Top 10 Bed Bug Facts

Learn everything you need to know (and maybe don’t want to know) about pesky bed bugs.

By Rachael Harris

Anyone who’s had an encounter with bed bugs (hand raised) will tell you that they are a nightmare: literally painful to deal with, tricky to eliminate, and just plain gross. That’s why we’ve compiled the top 10 bed bug facts to help keep you and your mattress free of infestations.

1. Bed bugs can survive in extreme temperatures.

Bed bugs (also known as cimex lectularius) have been around for thousands of years in just about every region of the world. They can survive in scorching desert heat (up to 113°F) and chilly winter temperatures (as low as 46°F).

  • Many home heat treatments increase the temperature in your home to reach bed bugs hiding out of sight.
  • Clothing and linens infested with eggs, nymphs, or adult bugs need to be washed and dried on the highest temperatures.
  • Portable heating units can be used to treat valuables and items unable to be washed and dried.
  • Did you know: There are tropical bed bugs that can survive higher temperatures.

2. Bed bugs can live up to a year (or longer).

Like most insects, bed bugs can multiply pretty quickly. Female bed bugs don’t lay as many eggs as a fruit fly, for example, but they can live much longer.

  • The average lifespan for a bed bug is around 6-12 months. Some can live longer under the right conditions.
  • From unhatched eggs to fertile adults, the reproduction life cycle is around four to five weeks.
  • A female bed bug can lay between 1 and 3 eggs each day, amounting to 200-500 in her lifespan.
  • During each stage of growth, they need a blood meal to move to the next stage of maturity.
  • Adult bed bugs need a blood meal every 2 weeks at minimum to be able to mate.

3. They feed primarily on humans.

While the worldwide bed bug population will use birds and some mammals as hosts, they seem to like human hosts the best. So how far will they go to get their fill of human blood?

  • Bed bugs will travel anywhere between 5 and 20 feet from their hiding place to get to a host.
  • Once they start feeding, getting full can take between 3 and 12 minutes.
  • Extra hungry bugs will feed during the day, but they prefer nighttime. 
  • Bed bugs can go for months without feeding. 
  • If you have an infestation and have hired a pest management professional, it may be best to stay outside the home for a while. 
  • Bed bugs don’t discriminate—anywhere humans sleep, they will nest, and that includes 5-star resorts.

4. Mattresses aren’t the only place bed bugs like to live.

Bed bugs get their name because they like to nest in mattresses, where they can conveniently feed on human hosts at night; however, they will hide just about anywhere in your home. Here are some of the places to check for bed bugs if you think you have an infestation.

  • Any fabric seams (ie couch cushions, curtains, pillows, and of course, mattresses)
  • Box springs, bed frames, and headboards
  • Baseboards, picture frames, and other wall hangings
  • Cracks in drawers or walls
  • The pages or bindings of books and magazines
  • Even electrical appliances and other miscellaneous items with crevices wide enough to fit a credit card

5. Bed bugs look like an apple seed.

It’s important to know what you’re looking for because bed bugs can be mistaken for other common pests, such as carpet beetles.

  • Adult bed bugs are around the length and width of an apple seed.
  • Unfed bed bugs are flat and oval-shaped with brown coloring.
  • Fed bed bugs are longer and plumper with reddish-brown coloring.
  • Adult bed bugs produce a sweet, musty odor.

6. You may not know you’ve been bitten for 2 weeks.

Similar to mosquitos, when bed bugs bite, they anesthetize the region where they plan to feed. Bed bug bites affect people differently. Here’s what you can expect from a bite mark.

  • The area will be reddish, raised, and itchy, like a flea or mosquito bite.
  • Bites can occur in a line or with no discernible pattern.
  • Some people develop an allergy to bed bug saliva, which can lead to extra big bites marks.
  • Probably the most unpleasant symptom of bites is the anxiety accompanied by an infestation where you sleep, which can result in insomnia.
  • Some people’s skin doesn’t react to bed but bites at all.

7. Just like most Americans, bed bugs love to travel.

One of the more common places people pick up bed bugs is while traveling. They are perfectly content to hang out in your luggage until an opportunity arises to nest in a less transient location. Their flat bodies make it easy for them to hide in zipper seams, wrinkles, and cracks in furniture, so take extra precautions when traveling outside your home.

  • Before you bring your luggage into a hotel room, thoroughly check beneath the mattress and sheets, along cracks in drawers, and in the carpet.
  • If you discover bed bugs in your room or plane/train seat, immediately remove your belongings and notify the manager or vehicle assistant.
  • After traveling, wash all your clothes in hot water and dry with hot air. If possible, launder your luggage.

8. Fortunately, they don’t spread diseases.

Take a deep breath and exhale because you won’t catch any diseases from bed bug bites. If you do fall prey to their midnight munchies, you’ll experience itching and swolleness similar to mosquito or spider bites. Here’s how you can keep bite symptoms to a minimum.

  • Don’t excessively scratch the area of a bite. This can lead to a skin infection, especially if you have dirt and germs under your fingernails.
  • Use an anti-itch cream on the agitated skin.
  • If necessary, you can take an antihistamine to treat itchiness and burning.

9. Mattress protectors don’t keep you from getting an infestation.

Bed bugs can live pretty much anywhere in your home, so using a mattress protector only keeps them out of your mattress. Here are a few other ways to keep your home unappealing to bed bugs.

  • Regularly wash your bedding and follow the care and cleaning instructions for your mattress and box spring.
  • Vacuum on a weekly basis.
  • Fill in cracks in walls and furniture, if possible.
  • Eliminate clutter, especially in bedrooms or near places where people sleep.

10. There is a way to eliminate a bed bug problem.

It may not be quick and easy, but with a little patience and the help of a professional, you can be bed-bug free.

  • Educate yourself on chemical and non-chemical treatments. You will likely need both to get rid of all the bed bugs in your living space. This is called integrated pest management.
  • Heat treatments and fumigation are tested and true methods for killing adults, nymphs, and bed bug eggs; however, they can be a bit pricey for a single-family home, with some estimates reaching $2,000 to $3,000.
  • Wash and dry all clothes and linens on the highest heat setting.
  • Zip your mattress and box spring into a protective cover designed to keep bugs out.

A bed bug infestation might have you reaching for a flamethrower to burn it all down, but you can eliminate them without losing your home and sanity. We recommend taking preventative measures before a problem arrives at your doorstep. Wrap your mattress in a polyester knit protector to prevent bed bugs from getting inside. Bag up items in storage units. Check your hotel room for signs of an infestation.

We also recommend an aggressive approach to eliminating infestations once they’ve gotten a foot in the door. Use a professional pest exterminator. Buy a portable heating unit for valuables you think may be infested. Invest in a washer and dryer that can reach temperatures above 113 degrees. With the right approach, you’ll sleep easy knowing the only ones sharing your bed are the ones you want.

For more sleep and mattress facts check out our Sleep Facts, Myths, and Statistics page.

Sources:

  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/top-10-myths-about-bedbugs/
  • https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html

  • https://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/bed-bugs/bed-bugs/

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/bed-bug-bites#treatment


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