Did you just notice a bed bug in your room – or wait, was it two? A couple of bed bugs is surely nothing to worry about, and killing them should rid your room (& home) of the critters, right? However, what if around every corner and inside every crack of your home, there’s a colony of bed bugs waiting to feast when you go to sleep?
If one room has bed bugs, all rooms in your home may have bed bugs. A bed bug infestation will generally start in a single room and is contained for a few weeks. Then, as the bed bugs start to reproduce and grow in number, they’ll eventually spread all over the house.
In this article, I’ll take you through a detailed overview of how bed bugs spread from room to room and how to tell if the infestation is growing. Below, I’ve also shared dedicated sections with guides on stopping bed bugs from spreading, ways to rid bed bugs from your home, and steps you can take to prevent an infestation from happening.
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Bed bugs will spread to other rooms with time, especially if you don’t bother taking quick action as soon as you find them in one of your rooms. If you take a lenient approach thinking only a few bed bugs will do no harm, they’ll quickly multiply and infest the whole house in a matter of weeks.
At first, bed bugs will only inhabit one of the rooms in your home, typically the bedroom. They’ll hide inside your bed mattress and come out at night to feed on your blood.
Now, if you’re extremely lucky and don’t have any female bed bugs in your home, the few male ones in your mattress will feast on your blood for a few months and then die.
That said, if you have even one female bed bug, it can lay 1-7 eggs daily, averaging around 200-250 in her lifetime. Each egg takes roughly a week to hatch, and the hatchlings will start to lay eggs within a week or two.
As you can imagine, if left unchecked, a single bed bug can grow into a colony of thousands within a couple of months. Moreover, every single one of them will need to feed on the blood of humans or other mammals to survive.
This hunger, and the bed bugs’ amazing ability to find warm-blooded hosts, will lead them to other rooms where your family members or pets sleep, thereby spreading the infestation throughout your home.
Bed bugs can’t fly or jump, and we rarely see them walking across the floor. So, how do they spread from one room to another?
Bed bugs spread between rooms by latching onto your clothes or pet’s fur. They can also directly move from one room to another if they sense a food source.
Typically, bed bugs will hide inside your clothes, bedsheet, and other types of soft fabric. They can also inhabit old furniture, soft toys, and used books.
Now, when you unknowingly move one of these objects with bed bugs from one room to another, the critters also get free transport to a different part of your house.
For instance, bed bugs can get carried from your bedroom to the laundry room by latching onto your bedsheets and pillowcases. From there, they can again latch onto other clothes. And as you take your clothes to different areas of your home, the bed bugs get transported as well.
Now, while hitchhiking is the bed bugs’ preferred way of transport, they can also move between rooms very quickly, especially if they sense a food source. Typically, a bed bug can cover 100 ft in an hour, whereas they can reach top speeds up to 240ft/hour.
However, if bed bugs move from one room to another, won’t we be able to see them?
Well, yes, but not always.
It’s important to keep in mind that bed bugs are as small as an apple seed and as flat as a credit card. As a result, they can easily squeeze into cracks in the walls, doors, electrical sockets, or piping and then travel between rooms.
How to Know if Bed Bugs Have Spread to Other Rooms
You just noticed one or two bed bugs in one of your rooms.
How can you tell if these are the only bed bugs in your home? And more importantly, in case there are more, are they confined to that room alone, or have they already spread to other corners of your house?
The first thing you should do if you think you found bed bugs in one of your rooms is to ensure that they are indeed bed bugs and not some other type of insect.
If they are bed bugs, you need to act quickly.
Search every place around your home where bed bugs commonly hide out and look for signs of a bed bug infestation. If you notice bed bugs or signs of their presence in several rooms, it means they have spread throughout your home.
To help you out, I’ve prepared a guide on how to tell bed bugs from other critters, shared some of the most common places to search for them, and listed a few signs you should look out for.
There’s a wide variety of insects on the planet, and it’s easy to confuse them with each other. For instance, many people mistake fleas, carpet beetles, and cockroach nymphs for bed bugs.
Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you indeed have bed bugs in your home before you start worrying about whether they’ve spread and how to get rid of them.
A bed bug has an oval shape and is as flat as a credit card. In terms of color, they can have a reddish or brownish appearance, sometimes with black stripes.
If it’s fully grown, a bed bug is usually the size of an apple seed – around 0.3 inches in length, while hatchlings are much smaller. Anatomy-wise, bed bugs have 6 legs and short antennae that are segmented.
Fun fact: Dead bed bugs release a special odor that acts as a warning to other bed bugs about potential danger.
