10 Myths About Bedbugs That Are Just Crawling with Foolishness

Bedbug infestations, and misconceptions, are on the rise.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Bedbug infestations are on the rise across the United States, and Ohio continues to be one of the states most affected by these detestable insects.

But bedbugs are not the only thing that’s becoming abundant: myths and misconceptions about this pest, both old and new, are also multiplying like so many undesirable tiny crawly creatures hiding in your bedding or furniture.

Susan Jones, an entomologist with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University, knows a thing or two about bedbug myths. She is an expert on household pests and has been conducting research and education related to bedbugs for years.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about bedbugs, according to Jones:

1. Bedbugs infest only dirty places.

“One of the biggest myths is that people get bedbugs because of their home’s uncleanliness. But that’s completely wrong,” Jones said. “You can be the cleanest individual in the world, and bedbugs can still infest your home. This is because they can hitchhike in your belongings and even in your clothing.”

2. If I stay at a fancy hotel, I don’t have to worry.

This assumption follows the same logic of No. 1, and it’s also wrong. “Any hotel or motel has the potential to have bedbugs,” Jones said. “They may have been carried by the previous guest. Always make sure to do a bedbug check when you arrive in your room.”

3. It’s really easy — or it’s impossible — to get rid of bedbugs.

Neither statement is true, Jones said. “An individual bedbug is easy to kill; they are soft-bodied insects and easy to crush. But it’s really difficult to find all of the bugs, and that’s the problem with this pest. A bedbug infestation is difficult to eradicate, but it can be accomplished with a good professional treatment and follow-up treatments.”

4. It can wait.

No, dealing with a bedbug problem cannot wait. “That’s a big misconception,” Jones said. “The bedbug life cycle is very rapid in residential settings. They like warm locations. In very warm homes (86°F) they can go from eggs to adults in just three weeks. This takes about three months in a home kept at 65°F.”

5. Over-the-counter foggers will take care of an infestation.

Don’t waste your money or get your hopes up. Jones and colleagues have conducted research that shows these foggers or “bug bombs” are ineffective at killing bedbugs and can actually make the problem worse. In this video, Jones explains why.

6. If we still used DDT, we wouldn’t have to worry about bedbugs today.

“This is false,” Jones said. “Bedbugs had already begun to develop resistance to DDT a few years after the introduction of this insecticide in the 1940s. It likely would be totally ineffective by now.”

7. As a landlord or landlady, I need to deal only with the apartment unit that has a bedbug infestation.

“False again,” Jones said. “Bedbugs can crawl quickly, and they are able to travel from apartment to apartment very easily, depending on construction elements. They also move about by hitchhiking in people’s belongings or clothing.”

8. Bedbugs live only in cities.

“They aren’t just an urban pest,” Jones said. “Bedbugs can be found anywhere that has a structure where humans live. They don’t live outdoors. They need shelter, warmth and hosts to feed on.”

9. Fido and Grumpy Cat are safe.

Unfortunately, bedbugs are not extremely picky when it comes to feeding. “They are not just a problem for humans,” Jones said. “They also feed on other warm-blooded animals, such as dogs, cats, birds and rodents. If they feed on a pet, they typically feed on those areas with less fur or feathers. But they prefer humans. We are not as hairy as our pets!”

10. They fly and jump.

They don’t. But bedbugs can crawl very fast. And they can hide very well in your furniture, mattresses and many other places. They are not confined to the bed as their name by imply. Bedbugs typically hide during the day and active at night.”

So why are there so many myths and misconceptions about bedbugs? Jones said it has to do with the stigma that has been traditionally associated with these insects.

“It goes back to previous generations who thought that if you had bedbugs that meant you were dirty and poor,” she said. “This stigma still persists. And it’s, of course, just another myth.”

Find lots of useful and nonmythic information about bedbugs at u.osu.edu/bedbugs.