How Do You Get Bed Bugs?

by | Feb 15, 2024

Bed bugs are notorious for finding their way into places where people inhabit like homes, hotels, schools, offices, and even public transportation. These pests have coexisted with humans for thousands of years and feed exclusively on blood to survive and develop. Humans are their primary targets, but bed bugs can also feed on other warm-blooded animals including pets, rodents, and birds [1]. Even though they feed on other animals, the likelihood of animals introducing bed bugs is rare given the nature of bed bug behavior. Bed bugs prefer to feed on humans and will hide in close proximity to where humans sleep. When an individual encounters an area infested with bed bugs, they are far more likely to become an unsuspecting carrier of a bed bug hitchhiker. 

Bed bug’s exceptional ability to hitchhike on personal belongings like suitcases, clothes, and linens facilitates their spread over long distances. This characteristic makes controlling bed bug infestations particularly challenging, as they can easily travel to new environments whenever contaminated items are introduced into new settings. Early detection is also hard to pinpoint due to how evasive these insects are. Many of their telltale signs are hard to identify when bed bug populations are still in their infancy. The earliest sign of bed bugs is typically their bites, but bed bug bites often get confused with those of other pests until it is too late. This often leads to unnoticed population growth and widespread infestations. Understanding the origins of bed bug infestations and recognizing their appearance are crucial steps in prevention and early intervention.

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Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

Bed bugs are bloodsucking parasites that can infiltrate homes from various sources by hitching a ride unnoticed on unsuspecting carriers. Here are some common ways bed bugs find their way into your space:

  • Hotels, Motels, Hostels, and Airbnbs: Due to the high turnover of visitors, these locations are at risk of bed bug infestations. These pests often attach themselves to luggage, bags, and clothing during travel and get deposited at the next travel destination. 
  • Public Transportation: Buses, trains, taxis, and even cruise ships are common places for bed bugs to spread. This is due to the high turnover of people who are traveling from place to place. As people move from one destination to another the likelihood of one using public transport to move from an infested location is high. Not only can they be deposited in the seats of public transport, but they can also be transferred in places like baggage holds of planes, buses, and trains where infested luggage is held with non-infested luggage.
  • Workplaces and Schools: Outside of homes, schools and offices are the places where people are most likely to spend a majority of their time. People unknowingly can carry bed bugs from infested homes and introduce them to these environments. Not only do these places see a high volume of human traffic, but they also create environments where people are sitting for long periods. This makes them more susceptible to picking up bed bug hitchhikers as they remain still while working or studying. 
  • Public Places: Bed bugs are not just confined to residential or office settings. They can be found anywhere people congregate, visit, or live. This includes hospitals, daycare facilities, libraries, nursing homes, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and various other public spaces. Bed bugs spread easily through clothing and other fabric materials like upholstered furniture or seating.
  • Secondhand Furniture: Buying used furniture, especially items like mattresses, box springs, and upholstered items, can inadvertently introduce bed bugs into your home. It’s essential to thoroughly inspect such items for evidence of bed bugs before bringing them indoors. Always be wary of “free” furniture that is left outside for pickup. While it may be free, it is very possible that it was left out because it was infested with bed bugs. 
  • Other Items: Be cautious with new furniture deliveries, moving into new residences, and using public vacuum services and shared laundry spaces. Even used electronic appliances can be carriers of bed bugs.

To minimize the risk of bringing bed bugs into your home, inspect your belongings after travel, be cautious with secondhand items, and maintain awareness in public spaces and transport. Regular inspections and prompt action if bed bugs are suspected can help prevent an infestation.

How Do Bed Bugs Get into My Home?

Bed bugs are experts at infiltrating homes and often enter in ways that go unnoticed. These tiny pests are skilled hitchhikers that latch onto various personal items such as suitcases, clothing, boxes, shoes, and other belongings. Once they catch a ride on an unsuspecting carrier, bed bugs can easily be introduced into homes. Unfortunately, bed bugs do not discriminate so they can be introduced to a by the inhabitants that live there as well as visitors and guests. Anyone that has been in an area infested with bed bugs is a potential carrier that can introduce them into your home. 

