How Do Bed Bugs 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

What Causes Bed Bugs? 6 Ways They Find A Way Into Your Home

The first step in knowing how to get rid of bed bugs is to figure out what causes bed bugs. By knowing the ways in which bed bugs come into your home and lay eggs, you can take steps to prevent a bed bug infestation in your home.

Contrary to popular belief bed bugs are not caused by filth or poverty. Bed bugs do not care that you’re rich or poor, clean or messy. They are concerned with blood of humans and animals and nothing more. Every home is susceptible to bed bugs so your best bet is knowing what caused them so you can prevent and treat them.

Pets

Bed bugs can be brought into your home by household pets like cats and dogs. They are warm and have blood, making them the ideal ride into your home. Since bed bugs are not necessarily ‘inside’ creatures, they often hop on animals to feed and simply end up in a new location as the animal moves around.

Pets are just one cause of bed bugs, but regular bathing can minimize a bed bug infestation.

Cramped Living

Cramped living quarters such as hotels, college dorms, hostels and apartment buildings are a big cause of bed bug infestations. While it is not the fact that much of the world lives in apartments or other forms of cramped living, living close to your neighbors provides a good way for bed bugs to spread.

For example, living in an apartment building or dormitory where one unit has bed bugs can quickly cause others to have bed bugs as well. They travel on the carpet from one unit to the next, in the air ducts and power outlets. When one person gets bed bugs in cramped living quarters—particularly without alerting their neighbors—they cause others to get bed bugs.

If you notice bed bugs in your apartment, quickly alert your neighbors so they may prevent or treat their own infestation.

Traveling

International travel has certainly increased our awareness of bed bugs because placed like hotels that have a high turnover rate of human activity. Even a five star hotel can cause bed bugs in your home if that is where the bed bugs latched onto your luggage or clothing.

Places like hotels and airplanes where there thousands of people sharing the same small spaces are a breeding ground for bed bugs. Any place where people are sitting or sleeping for long periods of time is a place that can cause bed bugs to hitch a ride home with you.

Used Furniture

City dwellers often rely on city services to dispose of used furniture, generally by placing old furniture on the curb for a pick-up service. Many times the furniture is picked up to be used by someone else before the pick-up service arrives, and this is one of the causes of bed bugs in your home.

Even if the previous owner had no signs of bed bugs in their home, they can be transferred to the used furniture just from a few minutes on the street.

If you love free furniture, be sure to clean it thoroughly or risk a bed bug infestation.

It isn’t just used furniture found on the street. Used furniture found at flea markets, outdoor sales or second hand furniture shops can also bring bed bugs into your home.

Cracks & Crevices

If you have noticeable cracks or crevices on the walls, floors or ceilings in your home, this is a simple way for bed bugs to crawl into your home. Since bed bugs are quite small they can enter through even the smallest crack in a wall.

They seek warmth and those cracks and crevices provide them an easy way into the warmth.

Your best bet is to seal these cracks as soon as you spot them. Don’t wait until you need to do one big job to buy caulk. The sooner you seal those cracks the greater your chances of avoiding a bed bug infestation.

Clothes

The clothes on your body can easily answer the question,what causes bed bugs?Anywhere you go that has bed bugs—knowingly or unknowingly—is a place where you can bring them home with you.

If you suspect that you may have come in contact with bed bugs immediately run your clothes through a wash cycle on hot water. This will kill the bed bugs before they can lay eggs and infest your home.

Keep in mind that these are just a few of the causes of bed bugs. Regularly check your clothes, pets and furniture for signs of bed bugs. Seal up the cracks and crevices you notice and keep the bed bugs at bay.

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

What Causes Bed Bugs

Bed bugs often appear even in new apartments that are equipped with the all modern conveniences. Certainly, the owners of clean houses are puzzled about why parasites have inhabited their apartment. Moreover, how have they penetrated into their dwelling? There are several causes of bed bugs appearance in the apartment.

The thing is that it does not matter how carefully cleanliness is maintained. The main and the only target of bed bugs is a human being (or sometimes small-sized animals). Thus, they can settle in the places where people spend nighttime.

To avoid bed bugs penetration into the house you should always stay alert and monitor the subtle changes that happen in the apartment. Also, from time to time it is useful to take prophylactic measures and apply insecticide on the perimeter of the possible entry points of insects. It is also recommended to communicate with your neighbors and pay attention to the condition of their apartments.

Additionally, bed bugs can come to your house by chance. In this case, it depends on the owner’s wish to mind all the possible ways of their penetration. Therefore, it is important to understand what causes bed bugs appearance to be able to protect yourself from these parasites when needed.

What Causes Bed Bugs in an Apartment?

It is difficult to answer the question about where bed bugs come from. It depends on the flat location, the presence of parasites at neighbors’ apartments, or the owners’ recent trips by train or someone else’s car. There are many ways of how these insects penetrate into the house; thus, bed bugs causes may be different.

  • In most cases, bugs come from neighboring premises. It is especially typical for old buildings. Insects can crawl through a damaged wall, cracks or the outer wall of the house. Also, bed bugs often come through ventilation shafts. They can survive without food for quite a long time. Thus, long travels are not a problem for them. Insects’ body shape and small size facilitate their penetration into small holes and cracks. If a house is located in the countryside, bed bugs can often come to people from small-sized farm animals. In fact, the thick skin of a rabbit or a goat is not so attractive to these blood-sucking insects as the human one.
  • You can “catch” a bed bug and transfer it to your apartment having spent a night outside your house. Hotels, friends’ apartments, as well as trains or railway stations are places where you can get these parasites. Bed bugs are small in size. Thus, even if an insect does not have time to hide when a person gets up and dresses, the bug’s presence will be unnoticeable on the cloth.
  • One more cause of bed bugs penetration is buying appliances. Bed bugs like to hide in the places that are protected from bright daylight and have a source of heat. Parasites often get into working system units. If such a unit is moved to be repaired or to a new apartment, bed bugs will quickly spread through a new place.
  • Another way of getting bed bugs is bringing them to the house on clothes. Parasites cannot bite through clothing, but they can hide in it. It is not always possible to notice the bloodsucker due to its tiny size. Therefore, it is very likely to bring one or more insect home, having visited an apartment inhabited by them. Also, another cause of bed bugs penetration can be a purchase of clothes infested by these parasites.
  • Furniture is one of the most common bed bugs causes. New pieces of furniture brought from the store are rarely infested, as parasites simply have nothing to eat there. However, exceptions may occur. In most cases, bed bugs can dwell in the furniture that was previously used. Parasites spread through its surface and cracks. It is necessary to check the furniture very carefully before buying it, especially the inside part of it.
  • Bed bugs can live on bats, birds, hamsters and rats if they have not very long and thick hair. These insects do not drink blood of cats or dogs because their skin is too thick for these parasites. For this reason, they prefer cattle.
  • Guests may bring bed bugs to the apartment too. People who live in the infested premises may bring these insects on their clothes. It happens that after flat renovation owners may reveal bugs “left” by workers. These parasites are very fond of the large crowds of people, so they often live in construction trailers and hostels. If hired workers live in such conditions, it is very likely that they will bring bed bugs to their workplace.

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.

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