Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Alene Schill
Despite what people may think, bed bugs do not only occur in houses that are poorly maintained, in poverty, or have unclean living conditions. Even a luxurious five-star hotel can have bed bugs just as easily as a messy home.
So, what attracts bed bugs into your home, exactly? We’ll let you know below.
4 Things That Attract Bed Bugs Into Your Home
1. Carbon Dioxide
The main thing that attracts bed bugs is carbon dioxide. To them, it is a clear indication that a human host is nearby.
When we breathe, we emit carbon dioxide, which tells bed bugs exactly that we are a suitable host ripe for feeding. Bed bugs feed on us when we stop to rest and sleep, so they favor our couch and mattress for hiding spots and come out at night to suck blood.
Bed bugs do not care much for places that don’t have a steady slew of CO2.
2. Warmth/Body Heat
Another indication that tells a bed bug that a food source is available is body heat or warmth from your skin exposed. Regardless of whatever you’re wearing, your body will be a heat source, which tells them that you are a food source.
3. Dirty Laundry
Bed bugs are attracted to dirty laundry because it smells exactly like a human host, so you probably know they are attracted to clothes. Keep your dirty clothes off the floor to prevent bed bugs from infesting them, or keep them inside tightly sealed Ziploc bags until it’s time to wash.
4. Dark Beddings
Evolution has taught bed bugs to favor dark bed sheets over light-colored ones, as these allow them to camouflage themselves better. Of course, a bed bug is still an opportunist above all else, so regardless of the covers of your mattress, you can be sure that bed bugs will infest them.
What Food Attracts Bed Bugs?
Unlike beetles, flies, or botflies, a bed bug is not attracted to food sources. Even if you leave a slice of fresh, bloody steak on the counter, they do not have the instinct to eat it.
Bed bugs feed on hosts with a supply of healthy, fresh blood, so a human blood meal is naturally their first choice.
They will target your pets once in a while, but since bed bugs lack the legs necessary to wade their way through hairs (hence why you’ll rarely find itchy bites on your scalp), they will always go for humans over other warm-blooded creatures.
What Colors Do They Like?
Studies have shown that bed bugs prefer hiding out in dark-colored sheets or red or dark fabric. You’ll regularly find them hiding in the mattress, box spring, or bed frame, where they won’t easily be noticed.
It’s said that they prefer red or dark fabric because it mimics the color of blood, but we think it’s mainly because these colors provide them with the best camouflage.
Bed bugs have flat, narrow bodies about the size of an apple seed. They are mainly reddish-brown but turn a few shades darker after they’ve fed. You can see why darker colors can provide them with more protection.
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What Scent Are Bed Bugs Attracted To?
Bed bugs love the scent of humans, which is why they’re greatly attracted to used clothes and beddings. It’s highly important not to leave anything on the floor where they can be accessible to bed bugs.
It’s a great idea to do your laundry daily as the combination of hot water and soap used in washing clothes can be more than enough to get rid of bed bugs. Use your dryer at the highest setting because high heat will kill bed bugs.
Popular Myths Debunked
Bed Bugs Like Wood
Bed bugs prefer wooden surfaces, but they are not particularly attracted to them. These pests will still find some way to create an infestation even if you discard all of your wooden furniture at home. Of course, we won’t deny their stronger affinity to wooden surfaces and fabrics over metal and plastic.
Bed Bugs Like Urine
There is no scientific evidence that proves that urine attracts bed bugs, so this is a myth. However, if the urine had the right acidity, it could host enough carbon dioxide to serve as enough indication for bed bugs that a viable host is nearby.
Bed Bugs Like Household Chemicals
We have heard that bed bugs are attracted to household chemicals, particularly bleach, from quite a few people. This is a myth.
There have been no studies proving that bed bugs are attracted to these items. So if you’re trying to trap them with ammonia, bleach, laundry detergents, or fabric softeners, your efforts may be futile.
Bed Bugs Like Period Blood
We don’t blame you if you think bed bugs are attracted to your period because bed bugs are attracted to blood in general. However, this is a myth.
Bed bugs are not attracted to period blood because they have no way of knowing whether or not somebody’s on their period.
Bed bugs determine that a viable host is nearby based on the carbon dioxide you emit. You don’t have a bigger chance of being bitten just because you’re on your period.
On the same note, bed bugs also do not care much about people’s blood types, unlike other insects like mosquitoes which tend to favor the blood type O. 
How Do You Get Bed Bugs?
