In addition to being necessary for life and health, getting a good night’s sleep is one of life’s most simple pleasures. There’s nothing like dropping into a warm, comfortable bed after a long day’s work and drifting off into dreamland.
On that same token, there are few things in this world that we resent more than anything that prevents or disrupts a good night’s sleep. And there are few things in the world that can be more disruptive to a good, peaceful night’s sleep than suspecting or knowing that you have bed bugs just waiting for you to fall asleep so they can feed.
Preventing bed bugs or eliminating them if you have them should be a high priority. To do that, you’ll need to have some idea what attracts bed bugs. In this posting, we’ll talk a bit about bed bugs, what attracts bed bugs, and how you can minimize those attractive features in your home so that you can enjoy a good night’s sleep knowing that you aren’t sharing your bed with the little pests.
A bit about bed bugs
We’ve talked about bed bugs in previous blog posts so we won’t spend too much time here retreading old ground but here are a few reminders.
How big is a bed bug? What do they look like? Bed bugs are small, largely nocturnal parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. Bed bugs have had a parasitic relationship with human beings for millennia, living where we live and feeding off of us to sustain themselves. They have a distinctive flat shape with an oval shaped thorax and have a rusty brown color.
Though small, bed bugs are visible to the naked eye but they can be easy to miss unless you know what you’re looking for and where to look for them.
How do you get bed bugs?
Bed bugs are well-traveled insects. They are often spread by a person (or in some cases pet) entering an infested room and having one or more bed bugs stow away on the person, their clothes, their luggage or some other object. Bed bugs also reproduce quickly so it doesn’t take too long for a few bed bugs to become a full-fledged infestation.
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
You can check out our blog post about this for more information, but here is a recap.
There are few telltale signs to watch out for. First, and most obvious, you see one or more bed bugs. Rest assured that if you see one bed bug, there are probably others where that one came from.
Second, you might see their eggs. Bed bug eggs are very small, pearly white in color and have an oval shape. They look very much like a very small grain of rice. If you see clusters of such objects in cracks, crevices, mattress seams or other locations, you might have bed bugs.
Third, you see their molted shells. Bed bugs advance through five stages of life from nymph to adult and each time, they molt their shell. The shells are shaped like the bug as it appeared in the stage it is advancing from. Where there are bed bug shells, there are most likely bed bugs.
Fourth, you see their fecal stains. Bed bug feces are black and often appear about the size of a drop of ink. It stains the linens it touches so if you see black marks that remain after washing; this could be a sign of bed bugs.
Finally, fifth, bed bug bites. When bed bugs feed, they have to bite you and inject a mild anticoagulant. These two things leave itchy bite marks on your body. If you start waking up with small, itchy red bumps on your skin, it may be a sign that you have bed bugs.
Are bed bugs dangerous?
Whatever other distress bed bugs may be causing you, rest assured that they are not a danger to you. Interestingly, despite their parasitic nature and long history of feeding on humans, bed bugs do not spread disease. It doesn’t matter how many bed bugs bite you or how many times; you aren’t going to contract any disease.
That being said, some people do have allergic reactions to bed bug bites so if you start waking up with bites and having allergic reactions, mild or serious, consult a physician ASAP.
What attracts bed bugs?
So what attracts bed bugs and what can you do about it? We have a brief list here of things that make a place inviting for bed bugs and a few thoughts about what you can do to make your home less accommodating.
Food (that’s you)
Everybody and every living thing needs and loves a hardy, nutritious meal. Since bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, they really only have one source of food: anything with blood.
Bed bugs can and will feed on anything that they can bite, but humans are an especially enticing target. For one, unlike animals, humans don’t have thick coats of occasionally long fur that make it harder for a bed bug to get to the skin. A bed bug’s proboscis isn’t that long, so the bug actually has to be on the skin to feed.
For another, humans tend to sleep on beds that themselves are very inviting habitats for bed bugs. Bed frames have corners, notches and holes where bed bugs set up shop and mattresses have seams that can fulfill the same function.
What better arrangement could a bed bug ask for than to have its primary source of food actually lie down and fall asleep where the bugs live?
Sadly, there’s basically nothing you can do to deprive a bed bug of its food source. While you are waiting to get them exterminated, you can make yourself harder to bite by doing things like putting mattress covers on your bed, vacuuming your bed frame and mattress, and wearing long pajamas and socks.
So, what attracts bed bugs to bite you anyway?
Good question! Since bed bugs eat blood exclusively, they are attracted to biological markers of warm-blooded life. Bed bugs are attracted to you by your body’s natural warmth. They are attracted to you by the carbon dioxide that you emit when you exhale. Think of these as large, bright neon signs that tell bed bugs there is a place to eat very nearby.
Not terribly dissimilar from humans, bed bugs live virtually everywhere but they aren’t particularly well adapted to extreme temperatures. Bed bugs will die if their habitat is consistently very cold or very hot and this is one of the reasons that heat treatments are often the go-to option for treating an infestation.
This means that the same shelter that makes your life comfortable also makes bed bugs comfortable. A house offers not just regulated temperatures, but places to nest. We mentioned above that bed bugs like places like corners in furniture, holes where screws or bolts are fixed, seams on mattresses.
These are common places for bed bugs to hide, but they aren’t the only ones. Bed bugs love any place that is largely undisturbed. And thanks to their small size and unusual shape, an average bedroom can offer a lot of these places.
Cracks, crevices, holes, the underside of rugs, the spaces between objects in piles of clutter and other small places offer bed bugs ideal hiding places in which they can shelter.
Since there are so many places that bed bugs can hide, it’s basically impossible to make a place bed bug proof. It does not hurt, however, to minimize the number of places that bed bugs can hide.
Clean up clutter. Vacuum regularly. Deep clean spaces in a room that might be neglected. Doing these things may not prevent an infestation or destroy one if it sets in, but it can disrupt the bed bugs which in turn can slow down their rate of reproduction until a more permanent solution is implemented.
So I know now what attracts bed bugs, what do I do about them?
Bed bugs are pests and they can be quite resilient, but they are not impervious. There are a number of treatments that can be deployed against them.
What treatment and how many times it will have to be used will depend on the size and extent of the infestation. As with all infestations, the sooner you start treating the quicker, easier and less expensive it will be to do so.
If you have questions about whether or not you have bed bugs, what the best way to treat them is and more detailed, site-specific advice on what you can do to prevent them, we invite you to get in contact with us.
We offer a variety of DIY bed bus elimination solutions. If you’d rather have a professional take care of the problem for you, we can do that too! We have years of experience in pest control and can make sure that any bed bug infestation you have will soon become a thing of the past.