Where do bed bugs come from?

Bed bugs have become a serious public health issue in recent years.  Starting with the use of DDT after WWII, continuing through the 1970s: Bed bugs have become a serious public health issue in recent years.  Starting with the use of DDT after WWII, continuing through the 1970s, bed bugs had nearly been eradicated from New York and the rest of the western world.  By the 1980s we enjoyed a relatively bed bug free existence and became complacent about bed bug inspections and treatment.

adult bed bug

In the late 1990s, because of increased international travel and the decline of residual pesticide use in buildings, bed bugs returned with a vengeance.  This is particularly true in heavily populated areas of Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.  The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) reports a disturbing upward trend in the percentage of bed bug inquiries made to their hotline.  In 2003, the number of calls regarding bed bugs was negligible – less than 1%.  By 2014, that figure jumped as bed bugs accounted for nearly 6% of all calls.

The situation in schools is even more alarming. Schools in New York reported 1,000 infestations for the 2009-2010 school year.  This number leaped to 4,000 reported infestations in the following year. As this disturbing trend continues, New Yorkers are becoming more vigilant about preventing infestations in their homes, schools and offices.  The first step to protecting a space is to conduct regular bed bug inspections for early detection of a problem.

One reason bed bugs are difficult to control is that people often have incorrect facts about them or don’t know how to recognize the signs of bedbugs. People may also confuse evidence of other insects with that of bed bugs and administer the incorrect treatment. The more you know about bed bugs, the better you can prevent, detect and effectively treat infestations before they get out of hand.  Here are a few telltale signs that you are living with bed bugs:

Bed Bug Infestation Signs

You get bitten

It first occurs to most people that they may be living with bed bugs when they begin waking up with mysterious bites to the skin.  Bed bugs feed on our blood to grow and reproduce. Though they are often lumped in with parasites like mites or lice, bed bugs are not parasites because they do not actually live on us.  Rather, they only come to us when they are feeding, which makes them predators.

baby bed bug just fed

Picture of baby bed bug just fed. We can notice when we see the red color (blood)

Bed bugs do not technically bite – they pierce the skin with a beak to suck the blood.  These “bites” can cause allergic skin reactions in certain people, whose skin reacts with various levels of severity. Though there are no known cases of diseases being transmitted to humans, scratching the irritated skin can cause secondary bacterial infections. Bed bugs do not only bite in the widely known “three in a row” pattern – sometimes the bites appear in clusters.  Because bites from different insects may look similar, it is important not to draw a final conclusion as to whether you have bed bugs based on the pattern of bites with no other evidence.

You see them

Contrary to popular myth, an effective bed bug inspection can be done with the naked eye.  If you use a magnifying glass and flashlight for your inspections you may be able to spot them more easily (a flashlight phone app works great for this). Mature bed bugs are visible.  An adult bed bug is about ¼ inch long, about the size of a lentil, so most people with good eyesight can see them.  A quick Internet search can reveal photos of the nighttime predators as well as checklists of their common household hiding places.

Does One Bed Bug Mean An Infestation?

It is important to know where to look.  Start with bed linens and then check carefully in the creases and cracks of the bed area.  Look at the headboard and around the bedframe.  Expand your search to the flooring around the bed, and to furniture around the room.  Check all sofas, seating and drapes around the house. Bed bugs have also been known to colonize on walls near electrical outlets.    Check in and around any storage areas in the home, particularly any clutter in the bedroom.

If you have bed bugs, you will either spot the bugs themselves or their “evidence”.  After bed bugs feed they defecate, leaving fecal brown spots on sheets or other surfaces.  It is also possible to spot dead bugs and/or their shed skins in or near hiding places.

Bed Bug Staining and Eggs

Bed Bug Staining and Eggs

You detect an odor

One other way to detect bed bugs is if you notice a sweet musty odor that is often reported with highly populated infestations where bed bug numbers are high. Though not very common in a single-family dwelling, an infestation that has been allowed to proliferate for a long time may reach the point of producing this odor.

How do you get bed bugs?

Bed bugs don’t eat human food. Instead, they sustain themselves on animal blood, preferably human. That’s why they like beds so much—they give them plenty of places to hide and they’re close to their food source, which conveniently is asleep most of the time.

bed bug infestation in new york city apartment

Bed Bug Infestation In New York City Apartment

But just sleeping in your bed isn’t a cause of a bed bug infestation.

They have to come from somewhere. To help you prevent a bed bug infestation, you need to understand the real causes of a bed bug infestation in a particular home.


By far the most common way that bed bugs find their way into homes is on people’s clothes (or in luggage).

You can pick up bed bugs almost anywhere. Bed bugs can be in workplaces, schools, movie theaters, laundries—any place where a lot of people come and go. The more traffic through a building, the more likely it has bed bugs.

Hotels are particularly troublesome because not only do a lot of people come and go—from many different places—they are sleeping in beds, making them perfect bed bug victims.

Therefore, it’s crucial to look for a bed bug infestation in every hotel room before you accept it. You should also take precautions in case you miss them in your inspection.

For example, keep your clothes bagged in sealable plastic bags until you return from your trip and wash them in hot water, which will kill the bed bugs.

As far as simply going out into public places, if you’re worried that you might have picked up bed bugs, you can immediately wash the clothes you were wearing, or bag them up until you do wash them.

Other Causes

You can also get bed bugs from people visiting your home, from indoor/outdoor pets that bring them inside, or by having openings to the outside in the exterior of your home. You can seal up the openings, but unfortunately the other two are almost impossible to prevent.

