What exactly are bed bugs? Apart from being the stuff of nightmares, bed bugs are flat, oval, wingless insects that are rusty-reddish brown in color, and feed off the blood of people and animals.

They are extremely small with the adult generally around 5mm (3/16 of an inch) in length but can grow up to 10mm (just over ⅜ of an inch), and they are similar in length and shape to an apple pip.

After a blood meal, their bodies become engorged and elongated in length and darker in color.

Image of adult bed bug
Notice the bed bug’s rusty-reddish brown color

The female will lay hundreds of eggs during her lifetime. Baby bed bugs are called nymphs and go in search of a blood meal as soon as they hatch.

Nymphs grow up to 5mm in length and shed their skins 5 times before reaching adulthood. They resemble the adults but are lighter in color and become darker as they mature.

Their body shape enables them to crawl into very narrow crevices and find hiding spots when they are not feeding, this makes it harder to find their breeding sites.

Bed bugs can also cause a great deal of stress and significantly impact your quality of life, so for this reason alone, it’s vital you check and treat your home as soon as you see any evidence you might have bed bugs.


Bed bugs get their name due to them biting and feeding on people when asleep in bed, or anywhere else someone sleeps on a regular basis.

They were all but eliminated back in the 1950s when the pesticide DDT was used. Since this is no longer allowed, they have been able to make a massive resurgence over the last decade or so, leading to increased infestations.


So, what is the main cause of bed bugs? Well, there are several ways they find their way into your home, and listed below are the 3 most common:

1. Travel

Bed bugs are found wherever humans are, such as on public transport, in retails stores, movie theatres, office buildings, and schools, and so on.

But the No. 1 most common way to get bed bugs is by staying in hotels, resorts, and similar types of overnight accommodation.

Your accommodation can be spotlessly clean but it doesn’t mean it won’t have bed bugs. These pests are often associated with filthy places, but this just a myth, as they are not attracted to dirt and can be found in the cleanest hotels. So, always carry out a bed bug inspection every time you stay in any overnight accommodation.

Bed bugs will get into your suitcases and bags and onto your clothes and then hitch a ride back home with you where you’ll soon have a bed bug problem.

2. Second-hand furniture

This is another common way that bed bugs get into your home as they love to hide on mattresses and box springs. The tell-tale signs to look out for are the smeared blood spots or the rusty colored excrement (poop) spots.

You may think because of their name the bed is the only place you’ll find bed bugs. This isn’t correct as they are found in all types of furniture.

They are even found hiding in second-hand books, especially in the spine.

So if you buy any second-hand furniture (especially upholstered) or pick up some used furniture from elsewhere, it’s really vital that you examine it for any black smears and blood spots, bed bug casings, and of course, live bed bugs.

Also, bed bug infestations can often be found in furnished rental properties as the property is not always thoroughly inspected for pests before being rented to new tenants.

3. Neighbors, guests and, friends

Maybe your neighbor in the apartment next door has a bed bug problem and these pests are finding their way into your home.

Try and find out how you initially got bed bugs as this may impact whether you can get rid of them yourself. For example, if your neighbor in the apartment next door has them and the bed bugs are finding their way to your apartment, it will not matter how many times you try and treat your home because they will continue to spread from their property until their infestation is treated.

A pest control company will be able to identify if this is the case.

There are of course other ways you can take bed bugs into your home, but the ones listed above are the most common routes.

The following also lists some other ways you can pick up these hitch-hiking pests:

  • A friend or relative’s home
  • Place of work
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools and universities
  • Cinema
  • Library
  • Federal buildings
  • Daycare homes and centers
  • Places of worship
  • Any form of public transport

There are precautions to take decreasing the chances of taking bed bugs home with you, such as keeping your purse on your lap and not on the ground in public areas, and putting all luggage in the bathtub in the hotel room whilst you do an inspection for bed bugs.

Know you have an idea of how you get bed bugs in the first place and where they can come from, it’s important to look out for signs of them and also how to eliminate them before you have an infestation that gets out of hand.