The first step of addressing a bed bug problem is arming yourself with the facts. Read on to learn the truth behind these eight common myths about bed bugs, including how bed bugs travel, what to look for and tips for identifying potential bites.
Myth #1: Bed Bugs Can Fly and Jump
Bed bugs are between three-sixteenths and a quarter of an inch long with antennae and a segmented beak for feeding. They are thin, disc-like and deep rust-colored — sometimes dark reddish-brown, sometimes lighter, depending on when and how much they ate. Though some have wing pads, bed bugs are wingless and cannot fly.
Bed bugs cannot jump either. Instead, they get around by scurrying and can move fast enough to travel more than 3 feet in a single minute. They are also experts at remaining undetected because their thin shape lets them fit inside corners and door hinges and beneath wall trims and baseboards.
Myth #2: Bed Bugs Only Live in Mattresses
Bed bugs are often associated with mattresses because they are nocturnal and feed on humans and warm-blooded animals while the victim is sleeping. Even their name makes people associate these pests with mattresses. However, bed bugs are frequent travelers, often commuting up to 20 feet from their hiding places to feed. Should their host leave indefinitely, bed bugs travel to a new part of your home to find the next food source.
Bed bugs can hide virtually anywhere indoors, not just among mattresses, including:
- Box springs
- Dresser drawers
- End tables
- Door trim and hinges
- Window sills and curtains
- Couches and chairs
- Wall trim and baseboards
- Carpet and rugs
- Light fixtures
- Electrical appliances
- Screws, knobs and fixtures
- Ceiling fans
- Headboards and bed frames
- Cracks in the walls
- Behind wall art
Their skilled hiding abilities are the primary reason these pests are nearly impossible to eliminate on your own because you never know how many bed bugs remain in hiding. Unlike other pests, they do not form colonies or create nests that would make them easy to detect. Though they often travel and feed in groups because they are driven by the same instincts, bed bugs can inhabit several locations inside your home, with frequent traveling between rooms.
If you suspect an infestation, inspect the rooms where humans and pets sleep, then move on to other frequented areas of the home, like the living room or office. Bed bugs have no interest in kitchen crumbs, but you should still check dining room furniture and rugs to be thorough.
Myth #3: The Main Cause of Bed Bugs Is a Dirty Home
In many places, the subject of bed bugs is almost taboo because they have been incorrectly associated with unkempt homes. Unfortunately, this false myth is one reason many people are afraid to reach out for help. Bed bugs are not driven to clutter, crumbs or garbage. They simply attach themselves to whatever will get them closer to their next meal. The only correlation between dirty spaces and bed bugs is that a messy or cluttered environment may make it more challenging to detect an infestation early.
Instead, bed bugs are attracted to warm, indoor places, carbon dioxide and blood sources. They’re considered public health pests in the United States because they spread easily on the constant hunt for food. They relocate especially fast in public areas where people live close together, but they don’t travel on their victims. Bed bugs don’t burrow into the skin or live in your hair or scalp, staying on your body for three to 12 minutes, long enough to feed or find an alternative food source, then leave.
While you can keep your house clean to help detect infestations early, you could also protect your home with these tips:
- Inspect while traveling: Hotels are a common spreading ground for bed bugs because of the frequent turnover and access to luggage you take back to your home. Before getting into bed, check the seams of your hotel mattress, as well as the headboard, inside the pillowcases, and near bedside furniture. Then inspect your luggage as you unpack at home.
- Be cautious with second-hand goods: Use a flashlight to carefully inspect all second-hand furniture, used clothing and antiques before bringing them into your home.
- Have new homes inspected: If you’re buying a house or moving into a new rental, check all carpets, bedrooms and left-behind rugs and furniture for any signs of bed bug stains or markings.
Myth #4: Bed Bugs Don’t Live in My Region
Since 2004, bed bug infestations have surged all over the country. These pests can live in any region but are especially prevalent in urban or densely populated areas. They thrive in shared spaces, such as:
- College campuses
- Dorm rooms
- Medical centers and hospitals
- Connected office buildings
They are indoor-only pests, so you won’t find traces of them in the outdoors — this also makes the outside environment irrelevant to their survival. Bed bugs can even survive extended periods without feeding. For these reasons, a bed bug infestation is possible in any city, town or home.
You’ll know you have an infestation if you find one or more of these signs in your house:
- Blood spots where you sleep, including the mattress, sheets, comforter, pillows and pillowcases
- Dark smears and spots in mattress seams that indicate bed bug fecal matter and staining
- Visible disc-shaped bugs crawling on walls, floors, bedding and furniture
- Small, discarded shells, usually translucent or beige
- A sickly sweet odor in bedrooms or rooms with visible bloodstains
Myth #5: Tea Tree Oil Kills Bed Bugs Naturally
Tea tree oil is derived from tea tree leaves in Australia. It has been long praised for its anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and pain-relieving qualities when used correctly — but does tea tree oil kill bed bugs? There is some minimal evidence to suggest that silicone and paraffin oils might be effective against bed bugs when applied by a professional. But tea tree oil and other essential oils cannot rid your home of a bed bug infestation.
This oil’s soothing properties may help alleviate the pain or itching bed bug bites can leave behind. Just be sure not to apply pure essential oil directly to your skin. Use an ointment infused with tea tree oil or dilute the oil with water and use a spray bottle applicator.
