Bed Bug Facts

Here at the Bed Bug Treatment site, we receive lots of questions via email and on social media about bed bugs.  Turns out, many of the questions are the same.  We thought it would be helpful to answer many of your common questions about bed bugs on a single “facts about bed bugs” page so everyone can benefit from our replies.

Table of Contents

  1. Table of Contents
  2. What do bed bugs look like?
  3. How do you get bed bugs?
  4. What do bed bug bites look like?
  5. How to treat bed bug bites?
  6. Where are bed bugs?
  7. Are bed bugs found only in beds?
  8. Can bed bugs make people sick?
  9. How to kill bed bugs
  10. Can bed bugs fly?
  11. How to get rid of bed bugs
  12. How long do bed bugs last?
  13. Why do bed bug bites itch?
  14. Where do bed bugs come from?

What do bed bugs look like?

Bed bugs are parasitic insects that resemble a beetle.  They are flat and have an oval body shape, no wings, three legs on each side and long “feelers”.  Bed bugs are light brown to reddish brown in color normally.  However, just after consuming blood, bed bugs can be bright red with a clear abdomen.  Bed bugs are very small, 4-5mm long and 1 – 3mm wide.  An adult bed bug is about the size of an average apple seed.

Read more at our blog post: What do bed bugs look like?

How do you get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are primarily brought into homes when people bring used furniture or mattresses into their home  Used mattresses box springs, bedroom furniture and couches are commonly infected with bed bugs.  Once the furniture is brought into the home, bed bugs will quickly spread, causing a bed bug infestation.   We do not recommend bringing used furniture into your home, period.  But if you must, please read over our used furniture article for tips on how to detect bed bugs on used furniture and how to treat them.

The second most common way to get bed bugs is through travel.  When people stay at hotels or bed and breakfasts with bed bug infestations, the bed bugs get into luggage and clothing and are brought into the home when people return from trips.  To avoid this, read over our bed bug prevention page, which provides tips for travelers to avoid getting bringing bed bugs home.

Bed bugs are natural in our environment and can also just make their way into your home naturally, however, infestation from another place is far more common.

What do bed bug bites look like?

Bed bug bites look like many other insect bites and can often be hard to differentiate even for trained physicians.  Bed bug bite symptoms often vary from victim to victim as well, even further complicating diagnosis.    Some common bed bug bite symptoms or indicators are:

  • Red areas of skin, often resembling a rash.  Bed bug bites typically have a small dark circular area in the center of the pink blotches.
  • Bed bug bites are frequently located on the face, neck, arms, and hands
  • Bites are close to each other, often in a cluster.  Bites often merge together resembling a larger bite.
  • They itch – this is a common symptom.  While some people don’t react, most due and the reaction causes itching
  • Bites can be flat or raised, this varies based on the individual
  • Bites may also be in a line rather than a cluster.

Check out of our bed bug pictures gallery for actual pictures of bed bug bites for reference.

How to treat bed bug bites?

Treatment of bed bug bites is very similar to treatment strategies for other “itchy” type insect bites.   There are a number of treatment options, and the most effective treatment often varies from person to person.  Read more about treating bed bug bites using various different methods.

Where are bed bugs?

Bed bugs survive and thrive in a large range of climate.  As a result, pest control companies are reporting bed bug cases all over the US.  The highest number of cases being reported in large/high population cities.  Terminex recently released the top 15 cities for reported bed bug cases.

Bottom line is that no matter where you live, you are at risk of infestation.  We recommend implementing preventative measures to keep you from being infested.

Are bed bugs found only in beds?

No.  While commonly found in beds, bed bugs can be anywhere: couches, cushions, furniture, carpet, pillows, wall outlets, behind molding, and even behind picture frames or shelves.  Bed bugs can be found anywhere in your home.  This is a common mistake people make when treating for bed bug infestations.  People treat the bed only when a much more thorough treatment plan is required.

Can bed bugs make people sick?

UPDATE – 11/19/2014 – A recent study has shown that bed bugs can, in fact, carry and transmit a deadly disease called Chagas.  Read our recent article for the details.

There have a been a few rumors floating around on the internet that bed bugs can transmit disease like a mosquito.  Even rumors of Aids transmission from bed bug bites.  These rumors are not true.  Bed bugs have not been linked to the transmission of any diseases, even Aids.

