Does One Bed Bug Mean an Infestation?
When you see a housefly buzzing around your curtains, it doesn’t mean you have a fly infestation. When you see a spider making a web in the corner of your ceiling, it doesn’t mean you have a spider infestation. When you see a centipede scurrying across your bathroom wall, it doesn’t mean you have a centipede infestation. When you see a bed bug in your apartment… well, unfortunately, that’s a different story.
Should I Be Worried if I Found One Bed Bug?
You’re not going to like this, but unfortunately, the answer is yes. If you see any bed bugs in your hotel, home, or apartment – even if there are only one or two – the unit or building is virtually guaranteed to be infested. When it comes to bed bugs, seeing is a single specimen is just like seeing the tip of an iceberg. While only a tiny portion may be visible to you, it’s a sure indicator that there’s more – sometimes much more – hiding beneath the surface.
Unlike many other bugs and insects, which announce their presence with noisy vibrations or flashy colors, bed bugs are experts at concealing themselves in almost every nook, cranny and other hiding spots in any room they are in. This is due to several reasons, which all combine to create a species perfectly equipped for stealth:
- Bed bugs are a dull red-brown color, which acts as camouflage against wood and most upholstery.
- Bed bugs cannot fly, which makes them less conspicuous.
- Bed bugs are silent, so you won’t hear them chewing through the walls or buzzing behind your blinds.
- Bed bugs are tiny. Even fully-grown adult specimens seldom exceed six to seven millimeters in length, which makes them roughly the size of a fingernail or pencil eraser. To the untrained eye, bed bugs can easily be mistaken for specks of dirt.
- Similar to ticks, unfed bed bug adults will appear smaller and narrower than those which have recently fed, since their bodies are not distended with a blood meal.
- Nymphs, or juvenile bed bugs, are typically one to five millimeters in length, approximately the same size as a flea. Eggs are whitish in color and are typically one millimeter long, which makes them nearly impossible to observe with the naked eye.
Do Bed Bugs Build Nests? Where Do They Hide?
It isn’t just bed bugs’ skill at hiding which contributes to the problem. Another reason “lone” specimens indicate infestation is that bed bugs are not solitary creatures by nature – even if they appear to be.
Bed bugs are not technically considered social insects, because they do not feed or clean each other. However, they do use chemicals called kairomones and pheromones to communicate with each other, which enables them to share information about feeding, location, and reproduction/mating.
Furthermore, while bed bugs do not construct organized nests in the manner of ants or bees, they do tend to congregate in hiding places which are used again and again by multiple individuals, often packed tightly together. These hiding places usually contain a mix of the following contents:
- Adults, nymphs, and eggs.
- Fecal matter (i.e. digested blood), which appears as dark, nearly black splotches.
- Bright red blood stains mean that a living bed bug was squashed before the blood was digested and excreted. If you wake up to red stains on your mattress, you can be certain that bed bugs were feeding on you during the night.
- Molted skins, which appear papery, delicate, and pale brown in color, almost to the point of translucence.
Of course, the most common example of a hiding place would be inside of bedding material – hence the name of the species – but bed bugs may surprise you with their adaptability to varying environments.
To name just a few of many possible examples, bed bugs are capable of infiltrating furniture, clothing, carpeting, and even electronics and appliances. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), respondent pest control companies reported bed bug infestations in hospitals, college dorms, office buildings, nursing homes, train stations, bus stations, day cares, and even movie theatres.
If you see a bed bug in your living space, there are a few steps you should take (depending on the kind of structure you live in):
- If you’re a renter, call your landlord right away. Depending on county code provisions where you live, it’s possible that your landlord is required to exterminate infestations, which means you won’t have to pick up the cost.
- If you’re staying at a hotel, call the front desk and request a room change. Hotels are prohibited from renting rooms which are known to be infested, and must provide sanitary quarters for their guests.
- If you own the home, call a pest management company immediately. Gentle home remedies such as diatomaceous earth are not effective against bed bugs, nor are the cheap pesticides available in hardware stores and pharmacies. You need a professional bed bug heat treatment to ensure extermination.
If your landlord refuses to assist you, or if the pest control company fails to solve the problem, you should call the bed bug lawyers of Whitney LLP at (410) 583-8000 immediately, before the situation escalates any further. You will not be charged any fees for your consultation, and we will keep your information private. If a landlord, hotel, or pest control company is negligent in their duties, they may be liable for compensating injuries and illnesses caused by the infestation. Call us today for a free assessment of your case.