Scientists hypothesize that the common bed bug species first emerged around 245,000 years ago. If proven, this means that these pesky critters pre-date humans by 45,000 years.
Yet, for all the time that we’ve had to learn about the Cimex lectularius, there’s plenty that we’re still discovering. Then, there are so-called “facts” about bed bugs that have gotten shared, tossed around and convoluted worse than a botched game of “Telephone” over the years.
If you think you might have a bed bug infestation in your home, you need to be confident in what to look for and expect. Trusting myths and misinformation can leave you confused, overwhelmed and even more alarmed than you already are.
Today, we’re debunking 10 of the most common misconceptions related to bed bugs, so you can cut through the chatter and get straight to the facts!
1. Bed Bugs Are Too Small to See
There’s a long list of bed bug traits that can give you the heebies-jeebies, but being invisible isn’t one of them. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re glaringly obvious, either.
An adult bed bug measures about 3/16-inch to 1/4-inch long, or about the size of an apple seed. If they haven’t been fed recently, these bugs are long, flat and tanish-brown, with an oval-shaped body. When they’re full, their bodies are more elongated and swollen and their color turns to reddish-brown.
Also called nymphs, young bed bugs are also visible, though you’ll need to peer a little more closely to see them. Not only are they much smaller, but they aren’t as dark in color. In fact, most nymphs are translucent or whitish-yellow.
Then, there’s the issue of spotting the eggs. These, too, are visible to the naked, trained eye. About the size of a pinhead, a bed bug egg is pearly white and is easiest to see if it’s at least five days old.
Though you can see them, bed bugs are masterminds at playing hide and seek. As they’re relatively flat, they’re experts at squeezing into tiny crevices and remaining hidden until it’s time to come out and feed.
For this reason, many people don’t even realize they have a bed bug problem until it’s progressed beyond the initial stages and become a full-blown infestation. Yet, even if you can’t see the bugs themselves, it’s fairly easy to spot the evidence that they leave behind.
Live bed bugs will leave black or brown excrement stains on any surface they infest. Thus, they’re pretty easy to spot on mattresses, sheets and box springs but can be a little harder to find on dark-colored upholstery or wooden furniture.
Feel like you’re going crazy as you go on nightly “hunts” to find the culprits behind your bites? Stop searching for a second and sniff, instead. Even if you can’t see bed bugs at the moment, it’s hard to miss their telltale, musky scent.
2. Bed Bugs Only Bite at Night
Despite their name, bed bugs aren’t purely nocturnal.
In fact, they can deliver a bite at any time of day. This is especially true if they’ve gone a while between blood meals and are particularly hungry. As long as they have enough hiding spots to retreat back into and they feel comfortable in their environment, they’re willing to venture away from their hiding spot to find a food source.
Depending on the temperature and humidity, bed bugs can go up to a year or longer without feeding, though most only last around five months maximum in an average household on an empty stomach. In general, they tend to feed every five to seven days or so.
When conditions are colder, bed bugs can go longer without a blood supply. On the other hand, young bed bugs require more frequent feedings than their older relatives, and need to feed at least every few weeks to survive. Either way, it’s unlikely that they’ll get too desperate for food during the day if you’re around at night. Still, it isn’t impossible!
If you’re thinking that going away for a few weeks will take care of an infestation, it’s important to realize that this tactic won’t work. You might come home relaxed and tanned, but the bugs will be equally well-rested and eager to feed.
3. Bed Bugs Can Jump and Fly
Bed bugs and babies have one thing in common: They’re both crawlers!
While bed bugs are often mistaken for other pests, if you see a gnat flying around or a fly buzzing nearby, that’s not them. Some people also think that they can jump from person to person.
This myth likely originated from bed bugs’ infamous reputation as hitchhikers. Yes, they’re known to weasel their way into your suitcase and catch a ride home after you’ve visited an infested hotel room, but they didn’t jump or fly into your luggage.
Bed bugs do not have wings, so that definitely cancels out any flying. Moreover, their legs aren’t exactly built to accommodate jumping. They can, however, crawl at very quick speeds of around two to three feet per minute.
Unlike your dog, bed bugs won’t make a beeline for you as soon as you enter a room. Instead, they’ll usually wait until you’re asleep to start their activity.
4. You Can Feel a Bite Immediately
There are some pests that deliver an instant sting or burning sensation as soon as they make their mark on your body (We’re looking at you, wasps.)
Then, there are other, sneakier pests, including bed bugs, that prefer a more delayed reaction to their performance.