There have been reported cases of people with significant bed bug infestations coming to hospitals sick, but there was no conclusive evidence that the illness was related to the bed bug infestation or bites from the bed bugs.

Although, we must admit that being covered with bed bug bites is sometimes worse than getting sick!

How to kill bed bugs

We’ve found that the most effective way to kill bed bugs is to use a multiple step treatment process.   Bed begs in recent years have begun to become immune to various treatment methods, especially pesticide based sprays and chemicals.  While they do still work, the percentage of bugs killed by bed bug sprays is lower than it used to be.  Combining pesticides with steam, diatomaceous earth,  and other treatment methods has the highest kill percentage.  We also don’t recommend treating just once, but treating multiple times until you are confident your bed bug problem is gone.

Can bed bugs fly?

Fortunately, bed bugs have no wings and cannot fly. This is a good thing, as their limited mobility helps to keep them from spreading. Bed bugs can only walk.

Read more about how to kill bed bugs.

How to get rid of bed bugs

How to get rid of bed bugs is a common question these days, especially with the rise in bed bug reports all across America, especially in more populated areas and cities. This question is so popular in fact, that we wrote a whole article to help you learn how to get rid of bed bugs.  We hope it helps!

How long do bed bugs last?

There is no single answer to this question, but bed bug infestations can often take months to fully treat.  The amount of time all depends on how bad your infestation is, and how isolated your home is from other homes or places that may also have bed bugs.  

For example, apartments and hotels can be very problematic.  You may treat your apartment, but your neighbors may not treat theirs, resulting in bed bugs just moving right back in.

In a best-case scenario, where bed bugs are in your home, and only in a single room, bed bugs can be removed within a few days using a professional heat treatment system.    In an environment where bed bugs are comfortable, have a food source, and remain untreated, bed bugs can live, breed, and multiply for years.

Why do bed bug bites itch?

Bed bugs don’t actually “bite”.  They actually pierce your skin with a needle-like beak and pull blood in through the beak.  The beak has saliva in it that numbs the nerves in your skin to keep you from feeling the bite.  Many people often have an allergic reaction to the saliva, resulting in welts or rashes that itch.  The more allergic a person is, the worse the welt or rash, and the worse the itching.

The irritation and itching can last for hours to weeks, depending on how reactionary a particular person is.   An Interesting but scary fact is that researchers have found that the majority of people 65 and over have no reaction to bed bug bites at all.  This means they could have a bed bug infestation, and are actively being fed on each night, and don’t even realize it.

>> Learn more about bed bug bites.

Where do bed bugs come from?

The original origins of bed bugs are unknown, but as far back as history goes, bed bugs are mentioned.   Prior to the 1900’s when modern day pesticides were developed, bedbugs were just a normal part of life.  Fortunately today, while still a big problem, bed bugs aren’t nearly the nuisance that they were.

Bed bugs are excellent travelers.  Here is a common example of how they can spread:

Becky has to travel out of town for business.  Her home is not currently infested with bed bugs, but that is all about the change.  Becky packs her clothes, tells her family goodbye and heads to the airport.   She arrives at her destination and checks into one of the nicer hotels in the area.   She arrives at her room and sets her bags on the bed.  Unfortunately, the room and hotel are infested with bed bugs.   Smelling her scent, the bed bugs immediately move to and into her luggage.

Becky moves her bags into the closet, where there are even more bed bugs that get into her luggage.   She goes out for dinner and returns to the hotel for a good nights sleep.  During the night, the bed bugs sense her in the bed and hotel room and move in to feed.   Becky wakes up a little itchy but attributes it to the sheets.

She showers and gets dressed, and heads to work.  Unknowingly, she has bed bugs in her clothing and on her laptop bag.   While at work, the bed bugs move from her bag and clothing to other people, and into meeting rooms and cubicles.  They go home with a number of people that day, starting infestations in their homes.

Becky returns from her trip with her clothing and luggage infested with bed bugs, and very quickly her home is infested.  Her husband and children are waking up itchy, and finding signs of bed bugs all over.

From this example, you can easily see how quickly bed bugs can spread, and how easy it is to get an infestation.  

>> Learn more about where bed bugs come from.