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Can bed bugs live in walls?

With the seemingly unstoppable spread of bed bugs, especially the rapid pace in which infestations expand in apartment buildings, hotels, dorms and schools, many wonder if there are bed bugs in the walls, making it easy for them to move from location to location.

Two Perspectives on the Bed Bugs in the Walls Debate

Bed Bug Infestation in the wall of a Brooklyn Apartment

Bed Bugs hiding in a wall crack

While it’s common knowledge that there may very well be bed bugs in the walls when a structure is infested, there is still debate as to if this is the origin of the infestation and/or the primary cause of the infestation spreading to other locations. One family who moved into a new apartment and got bed bugs believed that they came into their home from being transferred on clothing and furniture.  Of course, that can also be true.

The University of Kentucky, in its research about bed bugs, both agrees and disagrees with the idea that bed bugs in the walls are a primary way they spread. In their research on how bed bugs originate, they noted the following:

“The bugs are efficient hitchhikers and are usually transported into dwellings on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, and other items. This is a particular risk for hotels and apartments, where the turnover of occupants is constant. Bed bugs are small and agile, escaping detection after crawling into suitcases, backpacks, and belongings. Acquiring secondhand beds, couches, and furniture is another way that the bugs are transported into buildings. Bed bugs also can be carried in on one’s clothing, shoes or wheelchair. Once bed bugs are introduced, they can crawl from room to room or floor to floor. They can also be transported throughout buildings on people and their belongings. ”

bed bug infestation in a couch

Yet, they do not rule out the use of walls as a means of bed bugs spreading out throughout a building. Their research also concluded, “Once bed bugs are introduced, they often spread throughout a building. Bed bugs don’t jump or fly but can travel from room to room or floor to floor either by crawling or via a person.” And, because there may be cracks and crevices in walls, it makes sense to think that they can hide out here and also avoid some bed bug treatments this way. Eventually, they will come out and seek beds and other areas, so it is important to re-inspect and re-treat those areas as well as inspecting any used furniture and other items like suitcases before bringing these items into a new location in case you are inadvertently transporting hitchhiking bed bugs.

In Summary
In debating how bed bugs spread, this blog post noted the following points:

  • Bed bugs most often hitchhike on used furniture and belongings as well as suitcases, backpacks, and bags.
  • Once in a new location, bed bugs can hide and move around a building through walls and floors.
  • Walls are a favorite dark hiding place for bed bugs and a way to avoid treatment techniques.
  • All areas should be continually re-inspected as bed bugs will eventually come out of cracks and crevices seeking food. That’s why being vigilant with inspections is important in fighting a bed bug infestation.

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