Once considered a pest of the past, bed bugs now make regular headlines as they infest homes, hotels, and dormitories worldwide. As bed bugs spread, more people are worried about them and want to know what causes bed bugs.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no association between bed bugs and filth. Bed bugs feed on human and animal blood. As long as there's a source of blood available to them, they will happily take up residence in even the most pristine home. Dirt does not cause bed bugs.
Similarly, bed bugs don't care how much money you make. Being poor does not put you at greater risk for bed bugs, and having wealth does not immunize you from a bed bug infestation. Poverty does not cause bed bugs.
For bed bugs to infest your home, they've got to hitch a ride on someone or something. Bed bugs don't usually stay on their human hosts after feeding, but might hide in clothing and inadvertently go along for the ride to a new location. Most often, bed bugs travel in luggage after someone has stayed in an infested hotel room. Bed bugs may even infest theaters and other public spaces, and spread to new locations via purses, backpacks, or coats.
Once in your home, bed bugs can scurry quickly to a new hiding place: behind baseboards, under wallpaper, inside switch plates, or in furniture seams. Then it's just a matter of time before they begin multiplying. A single female may arrive at your doorstep already carrying enough eggs to produce hundreds more offspring. And while filth does not benefit bed bugs in any way, clutter does. The more cluttered your home, the more hiding places for the bed bugs, and the harder it will be to get rid of them.
Because bed bugs travel by hitchhiking, infestations are more common in places with high rates of turnover in the human population: apartment buildings, dormitories, homeless shelters, hotels and motels, and military barracks. Any time you've got a lot of people coming and going, there's an increased risk that someone will carry a few bed bugs into the building. In general, homeowners of single family homes have a lower risk of getting bed bugs.