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Bed bugs are nasty little critters that feed on blood. Here are some of the things that attract bed bugs:
- Body heat
- The smell of carbon dioxide, which is the gas you breath out
- Other chemical smells from the human body
- Sleeping people
Most people seem to know surprisingly little about bed bugs. Often, they don’t even know why bed bugs have such a bad reputation and people want them gone.
Biting bugs that feed on your blood while you sleep
As stated above, bed bugs are tiny little insects that feed on blood. They mostly feed on human blood and are believed to have co-evolved with humans over a very long time, possibly starting back when folks lived in caves.
They leave little bite marks when they feed. Most people wind up with a small circular rash from the bites. It can take a day or more to appear. Some people don’t get the rash. Others are allergic and react much more strongly.
If there is a large colony of a few hundred bed bugs, a person can wind up with dozens of bites a night. They tend to feed every few days, then go sleep so they can digest their meal. They go through various stages and reproduce when they finally hit maturity, thereby growing the colony larger.
They probably get called bed bugs because they tend to bite and feed on blood while the victim is asleep in their bed. But the name is a bit of a misnomer because it implies that they will only be found in your bed. This is not true.
They can be found outside of your bed. They may travel to other parts of your home to hide after feeding so they can digest their meal in peace. They can also be found outside the home.
But they usually bite while you are asleep in your bed. Your bed is the first place to start looking for signs of bed bugs if you wake up with any small bites on your skin.
Some people develop a rash in reaction to the bite and some don’t. It can take one or more days for the rash to appear.
Heavy bed bug infestation in a single family home (not for the faint hearted):
What attracts bed bugs to your home?
Baby it’s cold outside. Your house is toasty warm and has warm bodies in it.
This may not be true all of the time, but temperatures tend to drop at night and things get cold in winter. Human dwellings are consistently warm. Bed bugs are heat-seeking creatures.
Although they are tiny, not very bright and not very sociable with their own kind, they do have some means to sense potential sources of food. In their case, food means fresh blood from a living, warm-blooded animal. Their preferred food is human blood.
They prefer to pounce at night while you sleep. So they tend to seek out homes rather than commercial or industrial spaces. A sleeping body is their ideal target for getting a good meal.
They tend to feed at night while you sleep in part because it is dark, you won’t see them and you may even be lying still. They need about ten minutes to complete a meal, so their ideal target is someone unaware and laying still. Their second best target is someone unaware of them and mostly being still.
Thus, a sleeping body is their favorite target. These are most often found in residential spaces.
They may be found a variety of places, including public transit centers. They love to hitch rides on people in order to get to a good place to have a good meal. Once they are ensconced in or near a bedroom, they feed, sleep and reproduce.
Colonies can grow to as large as 500 members, but can be started with just a few individuals. If they find hospitable circumstances, they dig in and begin multiplying.
So while they might check out your office or factory job, they probably won’t proliferate there. They won’t proliferate until they find a place where people do a lot of sleeping. This means that residential buildings are where they are most likely to be found in significant numbers.
What attracts bed bugs to bite you?
Bed bugs have terrible eyesight, but they can smell you and they can sense heat. When you are asleep at night, you are usually the warmest object in the room.
Furniture and other objects are usually between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Your core body temperature is 98.6 degrees (or higher if you are running a fever) and your skin temperature is typically 91 degrees.
They also are attracted to carbon dioxide. This is the gas we breath out. When we sleep at night, the largest concentration of carbon dioxide in the room is above the bed near the face or faces of any sleeping occupants.
There is some evidence that they may prefer certain blood types over others. This doesn’t mean that if you have the “wrong” blood type, they won’t bite you at all. But it may serve to explain why two people sleeping in the same bed may have very different outcomes, with one getting covered in many bites and the other being seemingly left alone.
However, things are not always as they seem. It can also be the case that one person reacts very badly to the bites and gets a terrible rash and the other person reacts not at all. So it’s possible both people are getting bit, but only one really notices the bites.
They can also be attracted to kairomones. These include octenol, lactic acid, and other organic acids that humans give off when they breath or sweat.
Bed bugs look for bare skin. They aren’t too crazy about being trapped in clothing and they don’t much like hair. So hairy parts of the body tend to get few to no bites while relatively hairless parts of the body tend to get more.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great idea to try to cover up completely in long pajamas. That may just encourage them to bite your face. You might decide that bites on the arm or leg are less awful.
Of course, if you discover you have bed bugs, you need to try to eradicate them, not just try to live with them. Although historically they were not deemed to be a serious health hazard because they weren’t believed to carry and spread serious diseases, a relatively recent study found that they can potentially carry Chagas Disease, the same deadly parasite carried by their cousin the kissing bug, so called because it tends to bite on the face near the mouth.
What attracts bed bugs to hotel rooms?
As stated above, bed bugs are basically looking for sleeping bodies. So, generally speaking, they are looking for beds in bedrooms.
But, really, they are just dumb little insects. They don’t anything at all about zoning codes and which buildings are considered residential versus commercial.
Hotels are another place where you find beds filled with sleeping bodies. That’s the main reason you find bed bugs in hotels sometimes.
However, hotel rooms can be a place where bed bug infestations are particularly pernicious. They may go unnoticed and untreated for much longer periods of time than is typical in a personal residence.
The rash can take a day or longer to appear, so a traveler that spends a single night in a hotel may be long gone by the time they realize something bit them. They may have no idea what bit them. In most cases, the rash is a short-lived annoyance that goes away on its own without any kind of medical treatment.
Some people never develop a rash. People who are disinclined to get a rash may still notice signs of bed bug infestations in their own home, but may not notice it in hotel. They may be exhausted and they may be there only one night and so forth. There are lots of contributing factors that make it less likely that a person staying overnight in a hotel will even notice that there are bed bugs.
Even if they do notice, staff might not really believe them. Worse, staff might not really care. Since bed bugs are generally seen as annoying, but are mostly not thought of as a serious public health threat, if the hotel isn’t very profitable, they may feel that ignoring the problem makes the most financial sense for them. Bed bugs can be challenging to truly eradicate from an area.
Even if they do successfully eradicate them, the hotel may not remain free of bed bugs for very long. Because they can be found in transit centers or anyplace else you get a large group of people and they like to hitch rides, the high number of people passing through a hotel can just bring more bed bugs.
Hotels also tend to be in relatively busy areas. They are frequently very close to the highway and not far from high traffic establishments, such as gas stations and convenience stores. Such amenities serve the needs of their clients well. But these crowded, busy spaces can also be another source of bed bugs.
Certain kinds of essential oils sometimes help discourage bed bugs from biting. If you know you are going to be sleeping in something of a dive of a hotel, you might look into that and consider taking some along to try to protect yourself for one night.
Though, honestly, high end hotels aren’t immune. These nasty beasts are happy to go wherever there are beds full of sleeping bodies so they can get their fill of blood.
You cannot stop breathing and you cannot stop being warm. These are the two primary ways that bed bugs find their targets. If there are bed bugs, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to stop them from finding you.
They are geared towards sensing a living, breathing, warm body, preferably one that’s not too aware and not too active. That’s basically you when you go to sleep at night, to some degree or another.
How to stop bed bugs
You could try using a bed bug mattress encasement to stop these nasty blood suckers from getting on to your body. Encasing your mattress is a good preventative measure as bed bugs will not be able to penetrate the sheet.
However, a mattress encasement should not be relied on as the only form of pest control. You should try a bed bug steamer or vacuum along with seeking professional extermination help.
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