How Do Bed Bugs Start? You May Be Surprised

Are you trying to figure out the answer: “How do bed bugs start?” Bed bugs start from an egg, and we bring the adults and nymphs in on our clothing or bags. Before diving into the topic of “how do bed bugs start,” it’s essential to understand these insects and why they’ve become such a widespread issue.

Key Takeaways

  • Bed bugs are visible but elusive pests that bite us for blood.
  • Understanding how bed bugs enter homes and the signs of infestation is essential for prevention and control.
  • Be diligent about detection methods and proactive about addressing bed bug infestations if they occur.

how do bed bugs start

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are 1 – 6.5 mm, oval-shaped insects that exclusively feed on the blood of animals and humans. Learn more: bed bug pictures! They are usually brownish red but can appear more reddish after feeding.

The scientific name for common bed bugs is Cimex lectularius. Lastly, they are generally active at night, and you’ll find them in various places, especially around beds and sleeping areas.

Life Cycle of Bed Bugs

How do bed bugs start? Well, they start from an egg. The bed bug life cycle has five stages, from the egg stage and progressing to adulthood.  

stages of the bed bug lifecycle

Here is an overview of each stage: Check out pictures of the bed bug lifecycle.

  1. Eggs: Female bed bugs lay tiny, white eggs that are approximately 1mm in length. They can lay up to 200-500 eggs throughout their lifetime, making it crucial to address infestations early on.
  2. Nymphs: Once hatched, the babies are small and translucent. They will molt and grow through five stages before adulthood, requiring a blood meal at each location.
  3. Adults: Adult bed bugs are about 6mm in size and have a reddish-brown color. Learn more about the size of bed bugs before reading any further. They can survive for several months without feeding and will seek out a blood meal when possible.

Understanding the life cycle of bed bugs can help you identify and treat an infestation properly. Be mindful of signs indicating their presence, such as small bites on your skin or tiny dark spots (bed bug feces) on bedding and surrounding areas.

How Do Bed Bugs Start? 10 Examples

Travel and Transport

Bed bugs will hitch a ride in your bags, luggage, or clothing when traveling. We wrote a guide on what to do if your hotel room has bed bugs.

Their body can squeeze into the seams of suitcases or backpacks. When you return home, they may crawl out and find a new home in your bed or furniture.

From Infected Neighbors

If your apartment neighbor has a bed bug infestation, they can easily migrate to your home through shared walls, floors, or ceilings. This is especially common in apartment buildings and multi-family residences where proximity makes spreading them easier.


Public spaces with many visitors, like movie theatres, can harbor bed bugs. When you sit in a seat previously occupied by someone carrying the pests on their belongings, you may inadvertently pick them up.

A Neighbor is Self-Treating, and Their Bugs Are Scattering

When someone tries to treat their bed bug infestation, they may inadvertently scatter the bugs to neighboring homes. These pests will seek new hiding spots to avoid extermination, and your home might be their next destination.


Hospitals are not immune from bed bug infestations. With a constant influx of patients, visitors, and staff, these pests can find their way in and hide in bedding, furniture, or medical equipment.

Through Used Furniture

Purchasing used furniture can open the door to a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs can hide in couches, mattresses, or wooden furniture like dressers. 

Inspect and clean any second-hand items thoroughly before bringing them into your home. It may be better to skip used furniture altogether unless you can treat it beforehand. See: How to clean used furniture for bed bugs.

A Friend Has Them

Whether visiting someone with bed bugs or seeing them at your place can lead to transferring these pests. Bed bugs may hitch a ride on their clothing or luggage and end up in your home. You may be at risk if your friend has bed bugs and sits in your car.

Delivery Boxes

Although uncommon, you can occasionally find bed bugs in boxes or packaging materials. Inspect parcels for signs of the bugs before bringing them inside, especially if receiving a package from a known-infested area. We always put everything (shoes, clothes, books, bedding) we buy online through the bed bug heater before using it.

Moving Truck

Moving trucks can harbor bed bugs from previous customers. If you’re using a rental truck, inspect it for any signs of infestation before loading your belongings. 

