Bed Bug Behavior and Common Hiding Spots

Dr. Harold Harlan © Armed Forces Pest Management Board (with permission)

Most people don’t realize that they have bed bugs until the infestation has spread substantially because:

1.  Bed bugs are nocturnal, emerging at night to feed on their hosts, while they sleep. Bed bugs become more active at night, with high levels of activity from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m., peaking around 4:30 a.m.
2.  When they aren’t eating, bed bugs are hiding. Bed bugs feed for 3-15 minutes and then quickly retreat to their harborage for several days to digest their food.
3.  Bed bugs can hide in spaces no wider than a business card. They live in tiny cracks and crevises in dark, hidden locations where they are unlikely to be disturbed or noticed.
4.  Bed bug bites are pain-free.  Bed bugs inject their hosts with an anaesthic, so they even know they are being bitten.

5.  Most people don’t show any signs of being bitten.  Only about 30% of people who are bitten wake up with welts, rashes or other bite marks.  The majority will show absolutely no sign that they were bitten.

In early infestations, bed bugs usually harbor within a few feet of their host’s nest.  For humans this is the bed, sofa, armchair, playpen or anywhere people sleep or sit for long periods of time.
Bed bugs appear to prefer locations made of wood, fabric and paper and generally avoid stone, plaster and metal unless there is no alternative.
As populations increase, bed bugs migrate away from overcrowded harborages to find new hiding spots. Once this happens, they can be found:

  • in the folds of draperies
  • in furniture joints and nail holes behind pictures, clocks and wallhangings
  • between cushions on upholstered furniture
  • in wall voids
  • behind wall and window molding
  • in electrical outlets and appliances (phones, clocks)
  • under the edges of carpets or area rugs
  • behind loose paint or wallpaper
  • in any crack or crevice the width of a business card