Pest Information What Attracts Bed Bugs? Tips For Avoiding a Bed Bug Infestation

What Attracts Bed Bugs? Tips For Avoiding a Bed Bug Infestation

Looking to prevent bed bugs from getting into your home, but aren’t sure what it is exactly that attracts them? There are many places that bed bugs can hide out, but the most common place happens to be in our mattresses. There are also other factors that can entice these pests into our homes. Learn what bed bugs are attracted to and how to help stop them in their tracks!

While bed bugs were once a thing of the past, they are currently a growing issue in North America. The first time bed bugs arrived on the continent was over 3,000 years ago when the early colonists came over.

These travelers carried the bed bugs with them and they became a nuisance. By the 1950’s, bed bugs were nearly extinct. With the effectiveness of pesticides wearing down, bed bugs began a return. Bed bugs began their return around 1995 and each year the number of reported infestations rise.

If you suspect bed bugs may be in your home or another space you occupy, you may have questions rolling through your head.

What attracts them?

How do you exterminate them?

What can I do to prevent an infestation?

Why are there insects that eat bed bugs all around my home?

Where do I look for signs of these pests? Below you will find information you will need to determine what is drawing the bed bugs to you, and how you can get rid of them effectively.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small bugs that measure about ¼ inch in length and are reddish-brown in color. Generally they are flat, unless they have just finished a meal which leaves them slightly engorged. These pests feed on blood, generally from humans.

Several of them can feed on the same host, which is usually how a bed bug infestation is discovered. Although humans are their choice for a meal, bed bugs have been known to feast on mice and rabbits as well. There have been no reported cases of bed bugs transferring diseases to their host through bites.

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?

Bed Bugs on Mattress Top
Bed bugs can hide in a variety of different locations, but usually hide on mattresses or bedding.

During the day it is nearly impossible to spot bed bugs unless you are looking around the places they typically hide. Below you will get information on where to look and what to look for when trying to spot a bed bug problem.

Mattresses and box springs

Check the edges of the mattress and box spring. Also look along the seams for any signs of molted skin or dirty spots where the bed bugs could have been present. Look under the box spring as well. Sometimes the bed bugs will hide in the underside.

Behind the headboard

This is an ideal place for bed bugs to hide because it usually gets overlooked. If you aren’t trying to find something you may have dropped or aren’t cleaning, why would you even look behind there?

Upholstered furniture and couches

Bed bugs love seams. They generally gather at the corners of seams or along the lines of the couch. Check under the furniture because they could easily be hiding there as well.

What Attracts Bed Bugs Into Your Home?

It was originally thought that dirt attracted bed bugs. This is absolutely not the case and even the cleanest of houses can become infested with them. Back several decades ago bed bugs were associated with less than ideal living conditions and while that does help to hide their presence, it isn’t the cause. These are a few things that bed bugs are attracted to and why.

Carbon Dioxide

Because this is what we exhale, bed bugs are attracted to humans. This is something they crave and will actually seek out. This is also why they sometimes feed on other things besides humans.

Warmth

At night when humans are fast asleep, their bodies create heat when regulating their temperature under the sheets. It is a gold mine for bed bugs when two people are sharing the same bed because the warmth increases a great deal. 

Those two things are what will primarily attract bed bugs. There are myths that will lead you to believe that having dirty clothing on the floor will attract these pests.

That is not the case. In fact, the amount of dirt that is or is not present means absolutely nothing when talking about a bed bug infestation. Sure a cluttered house makes it easy for bed bugs to hide, but they will find a place in even the cleanest house.

Why Bed Bugs Are Attracted Humans (Blood Types)

Bed Bug Feeding on Human
Bed bugs feed on humans, regardless of their blood type.

When bedbugs bite humans, the feeding process is more complicated than sucking blood like mosquitoes do because they inject a saliva into the human’s body that prevents clotting. This makes it easier for them to eat without being harmed themselves due to our skin thickness.

There are several different human blood types. Some people have AB+, AB-, B+, A-, or O+. There is no scientific evidence that bed bugs like certain types of blood, despite many people believing that having a specific blood type makes them more attractive to a bed bug bite.

Why Bed Bugs are Attracted to Mattresses

Bed Bugs like mattresses because they are a dark, still area. This is an environment which they prefer, and it allows them to easily hide. They are usually found in the seams of mattresses or near where people sleep on a mattress. The reason they are attracted to mattresses is because it’s a piece of furniture that’s not often cleaned, and ends up being the perfect breeding ground for them.

