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Few two-word combinations in the English language make people cringe more than “bed bugs.” These pernicious little critters thrive in the places where we feel most comfortable and safe, which is part of the reason they rank among the most hated pests in America.

Despite being infamous, many of us don’t know much about bed bug control at all – other than not wanting them anywhere near our vicinity. For example, have you ever wondered why bed bugs like to hang out in beds in the first place? If you haven’t, you might be curious now. With that in mind, let’s get to know these critters and find out why they like to inhabit the places where we go to rest.

Understanding Bed Bugs

What are they?

Bed bugs have six legs, which makes them insects. Sometimes they are erroneously associated with ticks because they have similar feeding habits, but ticks are actually closer relatives to spiders because of their eight legs, making them arachnids.

These parasitic insects are part of the Cimicidae family of parasitic bugs that feed on other animals. Speaking of feeding…

What do bed bugs eat?

This is perhaps the most terrifying thing about bed bugs – they are tiny, six-legged vampires that feast on human blood. That might sound a little dramatic, but it’s mostly true; in fact, it’s entirely true. However, this was not always the case.

Where do bed bugs come from? 

Several studies suggest that bed bugs trace their lineage back millennia to bat bugs. The prevailing theory is that bat bugs began consuming human blood when we lived in caves inhabited by bats. Over time, bat bugs developed certain evolutionary adaptions that made them particularly adept at surviving within homes.

How common are bed bugs? 

More common than you’d be comfortable knowing. Bed bugs are a prevalent pest across the entire country as they’ve been reported in all 50 states. Accordingly, to current estimates, one in five homes in the US is affected by bedbugs. They are so common that 97% of pest professionals have treated bed bug infestations within the last year.

So Why Are They Called Bed Bugs Anyway?

The obvious

Bed bugs get their name because the most common cases of bites happen in the bedroom. However, bed bugs can be found all over the home, from sofas and clothing to any other type of soft furnishing.

Why do they like beds so much?

There are several reasons why beds are the preferred home for these critters, but it all starts with their proximity to food. Like any creature, their evolutionary drive is to feed and procreate, so bed bugs actively seek out locations that are close to people, a.k.a. their food supply. It just so happens to be that people live in conditions that are ideal for bed bugs to thrive.

Not only do they look for food, but they also look for relatively warm temperatures and humidity. Bed bugs prefer to settle and procreate in dark environments with temperatures hovering between 65- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. Most bedrooms provide this exact type of environment.

In addition to the attraction to the warmth and moisture of the human body and the ideal conditions offered by the bedroom, there’s yet another reason why bed bugs like to hang out where we sleep –

Convenience 

Bed bugs are constantly looking to feed. Without a regular food source, not only can they not live, but they also cannot undergo the molting process to shed their exoskeleton and grow or lay eggs. But that presents a challenge – bed bugs are tiny, and although they can move quickly, they can’t jump or fly, making it rather difficult to move from place to place.

When you have these limitations, the easiest time to feed is when your prey is sleeping, and that is precisely what they do. While we sleep, we can’t feel the bed bug’s tiny beak sinking into our skin, and because we are unconscious, they have free reign to feast without danger.

How do Bed Bugs Get to My House? 

Bed bugs are adept hitchhikers and can make their way from location to location without being noticed. Their eggs are as tiny as a dust spec, making them nearly undetectable. If one or two-bed bugs happen to catch a ride on your luggage while you’re at a hotel, they can lay eggs that might not hatch until you get home. Once there, they can scurry around through cracks and crevices, looking for the ideal location to hide, wait, and procreate.

How Do I Know if I Have Bed Bugs? 

The most common sign of a bed bug infestation is the bites. You might not feel the bites at first, but bed bug saliva causes a histamine response that makes them notably itchy. But that’s not the only way you can tell if bed bugs are around.

Common Signs of Bed Bug Infestation 

Although bed bugs don’t have nests, they do tend to congregate together, and when they do, their smell becomes more potent. Bed bugs have a mild musty, and sweet smell that resembles berries.

As if these creatures could not become any more unpleasant, another sign of their presence is their droppings. Bed bug scat tends to seep into the fabric of your mattress and takes a rusty and dark color. If you start noticing dark spotting on your bed, furniture, or clothing, you might be close to a congregation of bed bugs.

Keep Your Home Bed Bug Free!

Keeping bed bugs away from your home starts with a bit of prevention. Here are some simple tricks you can use to prevent these critters from settling in the first place:

  • Eliminate clutter and keep your home clean to reduce potential nesting and hiding spots.
  • If you are about to purchase secondhand furniture, check for the tell-tale signs of bed bugs – this could be the fecal spotting or just the musty, sweet smell.
  • Use specialized coverings for pillows, mattresses, and box springs to make it more difficult for bed bugs to nest.
  • Vacuum frequently and always check your luggage once you return from travels to get rid of any successful hitchhikers.

Ultimately, once a bed bug infestation sets in, you’ll need to seek a professional exterminator. Before letting it get to that point, prevent them from settling into your home in the first place.

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