What Causes Bed Bugs? (You’re probably at risk)

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Wondering what the causes of bed bugs are?

Well we’ve got your answers.

From stains on your sheets, to itchy skin, you’re certain you keep a clean house, what on earth could be the cause of a bed bug infestation?

The answer might not be as great as you’d hope…

Let’s get into it.

Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

Table of Contents

    What Are Bed Bugs?

    Bed bugs are small oval shaped bugs that measure roughly 5-7mm in length and 2-3mm wide. Their bodies are then and come in varying shades of brown.

    If you need to see pictures of bed bugs, check out this page.

    Bed bugs are parasitic and feed on the blood of people and animals, which means their primary targets are you, your family, and your pets.

    Once they eat, bed bugs turn a reddish hue and look more engorged. Although they are tough to see, they often live in groups which are easier for people to detect.

    Where Do They Live?

    Bed bugs are small and nocturnal.

    A standard rule of thumb is that they can live in any space where you can fit the thickness of two sheets of computer paper. For example, a bed bug could live behind the panel of an electrical outlet or in a small crack in the wall.

    Bed bugs tend to choose places that predators or other hazards can’t enter, which is part of why they’re difficult to eliminate.

    Because they feed on living creatures, their homes are usually only 5-20 feet away from the main sleeping area. You might find bed bugs in your nightstand, behind your bookshelf, or even between your mattress and box spring!

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    How Do Bed Bugs Get Inside Your Home?

    The easiest way to start a bed bug infestation is to accidentally bring them inside on your body or bags.

    Bed bugs can live in the same conditions of most animals, and thrive in heavily populated locations. It’s not uncommon to pick them up in public areas like bus stations, hotels, schools, and forms of public transportation.

    Because of their size, you will most likely not see one if it gets in your bag or hitches a ride on your clothes. 

    It’s also possible for bed bugs to enter of their own accord if they need shelter, especially during the winter. You should seal any cracks in your home quickly and remember to keep your windows and screens closed properly to stop them from entering.

    Unfortunately, you or your family might still accidentally bring them home from work or school, and pets can pick them up in the yard.

    Here’s a great video on where bed bugs come from (e.g., what caused them to come terrorize you) and how they might get inside your home.

    What Conditions Do Bed Bugs Live In?

    Unfortunately, bed bugs can live almost anywhere humans can and will enter clean homes if there are animals inside on which they can feed.

    Cleaning your home regularly can help prevent bed bugs, but isn’t a guarantee against an infestation. Bed bugs can survive and remain active in temperatures as low as 46 degrees Fahrenheit, but will die if their personal body temperature climbs above 113 degrees Fahrenheit (see our steam cleaners article on how to kill bed bugs with heat).

    If you have a bed bug problem, it’s most likely not because your home is unclean, but becuase you’ve been traveling recently.

    The whole, “unclean house” cause of bed bugs is a common misconception. Instead, it’s just because your home is livable to you, and it is thus inhabitable for bed bugs as well. 

    We will say that unclean people tend to miss a the beginnings of a bed bug issue. The idea is that if you’re clean, then you’ll be able to spot something unclean (aka bed bugs) quickly.

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    What To Do If You Have Bed Bugs?

    If you notice an infestation, you should take immediate action!

    Vacuum your floors carefully and check your walls for cracks. Wash your laundry in hot water to kill any eggs or larvae on the fabrics.

    It’s important to find the home base of the bed bugs, so you can then use pesticides to kill them. If you’re uncomfortable using chemicals, most pest control companies offer environmentally heat treatments which will kill the pests for you, no matter where they are hiding in the house (see our local exterminator search tool here).

    Can You Prevent Bed Bugs?

    The best way to prevent an infestation is to clean your home regularly.

    Don’t leave dirty clothes lying around and remember to vacuum regularly to pick up any eggs.

    If you travel a lot…

    When you come home from a vacation or business trip, It’s a good idea to vacuum your bags when you come home in case you accidentally picked something up.

    There are also nifty heat encasements that you can place your belongings inside to kill any potential bed bugs that may have gotten into your stuff.

    Here’s a great video on a demonstration of the Thermal Strike Ranger, which is a product you can use to de-bed bug stuff you may have had during a trip.

    Read Also: What’s the best heater for bed bugs?

    If you live in a public area…

    Try to seal any cracks in your home and install door sweeps on your doors to prevent bed bugs from entering through the hallway.

    If you need to use shared laundry facilities, do not touch other people’s clothes or hampers. Finally, never buy second hand furniture from an unreliable source, as old chairs and couches are some of the most common infestation locations.

    Conclusion And Final Thoughts

    Unfortunately, there aren’t any real ’causes’ for bed bugs, just things you might do that will increase the chance you get them.

    Most people can pick them up while they are out in public, and having a clean home is only a minor deterrent.

    To protect yourself from bed bugs, you should make sure your home is tightly sealed and that you don’t interact too much with strangers or unknown furniture unless it comes from a reliable source. When in doubt, keep items out!

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