How Bed Bugs Spread (If You Found One, Read This)

Bed Bug

Bed bugs are a global problem affecting both developed and developing countries. People of all income classes can be affected by bed bugs. However, they are more likely to spread in densely populated or overcrowded homes and buildings, which are more often found among the lower-income classes. But how do they spread?

Bed bugs can be picked up where high volumes of people sleep and where these people are continually changing, such as hotels and camps. Bed bugs reproduce rapidly, and one can cause an infestation. At home, they spread by seeking more hosts and being carried around in infested items.

All it takes to cause an infestation is a single bed bug, so you might say that one bug is an infestation. If you see one of these bugs in your home, you need to treat it seriously.

Below we provide information on how bed bugs spread between buildings and within a home. We also offer tips and recommendations on minimizing the chances of picking up bed bugs and having them spread in your home. 

How Do Bed Bugs Enter Your Home? (Spread From Place To Place)

Unlike pests such as ticks, flies, and ants, bed bugs are not going to come crawling into your home from your yard. Nor are they likely to be brought into the house by your pets. Bed bugs are an indoor pest, and you are most likely to bring them into your home, not necessarily on your person, but on stuff you buy and carry around.

Locations Where You Can Pick Up Bed Bugs

It is a scary thought, but any place that has people can have bed bugs. You can pick them up from a coffee shop booth or a taxi-cab seat. However, bed bugs are more likely to be found in and brought home from places such as:

  • Hotels and hostels
  • Sleeping berths of overnight trains
  • Cruise ships
  • Boarding schools
  • Hospitals
  • Homeless shelters
  • Camps

The above-mentioned places all have three things in common. First, they are areas where many people stay at any time. Second, these high volumes of people are not the same people. Different people are arriving and leaving regularly. Third, these are all places where people sleep. Bed bugs only feed at night, so this is an essential factor.

Additionally, you cannot say that a five-star hotel is exempt, while a back-packers hotel is definitely going to have bed bugs. Some factors make more expensive accommodation less likely to have bed bug infestations, but it does not preclude them from the possibility. All it takes to cause a problem is one bed bug.

Bed bugs from an infesting room can crawl onto your clothing and luggage. Without knowing it, you then take these bugs home. If you are a frequent traveler, you increase your chances of bringing a bed bug into your house.

Another situation that you should consider is if you lease your home as an air bed and breakfast. In this case, the people staying there could bring the bed bugs with them.

You can also pick up bed bugs from a shared laundry facility.

Things That You Can Bring Into Your House That Carry Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can also be brought home in the things that you buy. Carpets, clothing, and furniture are all possible sources of bed bugs in your home.

In America and some other countries, it is common to put a piece of furniture on the sidewalk outside of your house or building when you don’t want it. Other people can then come past and pick it up. Some people find these items by chance; others go looking for them.

The problem with this practice is that these items can be infested with bed bugs. The person who put it out may not have been aware of this at the time. However, out of ignorance or disregard, some people will place items they know to be infested out on the sidewalk for others to collect.

It should be noted that if you are trying to rid yourself of a bed bug infestation, you should not put infested or even potentially infested furniture out on the sidewalk; instead, take it to a dump where the bed bugs can die from lack of contact with humans.

The furniture, clothing, rugs, etc., sold at garage sales and thrift stores are more likely to be infested with bed bugs than new items. Of course, there are thrift stores and individuals who thoroughly wash all items before selling them, but as these items have been around people (not in a factory), the chances are unavoidably higher.

However, this does not preclude newly purchased furniture, clothes, rugs, etc., from being infested with bed bugs either.

Bed Bug

How To Prevent Bed Bugs From Entering Your House

Travel Tips For Bed Bug Prevention

When you travel, you should inspect your room before unpacking. Use a flashlight and look near the tags, folds, and seams of the mattress and box spring. You should also check in cracks and crevasses in the headboards, bedside table, and walls and floor near the bed.

Of course, this is a dangerous task. You might not find bed bugs, but you may find enough to send you screaming you of the hotel anyway.

