What's Bugging You? →

Where to Look for Bed Bugs?

Bed bug, Cimex lectularius
Bed bug, Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). (Photo: © 2016, Arthur V. Evans)

Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and VPM radio producer Steve Clark discuss bed bugs. Art offers a few tips on where to look for bed bugs when staying in a hotel.

Steve Clark:  I'm Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You.   

Art Evans:  Well, as you know, I teach medical and veterinary entomology at the University of Richmond.

Clark:  I know that.

Evans:  And this was itch week. [laughing]

Clark:  Oh, mites?

Evans:  No, it was all about head and body lice and bed bugs.  [laughing] And I've noticed over the years that after I give the, especially the louse lecture, by the end of the period everybody's kind of squirming around their seats and kind of scratching at themselves.  Have you ever suffered from bed bug predation?

Clark:  I think there was one occasion when I was doing an international flight and wound up in Charlotte, and they put me in a fleabag motel.  The next morning I packed up and went my way.  But during the course of the day, I noticed these, a series of bite marks on my chest and abdomen . . .

Evans:  Really?

Clark:  . . . that were in a line, . . .

Evans:  Yeah.

Clark:  . . . a perfect line.  The other bed bug experience I had was recently, and that was next door.  [laughing] And they had a truck in there for two days.  I guess super-heating the building and getting out the dead bedbugs.

Evans:  Oh, wow.  I've never had any firsthand experience with them.  But what you describe in that first incidence at the, it sounds like a bed bug hotel rather than a fleabag hotel.

Clark:  Oh, right.

Evans:  It sounds just like bed bugs, where they will bite you in a line.  And what's going on there, presumably, is they like a nice tight space.  So they come out at night while you're sleeping, and they're going to wedge themselves in between your body parts and the bedding, and then they just sort of feed along that line.  And some people can react quite strongly and get these welts, but you won't know it at the time.

Clark:  Well, I was very fortunate.  They didn't get into my luggage.  If they did, I took him to England.

Evans:  That's the best strategy, prevention.  Make sure that you don't bring bed bugs home with you.  If you're out traveling, it's recommended that you leave your bags just outside of your door and then carefully check the bed, pull the covers back around the headboard and check the seams around the mattress, check the bed frame.  Bed bugs love those dry, tight spaces, and they'll hide in bed frames.  They’ll also hide in the electrical jacks.

Clark:  Gee, I didn't know that one.

Evans:   And you can sometimes see their bits and pieces of shed exoskeletons or their blood-filled feces that are lining these areas.  A really good friend of mine at Virginia Tech, Dr. Dini Miller told me once that the first place that she always checks, the best place to find bed bugs if you're going to find them in a hotel, is check the part of the bed that has the best view of the television [laughing] because that's where the potential hosts are most likely to be, . . .

Clark:  Right.

Evans:  . . . and that's where they're going to congregate.  Now of course, you thoroughly inspect the bed.  You thoroughly inspect the drawers near the bed.  You'll find them in the bindings of Bibles.  You'll find them in the closets.  I mean, they can be around.  If you find bed bugs, get out, go to another hotel.  And if you don't have that option, if they give you another room and you have another place to go, go through the whole process again.  I know colleagues that don't unpack.  I don't unpack.  I never unpack, just because I'm afraid of forgetting things.  But they'll put their bags in the bathtub.  It's like a moat. You can clearly see everything.

Clark:  Zip up those pockets.

Evans:  Yeah, so we live in a bed bug time and vigilance is key to avoiding those sorry bites in itchy places.

Clark:  Dr. Art Evans is a research associate at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.  You’ll find photos, audio, and links to the museum and Art’s Facebook page at vpm.org/bugs.


Dr. Arthur V. Evans teams up with VPM Radio producer Steve Clark for a weekly feature, “What’s Bugging You?,” which airs during NPR’s Morning Edition. The program takes its name from another of Evans’ books “What’s Bugging You – A Fond Look at the Animals We Love to Hate.”

Tune in each Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. or at 5:44 p.m. on VPM News