Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothes? [Answered and Explained]

If you’re one of the many people worried that they may have bed bugs, you probably wonder if they bite through clothes. The simple answer is no; bed bugs cannot physically bite through clothes. However, they can bite under clothes.

However, they can bite under clothes; not only that, but they can also insert the feeding tube through a loosely woven mesh cloth or clothing that has holes.

If the following scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone in your bed bug fears: “You’ve just woken up from a sound sleep, but as you stretch and yawn, you feel something biting your arm. You look over and think you see a few red bumps on your skin. Uh-oh – could you have bed bugs? Then you start to wonder, do they bite through clothes?

This article will explain everything you need to know about bed bugs biting through various materials, including why they cannot penetrate clothing. Let’s get started! 

Can Bed Bugs Bite Under Clothes?

Yes, a bed bug can bite you under clothes but not through the material. For a bed bug to bite you under your clothes, the clothing would have to be loose enough to crawl up and bite you.

There are also a few other reasons bed bugs might bite you under clothes. You have a shirt sitting on a bed that has a bed bug problem unbeknownst to you. Then you take that shirt and put it on; a bed bug can quickly hide within the clothing and then bite you once you put it on.

The same goes for if you’re sitting on a chair or couch that has bed bugs. They could climb up and bite you through the material if you have loose clothing.

Of course, the best way to avoid getting bitten by bed bugs is to avoid places where they are commonly found, like second-hand furniture, movie theatres, or other public places. If you end up in a risky area for bed bugs, be sure to heat all of your clothing in a hot dryer or bed bug heater when you get home.

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Can A Bed Bug Bite Through Leggings?

No bed bugs do not have chewing mouthparts; their beak is a modified piercing-sucking mouth. If the leggings are made out of mesh or have any mesh areas, the bed bug may put the tube through a hole in the mesh. However, they do not make most leggings out of loose mesh. Therefore, a bed bug will not be able to bite through leggings.

An up close shot of the bed bugs proboscis

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Mattress Encasements?

If you buy a certified bed bug mattress encasement, bed bugs cannot bite through. Bed bugs do not have chewing mouthparts, so they cannot bite through fabric. Most mattress encasements also have an additional waterproof layer giving you double protection.

If you happen to have a box spring, make sure to put a mattress encasement on the box spring. The box spring is a familiar spot where bed bugs hideout.

Most mattress covers like the Sureguard have been lab-tested to be bed bug proof. A bed bug cannot get through it or bite you through the mattress cover. Sureguard has entomologists test the encasements before putting the “bed bug proof” stamp of approval.

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Plastic?

No, bed bugs cannot bite through plastic bags. Instead of chewing mouthparts, they have what’s called a stylet fascicle. The piercing-sucking mouthpart is enclosed inside of a capsule in their lower lip. The tube will slide out during feeding, but it does not bite through the plastic.

What Bugs Bite Through Clothes?

Some bugs may bite through clothes, but bed bugs are not one. Bugs that bite through clothes are common apartment bugs like mosquitoes, ants, carpet beetles, roaches, silverfish, and crickets.

Can mosquitoes bite through clothes?

Yes, mosquitoes can bite through clothes if they are thin. Their mouth has six needle-like structures, each with a job. Two of the mosquito’s needles have teeth on end, and two of the other needles work to hold the skin apart while she saws through your skin. Bed bugs, unlike mosquitoes, only have one needle-like tube, and a bed bug cannot bite through clothing.

Do Bed Bugs Burrow Under Your Skin?

Like the scabies mite, bed bugs do not burrow under your skin. Sarcoptes scabiei is the mite that burrows under your skin and causes severe itching. The female scabies mite burrows under your skin and deposits her eggs. Keep in mind that scabies is a highly contagious but treatable issue.

Are Bed Bug Bites on Face Common?

Yes, you can get bed bug bites on the face, but bed bugs will often bite on the arms, neck, hands, and legs. According to the 2009 study titled “[Bed Bugs] The Sensitivity Spectrum: Human Reactions to Bed Bug Bites,” they surveyed individuals living in an active bed bug-infested home. 84% said they got bites on their arms, 40% bites on their neck, whereas 21% reported bites on the face. So as you can see, having bed bugs bite you on your face is less common than in other areas of your body.

Wearing Clothes To Prevent Bed Bug Bites

Bed bugs can cause psychological trauma, and people will go to great lengths to prevent bites. I have visited many clients in their homes for a post-treatment inspection. Some people tell me the length they go to ensure they do not get bitten by bed bugs.

Multiple clients tell me that they sleep in their clothes to prevent getting bites. Some people even go to great lengths by wearing gloves and duct-taping them to their shirt sleeves. Knowing how bed bugs feed, you can understand why this would be an effective way to avoid bed bug bites.

