Do bed bugs actually fly?

Bed bugs are notorious pests and can multiply very fast! In fact, all they need is about 6 months to turn your house into a complete mess.  It’s very hard to fight off a bed bug infestation without the help of a professional pest management service. I get asked this question (do bed bugs fly?) a lot and thought I'd answer by going into detail of how a bed bug is made up:


The anatomy of a bed bug

Before we dive into the answers, let’s take a detailed look into a bed bug’s anatomy so we know exactly what we are dealing with.

Adult bed bugs appear reddish brown and oval in shape. Their body is flat, giving them the advantage of sliding in between cracks and hard to reach places to avoid detection or extermination. Bed bugs look like an apple seed and they can grow up to 5mm in length. Contrary to popular belief bed bugs are not invisible --- they are just experts at hiding!

Bed bugs are classified as true bugs. And they have 9 body parts:

Picture courtesy of Terminix


1. The Proboscis

This is a small tube tucked under the mouth. It elongates when the bed bug feeds. The proboscis injects an anti-coagulating chemical into the host’s body to prevent the blood from thickening (coagulating) when feeding. 

2. Antennae

A bed bug’s antennae act as a sensor to guide the pest towards its host. Each antenna has 4 segments.

3. Wing pads

Do bed bugs have wings? Well, they do. But they are undeveloped wings. Since they do not have full wings, bed bugs don’t have the ability to fly. Experts believe that early ancestors of bed bugs once had wings but had evolved to the point where they no longer need flight in order to survive.

4. Abdomen

A bed bug’s abdomen has 11 segments which allow the bug to easily expand when feeding. A female bed bug has a rounded tip while the male has a pointed one.

5. Legs

Bed bugs have six legs that are designed for crawling. They can crawl up to 4 feet per minute. Bed bugs can’t climb on smooth surfaces because their legs don’t have suction pads. But they are still good climbers because their claws are adapted for gripping rough surfaces.

6. Setae

If you are to see a bed bug up close, you will notice hair-like structures covering its abdomen. These are not hair as most people believe. They are tiny sensory structures that help bed bugs navigate their surroundings more effectively.

7. Eyes

Bed bugs have compound eyes. This means that every single large eye is made up of many "mini" eyes known scientifically as ommatidia (singular: ommatidium). These repeating units make the bed bug very sensitive to movement. No wonder why they can hide so fast!

8. Head

Nothing special here. Just a broad, short head attached to the thorax.

9. Thorax

The thorax is the segment which holds together the head, abdomen, and legs. Legs are attached to the thorax, allowing the bed bug to move.  


Do bed bugs have wings?

Can bed bugs fly? The short answer is no.

Bed bugs do not have wings and are not capable of flight. Imagine how scary it is if they do! Instead, they have wing pads which are basically undeveloped swings. You can also think of them as winglets.

If you saw a bug flying around your house, rest assured that it is not a bed bug. However, you may still be dealing with some other kind of infestation so it’s best to call in the experts. There are only one species of bed bugs identified so far. And because bed bugs don't have wings, the only way they can fly is on an airplane when they hitch a ride on your luggage.


Do bed bugs jump?

Ok, so they don’t fly. But can bed bugs jump?

Other wingless bugs like fleas are notorious high jumpers. Unfortunately for bed bugs and fortunately for you, they don’t have that jumping power. Imagine if they can!


How do bed bugs move around?

Image courtesy of Orkin

Bed bugs are not blessed with the ability to fly or jump long distances so they are just left with once choice --- crawl. Bed bugs crawl at a rate of 4 feet per minute. That’s without the danger of shoes and poor hiding places!  

Because bed bugs move awfully slow, it is clear that they can’t go anywhere on their own. But, they are not alone. They use human modes of transport to get from one place to another! They are not fliers nor high jumpers but they are expert hitchhikers.  

They take the subway, fly in airplanes, and ride in cars.

Wait so I have bed bugs hiding all over my body?

No. Bed bugs can’t stand the normal body temperature of humans. It’s just too warm for them. Instead, bed bugs prefer hitchhiking on your clothes, bags, and other personal items.

Bed bugs also travel with furniture especially in that mattress or sofa you bought from a rummage sale. Moving one used furniture infested with bed bugs is a surefire way to spread infestation across houses.

Bed bugs also move this way around your house. They’re smart enough to know it’ll take them days to get from your bedroom to the kitchen. So, they hitch a ride instead. Sheets, linen, clothes, laundry --- all of these can easily spread bed bugs in other areas of your house. This is especially true if you love leaving piles of laundry on the floor.


How to control bed bugs from spreading

Bed bugs are tiny. Because of their size and flat shape, they can easily sneak into areas you rarely inspect. And they can thrive anywhere, even in clean environments. Here are some quick tips on how to control bed bugs from spreading:

1. If you love traveling, the first thing you do when you check into a hotel or motel is to look around the room for any signs of bed bugs. Flip the mattress over, look at the headboard, etc. We also recommend that you put your luggage inside the bathroom as this is the least likely place for bed bugs to show up.  

Look for shed skins, blood stain, and excrements. If you find one, report to the hotel staff immediately. Don’t worry, they’re concerned about bed bugs too and they’ll be happy to move you to a new room.

2. To prevent bed bugs from spreading in your house, clean your sheets and linens regularly. Avoid piling up laundry on the floor and be sure to wash your laundry basket as well. Vacuum your sofas and mattresses on a regular basis too!


Summary


So, do bed bugs fly? The short answer here is no. But they can still spread infestation by hitchhiking on your bag, clothes, linens, and furniture. Take a proactive approach when fighting off bed bugs. Remember, prevention is better than calling a professional pest management service and shelling out thousands of dollars.  

About the Author BedBugGuy

I'm a bed bug specialist based in Los Angeles and love writing about Cimex Lecturalius. Whilst a notorious pest they still fascinate me and remain one of the most resilient pest insect species.

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