CAN BED BUGS LIVE IN YOUR COUCH?
Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
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Bed bugs hide close to where we sleep so they have easy access to a blood meal. This means their harborage areas are mostly found on or near your bed. However, you might also find bed bugs infesting other items of furniture, such as your couch or recliner if you sleep or rest on it for long periods of time!
But how can you tell if a couch has bed bugs? Have you found a bed bug on your couch? If you see any of the following signs then a thorough inspection should be done immediately.
Signs of Bed Bugs in Your Couch To Look For
Bed bugs leave behind the same common signs of their existence on a couch as they do on your bed, which are:
Small dark brown/black fecal stains on the fabric of the couch and cushions
- Bed bug feces looks like a small dot and usually bleeds into the fabric resembling smeared ink. These fecal spots are your blood the bed bug has taken during a feed, digested, and excreted.
Cast/shed bed bug skins and shells
- Look for eggshells and shed skins (exoskeleton) that nymphs leave behind when maturing through the five stages of growth before reaching adulthood and being able to reproduce.
- The eggshells and shed skins are a white-translucent color but the shed skins are the shape of the bed bug and differ slightly in size according to their lifecycle stage.
- If you find shed/molt skins then this is evidence the infestation is growing.
Tiny, flat, reddish-brown bed bugs and their eggs
- Look for any live bed bugs crawling on the surface of the couch. It’s unlikely you’ll see them during the day unless the population has significantly grown.
- The eggs can be difficult to see because they are so small at only 1 mm in size. They are a pearly-white color and can be laid in clusters but also singularly.
- The eggs are usually hidden away inside the couch on the frame and in cracks and crevices so they are not easily found.
- Bed Bugs are oval and flat and resemble the size and shape of an apple seed. When they feed on blood the body becomes darker (reddish-brown in color), elongated, and swells in size.
Other signs of a bed bug-infested couch could be itchy red welts appearing on areas of your body that are not covered by clothes.
The parts of the body commonly prone to bites are:
- back, and anywhere else not covered.
Bed bugs will feed on you if you rest for long periods of time on the couch, or you sleep on it, so you might also notice blood stains and specks of blood on the fabric or on your clothing if you’ve bled at the bite area.
How To Check For Bed Bugs In A Couch
When inspecting for bed bugs, you’ll want to look out for any of the above signs. It does not matter if you are checking your bed or your couch, you’ll be looking for the same evidence and in the same areas, such as the seams and in any folds in fabrics.
For more detailed instructions, visit our How to get rid of bed bugs in 9 steps page and watch the video I took during a bed bug inspection.
Video: How To Inspect Your Couch For Bed Bugs
To begin with, it’s a good idea to have the following to hand:
- flashlight or a cellphone light to inspect crevice areas
- disposable nitrile or vinyl gloves
- credit card or something similar to access areas that are hard to reach and push the eggs or bugs up into view for removal.
- handheld magnifying lens (if possible) to inspect crevices and holes where bed bugs and their eggs hide that would be hard to see with the naked eye.
Start the inspection by carefully taking off all cushions from the couch and inspecting each one. Slowly look and move along ALL the seams, zippers, and in any fabric folds, tufts, and creases with your flashlight and credit card.
Try not to flick any bugs or eggs that you find into other areas of the room as you want to keep them as contained as possible.
Bed bugs are small and are excellent at hiding so it’s important that nothing is left unchecked.
Next check the arms and the seating area of the couch, slowly looking along and in the seams, in the joins of fabric, and along the back of the seating area.
On any (attached) top couch cushions look behind any decorative buttons and along the seams of where the cushions might attach to the couch frame. Carefully use the credit card to slide any eggs and bugs out.
You won’t always find bed bugs in these areas, so the next step is to check underneath your couch where there are lots of cracks and crevices for them to hide in.
Once you’ve flipped the couch remove or unzip the black dust cover from the underside so you can get a good look inside at the frame.
Bed bugs like to hide and lay their eggs in the joints of wooden surfaces, so this is an obvious place to look.
Using your light carefully move along the internal structure of the couch. If you have a magnifying glass then this will be useful when inspecting the joints, rivets, and screw heads to see if any eggs or bugs are hiding in them.
Unscrew the furniture legs if possible and look in that area also.
If you find any indication of bed bug activity during your search, then you’ll either need to contact a pest control company to treat them, or treat the couch yourself. Whichever option you choose, act quickly so you’re bed bug-free as soon as possible.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs In Your Couch
The fight to eliminate these pests requires patience and can be tough and ongoing if you don’t put in the time and effort.
If you’re finding lots of bed bugs and you feel the infestation is established and not just in your couch, then I seriously recommend contacting a pest control company who will carry out an inspection and advise the best treatment options.