Myth #6: Bed Bugs Only Come out in the Dark
Bed bugs are nocturnal, but that doesn’t limit them to the dark — keeping a lamp or nightlight on all night will not deter them. These bugs feed whenever they are hungry and adapt their sleeping and feeding patterns to match their nearby food source. For example, if you work overnight shifts and sleep during the day, they may reverse their typical schedules and feed while the sun is out.
If you’re dealing with an infestation, minimize your chance of being bitten by a bed bug with these tips:
- Wear sleeves, long pants and socks when you go to bed.
- Sleep with several layers of blankets and ensure your whole body is covered with them.
- Wrap your mattress in a plastic protector.
- Launder your bedding frequently.
- Inspect your mattress before bed each night and eliminate any nearby bugs.
Myth #7: Bed Bugs Can Transmit Disease
One of the scariest bed bug myths is that they can transmit dangerous diseases with their bite. Fortunately, there is no evidence to suggest you can get sick when bitten. Some people may never even notice they’ve been bitten.
This myth doesn’t mean bed bugs are harmless, however. For some people, bed bug bites can get red and inflamed with an intense itch. Scratching these bites can create an open wound, leading to an infection if not treated properly. You can relieve some of the itching or inflammation left by a bite by gently washing the area in the morning and applying an anti-itch cream.
These bites can also trigger allergic reactions, rashes or asthma attacks in rare cases. Bed bug infestations create significant mental stress, as well, which a lack of sleep worsens.
In many cases, the bed bug bite may look like another bug bite, like one from a mosquito or flea. You can identify a bed bug bite by checking for these qualities:
- You received the bite or bites while sleeping.
- You have several bites in a cluster or straight line.
- The bites are on your arms, hands, legs, feet or neck — anywhere not covered by clothing.
- The bites are round and slightly raised.
Bed bugs can also bite your pet. Depending on the pet, the bites may be difficult to locate, so note any abnormal scratching and consult a vet if it worsens. Inspect and launder pet bedding frequently.
Myth #8: Bed Bugs Can Be Sprayed Away
Bed bugs are resistant to most insecticides, including commercial sprays, rubbing alcohol, essential oils and other DIY remedies. They are resilient, and you never know how many remain undetected, ready to lay more eggs and re-infest your home. The most effective way to kill a bed bug is to consult a professional pest removal service. Experts can eradicate an infestation and help you create a plan to protect your home from future problems.
Professionals will eliminate bed bugs using one or more of these methods:
- Heat: Most bed bugs die when their bodies reach 113 degrees, though some types have adapted to survive higher temperatures for longer. No plants, people or pets, including fish, should be present for heat treatment. You also need to rid your home of aerosol cans, candles and fire extinguishers.
- Encasement: Encasement includes using a sealed, plastic cover for your bed or other furniture items. The two types of encasement are proactive and reactive. Proactive encasement means protecting your mattress from a possible bed bug infestation before you’ve seen any signs of a bed bug, like blood stains or streaks. Reactive is when professionals encase your mattress or sofa to trap the insects inside. Although these methods make treatment easier, they should only be included as a supplemental step. Encasement will not remove every bed bug from your home.
- Fumigation: Fumigation is when a professional fills your home or a specific room with special chemical treatments designed to stun or kill bed bugs. Speak with your technician before the process for instructions regarding what to remove from your home, how long until you can return and safety tips for you and your pets.
How to Prepare for Professional Bed Bug Removal
Your professional pest removal technician will provide specific instructions for your home and treatment methods, but these tips are a good place to start:
- Clean your home and ensure all furniture, including beds, are easily accessible.
- Take out the garbage.
- Clean out all dressers, closets and end tables.
- Remove light switch and outlet covers.
- Launder all bedding and remove it from your home until after the treatment.
- Note any problematic areas or rooms where you’ve seen the most bed bug activity.
- Remove all vulnerable objects before the treatment, including fire hazards and anything that could wilt, die or melt.
Once the treatment is complete and you return to your home, inspect all items you’ve previously removed before bringing them back inside. Your pest professional will teach you all the bed bug facts you need to know to protect your home from future infestation.
Proven Bed Bug Infestation Treatments From Spectrum Pest Control
Bed bug infestations can create a lot of stress, but Spectrum Pest Control is here to help. We tackle bed bug infestations with a four-step removal process:
- Extraction: Our team will inspect each area of your home — including every crack, corner and baseboard — to identify areas with bed bug activity. We will remove all live bugs we find along the way. Although we will treat your entire home, this step also lets us know which rooms to concentrate our efforts on, like bedrooms.
- Heat: Our heat treatment will eliminate any remaining living bed bugs, including eggs, nymphs and adults. We will apply the heat treatment to your walls, floors and furniture.
- Adulticide: After the heat treatment, we apply an adulticide chemical treatment, which stuns and eliminates any remaining live bugs.
- Growth regulator: The final step is a growth-regulating chemical treatment that will prevent bed bugs from reproducing.
Most bed bug treatments take between three and four hours and will require your home to be empty for eight hours. We provide two follow-up visits after your initial treatment to monitor its success and eradicate any leftover eggs. Learn more about our residential pest removal services and contact us today to schedule an appointment.