Why Are Bed Bugs So Hard To Get Rid Of?

By March 27, 2024Bedbugs

The question posed in the title is one that has plagued humanity for centuries — ironically, just like bed bugs. While most pests are controlled with a simple insecticide, bed bugs are notoriously resistant to standard sprays and dusts. They can’t even be simply smashed and discarded because where there’s one bed bug, there’s many more hidden nearby! Which returns us to the question: why are bed bugs so hard to get rid of? Let’s discuss the main reasons why these pests seem impossible to kill when you have an infestation.

Bed Bugs Are Persistent

These bloodsuckers are nothing if not persistent, made evident by the multiple bites they leave on their unlucky hosts. They are believed to have been around since the times of dinosaurs, and are even referenced in texts from ancient civilizations. Bed bugs are most active in the middle of the night when we’re in a deep slumber and can’t defend ourselves. They find warm-blooded hosts by seeking out two signs: carbon dioxide and body heat.

Our breathing is usually steadier while we sleep, so bed bugs just follow the steady output of carbon dioxide straight to us. We always have body heat since humans are warm-blooded, so these pests gravitate towards anything giving off a natural heat. Once bed bugs attach, they feed for for 5 to 10 minutes until they are completely full. They will then find a safe shelter to digest the blood and lay eggs (if they’re females).

Bed Bugs Have Mutations

The mutations in bed bugs became apparent after World War II, when DDTs (synthetic insecticides) became the shiny new pest solution. These have since been discontinued due to the health issues they caused in humans, but the damage was done with bed bug control. These pests developed mutations in their genetic coding for the sodium channels, which means that insecticides can’t bind to their insides. This is exactly why bed bugs aren’t treated with the same products as, say, an army of ants or yellow jackets.

Bed bugs already don’t eat bait or inhale poison, so they are at a distinct advantage over other pests. But there are many studies done on the durability of these pests, one of the most famous being from this century. Warren Booth and Cari Lewis spent years studying the genetic makeups of bed bugs they collected from different areas. They found that many bed bugs had one mutation and even more had two. In the bed bugs they studied from 2018 to 2019, the scientists found that 84% of their bed bugs had two mutations that protected them from insecticides.

Bed Bugs Pass Down Resistance

Similar to the mutation aspect, many bed bugs have a natural insecticide resistance that was passed down from their mothers. It’s almost a complete resistance to all kinds of products. If a female bed bug has a mutation and lays eggs after feeding, those young bed bugs will have the same resistance to treatments. Female bed bugs lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetimes and reproduce after each meal, so they spread their resistant genes to countless new bed bugs.

It’s also possible for bed bugs to acquire more mutations that they can pass on to their offspring, so the nightmare doesn’t end with one mutated bed bug. The fact that bed bugs have a thick exoskeleton does not help humanity’s fight against these pests either. There seems to be a correlation between the mutations and exoskeletons: mutated bed bugs tend to have thicker exoskeletons than non-mutated bed bugs. No wonder bed bugs seem so tough!

Bed Bugs Are Expert Hiders

As if it wasn’t hard enough to eliminate these resistant pests, bed bugs are also professional hiders. They can detect ineffective treatments and avoid those areas by hiding in hard-to-reach places of the room. Bed bugs are flat-bodied insects that get rounder the more they feed, so they can fit into the tightest of spaces in between meals.

Some of their favorite hiding spots include:

  • Carpet
  • Wallpaper
  • Electrical outlets
  • Dirty laundry
  • Bags
  • Beds
  • Floorboards
  • Furniture

Since these pests are so small and flat, it’s a good idea to know the signs of a bed bug problem so you have an idea of what to look for. Small droppings, blood spots, and egg cases are the usual signs of a bed bug infestation. Keep an eye out in shared spaces — hotel rooms, public transit, gathering places — so you don’t accidentally bring home any bed bugs.

Bed Bugs Feed From Many Hosts

Like other external parasites, bed bugs don’t solely rely on one human for their food. They are known to feed on people, dogs, cats, poultry, rodents, and bats. Bed bugs seem to prefer hosts that aren’t as furry since they need access to the skin before they can start feeding. They can even travel from one home to another, so a bed bug invasion in one home isn’t necessarily contained as long as they’re left to multiply and spread.

Every host has a different physical reaction to being bitten by bed bugs, which can also make it difficult to tell if the problem is really bed bugs or something else. Some humans (especially the elderly) don’t have any red welts when they’re bitten, while others have sensitive skin that shows all of the bed bug feeding spots. Large bed bug infestations are usually made obvious because of the strange odor they produce. Bed bugs release alarm pheromones when stressed, which can smell musty or off-putting in large groups.

Bed Bugs Are Opportunistic Feeders

Every pest has survived the test of time by finding steady food sources, and bed bugs are no exception. They are technically opportunistic feeders, meaning they can turn to different food sources when their favorite is unavailable. Rodents, ants, certain caterpillars, and pill bugs are other common opportunistic feeders.

But back to bed bugs. They clearly prefer blood and would be happy to only eat that for their entire lives. Bed bugs can go a year without a blood meal and will just go into a hibernation state to conserve energy until they can find food. When they’re desperate, bed bugs might feed on other strange items to help them survive. These alternative food sources include dust mites, dead insects, and droppings.

Bed Bugs Are Only Impacted By Heat

If you or someone you know received bed bug treatment, you may be wondering about the legitimacy of heat treatments by this point. This is the preferred treatment method by most pest control companies (including ours) because of one simple reason: it works. As we’ve discussed, standard sprays and dusts don’t stop bed bugs due to their genetic resistance. It’s more expensive to treat bed bugs if they continue to multiply, so it’s best to end the problem ASAP.

The specific temperature varies depending on who you ask, but the general consensus is that bed bugs can’t survive temperatures above 118° Fahrenheit. They can escape a lot of dangers, but it’s impossible for bed bugs to survive being placed in a temporary oven. Pest control technicians are trained on how to safely use heat treatments and know that they are actually eliminating the bed bugs. This is a strong tool and shouldn’t be used carelessly. Do not try to use your own heat treatment to kill bed bugs, as it’s a major safety hazard and can cause house fires when used improperly. Instead, leave the treatment to the pros — no matter what.

Pointe Isn’t Afraid Of Bed Bugs

Bed bug infestations are one of the most frustrating and stressful pest experiences that people go through. At Pointe Pest Control, we understand the whirlwind of complex emotions that surround a bed bug issue. Our licensed technicians are dedicated to solving your bed bug problems with the utmost care and efficiency. We treat bed bug infestations in all stages and only use treatments that we know are effective against these tough pests. Our team is happy to walk you through all of the treatment steps and to answer any questions you may have along the way. Contact us today to learn more about our thorough services and to say “bye” to bed bugs!


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