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Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothes? (2022 Updated)

People dealing with a bed bug infestation understand how frustrating it is to have insect bites every waking moment. What’s worse is that bed bugs hitchhike on clothes to spread their infestation somewhere else. But can bed bugs bite through clothes?

Our team conducted in-depth research to help you answer the question.

Will Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothing?

Will Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothing?

It’s not hard to recognize the paranoia of wondering if bed bugs bite through clothing or any form of fabric. After all, it can be a real hassle to stop bed bugs from spreading their animosity if people don’t fully comprehend their nature.

To answer the question: no, bed bugs cannot bite through clothes. Even adult bed bugs’ mouth parts are not strong enough to penetrate the fabric and bite your skin.

However, bed bugs bite inside your garments when latched onto your bare skin, which may cause confusion that bed bugs bite through clothing. But will you get bed bugs from hugging someone?

Getting Through Fabrics

Getting Through Fabrics

Clothes

Since the bugs cannot penetrate clothes, bed bugs bite a person’s exposed skin instead. 

So, if you’re dealing with bed bug infestations, wearing loose clothing might only escalate your bed bug problem as they can freely crawl inside your shirt for their obligatory blood meal. 

Tight clothes may repel bed bugs from biting your torso, but who’s to say they won’t search for other areas with blood vessels to suck blood?

Tights

Tights

It’s a different story when wearing tights. Live bed bugs don’t have a strong proboscis (sucking mouth part) to penetrate the thin layer of elastic fabric. Other insect bites like mosquitoes can easily make direct contact thanks to their long snout. 

Bed bugs can’t bite through tights, but that won’t stop them from searching for skin exposed and feeding on those areas instead. But why do bed bugs bite your feet?

Pajamas

Bed bugs bite when their feeding stimuli are triggered when latching on to a membrane that resembles the skin. 

Roaming over pajamas can keep bed bugs from biting you, but it won’t prevent bed bugs from finding openings to feed on your exposed skin. 

You may ward off bed bug bites on your legs if you wear jogger pants with no flare in the ankles. But what do bed bug bites feel like?

Blankets

Blankets

When dealing with a bed bug infestation, the existing colony typically hides closest to its prey. You may find bed bugs on your box spring, bed frame, or mattress cover and see them lurking in these hiding places until they find you fast asleep. 

While they cannot easily bite through fabrics, a bed bug bites on exposed patches of skin. Even under a blanket, any opening can be an access point for bed bugs to infest. But how do you look for bed bugs during the day?

Socks

Another common query among the bed-bug-bite victims is whether the bugs bite through socks or not. 

Bed bugs cannot bite through clothing, that includes socks. The thick layer of elastic fabric in socks makes them impenetrable to their proboscis; that’s why socks effectively prevent bites. 

Conversely, the bugs bite through socks if the fabric is overly stretched, allowing them to seep through exposed patches.

Sheets

Sheets

Bed bugs love hiding on mattress covers. The seams make a perfect hiding spot from the host’s vision while keeping the bugs in close proximity for feeding time. 

Like the other forms of clothing, bed bugs can’t bite through sheets, although nothing can stop the bed bug bites once they find an opening to latch onto your skin. But why do bed bugs bite in threes?

How They Get Under Your Clothes

One key reason why bed bugs are attracted to humans is our carbon dioxide emissions. The human skin emits CO2 that allows the bugs to maneuver through any fabric obstructions and find any exposed area. [1] Only then do bed bugs bite their host.

The feeding response of bed bugs is triggered when they latch onto a skin-like membrane. Until then, they won’t bother biting through the fabric unless they get access to your bare skin. But will bed bugs burrow in your skin?

