Bugs Found in Beds
Understandably, people don’t want bed bugs, and some people are more worried about getting them than others. I often get samples accompanied by frantic assertions like, “I found this in my bed and I think it’s a bed bug!” In some cases, the samples do turn out to be bed bugs, but most of the time other bugs are falsely accused. Let’s discuss the most commonly encountered non-bed-bugs of the bed.
Carpet beetles are one of the most common inhabitants of homes (and thus beds). The adult beetles are pretty tiny, no bigger than the tip of a ballpoint pen, with patterns of orange, black, yellow, or white. Upon closer inspection, the patterns are made of tiny scales, much like a butterfly’s wing. The larvae resemble miniature, bristly caterpillars. Adult beetles get into houses by flying in, hitching a ride, or being brought in on fleshly-cut flowers. Once inside, female beetles lay eggs on animal products like hide, fur, feathers, and hair. The larvae voraciously consume these foods, causing damage to expensive woolen rugs and taxidermy, but the adults cause no damage at all. Larvae found in the bed may indicate a buildup of skin debris and hair. Sleeping with pets increases your chances of finding larvae, since pets shed additional hair and dander. The larval bristles can cause skin irritation, but great numbers of these larvae are needed to cause dermatitis. They are otherwise harmless to humans. Regularly washing the sheets and vacuuming will keep any bed-larvae under control.
Young cockroach nymphs are sometimes found in beds and may superficially resemble bed bugs. These little nymphs are generally some type of peridomestic cockroach. I most often find smoky brown cockroach nymphs in bedrooms. When smoky browns are very small – at the size where they would be mistaken for a bed bug – they are black with white bands. They lose this coloration as they molt and grow older. While most people would be repulsed by a cockroach in their bed, these little nymphs cause no physical harm. Smoky brown cockroaches breed outdoors and make their way inside the home through gaps in the structure. They are fond of leaf piles, yard debris, and tree holes in hardwood trees. Remove old boards, fallen branches and leaves, and treat these areas and seal up your home by caulking or making repairs.
Silverfish can make their way into beds. Like their name suggests, silverfish are covered in silver scales and having a carrot-shaped, tapering body with long filaments at the tip of their abdomen. They are soft and delicate and easily crushed in the sheets. They feed on dead insects, paper, book bindings, important historical documents, and anything that may provide them with protein and carbohydrates (they even, quite happily, eat each other). While they can be difficult to get rid of, they are harmless to humans. Vacuuming regularly, dusting, and sweeping behind heavy furniture will reduce dust and insect carcasses that can support their populations. Silverfish will also eat the dead insects cast out of spider webs, so be sure to keep your spiders and their webs under control. Although silverfish are often found in dry places, like in a banker’s box full of documents, they require high humidity to survive and retreat to these places after feeding. Check for leaks, make sure bath trap access doors shut and form a tight seal, and ensure there’s no gaps or holes that can lead them in from the garage or crawlspace.
While not insects at all, plant seeds can resemble the plump body of a bed bug, especially if the seeds are dark-colored. If you lay in bed while wearing your outdoor clothes or eat food while hanging out on the bed, be prepared for some seeds to fall off of you or your food. When magnified, seeds won’t have any of the defining features of an insect, like legs, antennae, or a defined head.
If you can’t figure out the identification of something and are concerned that it could be a bed bug, keep the specimen and have it professionally identified by a reputable pest control company.