Contrary to what you may think, bed bugs don’t have a preference between a spotless space or a filthy environment. As long as they have access to a food source, they can live anywhere, so claims that bed bugs are attracted to dirt and debris are simply unfounded. That being said, clutter does make it easier for these insects to hide, which may fuel the misconceptions. Their ideal environment is warm and provides access to a blood meal. Given those conditions, you may be wondering how fast bed bugs spread? Let’s look at some of their travel habits and what you need to know about how quickly they can make themselves at home.
There's no escaping them. Bed bugs can be found in all 50 states, warns Oregon State University. And the news gets worse: Not only are bed bugs present everywhere, but the university's researchers warn that these pests "are on the rise...and not just in unsanitary locations."
Contrary to what you may think, bed bugs don't have a preference between a spotless space or a filthy environment. As long as they have access to a food source, they can live anywhere! Claims that bed bugs are attracted to dirt and debris are simply unfounded and misleading. That being said, clutter does make it easier for these insects to hide, which may fuel such misconceptions. Their ideal environment is warm and provides them with access to a human blood meal.
Given those conditions, you may be wondering how fast bed bugs spread? Let's look at some of their travel habits and what you need to know about how quickly they can make themselves at home.
How easily do bed bugs spread?
Bed bugs spread so easily and so quickly, that the University of Kentucky's entomology department notes that "it often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere."
Bed bugs don't have wings, but they spread quickly by hitchhiking and are agile and fast-moving once they're in your home. Typically, you pick up one or more of these unwanted hitchhikers when you visit a home or hotel that already has a bed bug infestation. The bed bugs hide themselves in your clothing, luggage, furniture and other items, and you inadvertently introduce them to your own house when you return home.
"Once bed bugs are introduced, they can crawl from room to room, or floor to floor via cracks and openings in walls, floors and ceilings," warns researchers at the University of Kentucky.
How far can bed bugs travel?
Bed are typically only found within about 8 feet of a person's resting space. However, what's more concerning is the distance that bed bugs spread from one infestation site to another. This distance is almost limitless due to the ability of bed bugs to survive without food for extended periods of time.
Research shows that adult bed bugs can survive for over a year without food. This means that the pests can hide on furniture, used items, clothing, footwear, luggage and other materials you've brought. They can then wait until they've traveled great distances, only to be unpacked and brought into a new home with a fresh supply of food (i.e., you and your family).
Way 1: How fast do bed bugs spread from room to room?
Ultimately, it can take mere minutes to travel from room-to-room, with infestations growing in a matter of weeks or months. Every day, bed bugs can lay between one and 12 eggs, and anywhere from 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Those numbers should speak for themselves if you're wondering how long it takes to get an infestation of bed bugs and how quickly those bed bugs can spread. It doesn't take long for a problem to grow out of control, so the sooner you contact a pest control professional for inspection and treatment, the better off you'll be.
Bed bugs need to take blood meals from warm-blooded hosts — preferably humans — to survive, and they'll hide near their sources until ready to feed. How fast bed bugs spread from room to room depends partly on how long it takes to move an infested piece of furniture, clothing, luggage and/or another household item from one room to another. They can also move throughout the house in search of other hosts. If the conditions are favorable, they'll continue breeding wherever the item (or items) is moved.
Way 2: How do bed bugs spread from house to house?
The rate of how quickly bed bugs spread from house-to-house increases the more time you spend traveling or inviting people over to your home. Bed bugs are great hitchhikers, and hotels, hostels, airplanes, cruise ships and public transportation are ideal places to pick up these uninvited guests.
- Movement of items: Bed bugs can move from one site to the next by traveling on luggage, clothing, bedding, boxes and furniture. They're prevalent anywhere that has a high rate of overnight guests, including universities and hospitals.
- Crawling: Bed bugs don't fly, but they can crawl at a pretty high speed with six legs. Traveling three to four feet per minute on most surfaces, they're capable of moving at speeds equivalent of the average adult sprinting relative to their size. This makes it easy for bed bugs to travel between floors and rooms, and quickly tuck into a new hiding spot before being seen.
- Breeding: After feeding, bed bugs head back to their hidden locations to digest and mate. If the conditions are right, an egg can mature into an adult in as little as a month and a half, and each bed bug could live anywhere from four months to over a year. Bed bugs are focused on feeding and breeding and will invade and multiply at lightning speed as a result.
Way 3: How do bed bugs spread from person to person?
Bed bugs need blood meals to survive as well as to breed, but they don't physically live on human hosts. In fact, how bed bugs spread from person-to-person really doesn't have anything to do with people themselves but rather, the movement of infested items. For example, house guests could unknowingly bring them into your home from their travels and kids could bring them back on their backpacks after attending school.
Bed bugs are opportunistic, hiding and waiting until it's convenient to feed. And if their areas are disturbed, they'll find a way to move to a neighboring location, which can make the situation much more difficult to inspect and treat. Contact a Terminix® bed bug control professional to get professional help in stopping the spread of bed bugs in your home.
How to stop the spread of bed bugs?
Stopping the spread of bed bugs is all about slowing and preventing the transmission of these pests as they migrate from location to location.
First, always inspect anything that you're bringing into your home, especially if it's items from another household (e.g., used books, used clothing, used furniture, used children's toys, etc.) or if it's your own items that you used and stored in a hotel room, airplane, train, cruise ship, etc. Signs of bed bugs you should look for include:
- Cast/shed bed bug skins (also called molts, exoskeletons, or shells)
- Fecal spots on your mattress and bedding
- Blood stains on your sheets and pajamas
If you notice any signs of bed bugs on your possessions, isolate the items and treat them for bed bugs before you bring them into your house.
If you're trying to stop the spread of bed bugs in the midst of an ongoing, current bed bug infestation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the following strategies are the most effective for keeping an infestation from spreading:
- Place any infested household items in a tight, sealed plastic bag, and take them out of your home immediately. Use heat treatment, cold treatment, steam or the help of a pest management professional like Terminix to treat these items.
- Vacuum common bed bug hiding spots, including the cracks and crevices of walls and baseboards as well as the areas around electrical outlets and light switches and the seams of furniture and mattresses. Discard the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag.
- Seal all mattresses with plastic covers. Ideally, use a light-colored plastic cover to make it easier to spot bed bugs or bed bug eggs on your bed.
- Seal any gaps or holes in your walls, both in terms of exterior walls and interior walls. This includes gaps around plumbing or cracks between the floor and the wall. You may also want to install tight-fitting door sweeps under each door. This helps prevent bed bugs from spreading from room-to-room.
What should I do if I find bed bugs in my home?
A bed bug infestation needs immediate professional treatment and control to keep these resilient pests from spreading throughout your entire home. Even one single missed bed bug can lead to a re-infestation if you are not careful.
At Terminix, we can help provide on-site inspections and put together a bed bug treatment plan tailored to the severity of your problem, the layout of your home and your personal lifestyle needs and preferences. Contact Terminix's bed bug professionals today!