When a bed bug bites you, it will pierce your skin with two hollow tubes. One tube contains the bug’s saliva, which contains an anesthetic that numbs the site. Inside the other tube is an anticoagulant that ensures an uninterrupted blood flow during the feeding process.
Because of the anesthetic, you usually don’t feel anything when a bed bug bites you. This is especially the case if you’re in the middle of a deep sleep. Then, when you wake up, it could take hours or even days for the itchy red welts to appear and the itchy sensation to take hold.
One way to distinguish a bed bug bite from another insect bite, such as one from a mosquito? Though it isn’t always the case, they tend to bite in clusters, usually forming a linear or zig-zag pattern.
Yet, keep in mind that these clusters will not always be groups of three bites, as some people claim. A common myth is that bed bugs prefer to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner all at the same time! While clusters are common, groups of three are not guaranteed.
5. Bed Bugs Only Live in Beds
It’s easy to see where this myth came from, but it simply isn’t true.
Yes, bed bugs do tend to infest your bed more than any other area of the house–because that’s where they know they’ll have regular, dependable access to you at night! However, if you have a bed bug infestation, it’s unlikely that they’re strictly isolated to your bedroom.
In reality, these bugs can infest almost any crevice they can squeeze into. They’re also partial to any areas that provide them with quick access to body heat (and blood). Thus, in addition to your bed sheets, mattress and box spring, they could also be in your carpet, on your couches, and even inside your electrical outlets! In addition, it’s not uncommon to find bed bugs on wheelchairs or walkers that are used on a regular basis.
Only a licensed, professional bed bug exterminator is qualified to inspect your entire home to determine where exactly the bugs are hiding out. Some will even use specially-trained canines to sniff out the pests and point to specific pieces of furniture or areas in the walls or floor that could contain them.
For this reason, we suggest hiring a qualified team today, rather than throwing away all of your furniture in a frenzy. While getting rid of an infested mattress is a great first step, it’s unlikely that the bugs were concentrated in just that area.
6. Bed Bugs Are Only Found in Dirty Conditions
Bed bugs aren’t relegated to seedy roadside motels with reputations for being unkempt. Nor do they prefer a certain kind of home over another. Over the years, this has been a misconstrued inaccuracy that has given rise to a substantial amount of undue shame and humiliation.
The reality is that bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels, luxury resorts and millionaire mansions, and they don’t discriminate against any kind of living condition. Even plush, famed hotels such as NYC’s Waldorf Astoria have been plagued with infestations.
The simple truth is that bed bugs can travel to anywhere, from anywhere. Finding them in your home does not speak to your family’s level of cleanliness, though you might find it personally difficult to shake the stigma that they carry.
Instead of seeking out filth, these bugs simply crave blood, warmth and carbon dioxide. Thus, they tend to congregate in areas where a large group of people are living. If you slept or spent a large amount of time in a room that was infested, it’s possible that at least one made its way onto your personal belongings and came home with you.
This might include a hotel, a friend’s house, an apartment rental or any other type of temporary lodging. If you were simply present in those places, you could become the next victim of an infestation. It isn’t because of anything you did or did not do, nor is it a reflection of your personal hygiene.
That said, bed bugs also prefer places that provide them with plenty of hiding spots. If you have a good amount of excess clutter lying around your home, go ahead and pick it up. Doing so gives them one less place to bury themselves as they plan their next meal.
7. Bed Bugs Attach To and Travel On People
Though they both appreciate the taste of blood, bed bugs do not operate the same as ticks. They do not latch onto your body and remain there until detected. In this way, they are also dissimilar to lice.
Rather, a bed bug will bite you, eat its meal, and then quickly retreat back into its hiding spot to avoid getting caught. It can take hours to even realize you were chosen as its temporary host.
At the same time, these bugs don’t hitchhike by attaching to people, either. Especially if you’re moving around, they tend to stay far away where it’s safe.
Most of the time, if a bed bug travels from one location to another, it does so by hitching a ride on an inanimate object. This might be a piece of luggage, a backpack or an article of clothing, such as a shoe. Thus, though they can show up in buses, trains, planes and cars, they didn’t get to those areas by holding on tight to a human host.
Wondering if your hotel room might contain bed bugs? Before you get too comfortable, check out the steps to take first, which include:
- Surveying the area
- Elevating your belongings
- Examining your luggage
- Washing and drying your clothes when you get home
These simple tips can help prevent stowaway bugs from catching a free ride on your laptop case and all the way back to your home!
8. Bed Bugs Can Transmit Diseases
They’re icky, they’re aggravating, but they aren’t disease-carrying.