You cannot sprout bed bugs organically, and the only way to get them is if you get them from somewhere else. Here are their most common sources:
Bed bugs are often the result of traveling. Whenever you’re sleeping somewhere unfamiliar, check for bed bugs before you decide to put your luggage on the floor or sleep. If there is a bed bug infestation inside the room, you can bet that they’ll hitch a ride on your luggage, and you can unknowingly bring them home.
You can find bed bugs in the workplace, although it’s quite rare as people rarely rest at work. This is often the result of an employee unknowingly bringing it to work from public transportation. Either way, it’s best to contact management as soon as you notice a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs at school are just about as rare as finding bed bugs in the workplace. Often, bed bugs hitch a ride on a student’s backpack to find their way in. It’s best to contact the school administration once you find their presence inside the school.
Moreover, bed bugs also favor shared spaces like school dormitories, which give them plenty of access to various food sources.
Bed bugs thrive in shared living spaces, especially densely-packed rental homes. This allows them to create major infestations in more than one household. If you suspect you or your neighbor has bed bugs, you must let the building administration or landlord know. Property owners are obligated to remove pests that might make for uninhabitable living conditions.
How Do You Spot These Bloodsuckers?
Identifying bed bugs is necessary to keep them under control or exterminate them. These telltale signs can also prove important if you decide to sleep anywhere unfamiliar. Here are a few ways how you can spot bed bugs:
- Blood stains on pillows, bed sheets, or mattresses (this can either be human blood or bedbug droppings)
- Bed bug excrements on your bed sheets, mattresses, clothes, and even walls
- Bed bug shells, eggs, or other potential hiding spaces, such as mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, or other bedroom furniture
- A musty odor unique to bed bugs, which comes from their sweat glands
What Doesn’t Attract Bed Bugs?
Of course, since we’ve told you about what scents attract bed bugs to your home, it’s only fitting that we tell you what does not attract them. Bed bugs do not care if your house is filthy — they can infest a clean five-star hotel just as easily as they can infest a cramped apartment complex. The scent of human food also doesn’t appeal to them, nor are they attracted to human feces.
It’s common sense that they won’t also be attracted to scented cleaning products or scented candles, and they don’t care much about perfume, room sprays, or toiletries.
How Do You Keep Them Out Of Your Home
Prevention is key to all bed bug infestations. Here are a few tips on how you can deter bed bugs and keep them out of your home:
- Avoid buying second-hand furniture, especially used mattresses. If you absolutely must purchase used furniture, make sure you clean and check them thoroughly to avoid bringing bed bugs into your home.
- Watch yourself when traveling. When using public transportation, such as trains, buses, or airplanes, check the seats for bed bugs first.
- The same rule applies whenever you’re sleeping somewhere unfamiliar. Check the hotel or motel room for bed bugs before lying down to rest. Avoid putting your luggage on the floor.
- Check your belongings before bringing them inside your home whenever you get home from a trip. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and can hitch a ride on your clothes or luggage without you noticing it.
- Vacuum your home regularly and reduce clutter. The strong suction power of the vacuum will be enough to pick up a few rogue bed bugs here and there. Reducing clutter and keeping your home clean will deter bed bugs.
- Wash guest bedding whenever you have visitors over as well as your own.
Can you spot bed bugs with the naked eye?
Yes, you can spot bed bugs with the naked eye. Bed bugs are small, flat insects about the size and color of an apple seed. Of course, you’re likely to catch them out at night instead of during the day, as this is when they’re most active.
Are bed bugs attracted to pets?
Bed bugs are not particularly attracted to pets, but they are still a viable host for them. A bed bug lacks the strong legs necessary to travel through body hair. They prefer biting the smooth, exposed skin of humans. But can bed bugs affect cats?
In conclusion, you attract bed bugs.
Your body heat, body temperature, and carbon dioxide attract bed bugs. It signals to them that a viable food source is nearby and that they shouldn’t venture too far if they want to feed to survive. They are also attracted to dirty laundry and used beddings because they smell just like you.
Prevention is key when it comes to resolving a bed bug infestation. Check yourself whenever you travel so as not to bring them home. Visiting friends or family members can also bring bed bugs in.
If all else fails and you still have an infestation, get professional treatment from a licensed pest control company that can kill bed bugs.
Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!
Alene Schill is a property manager from Columbus, Ohio, who has dealt with numerous pest control agencies. She helps families find the perfect homes and knows very well that bed bugs are an ultimate deal-breaker. She enjoys cycling around Scioto Mile during her spare time.