Wrapping your things in plastic or airtight bins before putting them into the moving truck is good practice.

Storage Unit

Bed bugs will survive for months without a blood meal, so they may hide in a storage unit, waiting for a new host. It may be hard to check for signs of infestation in a storage unit, so the best thing to do is to protect your belongings in airtight bins.

Communal Laundry Room

Shared laundry facilities can be a hot spot for bed bugs. So, can you get bed bugs from a laundry mat? The simple answer is yes, you can. They may be hiding in laundry baskets, machines, or folding tables. Always keep your clothing and bedding in sealed bags when transporting them to and from the laundry room.

Detection of Bed Bugs

When trying to detect bed bugs in your home, you should look for the leading indicator: physical signs of their presence.

Getting bites is not a reliable sign of bed bugs, as many other bugs or skin rashes can leave you with “bed bug-like” reactions. If you get bitten at night, it may be something else but don’t see any signs of bed bugs.

Physical Signs

Bed bugs are elusive creatures, so spotting physical signs of their presence can be challenging. However, knowing a few key indicators can help you detect these pests early.

  • Fecal spots: Bed bugs leave small, dark fecal spots on surfaces where they reside. You’ll find these on mattresses, bed linens, and nearby furniture. Look for bed bug stains on pillows, sheets, furniture, walls, and nearby.
  • Shed skins/exoskeletons: As bed bugs grow, they molt and shed their old exoskeletons. You might find these small, translucent skins near your bed or sleeping area.
  • Eggs and nymphs: Check for tiny, pearl-whitish eggs (about 1mm in size) and newborn bed bug nymphs, which are almost transparent and complex to see with the naked eye.

Inspect your mattress, sheets, and surrounding areas regularly for these signs. Use a flashlight to help you see better and a magnifying glass for closer inspection.

Bites on the Skin

For some people, bed bug bites are another telltale sign you might have an infestation. 

  • Clusters, single bites, or lines of bites: Bed bugs tend to have a different reaction on each person. Looking deeper is a good idea if you notice multiple small, red, itchy bumps.

  • Appearance on exposed skin: These bites usually appear on exposed skin not covered by clothing during sleep, such as arms, neck, and shoulders. Learn more here: “Do bed bugs bite through clothes?”

  • Delayed reaction: Bed bug bites can often take up to two weeks to appear after being bitten. Plus, the response may differ between individuals, making it tricky to identify them. Learn more about how long it takes for bed bug bites to show up.

Remember that bites alone cannot confirm a bed bug infestation, as they resemble other insect bites or skin conditions. However, it’s worth investigating further if you notice a pattern of these symptoms and the physical signs mentioned above.

Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs

Monitor for Signs

It’s essential to be proactive in detecting bed bugs. Look for minor, reddish-brown bugs, their eggs, or fecal spots on your bedding and furniture. Check your mattress seams, box springs, and the areas around your bed. Inspect any second-hand furniture or luggage closely before bringing them into your home.

Use the High Heat Dryer Regularly

Bed bugs cannot tolerate high temperatures. Make it a habit to launder your bedding, clothes, and soft toys at least once weekly, using the highest heat setting in your dryer. The 120° F heat will kill bed bugs and their eggs, helping you maintain a bug-free environment.

Deep Vacuuming Weekly

Perform a thorough vacuum cleaning of your home weekly, focusing on carpets, upholstery, and cracks or crevices. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner’s bag or empty the container immediately after use to prevent any trapped bed bugs from escaping back into your home. Always seal the vacuum bag or contents in a plastic bag before disposing of it. 

Regularly vacuuming deep in cracks and crevices may help you remove a bed bug before it becomes a problem.

Professional Pest Control

If you suspect you have a severe bed bug infestation, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Pest control companies have the expertise, proper tools, and know-how to eliminate bed bugs effectively. 

As a bed bug specialist, I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding the behavior and resilience of these pests when choosing a treatment method. It’s a common misconception that spraying a bed bug-infested area will solve the problem. However, one critical factor to be aware of is that bed bugs have developed a resistance to many over-the-counter chemicals. So, with that being said, getting professional help is essential.

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