10 Common Bed Bug Myths: Debunked

  • Written by: Killingsworth Environmental
  • March 04, 2019

The Truth About Bed Bugs

Just the thought of a bed bug gives people the heebie-jeebies. Bed bugs can be found in all 50 states, and one in five people have either had bed bugs, or know someone who has—Yuck!

There’s no denying bed bugs are some of the creepiest in the pest community. However, there are quite a few myths surrounding bed bugs that need to be debunked!

Without further ado, here’s a compiled list of the top 10 myths about bed bugs, and why they simply aren’t true.

The Top 10 Most Common Bed Bug Myths

1. Myth: You can’t see bed bugs

Debunked: Adult bed bugs are typically 0.18 inches long, about the size of an apple seed.

Bed bugs are actually bigger than you think and highly visible. However, just because you can see them doesn’t mean you will! Bed bugs are relatively flat pests, and like to hide in dark crevices. This is why many people with a bed bug infestation don’t realize until it’s too late.

Their eggs, on the other hand, are tiny and white, making them harder to see with the naked eye. If the infestation is bad enough though, you can see the eggs as well.

If you can’t spot the bed bugs themselves, you should be able to see—or smell—what they leave behind. Live bed bugs will excrete black or brown clusters on infested surfaces. If they have infested your mattress, you should be able to spot these rather quickly. Bed bugs also expel a sweet, musty scent—so if your mattress (or other high-traffic areas of your home) starts to smell, check for bed bugs!

2. Myth: Bed bugs prefer dirty places

Debunked: Bed bugs seek warmth and blood—not filth.

If you have ever encountered bed bugs, that doesn’t mean you’re dirty. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs don’t camp out in the dirtiest place they can find. Instead, they seek out blood, warmth and carbon dioxide.

However, if you do have lots of clutter around your home, getting rid of it definitely wouldn’t hurt. Extra clutter could give bed bugs more places to hide, making it more difficult to spot an infestation.

3. Myth: Bed bugs only bite in the night

Debunked: Bed bugs can bite at any time of the day.

While bed bugs are generally nocturnal, they will eat during the day if they’re hungry enough. If there are enough places for them to hide, and they feel safe, bed bugs will venture out to find a food source.

Bed bugs can survive up to five months without a meal, so desperate times really do call for desperate measures. While it’s unlikely for you to get bitten by a bed bug during the day, it’s not impossible!

4. Myth: Bed bugs only live in beds–that’s why they’re called “bed” bugs

Debunked: “Bed” bugs can be found almost anywhere—from headboards to airplanes, hotels and movie theaters.

Don’t let the name fool you! Bed bugs won’t soley seek out a big, cozy mattress to live in. They can also be found in headboards, couches, luggage and more.

Bed bugs typically occupy spaces anywhere from five to ten feet away from their host. The key here is warmth and blood—if they find a tasty host, they won’t wander far.

Bed bugs can also be found in transportation like buses, trains, cars and airplanes. How’d they get there though? A bed bug isn’t like a tick—they won’t attach to your body. Usually, they are transferred from place to place with inanimate objects like a suitcase or a pair of shoes.

5. Myth: Bed bugs carry diseases

Debunked: There is no proof that bed bugs transmit diseases.

Unlike a mosquito, bed bugs cannot transfer blood-borne diseases from one host to another. While the bites are definitely itchy and annoying, there is no chance you will contract a disease from a bed bug.

However, some people may be allergic to bed bug bites. The bites could result in larger welts, or even hives. Excessively scratching the bites could cause other issues, too, like secondary infections or skin abrasions. If you start to notice bites getting worse, or feel like they might be infected, call your doctor.

6. Myth: You can kill bed bugs with over-the-counter treatments

Debunked: Using a store-bought pesticide or DIY remedy is bound to make the infestation worse, not better.

Wouldn’t our lives be so much easier if a store-bought spray could kill bed bugs? Unfortunately for us, bed bugs are highly resistant to pesticides. You might kill a few, but you definitely won’t kill them all. Spraying pesticides in your home could cause the bed bugs to burrow deeper into wherever they are hiding, making them even harder to eradicate.

DIY remedies won’t get rid of bed bugs, either. Not to mention, pesticides and DIY concoctions inside your home could be harmful to your health, too.

This is why it’s always best to contact a bed bug specialist when trying to remove these pests from your home. At Killingsworth, we leave the pesticides at home and use thermal remediation to get rid of bed bugs once and for all!

7. Myth: By getting rid of your mattress you will get rid of bed bugs

Debunked: Chances are, bed bugs aren’t only living in your mattress. You might solve part of the problem, but not all of it.

Since people are so quick to assume bed bugs only live in beds, their first instinct is to throw out the mattress. Sure, throwing out an infested mattress is for the best, but it won’t solve your bed bug problem.

If bed bugs have infested your mattress, they have probably moved to other areas of your home, too. They could be in the carpet, in your couch—anywhere! Instead of throwing all these things away, you should contact a specialist to get the bed bugs out of your home. Otherwise, you’ll end up with no furniture and probably still have bed bugs hiding somewhere.

8. Myth: Bed bugs can live up to one year without a meal

Debunked: Bed bugs can survive up to five months without a meal—not a whole year.

At room temperature, adult bed bugs can live up to five months without a blood supply. Nymphs, bed bugs that have just hatched, can only survive a few weeks without a host since they need to feed more often. However, bed bugs can survive longer if they are living at a colder temperature.  

In general, bed bugs feed every three to seven days. After this, they will return to whatever dark corner they are hiding in until it is time to feed again. So don’t think that a few weeks vacation will get rid of bed bugs in your home!

9. Myth: Bed bugs can jump

Debunked: Bed bugs cannot fly or jump—they’re crawlers.

Many people believe that bed bugs jump from host to host. What’s worse, some even believe bed bugs can fly!

Bed bugs do not have wings, and bed bugs cannot jump. When it’s time for them to hit the road, they’ll simply hitch a ride on something else or crawl.

So, bed bugs aren’t flying around your room or jumping across your house. At least that’s one less thing to worry about when it comes to bed bugs!

10. Myth: You’ll immediately feel a bed bug bite

Debunked: When a bed bug bites you, it injects a numbing chemical so you won’t be able to feel it.

“Sleep tight—Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” is probably one of the many limericks you heard growing up. While the rhyme is catchy and funny, it’s not too accurate. If you do have bed bugs in your home, specifically your couch or mattress, you are almost guaranteed to wake up with bites.

When a bed bug bites you, it transfers a numbing chemical into your skin so the bite cannot be felt. It may be a few hours or even a few days before you notice the itching sensation caused by the bite. Many people who have experienced bed bug bites notice the bites are in clusters or in a zig-zag pattern, much different from the bite of a mosquito.

However, thinking that bed bugs “bite in threes” is another popular myth. While it is common for bed bugs to bite in clusters, they do not always bite in “threes” exclusively.

If you have experienced bed bugs, you’re not alone. Bed bugs are some of the most irritating and annoying pests—and some of the most difficult to eradicate, especially on your own.

When it comes to bed bugs, trust the pros. With over 26 years in the business, we’ve seen our fair share of bed bugs. We know where they like to hide and how to get rid of them—the Killingsworth Way!

Want more information about bed bugs, or the other creepy crawlies around your home? Download our Pest Encyclopedia guide today!

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