Bed bugs have also been known to live inside furniture (like couches). Similar to mattresses, couches aren’t often cleaned, and are very close to humans who sit on them with exposed skin.

Bed bugs often make their way into cushions or the cracks between them. They can even make their way into electronics such as laptops or TVs, behind picture frames and wallpaper, in bookshelves, and in electrical outlets.

Why Bed Bugs are More Active at Night

A bed bug’s instincts lead them to want to stay hidden until nighttime hours arrive. They are nocturnal, and feeding at night allows them to more easily feed off of humans undetected.

In fact, some homeowners have reported going days without noticing any bed bug bites until waking up one morning to find out that bed bugs had made a feast of them.

Because humans and other animals tend to be sedentary during their sleeping hours, this also makes them an easier feeding target during the evening hours.

How Pets Can Attract Bed Bugs

Pets can attract bed bugs by bringing them into your home on their fur, or by carrying bed bugs into the house in crevices and folds of their skin. It’s hard to detect them on a pet of any type, so make sure you do a thorough inspection of your furry friend, and their living quarters.

Make sure you also check on your pet’s bed. Once bed bugs have been brought into your home, they can make their home in their bed, just like they hide in yours.

How Certain Scents Can Attract Bed Bugs

Fabrics with natural fibers, such as wool and cotton are known to attract bed bugs. This is due to the fact that bed bugs can’t digest these types of fabrics like they would a synthetic fiber item.

Also common are cleaning supplies, especially those containing ammonia. They have been known to attract them in some cases because it smells similar to human sweat.

But the primary thing that attracts bed bugs is the scent of human blood. No different than mosquitoes, these pests prefer human blood, and will seek it out as their primary food source.

Common Ways Of Getting Bed Bugs

Bed bug on Couch
There are several ways your home may become infested with bed bugs.

There are various ways your home may become infested. Some of them can be avoided while others cannot. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone who has bed bugs knows they do. Sometimes they go several weeks or months without realizing there is an issue. Below you will find the possible ways you may end up with bed bugs.

Guests in your home

This is probably the most innocent way to obtain bed bugs. If you are having a get together or invite someone over for coffee, they could potentially bring these pests into your home. Usually they don’t even know they have an issue and when they find out, it is too late.

Buying used furniture

Whether it is at a garage sale, estate sale, or a buy/sell/trade page on social media, you are taking a chance. Unless you know who the stuff is coming from, you can never be sure what you are actually getting. If you can avoid buying used items, you should.

Buying gently used clothing

If you are buying second-hand clothing, make sure you are bringing it into your home in a sealed bag. Take it directly to the washer and dryer and wash and dry it in the hottest possible water.

Staying in a hotel

If you are in a hotel where there are bed bugs, it is easy for you to carry them home with you. Be sure to check your room and mattress before agreeing to stay in that room. If there is anything suspicious, ask for a room change immediately.

Prevention Tips

  • Don’t buy used furniture.
  • Place furniture legs in clear dishes. The smooth surfaces don’t allow bed bugs to climb.
  • Use mattress protectors and pillow protectors that zip closed.
  • Vacuum a lot. Vacuuming promotes cleanliness and can suck them up.
  • When traveling and staying in a hotel, keep your things guarded.
  • When you enter the hotel room, make sure you keep your things off the bed.
  • Clean out the clutter. Having a home that is cluttered does not contribute to having bed bugs, it just simply hides them better. If you get rid of the junk, places for them to hide disappear.

By learning what attracts these pests, you can make a “trap” of sorts to investigate whether or not you have a bed bug problem. Using dry ice is suggested because it produces carbon dioxide which the pests love.

Place the contraption near furniture or near the bed where activity is suspected. You should try to have it near warm spots, because that is another thing the bed bugs are attracted to.

Wrap Up

They aren’t easy to get rid of. By knowing what attracts bed bugs, you are already one step ahead. If you build the trap and find evidence of them in your home or personal space, you can immediately start the removal process.

Calling an exterminator is the best way to go, but it is also the priciest. Remember though, getting rid of the entire problem is essential because if you miss just one, you will be at another level of infestation pretty quickly.

Managing Editor & CEO Jack has been writing as a contractor and for businesses for over 10 years. He owns his own home, and has been doing his own pest control since he bought his first house.

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