We take lots of trips. It is one of the perks of living in a country that has no borders between its states. You can travel from Maine to Washington and from California to Key West without needing a visa or a passport. There are lots of places to see in the continental United States. You could enjoy a romantic getaway on the gulf coast or a not-so-romantic trip into the bayou to do some hunting. You could visit a museum in New York City or spend the week on a farm, learning how to milk cows and shoe horses. We all have our own particular interests. You may be the type of person who considers the lazy river at a waterpark to be the peak of enjoyment, or maybe a visit to the world's largest ball of string is your cup of tea. Whatever inspires you to leave your home and do some traveling can bring you into contact with bed bugs. Take a moment to read through this guide to learn what is necessary to protect yourself from these frustrating bugs. Here is the who, what, where, when, and why of bed bugs.

bed bug crawling on box spring
bed bug crawling on bedding

The Why

If you want to prevent bed bugs, the "why" always comes first. Understanding why bed bugs are a threat to travelers gives valuable insight into all of the others. At the core of the bed bug problem is something called passive dispersal. This is a process by which a bug spreads from one location to another with assistance. Many bugs that get into your home do it on their own strength. They come into your yard and they squeeze in through your walls. Bed bugs do not. They are carried into your home. And, sometimes, you are the one who does the carrying.  

The Where

Bed bugs have a preference for where they like to hide. Understanding this will help you know where to look for them when you travel. These insects love to squeeze into seams, creases, and other tight spaces to lay their eggs. They will hide in recesses, pockets, outlets, and wall voids. They can be found inside electronics and any object that has a hiding place. They are also drawn to dirty clothing. When laundry items are left out, they can be targeted by bed bugs.

The What

Do you know what signs bed bugs leave? You should. It could save you from bringing an infestation home. No matter where you are, look for black patches, black streaks, tiny black droppings, tiny white eggs, shed insect skins, and brown blood stains. Bed bugs also have a smell. If an infestation is large enough it will smell like a locker room towel.

The When

You can see bed bugs at any time during your travels. While bed bugs are mostly nocturnal creatures, they can appear during the day, especially in their early stages of development. If you see a bug during the day that you think could be a bed bug, it might be.

The Who

One of the reasons bed bugs are able to travel home with people is because most people don't know what bed bugs look like in all stages of their development. Not every bed bug you see will look like the bug you've seen on the news. In fact, there is a greater chance that the bugs you see while traveling will not look like those bugs on the news. Those pictures of bed bugs you see when you're browsing the news are adult bed bugs which are flat, oval, rust-colored, and have noticeable ridges on their abdomens. You are more likely to see bed bug eggs or immature bed bug nymphs during your travels.

Bed bug eggs are about 1 mm in length and white. You may see a bed bug egg by itself or part of a small batch. Look for these in the "where" locations listed above.

Immature bed bugs are pale when they first hatch and are only about a millimeter in length. That's pretty tiny. If you see one of these, it is likely to go unnoticed unless it is feeding on you and its abdomen is filled with bright red blood. As bed bugs pass through development stages (instars) they will become tan and eventually rusty-brown in color. They will also become less transparent as they move toward their adult stage.

A fed bed bug will take on the red color of the blood inside it. It will also appear bloated or pill-shaped, instead of oval.


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