A wise teacher once told me that there’s no such thing as a bad question. But the question, “can bed bugs live in your hair?” proves that there is such a thing as a sad question.
Yup, just uttering that question is enough to make you itchy thinking about it.
Once you know that bed bugs are out there, just waiting for the chance to stick you with their needle-like mouthparts and start sipping on your blood like a fine Beaujolais, it’s difficult not to be afraid.
And the thought of them making merry among the thick forest of your hair like Ewoks on Endor is enough to have even the best of us scratching at our scalp.
Hands up who has had head lice in the past?
I guess that doesn’t really work that well when I can’t see you. But I’m guessing that a lot of hands would have gone up if I could.
Head lice are extremely common among kids, to the point that they’re almost a part of growing up. So somewhere in our past, many of us have a memory of having a parasite living in our hair, biting us and making us frantically itch.
Maybe that’s why people worry about getting bed bugs in their hair. It conjures up memories of pungent shampoos and painful steel combs. Not to mention the shame of being that kid with the lice.
But bed bugs and head lice are very different creatures. Bed bugs are also very different from that other notorious bloodsucker, the flea.
While all of these animals feed on blood, the way that they do it and the lives they live are entirely different.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
Bed bugs didn’t get their name by being late risers. They are called bed bugs because they tend to live in the place where humans spend the most time during the night.
For most of us, that’s the bed.
And bed bugs have evolved to become very well suited to what they do. Their flattened body is ideal for hiding in gaps in bed frames, behind baseboards or in seams of mattresses.
Bed bugs need a sheltered place to hide during the day. They also need a rough surface, such as wood or fabric to lay their eggs on. All of these needs are met by the beds that humans love to sleep in.
But while they are more than happy to feed on us, bed bugs don’t generally like to spend too much time on the human body.
Unlike other parasites that will live out their whole lifecycle on the host, bed bugs prefer to get a drink and go home. Home, in this case, being your furniture, your mattress, your baseboards, your clothes, or even your electronics.
But not your body, and not your hair.
The Truth About Bed Bugs in Hair
In fact, bed bugs often have trouble dealing with hair. The truth is, bed bugs don’t actually need to feed on humans. They can survive on the blood of other animals, such as dogs and cats.
In fact, it’s thought that bed bugs are descended from bat bugs, which used to live in caves with prehistoric humans. As the name implies, these bugs fed on the blood of bats ( whoever names these bugs seems to lack imagination).
Clearly, the early ancestors of bed bugs decided that smooth humans would make a more appetizing meal than hairy bats. And this preference holds true to this day.
Wherever possible, bed bugs choose to bite exposed skin, avoiding both clothing and hair. While it’s not impossible for a bed bug to bite you on the scalp, it’s pretty unlikely.
They’re far more likely to go for some smooth skin elsewhere on your body.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Your Hair?
Biting is one thing, you say, but can bed bugs live in your hair? Or even worse, lay their dirty little bed bug eggs in your hair?
The short answer is, no, bed bugs can’t live in your hair. For one thing, your head moves around far too much. And bed bugs prefer to hide and lay their eggs somewhere where they will be undisturbed for days at a time.
Even the most slow-moving among us are too active for that. Besides, human hair is far too oily and far too thin for a bed bug to lay its eggs in. They need a rougher surface such as wood or fabric for that.
When it comes to bed bugs, there’s often not a lot of good news to go around.
But this is one small win for us humans. Your scalp may crawl at the thought of bed bugs, and you may find yourself scratching excessively. But that’s not because of the bed bugs. At least not directly…
But I Found A Bug In My Hair!
Anyone who’s dealt with bed bugs in the past knows that they can be unpredictable creatures.
In order to feed, they have to emerge from their hiding places and go looking for someone to bite. In the course of their nightly travels, they can end up in some strange places.
So it’s perfectly possible for a bed bug to end up getting lost in your hair, and when you find it there, it’s only natural to think that that’s where it’s been hiding.
But any bed bug that ends up tangled in your hair is not there by choice and is certainly not living there. Bed bugs simply don’t have the specialized body parts required to live in human hair the way that ticks and lice do.
If you find a bed bug in your hair, and you’re sure that it is in fact a bed bug, you don’t need to worry that there are more of them on your head. There aren’t.
But before you rejoice, know that if you found one bed bug, there probably are more of them in your house, and that’s where you need to focus your attention to get rid of these pests.
Other Possible Bugs in Hair
If, on the other hand, you’ve found bugs in your hair, and you’re getting bites on your scalp, you may need to consider the possibility that it’s not bed bugs that you’re suffering from.
Lice are usually the main culprit when it comes to bugs that live in human hair, and there are several species that it could be.
It’s also possible for humans to suffer from flea bites, although in a reversal of bed bug food preferences, fleas prefer to feed on cats and dogs rather than humans.
So to finally end this grim discussion of bed bugs in hair – if a bed bug ends up in your hair, it’s purely by accident. It’s not time to shave your head yet.
But it may be time to start investigating your home to find out where bed bugs are living, and start wiping them out.