react, the itchiness commences, and red discolorations appear. So, while the majority react only passively to bed bug bites, a whole lot more of us react rather more quickly.

Duration it takes for bites to appear

The bites are visible as soon as feeding is complete, but because the punctured wounds are microscopic, they appear invisible to the human eyes. The only signs we can rely on are the itches and bumps that occur. Another symptom is the appearance of clusters or lines. This sign is a high-marker identification for bed bug bites. It is just like their trademarks. It serves as a ready “go-to” sign to differentiate bed bug bite from other insects’ bites such as mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. How long bed bug bites take to appear depends on the individual concerned. A delayed reaction is the most rampant pattern, taking as much as two weeks. Though rare, a quick reaction immediately after each bite cycle in the space of say, a couple of hours can also occur in individuals. The level of infestation in your immediate environment can also play a role. If the infestation is very large, then expect to wake up with new bite marks every day.

What factors play a role in bed bug bite reactions?

Many factors can play roles in how our bodies react to bed bug bites.

  1. Skin Sensitivity– Some peoples’ skin is more sensitive than others. So they are more likely to react adversely to bed bug bites. Intense itching, swelling, welts, bumps, burning sensations, skin irritations are some of the adverse reactions by the skin.
  2. Age of the Individual– Younger people have more delicate skin, which is very sensitive to any blight. Their skin tends to react more readily to bed bug bites. The reverse takes place in elderly people whose skin have lost that elasticity & sensitivity, so they may not react at all or may react mildly.
  3. Medications– If you’re on certain anti-inflammatory medications such as cysticercoids, then you are not going to react quickly to bed bug bites. This is due to the fact that your body’s immune system has been repressed by these drugs.

How long do the bites last?

This also depends on the individual involved. For most people, their bed bug bite will heal within one to two weeks, while others might take only a couple of days. As the healing process commences, the redness reduces, the itching becomes less intense and the pain generally subsides. Eventually, the bites would disappear. The good news is that no scars are left behind. The irritations, swellings and bumps are not enough to leave permanent marks. But in severe cases of allergic reactions, a visible mark might be left behind. Avoid scratching as this can leave permanent marks also.

To summarize the question “How long before bed bug bites appear?”, is a function of the makeup of the individual concerned. So, it is expected that treatment & healing modalities will differ.

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How Do You Get Bed Bugs

By DoMyOwn staff

How do people get Bed bugs in the first place? To some it seems like they just magically appear, and people are often left scratching their heads (and other areas…), confused and frustrated that they’ve wound up with a bed full of bugs. However, it is no mystery how bed bugs are spread from place to place; humans have helped spread bed bug infestations for hundreds of years.

How Bed Bugs Spread

The incorrect assumption is that dirty locations attract bed bugs and house bed bug populations. Although most dirty locations do attract a host of nasty insects that spread germs and contaminate areas, bed bugs are pleased with clean or dirty.

Bed bugs are able to spread via human travel and movement. The unique flattened and small round shaped of the bed bug allows them to hide just about anywhere they can squeeze.

They hitch rides onto the fabrics of furniture, mattresses, luggage, clothing, etc., where they ride until they find a suitable host area, like your bedroom. This is where bed bugs can establish populations, which they can accomplish fairly quickly.

Where You Can Get Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are most often found in homes, apartment buildings, college dormitories, and hotels, which are all places with consistent hosts at rest for bed bugs to feed. But bed bugs have also been found in daycares, movie theatres, and even city buses; these places generally don’t have large established populations, but bed bugs can be picked up and transferred from people resting in these areas. Since people are constantly rotating in these spaces, bed bugs can be deposited and picked up on clothing, bags, and purses and taken home.

Bed bugs hiding in furniture, mattresses, and other items you might bring into your home is another common way of picking up these little hitchhikers.

Since bed bugs are hitchhikers, they travel commonly by luggage. Hotels and motels, no matter how clean or shining the reputation, can be susceptible to bed bug infestations. This is one of the most common ways people get bed bugs, when the bed bugs hitch a ride back to the traveler’s home.

Steps to Prevent Getting Bed bugs

  • Never bring in upholstered furniture, bed frames, mattresses, or box springs found on the street into your home.
  • Check all borrowed, rented, or second-hand furniture for bed bugs before you bring them into your home. Check all cracks and crevices, even in wooden furniture.
  • The best way to prevent the spreading of bed bugs when traveling is to check the rooms before you stay in hotels. The nicest and cleanest hotels can be infested. Don’t place luggage on the ground, and inspect mattress, box spring, headboard, etc., for bedbugs before spending a night in your room.
  • If you suspect you’ve been around bed bugs, inspect your clothing and any items you had with you before entering your home. If bedbugs are found, launder items immediately or place in plastic bags until further treatment can be carried out with products like Sterifab.
  • Even if you don’t have bedbugs, seal cracks and crevices in your bedroom with caulk. Door and window frames, baseboards, floorboards, etc., should all be sealed to eliminate bed bug hiding spots. You can even seal cracks and crevices in bedroom furniture. Consider using a bed bug mattress cover, a box spring encasement, and even bed bug pillow covers to prevent bed bugs from taking residence in these items.
  • To do your part in preventing the spread of bed bugs, if you have to throw away any infested items, make sure to cover them in plastic if possible. Always place signs on the items stating that the items are infested in bed bugs. Never donate infested items.

If you already have a Bed bug infestation, read our article: How to Get Rid of Bed bugs

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