Don’t place your bags on the floor or bed. Use the luggage racks, but pull the rack away from the bed. Don’t unpack into the cupboards and drawers provided.

Put all your used clothes, especially those you sleep in, into a plastic bag and keep this separate from your other luggage. When you leave, place this bag inside another bag and tie it tightly before putting it into your suitcase.

When you return from traveling, ensure that you can put your material washables directly into the washer and dryer, including the clothes you are wearing. Wash and dry at a high temperature.

Vacuum and steam clean your bags and suitcases. You can also put these into trash bags and seal them. Unless you travel frequently, you probably won’t need these cases for a few months, so keep them sealed in these bags for about five months.

It would be best to store your empty suitcases in the garage, basement, attic, or any other mostly uninhabited room of the house. Never keep them in your bedroom, but if you must do so for some reason, stow them far away from your bed and leave them sealed in a plastic bag until you need them again.

Prevent Bed Bugs When You Lease Your Home To Guests

If you lease your home as an air bed and breakfast, you should lock up all rooms that your guests will not use. Make sure the rooms are in good repair, with no unnecessary cracks or crevasses.

Keep minimal furniture and items in the bedrooms they will be using. Put the mattress and box spring into protective cases. Ensure that most of the furniture and objects in the rooms to which the guests will have access are easily washable, either in the machine, in a bucket or tub of boiling water, or with a steamer.  

When the guests leave, it would be best to hot wash and dry all of the bedclothes (including the protective cases), curtains, and rugs. Steam clean the mattress, box spring, and upholstered furniture, and vacuum thoroughly.

Bringing Things Into Your Home: Tips For Preventing Bed Bugs

You don’t have to be afraid of bargain shopping or shopping in general. If you buy an item of clothing, put it in the washer and dryer when you get home and throw away the bag it came in. A hot wash and dry should kill one or two bed bugs if they are present on your new clothes.

It would be best for you to inspect visually, vacuum, and steam clean any new rugs and furniture you bring into your home. Pay special attention to cracks in the furniture. These cracks should also be sealed before you take the piece into your home. If you have obtained a secondhand bed, clean this thoroughly. You can also treat it will pesticides and leave it to dry in the sun.

Bed Bug Reproduction And How It Influences Spread

Bed bugs are hardy pests that readily reproduce. If you bring home one or more non-inseminated females or males, they cannot procreate. They will feed and live their lives until they die, but the problem will die with them.

However, you only need one inseminated female to start an infestation. The problem is that the bed bugs most likely to move onto new items (like when you stay at a hotel) are inseminated females.

This is because bed bugs reproduce via traumatic insemination. During traumatic insemination, the male bed bug pierces the female’s side and deposits sperm into her body cavity. Over the next few hours, the sperm migrates to the eggs. After being mated with by several males, the females will move away to avoid further abuse.

This behavior increases the likelihood of bed bugs spreading, not only between homes but within households, as an inseminated female can move from one bed to the next to escape mating males. This room then becomes infested when she lays her eggs.

An inseminated female bed bug lives approximately one year and can produce up to 250 eggs as long as she has blood meals. One blood meal will allow her to lay up to 7 eggs a day for ten days following the meal.

A female bed bug can be mated with by her own male offspring, and her offspring can mate with each other without causing genetic problems. Bed bugs can only mate when they reach maturity, but this only takes 21 days in warm weather.

In this way, one inseminated female can cause an infestation of 5000 bed bugs in the space of half a year.

How Do Bed Bugs Spread Within Your Home? (Room To Room)

There are two main ways by which bed bugs spread within a home.

The first is the movement of infested items from one room to another. This is why you should never remove items from an infested room into a clean room unless you are sure that there are no bed bugs on or in it. It is also why you should never move items to the wash without first sealing them in plastic bags.

The second way by which bed bugs spread in the home is by crawling. Bed bugs have no wings to fly, but they can crawl up to four feet in a minute. Typically, bed bugs won’t move far from their chosen host. An exception is an inseminated female who is looking for a reprieve from painful mating.