To minimize the risk of bringing bed bugs into your home, inspect and clean all second-hand items, luggage after traveling, and clothing after public exposure. Recognizing signs like black fecal spots, shed skins, and bloodstains can help identify an infestation early. 

What Attracts Bed Bugs to Your Bed

Once bed bugs are introduced into your home, they will seek out shelter close to their food source and start to proliferate. Bed bugs are particularly drawn to beds in homes because they are an ideal place that gives them regular access to blood meals. The bed also offers an optimal environment with its combination of darkness, warmth, and places to remain hidden and deposit eggs. At night, when people are asleep and less likely to disturb them, bed bugs emerge from hiding places like mattress seams, bed frames, or headboards to feed. 

Several key factors that attract bed bugs and help them find their hosts include:

  • Carbon Dioxide: Bed bugs are drawn to the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and other warm-blooded animals. Their ability to detect trace amounts of CO2 in the air is a critical evolutionary trait that helps them identify a nearby food source [2]
  • Body Heat: The warmth emitted by a human body helps bed bugs locate their host. Their antennae contain sensitive detectors that can identify where heat is coming from which allows them to orient themselves in the direction of a warm body [3].
  • Pheromones: When one bed bug finds a suitable environment near a host, it releases a pheromone signal that attracts other bed bugs which leads to rapid infestation growth [4]. These signals often result in aggregation points that contain hundreds of bed bugs when discovered.
  • Kairomones: These are chemical substances that are emitted by hosts that bed bugs are able to detect. They can be found in the lactic acid found in human sweat. Studies have indicated that bed bugs respond to human odors independently from exposure to CO2 [5].

In addition to the above, bed bugs can be attracted to other elements and items including:

  • Dirty Laundry: The scent of dirty laundry contains kairomones which can mimic the presence of a human and attract bed bugs. 
  • Certain Colors: In studies that tested for bed bug color preference, the results showed they are attracted to black and red [6]. While speculative, this could be the result of black indicating shelter and obscurity from predators and red likely being the color of blood which they feed on. This makes dark sheets problematic as they increase the likelihood of bed bug attraction as well as they hide the brown bodies of bed bugs better. 

Understanding what attracts bed bugs to beds is crucial in both preventing and managing infestations. Simple measures like keeping dirty laundry off the floor and keeping lighter-colored bed sheets clean can help reduce the likelihood of attracting bed bugs. 

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Tips to Help Stop the Spread of Bed Bugs

Preventing the spread of bed bugs involves a series of proactive measures, especially in environments where these pests are commonly found. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Inspect Beds and Furniture: Regularly check bedsheets for blood spots, bed bug sightings, or eggshells. Use a small flashlight and magnifying glass to assist with thorough inspections.
  • Manage Luggage Carefully: When traveling, steam clean suitcases upon returning and inspect them for signs of bed bugs. Use large trash bags to encase your suitcase during hotel stays and wash and dry all clothes in hot cycles after returning.
  • Furniture Inspection: Thoroughly inspect both new and used furniture before bringing it indoors. Focus on seams, tufts, and under cushions for signs of bed bugs.
  • Be Cautious with Second-Hand Furniture and Items: Avoid bringing second-hand furniture, bedding, or clothing into a home without a detailed inspection. Be particularly careful with mattresses and box springs and hand me down clothing. 
  • Hotel Precautions: In hotels, keep your luggage on a suitcase stand away from the bed and walls or in the tub as this is a location bed bugs will rarely be. 
  • Declutter Your Home: Reducing clutter diminishes potential hiding places for bed bugs which make your home less prone to the spread of bed bugs.

Implementing these tips can significantly reduce the risk of bed bug infestations and help stop their spread. Regular vigilance and proactive measures are key in managing bed bug risks.