There is no proof that bed bugs carry any form of blood-borne disease. This is another fact that sets them apart from mosquitos, which can transmit a range of diseases through their bites, including Zika virus, West Nile virus, and malaria.
However, it is important to note that not everyone has the same reaction to a bed bug bite. Some people can get bitten without ever experiencing a welt or feeling itchy at all. Then, there are some people who experience severe allergic reactions to them that go beyond the average response.
In this case, these people might experience larger welts than normal. Their bites could even develop into a rash of hives. In addition, if you tend to scratch your bites furiously in the heat of a particularly itchy session, you could break the skin on and around the area, which can lead to an abrasion or a skin infection.
A gentler, easier way to keep the itch at bay is to apply a topical cortisone cream and try to avoid using your fingernails to achieve relief.
9. Over-the-Counter Bed Bug Treatments Work Fine
Sure, you can head to your local big-box store and find sprays and traps marketed to help homeowners get rid of a bed bug infestation. Yet, in the time it takes you to find these products, use them in your home, and realize that they are ultimately ineffective, you’ve allowed the infestation to spread and worsen.
Bed bugs are some of the most resilient, enduring pests and they’re notoriously difficult to get rid of on your own. They’ve also grown highly resistant to most commercial pesticides over the years.
Instead of wasting your time and spinning your wheels trying to eradicate the problem with a few pumps of a store-bought spray, it’s best to go straight to the pros.
At Custom Bed Bug, we use a proven, integrated heat treatment designed to kill bed bugs in every stage of life. As these pests are unable to live in temperatures over 120-122 degrees Fahrenheit, killing them with heat is by far the most effective and proven method.
At the same time, it’s also more effective because the heat can permeate into areas of your home that most sprays cannot reach. Bed bugs nest in more places than simply your bed, but it can be impossible to spray every nook and cranny of your property. From dresser drawers and bookshelves to picture frames and walls, heat attacks all of their favorite places of refuge, so no bug gets left behind.
Using special heating equipment, thermostats, and sensors, we can safely and effectively heat-treat any infested area in your home. As we do so, we’ll take special care to adjust furniture, open drawers and move our equipment around to ensure the lethal heat penetrates every area that a bed bug could sneak into and hide.
By following this method, we can successfully take care of an infestation in a single treatment. If you rely on spray applications alone, it could take three to four treatments before you begin to notice the effects. You’ll also have to wait a few weeks between each treatment, so they full service could take several months to complete.
10. The Effects of Bed Bugs Are Purely Physical
If you’ve ever experienced a bed bug infestation, you know that these pests invade more than just your home and your body. It can also feel as though they’re attacking your mind.
Because of their small size and excellent hiding skills, it can be very difficult to spot bed bugs during the day. How do you explain the new bites you wake up with every morning, then? It’s easy to feel confused and unsure of what to do, especially if this is your first time dealing with this issue.
Then, there’s the issue of where they tend to hide out. The average American spends nearly 36 years of their lifetime lying in bed. Your bed is supposed to be your safe spot and your refuge. What do you do when it’s the one place you feel the least at ease? You might fear lying down at night, wondering what you’re going to wake up to in a few hours.
In addition, there’s also concern and anxiety over what others might think if they found out about your situation. As discussed, although bed bugs are not a sign of dirtiness, social opinion often says otherwise. You might feel ashamed over the infestation and embarrassed to talk about it with anyone.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that in one survey of nearly 500 people who had been bitten by bed bugs, researchers found that nearly 30% suffered from insomnia, 22% reported being emotionally distressed, and 20% said they were suffering from severe anxiety. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it helps to know that while they can feel isolating, you are not alone. Once a successful treatment is completed, your physician can help you find an effective treatment for any emotional or mental distress you might be experiencing.
Stop a Bed Bug Infestation In Its Tracks
If you believe you might have a bed bug infestation, it’s all too easy to go down the rabbit-hole of questionable logic. This is especially true thanks to the internet, where anyone can make a meme, write a blog, or share an article that contains plenty of eyebrow-raising falsities.
These 10 bed bug myths are all too commonly believed, which can cause an already-stressful situation to become even more so.
When you’re ready to head straight to an expert you can trust, look no further than our team. We focus on one thing only: completely clearing our client’s homes of any traces of bed bugs, for good. It’s all we do, and we’re the best at it.
With four strategic locations across the midwest, we’re able to help a wide range of local clients live comfortably in their homes again. Contact us for a free quote today and breathe a lot easier tomorrow!