How Far Will A Bed Bug Travel To Feed
What you need to know about bed bugs
‘Educating yourself can be helpful and reassuring,’ says Dr. Harold Harlan
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Harold Harlan, who was a career bug expert for the military, is a prominent authority on bed bugs. Below, he answered a few frequently asked questions:
Are bed bug attacks a sign of dirty living conditions or living in older homes/building, or is anybody at risk?
Infestations of common bed bugs, Cimex lectularius L., are not directly related to sanitation levels. The cleanest living area can have a very large infestation , and improving sanitation alone will not eliminate an established bed bug population. Cluttered conditions can offer the bugs a lot of excellent harborages very near their human blood-meal hosts. Almost anyone is at risk of having an infestation if bed bugs are brought into their home.
Can you get anything serious from a bed bug bite? Are there physical/physiological effects if you are living with bed bugs?
According to scientists, naturally occurring populations (infestations) of common bed bugs have been documented to have at least 28 different kinds of human pathogens in their bodies. However, very careful and detailed studies by both entomologists and medical doctors have never shown that those bed bugs could transmit (infect) even one of those pathogens to humans or lab animals. They simply have not been shown to transmit any human disease known so far.
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.
How to Find Bed Bugs
If you have a bed bug infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.
However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.
Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.
Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs
A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:
- Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
- Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
- Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
- Live bed bugs.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.
If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:
- In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
- In drawer joints.
- In electrical receptacles and appliances.
- Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
- At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
- Even in the head of a screw.
Insects and Ticks > Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are well known as annoying biting pests, and they are increasing in importance, including in hotels and other lodging establishments in the U.S. You are encouraged to learn more about the biology of bed bugs and their association with homes, apartments, hotels, and lodging establishments so that you can make more informed decisions about health risks, how to protect yourself when traveling, and whether bed bug control is warranted in a residence or lodging establishment.
Are Bed Bugs a Public Health Risk?
Bed bugs require blood in order to reproduce and complete their life cycle. The effect of bed bug bites varies among people, but they eventually produce red welts that itch. The bites themselves are not painful and typically are not felt. However, frequent feeding can disrupt people’s sleep and make them irritable, and seeing bites may cause emotional distress in some people. Heavy rates of feeding can result in significant blood loss and eventually lead to anemia, especially in malnourished children.
At least 27 agents of human disease have been found in bed bugs, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic worms. None of these agents reproduce or multiply within bed bugs, and very few survive for any length of time inside a bed bug. There is no evidence that bed bugs are involved in the transmission (via bite or infected feces) of any disease agent, including hepatitis B virus and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Bed bugs belong to the family Cimicidae of the insect order Hemiptera, the group of insects known as "true bugs." In addition to the three species that are associated with humans, there are at least 88 species of Cimicidae in the world that live with and feed on bats or birds. Approximately 10-12 species of these bugs occur in the continental U.S., including four species in Indiana. Two species are known as "bat bugs," one is known as a "swallow bug," and one is known as a "purple martin bug." Bat bugs and swallow bugs typically feed on their bat or bird hosts, but will feed on humans if their normal sources of blood are not available. The effects of their bites are similar to those associated with the bites of bed bugs. There is no evidence that bat bugs and swallow bugs transmit disease agents to humans.
There are two additional groups of Hemiptera that bite humans, the so-called "kissing bugs" and "assassin bugs," both of which belong to the family Reduviidae. Kissing bugs feed on the blood of mammals and birds, and transmit a protozoan parasite that causes a disease of humans known as "Chagas Disease." Chagas Disease is widespread in Central and South America, and an occasional case occurs in Texas. Assassin bugs, instead of being blood feeders, are predators on other insects, including crop pests. They are beneficial insects, but they will bite humans if mishandled, and the bites are very painful.
How Many Types of Bed Bugs Are There?
There is only one species of bed bug in Indiana,Cimex lectularius. This species is a pest of humans worldwide, including the entire U.S., and has over 50 common names, among them "mahogany flat," "redcoat," "wall louse," and "bed louse." A second species of bed bug,Cimex hemipterus, is limited to tropical regions of the world. A third species of bed bug,Leptocimex boueti, lives with and feeds on both humans and bats in West Africa.
How Can I Recognize a Bed Bug?
Adult bed bugs are about ¼ inch long, oval, reddish-brown, and wingless. Their body is very flat, and they possess long, slender legs and antennae. They have a long, segmented proboscis (beak) that extends forward when the bug takes a blood meal. At rest, the proboscis lies beneath the body and projects backwards between the legs. Immature bed bugs are known either as "larvae" or "nymphs." They closely resemble adults, but are smaller and less deeply pigmented.
