So the unthinkable has happened: You’ve found one bed bug but no others…you think. And now you’re frantically searching the Internet for assurance that bed bugs can and do travel alone.
We’re sad to say that you, in your unfortunate current predicament, are not alone.
Bed bugs are enough to strike fear into the heart of even the most hardened homeowner. There’s something deeply upsetting about a pest that not only can and will bite humans, but actively seeks us out as its primary food source.
Okay, so bed bugs don’t actually eat people in the way that a lion or a crocodile could. But they do suck blood, which is even creepier in a way.
Besides, your chances of finding an infestation of lions in your bed is low enough that you don’t need to lose any sleep over it. Bed bugs, on the other hand, are easy to pick up and easy to spread, and very difficult to get rid of once you have them.
So what do you do?
Do Not Panic – Yet
If you find a bed bug in your home, you’re probably going to be
a little bit concerned completely horrified and ready to burn the whole place down.
It’s an understandable reaction.
But try not to panic. The last thing you want to do is make rash decisions on the assumption that you may have bed bugs.
A cool head is what you need more than anything right now. So read our quick guide below on what you should definitely NOT be doing right now.
The truth is that finding one bed bug does not mean you have a bed bug infestation. You could be one of the lucky few who happened to pick up a lone male bed bug.
The chances are slim. But you may just be that lucky. Let’s go over a couple of things you can do right now to assess whether you need to worry about a bed bug problem.
Is It a Bed Bug?
If you see a bug crawling around on or near your bed, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume it’s a bed bug. But is it?
Bed bugs are tiny. Even when full-grown, they’re barely the size of an apple seed. At that size, it can be difficult to make out their various parts.
To make things even more confusing, there are a host of other bugs that look like bed bugs. Carpet beetles, fleas, and even roach nymphs can look an awful lot like a bed bug to the untrained eye.
And then there’s the fact that bed bugs themselves don’t always look alike. Bed bugs undergo several stages of metamorphosis throughout their short lifetime. So they can look drastically different when they are nymphs to when they’re full-grown adults.
So if you’ve found one bed bug, the best thing you can do is to identify it. Stick it on some tape, like below, and compare it to some close-up pictures of bed bugs.
Even better, if you can – get it identified by a professional.
Okay, so is it a bed bug? If not, feel free to close this article and get some sleep. You can deal with whatever it is tomorrow.
But even if it is indeed a bed bug, don’t panic quite yet. Let’s establish whether it was a lone traveler or if it’s already set up a community.
Is the Bed Bug Alive or Dead?
It may be just one bed bug but there is a big difference depending on how you found it. Did you find a dead bed bug carcass lying in your hallway? If it was a lone, dead bed bug you found in a random location like your hallway or closet, it could be good news.
The dead bed bug could have been a stowaway that latched onto your clothes or backpack at a movie theatre, doctor’s office, or public transit and snuck into your home only to have found no other bed bugs to mate with.
If that’s the case, you could be in the clear.
But what if the bed bug you found was alive and well, crawling around on your bed? Well, that does not bode well.
If the bed bug is alive, there is always the chance that even if it’s alone, it could be a pregnant female that has already had the opportunity to lay eggs in your home.
And to find out if that’s the case, further inspection is absolutely necessary.
How to Check for More Bed Bugs
Once you’ve found a live bed bug, the first thing you’ll want to do is to check around to see if you can find any more bed bugs.
So where should you start?
Bed bugs got their name from the habit of hiding in mattresses, bed frames and other areas close to where humans sleep.
Keep in mind that bed bugs can’t fly or jump. The only way for them to get to where they want to be is to crawl. They can creep up to 100 feet in a single night in search of food but typically, they’ll want to hunker down as close to their food supply as possible – you.
This is why the most common hiding place for bed bugs is the bed. Here is a great video showing you exactly how to check your bed for bed bugs:
Make sure to check thoroughly around the seams of your bed – especially the corners.
And don’t stop at your mattress and box springs. Inspect your headboard as well as furniture you have placed close to the bed. Anywhere that is in close proximity to you and has tiny cracks and crevices for bed bugs to hide can be a bed bug harborage.
While you’re searching for live bed bugs, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for other signs of bed bugs. That’s because bed bugs are absolute experts at hiding and their little bodies are designed to be able to fit into the tiniest of cracks and crevices.
