Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: March 23, 2023
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Quick Answers:

  • Bed bugs may go unnoticed because their bite has a numbing agent.
  • You should act quickly if you find bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs do not just live in your bed.
  • They have a similar appearance to a flattened tick.

Over the past five years or so, there has been an uptick in the number of bed bug infestations across the United States, with record numbers of outbreaks all across the country. For many people, identification was difficult.

Real facts were hard to come by, so it was tricky to determine what sort of insect was biting them, due to the lack of good information available on knowing the signs of bed bugs. This is partly because most people never even realize they’ve been bitten.

Bed bugs inject a numbing agent when they bite, and therefore, most people don’t even notice anything has happened. This is also what allowed the bugs to spread so far so quickly. People spread them without ever knowing they had them in the first place.

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Unfortunately, for a smaller number of people, the numbing agent bed bugs inject is the problem. These people have a sensitivity to the injected substance and those who are sensitive are generally very, very sensitive. These bugs are difficult to get rid of and to do so, you must first understand their origin and where they come from.

Where Do Bed Bugs Come from?

Many people grew up with the old rhyme “Goodnight, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite,” but most people don’t worry about bed bugs unless the bed bugs are biting. There is a common misconception that bed bugs are found in untidy homes, but this belief is not supported by the facts.

Unlike roaches and ants, bed bugs aren’t interested in whether you leave food or dirty dishes around. What they prefer to eat is you, not your food, so how clean you keep your house does not deter or attract them. The origin of an infestation is not an unclean environment.

So where do they come from? Well, for starters, bed bugs don’t just feed on humans, but also on many livestock animals, including chickens and sheep. They can live not only in beds but in furniture, carpets, cardboard, cracks in wood, and luggage, to name a few things.

Places, where one might come in contact with bed bugs and bring them home, include hotel beds, furniture, carpets, clothing, new livestock, wood that has been kept around livestock, and visitors’ luggage. Because a single female can lay a few eggs every day, even one bug can lead to an infestation before you even know you’ve been in contact with one.

If she lays five per day, she will have laid at least 50 before the first eggs hatch, and most of those will also be female egg layers.

Bed bugs can be found in many places including luggage.

©simon berenyi/Shutterstock.com

Bed Bug Bite Identification

For those who are sensitive to the bites, you may think at first that you’ve been bitten by a flea. When the bite first occurs, it will itch and leave only a small little bump. The difference between a flea bite and a bite from a bed bug, however, is that a flea bite will begin to itch much less after the first minute or so and the bump will remain quite small. On the other hand, a bed bug bite will not only become itchier, the welt it leaves will also continue to grow.

For some people, this swelling can continue until the area becomes as large as a few inches across. And there will almost always be more than one bite. They often bite in straight lines or triangular formations. The bite area may be painful and warm to the touch, and in cases of extreme swelling, may be tingling when scratched, almost like the sensation one gets from Novocaine at the dentist.

Bed Bug Identification

If you have an allergy to another insect or if your reaction to bed bug bites is mild, then it may be hard to tell for sure if what has bitten you is a flea, bed bug, or fire ant. There are some ways to know for sure what the bite is from.

For one thing, bed bugs most often bite at night and in the bed. This is not always the case, as they can infest couches as well as beds, but they are called bed bugs for a reason. They prefer places where they have access to their favorite sleeping food, also known as humans. They also prefer to come out in the dark, like many other insects.

If you get bitten in bed at night, or if you just want to see if you have bed bugs, the best way to find out is to grab a flashlight and search the bed, immediately after you’ve been bitten, or before you go to bed, while the room is dark. You may also place traps. If you find a small brown bug that sort of resembles a very flat, somewhat elongated tick, it is more than likely a bed bug.

Prevention and Treatment: How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

The best course of action is to call an exterminator for treatment, but given that you will likely encounter them for the first time at night, that may not be an immediate solution. It may also be outside your budget, or it may take them a few days to get to your home.

So here are a few treatment tips for getting rid of them:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol in a spray bottle: Spray your bed and cloth furniture thoroughly. It kills the bugs and their eggs. This is also something you should do to any used furniture you acquire and to beds in hotels for the prevention of bringing bugs home.
  • Wrap your mattress in airtight plastic: Do this as quickly as you can and make sure there are no holes or unsealed gaps. Leave the plastic in place for at least one year.
  • Wash your clothes and bedclothes in hot water and dry them for at least 45 minutes.
  • Put any cloth items that can’t be washed into sealed black garbage bags and leave them outside in the sun for at least two hours.
  • Vacuum: your bed, carpets, and any cloth furniture, spraying these areas with alcohol both before and after vacuuming.
  • Glue traps: Place these traps near anywhere you suspect bed bug activity, such as between the edges of your mattress and box springs or on furniture, according to package directions.

The most important thing is to act quickly in order to slow down the egg-laying of this insect and reduce the multiplication factor. Because they normally bite at night and probably when you are sleeping, it will be annoying to wake up and take action, but your vigilance will be worth it to stop the infestation.

We recommend the following set of tools, used together, for complete bed bug eradication.

  1. Bed Bug Killer by Ecovenger 16 oz
    • USDA BioBased formula is child and pet friendly
    • 100% effective per recent study
    • Kills bed bugs at all stages - adults, nymphs, and eggs
    Check Amazon
  2. SureGuard Bed Bug Mattress Encasement
    • Effective encasement against bed bugs
    • Waterproof - doubles as a mattress protector
    • Invisi-Zip and SureSeal enclosure ensures no bed bug entry
    • 100% Cotton top - free from phthalates and other unhealthy chemicals
    Check Amazon
  3. HARRIS Bed Bug Traps - (20-Pack)
    • No chemical option to confirm bed bug presence
    • Catches other bugs and pests as well
    • Easy detection coverage for 2-3 rooms.
    Check Amazon
  4. EcoPest Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack
    • No chemical solution to block bed bugs
    • Easy application
    • Effective blockers for other pests like spiders
    Check Amazon
  5. Queen Mattress, Novilla 10 inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress
    • 10 inch gel mattress is very comfortable
    • Easy to apply encasement compared to wood frame mattresses
    • Fast shipment and easy to install vs traditional optionss
    Check Amazon
  6. Housmile Bed Vacuum Cleaner, UV Handheld
    • Powerful 10Kpa suction sucks up dust mites
    • Specialized design for cleaning mattresses
    • UV lamp eliminates moisture and kills bacteria

    Check Amazon

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Mainely Photos

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

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