While this may be a powerful way of preventing bed bug bites, it is a method that will work. If you are not comfortable taking these measures, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants at least.

While bed bugs cannot bite through clothes, they can climb under loose clothing. If a bed bug is motivated enough, it will find a way to bite your skin. The best way to prevent bed bug bites is by using a mattress cover, interceptors, and monitoring for signs of bed bugs.

Do Bed Bugs Eat Clothes?

No bed bugs do not have chewing mouthparts, so they cannot chew or eat clothes. However, many other bugs eat clothes, like carpet beetles, moths, and roaches.

bed bug mouthparts under a microscope

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Sheets?

No bed bugs cannot bite through sheets. They only have one tube to insert into your skin, and they cannot chew through sheets. However, they can bite through a mesh screen because there are tiny holes in mesh screens just big enough for a bed bug to put their stylet fascicle through.

On the other hand, a mosquito’s mouthparts are stronger than bed bugs. Therefore a mosquito can easily bite you even under the covers.

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Socks?

The simple answer is no; they can’t. Bed bugs have mouthparts that are great for piercing skin and sucking blood. They make socks from cotton or wool that are too dense for the bed bug’s mouthparts to penetrate.

So if you worry about bed bugs biting your feet, rest easy that wearing socks will protect your feet from their bites.

Can You Carry Bed Bugs on the Clothes You Are Wearing?

Yes, bed bugs can be in your clothing. Bed bugs transferring on our clothes are one way to get spread around to other people. Bed bugs can hitch a ride on your clothing and travel to new places, where they’ll then look for a new host. Furthermore, once they’re settled in, they’ll start feeding on blood, which is how they reproduce.

If you think you might have bed bugs, it’s essential to put all of your clothing through a high heat dryer before going anywhere. You can also look for signs of bed bugs in your home, such as minor black

bed bug fecal stains on your sheets from their droppings, bites on your skin, or shed skins.

Do Bed Bugs Live on Clothes?

Bed bugs do not live on clothes like body lice. However, they can accidentally get on our clothes when around them. For example, if you are sleeping in a bed with bed bugs and have some piles of clothing near your bed, a bed bug could end up on your clothing.

Then when you put that clothing item on, you will carry the bed bug on your clothing to another location. Bed bugs can crawl onto clothes lying on the floor or ones that are in a drawer next to the bed.

Can Bed Bugs Stay On Your Clothes All Day?

Bed bugs can travel on the clothes you are wearing. Although they can incidentally stay on your clothes all day, they do not typically live on clothes. Since bed bugs are nocturnal, they prefer to hide out near places where people are sleeping to bite during the night.

Sometimes a bed bug may be trapped in a seam or pocket; they hide in cracks and crevices. To reiterate, if a bed bug finds itself on your clothing, it will probably find a crease or seam hang out.

As long as the bed bugs have a food source (blood from you), that is all they care about. If you accidentally bring a bed bug into work on your clothing and it falls off, it will eventually find a food source. Usually, the bed bugs will congregate around people’s desks and chairs in office settings.

can bed bugs bite through clothes?

Can You Get Bed Bugs from Second-Hand Clothes?

Yes, you can get bed bugs from second-hand clothes. Bed bugs are notorious for hiding and can quickly go unnoticed in clothing. When you buy second-hand clothes, inspect them thoroughly for bed bugs before bringing them into your home. Better yet, seal them up in a plastic bag until you have time to dry them.

It’s also important to remember that bed bugs can live for up to a year without feeding. So even if you don’t see any bed bugs in the clothes you’re buying, they could still be there, tucked in a seam or pocket.

You can get bed bugs from second-hand clothes, but you can also get body lice. We recently inspected someone because they were getting “bites” after purchasing items from a second-hand store in Chelsea, NYC.

The client was concerned about bed bugs, but body lice were not even on their radar. However, when we arrived, our bed bug sniffing dogs did not find bed bugs, but we, the human inspectors, found body lice in some clothing articles on the client’s floor. The moral of the story is to make sure you heat treat (put through a dryer) all clothing that you purchase.


Learn all about if washing clothes kills bed bugs here.


Final Thoughts for “Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothes?”

So, if you’re one of the many people who worry that they may have bed bugs, don’t panic – they can’t physically bite through clothes. However, they can bite under clothes, so it’s essential to check for any signs of an infestation.

Anyone who has gone through having bed bugs knows about the psychological trauma they can cause and the PTSD that continues afterward. If you are worried about bed bugs and live in the NYC area, give us a call, tell us about your bed bug situation, and we will try our best to help!