However, if you stop sleeping in your bed because you discovered bed bugs, they will eventually migrate to where you have moved. Your respiratory emissions of CO2 draw them.  

Bed Bug

How To Prevent Bug Bugs From Spreading In Your Home

Females produce more eggs when they feed more often. Fitting your mattresses and box springs with bed bug-proof cases, keeping your bed away from the walls, and placing isolator cups on your bed’s feet can reduce the chances of females feeding. This, in turn, reduces the number of eggs laid in her lifetime.

Vacuum regularly and thoroughly on and around your bed. Steam clean your mattress and change your bedclothes regularly.

You should also keep your room in good repair, preventing them from hiding away from your cleaning endeavors. Fill cracks and holes when they develop, glue down your wallpaper when it comes up, etc.

A cluttered room is not only difficult to clean thoroughly, but it also provides countless hiding places for bed bugs to hide from you and avoid being dealt with until they are prolific.

It would be helpful if you got into the habit of checking your room every few months for potential bed bugs. If you have no other signs of bed bugs (red dots on your skin or signs of blood, feces, eggs, and molts on the bed), you can stick to checking places like seams, corners, folds, and around the label of your mattress.

If you discover a bed bug, you will have to treat that room, and any other that you subsequently find has bed bugs. This will involve:

  • Washing and drying whatever you can at high temperatures.
  • Vacuuming and steam cleaning your bed and anything else you can.
  • Inspecting individual items for bed bugs.
  • Isolating items for several months in plastic bags.
  • Treating with pesticides.

Can You Ignore It If You See A Bed Bug (Are Bed Bugs Harmful)?

Bed bugs have a reputation as pests. However, unlike most other household pests, bed bugs don’t carry diseases, nor do they have toxic venom. This doesn’t mean that they cannot be harmful. Bed bugs can cause the following adverse health effects.

Itchy welts: The red spots of bed bug bites may turn into inflamed and itchy red welts. Some people might scratch these bumps until they form sores, becoming infected or leaving scars.

Allergies: People may become sensitized to bed bug saliva. Subsequent bites from these bugs will trigger an allergic reaction, manifesting as a rash or hives.

Psychological implications: The thought of sharing a house and bed with bed bugs is very distressing to most people. It can even cause insomnia, anxiety, and paranoia.

Beyond the health effects, getting rid of a bad bed bug infestation can become costly.

Conclusion

Bed bugs are not venomous, nor do they carry diseases. However, bed bugs spread readily and rapidly. A single inseminated female can produce an infestation of 5000 bed bugs within half a year. They can also cause itchy welts, allergic reactions, and psychological stress.

Travel is a likely way to pick up bed bugs because hotels, overnight trains, camps, boarding schools, etc., are a sleeping place for many people, and so many people pass through each room. Bed bugs are a problem for all socioeconomic classes, and bed bugs can infest five-star hotels and backpacker hostels.

If you travel often, you increase the chance of bringing bed bugs back home. Furthermore, due to the mating behavior of these insects, the bed bugs that climb onto new items such as your luggage at a hotel are inseminated females. The travel tips provided above can help you to minimize the risk of travel.

You can also bring bed bugs into the house on items like rugs, furniture, clothing, boxes, etc. Be careful where you purchase or pick up these items. If you are suspicious or uncertain, always check and treat them before bringing them into your home.

Bed bugs are spread within the home if you move infested items between rooms or stop sleeping in an infested room. They will follow their host to find their new sleeping locations.

References

https://www.medicinenet.com/bed_bugs/article.htm

https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/tips-travel

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html#:~:text=Bed%20bugs%20are%20not%20known,of%20a%20secondary%20skin%20infection.

https://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/protecting-your-home-bed-bugs

https://www.terminix.com/bed-bug-control/life-cycle/reproduction/

https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/how-fast-do-bed-bugs-spread/

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/bedbugs-infestation#1

Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and an FHA 203k Consultant. I started PestControlInsider.com to help people better understand pest control and what they can do about invasive insects, rodents, reptiles, and other mammals around their homes.

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