How Does a Bed Bug Infestation Start?

U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Bed bugs are tiny parasites that feed on human blood. These insects are usually found in mattresses and the small cracks in bed frames, but they like to travel and will do so via clothing, suitcases and furniture.

Bed bugs are spread when infected clothing, luggage or furniture is brought into a house, apartment building or hotel. Sometimes bed bugs are spread through used mattresses and can be spread when an old mattress is loaded onto a truck with a new mattress.

The Ambush

Bed bugs are often spread via clothing and furniture, but they have also been known to lay in wait for their next victim. When bed bugs reproduce, they deposit eggs along with a sticky material that holds the eggs in place. Although the hatching larva will need a meal consisting of blood to reach adulthood, these young bed bugs can go without a meal for up to 1 year. Because of their tiny size and sticky eggs, bed bugs have been found in between floorboards, behind wallpaper, under peeling paint and even in picture frames between the photograph and the glass. The length of time which bed bugs can go without food combined with the many places they can hide means that these insects can wait inside an empty building for some time and then assail the new occupants.

Detection and Elimination

Bed bugs were relatively dormant for many years but are making a comeback. Because we have stopped using certain pesticides, such as DDT, and because we travel more frequently, bed bugs are now found in every large city. Fortunately bed bugs have not been linked to the spread of any disease and are more of a discomfort and embarrassment than health hazard. Because they are so small, bed bugs are not likely to be spotted by an individual who is not looking for them. Usually their presence is discovered when an individual starts getting bitten by them. Bed bugs can also leave red dots on bed sheets when people roll over them and crush them while sleeping and from deposits of fecal matter. Bed bugs can sometimes be treated at home by washing bed clothes in hot water and sealing mattresses in plastic and leaving them in the sun for as long as possible. Insecticides designed specifically for bed bugs can also be used to treat floor boards and other items, but should not be sprayed on mattresses or bedding. Carpets should be steamed and items that are hard to wash, like pillows, should be frozen. While home remedies may work, bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of and are a problem best handled by a professional exterminator.