Unlike most insects that build nests, bed bugs just crawl into places and live in groups. Their small flat body gives them a great advantage in finding residence inside small cracks and crevices around your home.
Initially, bed bugs will hide inside your mattress by burrowing a hole into the soft fabric. There they’ll stay hidden throughout the day and come out at night when you’re sleeping to feed on your blood.
Slowly, as the colony starts to grow, they’ll move on from the mattress and start taking refuge in your bedding. This can be inside your pillows, the pillowcase, bed covers, bed sheets, duvet, and so on.
As time goes by, they’ll travel beyond the bed and explore different nearby hiding spots. They especially love to hang around near old furniture, couches and sofa sets, carpets & rugs, cracks in the walls & floorboard, etc.
Overall, if something is soft enough to burrow into, or if it has cracks or ridges, a bed bug can hide or live inside it.
With this in mind, you want to thoroughly scan all the furniture around your home that’s soft like your mattress or has small cracks or indents.
Now that you know where to look for bed bugs, let’s talk about what to look for – the signs of a bed bug infestation.
That said, the most obvious sign you have bed bugs is if you see one on your bed or bedding or roaming around near a furniture or wall crack.
Besides this, you must also keep an eye out for potential clues bed bugs generally leave behind, signaling their presence. This includes the following:
- You have blood stains on your bed sheet or mattress. This generally happens if you squash a feeding bed bug during your sleep.
- You notice dark black spots on your bed sheet or mattress. These are bed bug fecal matter that they leave behind while feasting on your blood.
- There are small flaky insect exoskeletons in the size and shape of bed bugs. As a bed bug matures to adulthood, they’ll shed their exoskeletons about five times.
- There are eggs and egg casings near the places where bed bugs like to hide. It’s hard to tell whether the eggs are that of a bed bug or some other insect. That said, finding small pinpoint-sized eggs around your home is never a good sign.
If you notice these signs in different rooms, your home is infested with bed bugs.
How to Stop Bed Bugs From Spreading
As discussed, noticing bed bugs in one room doesn’t automatically mean that the insects have spread throughout the whole house. You might still have time to stop the spread and contain the bed bug infestation to just that room.
But how to do so?
Here are a few ways to stop bed bugs from spreading:
- Don’t move anything out of the room. Since the main way bed bugs travel from one place to another is by latching onto things, restricting movement can help slow down the spread.
- Wash the clothes and bedding that’s in that room separately. This will prevent the bed bugs from latching onto other items of clothing.
- Wash your clothes in hot water and then dry them at the highest setting. Bed bugs will die within 20 mins if you expose them to 118°F. In case a particular fabric can’t be washed with hot water, see if you can dry them at a temperature higher than 118°F.
- Wrap the mattress with an encasement. Covering the mattress with a bed bug-proof encasement like the Degrees of Comfort Mattress Encasement (available on Amazon) will lock the bed bugs inside, cutting them out of a food source and eventually starving them to death.
- Use a steam cleaner to clean the floors of the infested room. A steam cleaner consistently releases hot steam and eradicates any bed bugs hiding inside the floorboard.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the bed bugs in the mattress, headboard, or other furniture. Make sure to use a standard electric-powered vacuum cleaner because they have a stronger pull. Additionally, use one with a plastic hose since bed bugs can latch onto the ones that have brushes or bristles.
- Cover up any cracks, dents, or seams you have on the walls. Bed bugs might be using these small spaces to hide or travel through your house. Covering them can limit their movement, reduce hide-out spots, and kill the ones already hiding in them.
- Sleep inside the infested room. This might seem counterintuitive, but bed bugs need to feed on blood to survive. If you move to another room, they’ll leave the original room and spread across your home in search of a food source.
As you can see, containing a bed bug infestation in one room is no easy task. Not only do you have to go through this long list of preventive steps, but you also need to do many of these regularly.
It’s also important to take these preventive measures early while the bed bug population is still low.
However, if you tried following these steps to the best of your abilities but still found signs of bed bugs dwelling in other rooms in your household, you have a serious bed bug infestation in your home.
At this point, I’d refrain from trying any new DIY fixes as it’s extremely difficult to get rid of bed bugs by yourself. Instead, I’d recommend calling in a professional to help you out.
If one room has bed bugs, the critters have likely spread to other rooms as well.
Bed bugs will typically spread by latching onto your clothes, laundry, or pets and getting carried across your home.
They can also move quickly and will crawl through the narrow seams and cracks in the walls, electrical sockets, and piping to travel between rooms.