So finding another live bed bug may be tricky. But bed bug infestations leave clues so make sure to check for these common signs of bed bugs as well.
I Found One Bed Bug But No Others
You’ve found one bed bug and you’ve searched high and low but discovered no other bed bugs. So is there more?
As we mentioned above, finding one bed bug does not necessarily spell doom. There is the chance that it may have been a solitary stowaway that happened to be male.
But I’ll be honest, that’s where the potential good news ends.
If you’ve found one bed bug in your home, chances are good that it’s not alone. To find out why, it’s time to hold our noses and take a dive into the disgusting world of bed bugs.
Because here is the ugly truth: bed bugs love company.
You see, bed bugs aren’t social insects in the way that ants or wasps or termites are. They don’t care for their young, and they’re not particularly nice to each other.
But they do like to hang out together. They’ll typically congregate in warm areas close to a food source – that food source being humans and that delicious blood.
And when they find a food source, they are reluctant to leave it. Think of them as an insect version of that annoying neighbor who shows up whenever there’s a hint that there might be some free food available.
Once the bed bug finds a nice place to hide close to a food source, it settles in. Worse, it emits what’s called an aggregation pheromone. This pheromone signals that there is a “safe shelter” and will attract other bed bugs to its location.
So having one bed bug in your home is a sure way to attract more. Word quickly gets out in the bed bug community, and when there’s a free meal available, bed bugs can’t keep that horrible needle mouth shut.
How One Bed Bug Can Become Many
Aggregation pheromones are one thing. But the real risk of having a bed bug in your home comes from their frankly terrifying reproductive rate.
And this is a very real threat is that one bed bug you found is a female bed bug.
A female bed bug is a baby-making machine. She can lay over 200 eggs in her lifetime!
If possible, she’ll lay a few eggs every day, and those eggs will hatch in 6 to 10 days if temperatures are optimal.
Hey, guess what the optimal temperature for bed bugs is? Pretty much exactly the temperature humans are most comfortable at. The temperature we keep our homes at. Yeah.
Once the eggs have hatched, the newly emerged baby bed bugs – called nymphs, because that’s less cute – will go looking for a blood meal. They need this to grow, and they get it by biting you.
Bed bugs need to shed their exoskeleton to grow, and they do this in a process called molting. To reach adulthood, a newborn bed bug needs to molt five times.
It only takes around 100 days for a bed bug to reach full maturity.
Bed Bugs Grow Up So Fast
If you’re prone to irrational optimism and thinking this doesn’t sound too bad, and that you have some time to deal with this problem, remember that that female bed bug will be laying eggs almost every day.
Once the first few nymphs reach maturity, they will be followed by other bed bugs that will reach maturity just a few days later. And this is where it gets truly gross. Because those newly adult bugs will start to breed.
Bed bugs reproduce sexually – as in, it requires a male and female to mate. However, once a female has been impregnated, she can lay eggs for months afterward.
Plus, if you are hoping that a population of bed bugs derived from a single female would start to suffer from birth defects caused by inbreeding, you’re out of luck.
Bed bugs are perfectly capable of mating with close relatives and producing viable eggs over and over again. Just when you thought they couldn’t get any more disturbing.
Bed Bug Math is Horrifying
Especially when it comes to bed bug numbers. Let’s crunch some figures on the reproductive potential of our initial adult female bed bug – Mary, we’ll call her.
Mary lays 200 eggs over her lifetime, which can be as short as 3 to 4 months. Of those eggs, roughly half will be female.
So in around 100 days, you now have 100 adult female bed bugs, ready to start families of their own. If each of these ladies lays one egg per day, that’s 100 new eggs being laid every day.
That’s a lot of bugs.
But remember, 100 days after Mary’s daughters have laid their first eggs, the first generation of Mary’s grandbugs will have reached maturity. On day 201, you could have 100 newly mated females laying their own first egg.
And the following day, 100 more females will become fully mature and begin to lay eggs.
And this will continue more or less forever.
From a single adult female like Mary, a bed bug population could soar to 8,000 adults within six months. That’s just a measly half year.
Worse, along with those 8,000 adults, there will be tens of thousands of nymphs in various stages of the lifecycle, getting ready to grow and become adults themselves.