If, on the other hand, you know the introduction of bed bugs was fairly recent and there are only a few of these parasites to kill, then you can do the following:
- remove all cushion covers and any other fabric that can be removed and place them in plastic garbage bags and seal immediately so the bed bugs cannot crawl out.
Take the plastic bags to the washer and empty the bag inside it and wash the covers at the hottest temperature allowed according to the label instructions.
- Next, move the items to the dryer and dry at a minimum of 125ºF for no less than 30 minutes to ensure any bed bugs and eggs are dead.
Any items from the couch that cannot be machine washed needs to be kept in a plastic bag and sealed tightly for later inspection.
- Thoroughly vacuum the couch. Use the crevice tool at a 45-degree angle to prevent the bugs and eggs from sticking to the side of it. Push in a forward motion to displace the bugs and eggs.
Pay particular attention to ALL the seams, in fabric folds, corners, and the underside of the frame.
Dispose of the vacuum bag or contents into a plastic bag, seal it immediately and place it in your outside garbage collection.
- Use a steam cleaner to kill any bed bugs and eggs on contact.
Before you use it secure a small towel or cloth over the end of the nozzle. This prevents the steam from blowing the bed bugs into other areas of the room and also absorbs some of the moisture so your couch doesn’t take as long to dry.
Position the nozzle as close to the fabric as possible and move it very slowly along all seams, crevices, folds, and in and along the corners of the frame.
Take at least 20 seconds to move the nozzle along per 12 inches. At this rate, the hot steam should be able to reach a depth of about 3/4″ into the couch.
Steam kills all stages of the bed bug life cycle on contact, but the one possible downside to using steam is that it can only kill the bed bugs it actually reaches, so be as thorough as possible.
Take care when using the heat steamer because it will instantly burn skin as steam temperatures at the tip can reach over 212ºF (100ºC).
- After heat-steaming the couch and letting it dry for a few hours, you can then apply a residual product (if you plan on using one) such as CimeXa which is desiccant insecticide dust.
Silica gel, such as CimeXa, is natural and safe to use but it’s always a good idea to see what other products are available on the market for home-use, and there are a couple of good online pest control product retailers that offer great customer service and product advice, such as Domyown.com who also offers free shipping on their products.
Whether you decide to use an insecticide dust or a residual spray, always wear a mask and gloves and read the label instructions and MSDS before using.
Finish by securing the dust cover back onto the underneath of the couch and thoroughly vacuum the whole room.
Keeping Bed Bugs Off Your Couch
Knowing how you got bed bugs to begin with will prevent reintroducing them. There are a number of ways they find their way into your home, such as in second-hand furniture, crawling into your suitcase or overnight bag after staying in a hotel, and there have even been cases of bed bugs in taxi cabs!
However, sometimes you might have no idea how they found their way in, but you know you want to prevent them from getting on your bed and couch again and there are a couple of ways you can do this.
Bed Bug Couch Cover
A bed bug couch encasement cover will keep any bed bugs already on your couch from being able to escape and bite you so they eventually die. It works in the same way as a bed bug mattress encasement and also prevents any new bed bugs from being able to infest it.
Look for a bed bug certified couch cover which means it has been tested and certified to protect against bed bugs and dust mites. The sofa encasement should also have a zipper with a secure closure such as a hook so bed bugs are unable to squeeze in and out.
Although these covers seem to only be available in light colors so they may not fit in with your color scheme, they are a good option for keeping bed bugs off your couch. They are available in various sizes but are probably not big enough for recliner sofas.
Bed Bug Interceptors
Bed bug interceptors (also called pitfall traps or bed bug traps) are placed under each leg of the couch to stop bed bugs from crawling up and biting you, and to detect and monitor their population level over time.
These devices are plastic, double-cupped, and dish-shaped with smooth walls that bed bugs find too slippery to climb up so they fall into the pitfall well and are unable to escape.
Interceptors are inexpensive to buy and work by using you as the chemical lure because bed bugs are attracted to body heat and the carbon dioxide we breathe out.
If after carrying out the above methods, you continue to find new bed bugs trapped in the outer well of the interceptors, then you have bed bugs hiding in other areas of the room and not just the couch, which indicates a growing infestation that needs eradicating.
Should I Throw Away My Couch If It Has Bed Bugs?
People tend to panic when they realize they have bed bugs and want to throw out the infested furniture, but this is not always necessary unless your pest control company has suggested it or you want new furniture anyway.
Not only is it expensive to replace your couch, but your new one will soon have bed bugs if the infestation was not eliminated, or you’ve reintroduced them and are unaware of how you brought them back in.
If however, you really want to get rid of the sofa or other infested items then the furniture must be disposed of properly to prevent the further spread of bed bugs.
The methods above are effective as long as the bed bugs are only on the couch. If you continue to still see bed bugs on the couch cover or in the interceptor cups, then it’s best to call a pest control professional for help because no one wants bed bugs living in their couch or anywhere else in their home.