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What Causes Bed Bugs?

Bed bug infestations can be found in places as wide-ranging as homeless shelters and luxury hotels. These reddish-brown, wingless insects, usually measuring about a quarter-inch, are essentially stowaways with a mission to find a warm mammal whose blood they can suck at night. While bed bugs won't spontaneously appear if you leave your house dirty, you may leave yourself vulnerable to an infestation if you neglect some basic care.

Global Travel

The prevalence of international travel means bugs can easily catch a ride to far-off places by hiding in luggage or clothing. They can also rapidly travel between rooms in hotels or homes.

Body Shape

Bed bugs' flat bodies and ability to stay perfectly still make it easy for them to hide undetected in crevices in furniture, behind torn wallpaper, in curtains or inside pillows and mattresses.

Survival

Bed bugs are hardy creatures that can go for months with eating. They may already be present in an empty apartment when you move in.

Risk Factors

If you live in a hot, humid climate, own pets or have a lot of people coming in and out of your sleeping area, you could be at greater risk for a bed bug infestation.

Detection

Check for dark red spots on sheets, fecal droppings where insects could enter furniture and walls and a sweet strong smell left by their oil secretions.

Prevention

Inspect every room you sleep in for eggs and cast-off skins. Reduce clutter and never bring used furniture into your home without examining it thoroughly. Change your linens every week and wash them in hot water.

About the Author

Kaukab Jhumra Smith is a journalist and media consultant based in the Washington, D.C., area. Her work has appeared in international and national publications since 1995 and earned several chapter awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. She graduated from Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and received a Master of Journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.