What Is the Life Cycle of Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs develop from egg to adult via a process called "gradual metamorphosis." This means the last larval stage develops directly into an adult without passing through a non-feeding pupal stage. There are five larval stages, and each one requires a blood meal before molting into the next life cycle stage. Both adult male and female bed bugs feed on blood and take repeated blood meals during their lives. Females require blood for the development of eggs.
The five larval stages are completed in about a month under suitable conditions of temperature, humidity, and availability of hosts for blood meals. Larvae can survive inside dwellings for several months without a blood meal, but they do not molt into the next life cycle stage until they engorge on blood. Adults can survive even longer under the same conditions, but, again, do not develop eggs unless they feed on blood.
Where Are Bed Bugs Found Inside Dwellings?
Bed bugs typically are active at night and hide during the daytime. Being very flat, they are able to find a wide variety of places in which to hide. Typical hiding places include beneath loose flooring, behind loose wallpaper, inside box springs, in mattresses, and in upholstered furniture. One common hiding place in hotel rooms is behind bed headboards that are fastened to the wall and another is behind moldings just above the floor. Bed bugs also hide behind electric switch plates and inside appliances. However, sites that have surfaces consisting of plaster, stone, and metal typically do not harbor bed bugs.
How Do Humans Influence Bed Bug Development and Dispersal?
Human dwellings provide bed bugs with a place to live and access to a source of blood meals. Bed bugs commonly infest larger buildings such as apartments, dorms, prisons, and theaters, but they also can occur in individual hotel rooms and in private homes. There is a common misconception that bed bug infestations occur only in poorly constructed and poorly maintained buildings with unsanitary conditions. However, this is not the case, as explained below. Modern construction has aided the spread of infestations by enabling bed bugs to move from room to room via central heating ducts.
Humans can aid the dispersal of bed bugs from one structure to another via the movement of infested bedding, furniture, and packing materials. Even more widespread dispersal is associated with the movement of travelers via infested clothing, luggage, and lap top computers. International travelers from countries that have heavy bed bug infestations can be a source of bed bug infestations in hotel rooms, and there has been an increasing incidence of bed bugs in lodging establishments around the world, including in the U.S. Bed bugs do not require unsanitary conditions, and bed bugs do not discriminate between economy or luxury hotel rooms. Bed bugs only need a source of blood provided by humans, and they can exist in the cleanest hotels, motels, apartments, and homes.
How Far Do Bed Bugs Travel to Feed and Lay Eggs?
Bed bugs typically do not travel far to feed and lay eggs once they become established in a building. Females lay eggs more or less continuously as long as they have access to blood meals. A well-fed female is capable of laying about 500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are laid singly in the same sites that harbor larvae and adults. These sites often are marked by masses of bed bug feces, which appear as yellowish to reddish-black specks and contain the remnants of digested blood. Large concentrations of bed bugs may be accompanied by a characteristic sweetish odor caused in part by secretions from scent glands.
What Should I Know About the Feeding Habits of Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs feed on warm-blooded animals. They have a normal host with which they live and on which they feed, but they will feed on other species. For example, bed bug larvae and adults feed readily on humans, bats, and chickens, and they do so when the host is at rest. Thus bed bugs living with humans typically feed at night while a person sleeps, but they also will feed during the day in dark structures such as infested theaters with upholstered seats. Male and female adults usually feed every 3-4 days and become engorged with blood in about 10-15 minutes.
Bed bugs detect carbon dioxide emitted from warm-blooded animals and respond to warmth and moisture as they approach the potential host. On humans, they tend to feed on exposed surfaces such as the face, neck, arms, and hands. Again, the bites are painless, and the host typically is not disturbed while bed bugs feed.
How Can I Avoid Being Bitten by Bed Bugs?
Preventing bed bug infestations is the best approach. This involves thoroughly searching for bed bugs or signs of infestation in any suitable hiding place, such as bedding, upholstered furniture, or packing materials that might be introduced into your home or apartment. You should search for feces, eggs, and shed "skins" of larval bed bugs, as well as for active bed bugs.
When staying in a hotel room, it is good practice to inspect the room for bed bug infestation. Upon arrival in a guest room, check the mattress, box springs, and behind the headboard before using the bed. It is very important to report suspected bed bug infestations to the hotel management immediately so that steps to control the infestation and prevent subsequent spread can be implemented as quickly as possible.