How Do You Get Rid Of Bed Bugs: Solutions for Bed Bug Infestations

Moving the bed bugs out of your house, dorm, apartment or hotel is on many minds nowadays as bed bugs have taken up residence in more and more cities around the nation. More homeowners, students, and business owners are struggling with how best to go about treatment for bed bugs. Here are some facts that you may want to know so you can say to bed bugs, “You’re outta here!”

If you have bed bugs in your home or business, here are some strategies to get them out:

  • Seal it: Using a mattress liner and even a mattress encasement can help seal mattresses and box springs from bed bugs. While a mattress encasement trap bed bugs already inside, a mattress liner goes on killing any new arrivals for up to two years.
  • Spray it: There are numerous bed bug sprays now available, which claim kill bed bugs on contact. However, they do only that:  kill on contact. That means they have to be found first and all known hiding places must be uncovered and staked out.
  • Steam it: Steam works due to the heat factor, which also kills bed bugs on contact. Again, there must be contact as steam also disappears quickly and cannot hang around to kill any bed bugs that might appear.  The steam must also be very hot which may not be able to be reached in stor bought clothing steamers.
  • Douse it: Chemicals used by professional bed bug exterminators are quite effective but again must work on known hiding places. The chemicals can last for a longer time,

Knowing that all of these can serve as a treatment for bed bugs is very helpful, but it also important to remember the following as well:

  • Consider having a bed bug dog inspection to accurately plot out all the places bed bugs are hiding before any of the above treatments are used.
  • Continue undertaking regular inspections with a flashlight to check on all areas that might serve as hiding places for bed bugs.
  • Take other precautions when traveling, going to work, and attending school to ensure that you are not spreading the bed bug problem to new areas.
  • Report any cases to neighbors or businesses in close proximity to help contain any infestations.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are equal opportunity predators: they are not selective and are not a sign of sanitary issues. Many people believe that bed bugs are a scourge unique to cheap hotels, but that is a myth. They can thrive any place where humans sit still for an hour or more, so you may find them in unexpected areas.  Prime locations are where large numbers of people congregate, so in addition to your hotel room or your home, you might encounter them in schools, public transport, and while traveling for overnight stays.  Bed bugs are also frequently found in movie theaters, taxis and buses.

With this prevalence of bed bugs, how can you prevent an infestation?

Bed Bug Infestation Prevention in Your Home

residential bed bug eliminationEarly detection is key to avoiding an infestation. Bed bugs can be found in a home that is kept generally clean, though they tend to thrive in cluttered areas.  Vacuuming and reducing clutter in the home can prevent opportunistic bed bug arrivals from becoming an infestation. Bed bugs can move from an infested site to a new place easily and quickly by traveling on clothing, luggage, bedding, boxes, and even furniture.

Carefully inspect any second-hand items before you bring them into your home. Bed bugs are predators that feed on blood as opposed to parasites, which live on the body. If you do find a bedbug or two, do not panic. These individuals could be isolated travelers and you may not have a full-blown infestation, but do act quickly to contact a pest control service with specialized knowledge of bed bug treatment in New York.

Bed Bug Prevention in Schools

The issue of bed bugs can be emotional and generate anxiety and fear in students, parents and teachers.  Bed bugs can easily travel back and forth from homes to schools on students’ backpacks, lunch boxes and clothing.  To prevent bed bug infestations from spreading in NYC schools, it is important for school staff members to conduct regular inspections. School administrators should create protocol for discretely handling the issue if a bed bug is found on a student to prevent an infestation.

If bed bugs are detected on a student, school administrators should first inform the student’s guardians of the problem and provide suggestions for ridding the home of bed bugs.  Then a reliable NYC pest control service must be called to conduct a thorough bed bug inspection inside the school.  If the problem truly is an infestation, then a good pest control service can recommend a course of action for extermination, which may include bed bug heat treatment or other organic bed bug treatments.

Bed Bug Prevention While Traveling

When traveling, the potential for encountering bed bugs in NYC and beyond can begin with your taxi ride to JFK airport.  Bed bugs can also lurk in airport lounges and in your plane seats.  Many people associate bed bugs with the bedding in hotel rooms and fail to consider other surfaces like luggage racks, carpets, drapes, and furniture.  To prevent picking up bed bugs on your trip, inspect any surfaces where a person might be stationary for a while. Bed bug identification becomes easier with practice.  In addition to inspections, try to keep your belongings separate from others’ as much as possible.

When you arrive in your hotel room, conduct a thorough inspection with a flashlight – a flashlight phone app works great for this.  Inspect your bedding, the mattress under the sheets, headboard, pillows, and the carpets around the bed.  Also take a look at the luggage rack before placing your luggage there, and do not leave your luggage on the floor.

Upon returning home, inspect your luggage and clothing carefully before you unpack. To be safe, you may want to wash all of your clothing and dry it at a high temperature, which is effective at killing bed bugs.

What do to if you find bed bugs in your home?

If you do find bed bugs, immediately contact a pest control company licensed by the state of New York.  Not all pest control companies are trained in bed bug inspection and treatment.  Before you schedule a visit, confirm that the company you select does have experience with bed bugs.

A solid and reliable exterminator will recommend a course for treatment that will involve more than one visit to the home. The most effective eradication method known today is extreme heat.  A good pest control service will likely do a bed bug heat treatment to heat your living space and belongings.  This will be used in conjunction with other organic bed bug treatments and possibly powders or pesticides.

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