If we did nothing to stop them, we could probably carpet the entire earth in a crawling mass of live bed bugs within our lifetimes. Not sure why we would want to do that, but we could.
So…Can You Have Just One Bed Bug?
Yes, bed bugs are a horror show. And if you find a single bed bug in your house, the chances are that there are more.
However, that’s not always true.
Bed bug populations are split roughly equally between male and female. If the single bed bug in your house is male, he’s not going to be laying any eggs.
Likewise, if the bed bug you found is not fully grown.
That would be the luckiest scenario for you, but as always, there is something else to consider – mainly, the question of where did this bed bug come from?
It’s an important question to ask if you find a bed bug in your home since bed bugs typically don’t travel outdoors. They spread by hitching a ride on people or more frequently, in furniture or luggage or other items that people transport.
The situation worsens if you happen to live in an apartment. Bed bugs can spread frighteningly easily between apartment units. If the one bed bug you found came from your neighbor’s apartment, there’s a very good chance it won’t be the last intruder.
Because wherever this bed bug came from, there were probably more. So how do you know that this bed bug is a lone traveler? Unlike humans, they typically don’t blog about it.
The final answer is that if you found one bed bug, there is the tiny chance that you were lucky and managed to only pick up one traveling bed bug that happened to be a male.
But most people aren’t so lucky, especially when it comes to bed bugs. So if you find a bed bug in your home, no matter what stage of the lifecycle it is at, it’s best to assume that it’s not the only one and act accordingly.
What Do I Do Now?
You’ve inspected your home carefully and you’re positive that there are no other bed bugs.
Great. But when it comes to bed bugs, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Which is why we’re going to recommend just three things you can do to make sure you don’t have bed bugs and protect yourself from any potential future infestation.
Cover It All Up
You’ve already found one bed bug. Even if you’ve since inspected the entirety of your bed, eyes wide open and flashlight on, are you going to rest easy?
You can if you’ve sealed off your bed.
This is why we highly, highly recommend everyone with a potential bed bug problem invest in a good mattress cover. The best bed bug mattress covers seal your mattress so that no bed bugs can escape and no bed bugs can get in.
So even if there are other bed bugs lurking in your mattress that you didn’t manage to find, you can simply seal them up and leave them to starve. Get one.
Set Up Bed Bug Traps
Another easy way to passively protect yourself against bed bugs – and find out if there are any more bed bugs in your home – is to set up bed bug traps.
These traps are simple devices that you place under the four legs of your bed, which should be the only places your bed touches the floor.
The way bed bug traps work is simple: When bed bugs try to climb up on your bed to get a taste of your sweet, sweet blood, they get trapped. This way, you get to see if you have a bed bug problem and kill off potential blood-suckers. Win win.
Erect a Bed Bug Barrier
That one bed bug you found could have been a lone traveler that hitched a ride in your belongings. But there’s always the chance that it could have come from somewhere closer – i.e. your neighbors.
Again, if you happen to live in an apartment building with neighbors who have bed bugs, it’s only a matter of time before the bed bug infestation spreads to your unit.
Which leaves you in a tricky situation. On one hand, you don’t want more bed bugs.
But on the other, you’ve only found one bed bug. You don’t want to mess with pesticides – yet. But there is one very useful, low-toxicity and long-lasting powder you can use to erect a bed bug barrier.
We’re talking about Rockwell Lab’s Cimexa Dust Insecticide. It’s a fine powder that kills bed bugs as well as ants, roaches, silverfish, mites and other common household pests. And it remains active for up to 10 years as long as it’s undisturbed.
Note: If you don’t want to mess with anything remotely chemical, though, there are other great bed bug powders that will do just as well.
To set up a bed bug barrier, line the bottom of your walls – where your walls meet the floor – with bed bug powder. If you live in an apartment unit, keep in mind that bed bugs can enter via light switches, electrical outlets and any other cracks and crevices. So go the extra step and apply the bed bug powder in those spots as well.
It’s a big of work but think of it as your bed bug insurance plan.
The Final Word on Finding One Bed Bug
And with that, you should have some peace some mind on how to deal with finding even one bed bug.
If in doubt, either call a professional or formulate a DIY plan to protect yourself from bed bugs.
Bed bugs are a classic example of a problem that only gets worse if you ignore it. Good luck.