Are Bed Bugs a Threat?

While bed bugs may not pose a significant health threat to humans, that doesn’t mean they are harmless. They are not carriers of insect borne illnesses like fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes, but they are still blood sucking pests that can result in itchy red welts. Bed bugs are nocturnal pests that typically emerge at night to feed on blood meals. While mostly active at night, they can also feed opportunistically during the day in highly infested areas. They require around 5-10 minutes to fully engorge with blood. Once fed, they retreat to hidden spots to digest their meal, mate, and lay eggs. This cycle allows them to spread rapidly in infested environments. Once a population gets out of control, a human host can receive dozens, if not hundreds, of bites in a night. This indirectly creates adverse psychological impacts like insomnia, stress, anxiety, PTSD and avoidance behaviors while a bed bug infestation is being treated. 

Another reason bed bugs are considered a significant threat is their resilience. Adult bed bugs can survive for several months without feeding which makes treating them particularly difficult because they can remain if they are contained. This can give the false impression that a bed bug infestation has been successfully treated, only for them to return several weeks to months later. Additionally, they are pesticide resistant [7] and can endure a wide range of temperatures, from nearly freezing to as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit. This adaptability allows them to thrive in a variety of environments, from temperate homes to heated buildings. 

What Should You Do If You Get Bed Bugs

Bed bugs indeed pose a threat, particularly due to their rapid breeding capabilities and the difficulty in completely eradicating them once an infestation is established. The speed at which bed bugs can multiply makes prompt action crucial. If you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home, it’s imperative to contact a pest control professional as soon as possible to get rid of your bed bug problem. Their expertise is often necessary to effectively combat and manage the infestation, as over the counter or DIY solutions may not be sufficient for complete eradication and may actually contribute to the spread of bed bugs throughout a home. 

Contact Absolute Pest Management if You Are Dealing with Bed Bugs

Dealing with bed bugs can be a complex and stressful process that requires specialized knowledge and tools for effective eradication. If you’re facing a bed bug infestation or suspect their presence in your home, don’t hesitate to reach out for bed bug control services from qualified experts. Absolute Pest Management is equipped with the expertise and resources needed to tackle bed bug problems efficiently and effectively. Our team will provide you with comprehensive solutions tailored to your specific situation and ensure a swift return to a bed bug-free environment. We have offices in Austin and Buda, Texas and serve the surrounding communities. Contact Absolute Pest Management today for a thorough inspection and expert pest control services.

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How Do You Get Bed Bug FAQs

  • What is the main cause of bed bugs?
    • The main cause of bed bug infestations is typically their transfer from infested areas to new environments via human activity. Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers and often latch onto luggage, clothing, furniture, and other personal belongings. They are commonly picked up in places with high turnover of individuals like hotels, hostels, public transportation, and second-hand furniture stores before being inadvertently brought into homes.
  • How did I get bed bugs when I haven’t been anywhere?
    • Even if you haven’t traveled recently, bed bugs can still find their way into your home through various means. They can hitch a ride on guests, second-hand furniture, clothing, or other items brought into your home. Additionally, in multi-unit buildings, bed bugs can migrate between units, so they might have come from a neighboring apartment or shared spaces like laundry rooms.
  • Are bed bugs caused by poor hygiene?
    • Bed bugs are not caused by poor hygiene or cleanliness. Bed bugs are attracted to the presence of humans because that is the source of their blood meals. These pests can thrive in any environment as long as they have access to a human host, including well-maintained and clean homes. The misconception that bed bugs are linked to poor hygiene stems from their tendency to be found in cluttered spaces, which provide more hiding spots, not from dirtiness itself.

Sources

[1] https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef636

[2] https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/d565c7bc-dc55-4524-a7ff-2ebbf126f53c/content

[3] https://schal-lab.cals.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/80/2020/11/2021-Gaire-Heat-detection-BB.pdf

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10048870/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4491371/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4351988/

[7] http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bb-ddt.html

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