Hotel guests should place luggage and clothing on dressers or on luggage racks. Avoid placing bags and personal items on beds or upholstered furnishings because these types of fixtures may harbor bed bugs. Guests also should be vigilant and keep suitcases, brief cases, and computers and their cases closed when not in use. It is a good idea to search these items prior to vacating the room and again prior to bringing the items inside your home.
What Should I Do About a Bed Bug Infestation in My Residence?
Control of an infestation of bed bugs is very difficult and is best left to professional pest control companies that have both the approved insecticides and the application equipment to effectively treat the various places where bed bugs hide. The representative of the pest control company should examine the residence and describe any pre-treatment responsibilities of the homeowner. For example, eliminating or at least reducing clutter in rooms to be treated is a necessity, and infested bedding may have to be discarded before the infestation is treated.
What Should Hotel Managers Do About Bed Bugs?
Training housekeeping and maintenance staff to check for bed bugs is strongly recommended in order to identify an infestation. A professional pest control company should be contacted immediately if an infestation is found.
Hotel staff should examine guest rooms closely, including sheets and bedding. In infested rooms, sheets and pillowcases used by guests who are bitten by bed bugs may have small bloodstains, which appear as small reddish brown spots. Mattress seams should be examined for brown spots that could be bed bug feces, for shed skins, and for active bed bugs. Cracks and crevices should be examined using a flashlight. Sites to be searched include behind bed headboards, furniture seams, draperies, floor moldings, areas where wallpaper is loose, and behind picture frames and baseboards, especially those located near the beds. If a centralized forced-air heating system exists, the heating ducts in guest rooms should be checked for signs of bed bugs.
Where Can I Find More Information on Bed Bugs?
The following Web site contains accurate and detailed information about bed bug biology and bed bug control.
A recent symposium devoted to bed bugs took place at a meeting of the Entomological Society of America. The symposium was published in the journalAmerican Entomologist, Volume 52, number 2, Summer 2006.
We greatly appreciate the information pertaining to bed bugs provided by Dr. Sheryl kline, Department of hospitality & Tourism Management, Purdue University.
An excellent reference book devoted to the biology of bed bugs and their relatives is:
Usinger, R.L. 1966,Monograph of the Cimicidae (Hemiptera: Heteroptera).Thomas Say Foundation, Vol. 7, Entomological Society of America, College Park, MD.
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Bed Bugs – How far do bed bugs travel?
February 15, 2017
Bed bugs do not hop, skip or jump. They don’t have wings so they cannot fly. However, bed bugs are really good at crawling and hitching rides on clothing, furniture and other items. In fact, that’s one way a bed bug infestation begins. One female bed bug is introduced and deposits eggs in the environment can result in having 400-600 offspring in a few months.
Bed bugs are lazy; they don’t like to move around once they have found an environment that provides all the things that bed bugs need; food, harborage (shelter) and a comfortable temperature range.
Bed bugs feed exclusively on blood. They need a host for feeding. Harborages are any crack or crevice that a bed bug can crawl into. In terms of temperature, bed bugs do very well at temperatures humans feel comfortable; typically, temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees F. As temperatures climb above 90 degrees F., bed bugs become stressed. In fact, at 119 degrees F. bed bugs begin to die-off. Bed bugs are much more tolerant to lower temperatures. Bed bugs have been found outdoors where the temperatures have dropped below 32 degrees F and they appear to be dead. When carried indoors, however, they warm-up and return to normal function.
Bed bugs will stay in their harborages if they have access to a host (blood meal) every 4-5 days and the environment is at room temperature; 55-78 degrees F. Clearly, there are situations that cause bed bugs to move such as changes in available harborage sites, access to a host and temperature fluctuations.
Research has indicated bed bugs will travel from their harborage site to a host and back again. The distance traveled in a 24 hour period may be as much as 40 to 50 feet or more back and forth from the host to harborage.
If the environmental requirements change, the bed bug will try to adapt and stay put. However, bed bugs will migrate from room to room and from apartment to apartment to find a suitable environment.
When a bed bug is first introduced into a home, it may crawl around for days until it locates the right “circumstances”. Bed bugs prefer to hide close to where they feed, but if necessary will crawl several feet to obtain a meal. Initially the bugs tend to be situated around sleeping areas, i.e., beds, couches and recliners. If infestations are allowed to persist, they also may disperse to other locations within the dwelling making elimination more difficult.
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