Why Bed Bugs Couldn’t Bite Through Clothes

Why Bed Bugs Couldn’t Bite Through Clothes

  • The physical appearance of their labium or blood-sucking mouth part is not sturdy enough to penetrate the fabric, unlike other insects such as mosquitoes.
  • Clothes do not trigger their feeding response, so they won’t try to bite you when latched onto your garment but will find their way to access your skin.
  • They need direct access to blood vessels (from the skin’s surface) in order to feed.
  • They’re attracted to the body’s high heat, so they won’t bother aimlessly roaming around clothes.
  • Clothes offer a viable hiding spot to keep them in close proximity to you, and biting may compromise their cover, so they’ll wait until you’re in bed and sound asleep.

Myths In Avoiding Bed Bug Bites

  • Some believe that wearing dirty clothes attracts bed bug bites, so cleaning up before bed would help in preventing bites. Unfortunately, they’re not attracted to dirt or grime. Instead, they love blood and body heat.
  • Some believe that essential oils can prevent them from biting you. Any herbal cream will not stop Bed bugs, although essential oils can offer some itching relief.
  • Some claim that an anti-itch cream can rid bed bug rashes. No, they are good home remedies to keep you from scratching, but the bite and other allergic reactions will remain.
  • Some say bed bugs won’t reveal themselves if the room is brightly lit. Just because bed bugs reveal themselves at night doesn’t mean they cannot infest during the day.

5 Tips To Avoid Getting Bitten Through Clothes

5 Tips To Avoid Getting Bitten Through Clothes

1. Use Traps

Interceptor traps placed under each foot of the bed can prevent bed bugs from climbing up to bite you. Putting in some warm water will kill bed bugs if they manage to climb and fall into the interceptor trap. 

The process only takes a few hours, and you may re-do bed bug traps for as long as they decide to infest.

2. Use Sprays

Use Sprays

The common solution for killing bed bugs is insect repellents or disinfectant sprays. We recommend using organic sprays like Diatomaceous Earth, especially when spraying over your mattress cover, as these are safer than other spray fumes when inhaled for an extended period. Will Lysol kill bed bugs, though?

3. Use Mattress Encasements

Putting plastic encasements over mattress covers is a good pest control solution. Although it won’t kill bed bugs, a bed bug cannot climb smooth surfaces such as plastics which can rid them from getting to your skin. 

It’s more of a bandaid solution than permanent, and finding the breeding ground where eggs hatch is always more effective.

4. Use Bug Lures

Use Bug Lures

Bug lures mimic how the human body works in the eyes of bed bugs. By combining heat and carbon dioxide, bed bugs will be attracted to the lures instead of you. 

Using lures can be effective when dealing with any existing infestation as the traps are designed to kill them once the bugs step into them. But can you see bed bugs with the naked eye?

5. Steam Clean Them

If you find the residence of your bed bugs, heat treatments are another practical solution to kill them. Placing a powerful heat source (113°F or 45°C for 90 minutes) over their hiding spot would kill them. Just make sure to repeat the same process in other rooms for 100% mortality. 

Conversely, subjecting your clothes, mattress covers, and other potential fabric hiding spots to a heated wash in the laundry room would also do wonders.

FAQs

How do you tell if bedbugs are in your clothes?

One telltale sign is if you observe a tiny cluster of dark spots (bed bug poops) or if you experience sudden itching in some areas while wearing the shirt. Although, bed bugs are keener to live in still places like mattress covers or wall crevices. Nevertheless, residing on clothes is possible. 

Can bed bugs stay on your clothes all day?

Yes, bed bugs can stay on your clothes all day. Any dark hiding spot on the seams of your clothes is a good place for infestation. They cannot bite through clothing and may not reveal themselves while wearing the garment, but they can attack once you get home and sleep.

Final Verdict

A bed bug might not have the chops to bite through clothes, but they’re more than capable of looking for openings to get to your bare skin and feed off it.

If you’re struggling with a bed bug infestation, the best course of action is always to go to your laundry room and kill them by washing your potentially infested clothes. Bug sprays, traps, and other lures can work wonders to free you from your predicament. However, calling in a pest control technician is your best bet in extreme situations.

Reference:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1495024/

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