Can Bed Bugs Fly?

Readers Digest 4/25/2019 by Lisa Marie Conklin

Can bed bugs fly? Nope. At least not today’s bed bugs. Eons ago their ancestors could fly, but over time bed bugs evolved and they no longer need wings. Why fly (and risk getting seen) when you can live in secret near a human host and crawl out at night to suck blood?

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How bed bugs travel

“Bed bugs travel with us humans, so however we may travel, they will travel,” says Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. They might not have wings, but they don’t need them because they hitchhike onto our belongings, like coats, backpacks, books, blankets, and even things like wheelchairs and prosthetics, Green says. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking or in a car, taxi, or plane. They can be transported by any means of travel humans use. Now that you know the answer to the question “can bed bugs fly,” learn what really causes bed bugs in the first place.

How do bed bugs get around?

Bed bugs have six legs that are adapted for crawling but not jumping. If you leave a bed bug–containing item in your bedroom, a bed bug doesn’t have to travel far to find you. They’ll settle in a place near you—like in the seams of a mattress, a headboard, a nightstand, or any nearby crack or crevice. Their new home is called a harborage and will be close by. To identify them, take a look at our guide to what bed bugs look like.

How far do bed bugs travel?

When a bed bug crawls off a belonging, it’s pretty motivated to find a host for its next meal. According to the U.S. Armed Forces 2019 Pest Management Board, Technical Guide #44, bed bugs have no problem moving down hallways, wall voids, heating ducts, and laundry or mail chutes. Long distance travel via crawling isn’t beyond a bed bug’s skill set. In a mark, capture, and release study of bed bugs in apartments, bed bugs crawled to apartments on the left, on the right, across the hall, and even a floor below. While this may all be accurate, make sure you don’t fall for these common bed bug myths.

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