Few studies about bed bugs are going to make you feel good about tucking yourself in at night, but this one may have you sleeping with one eye open.
In new research published in the journal PLOS ONE, a group of entomologists monitored bed bugs in three different bug-infested New Jersey apartment buildings over the course of several weeks. They collected bugs from six apartments, marked them, and then re-released them to see where they went. For 32 days, they checked on the 24 neighboring apartments (above, below, on either side, and across the hallway from the main apartments in the study) to see how easily the pests traveled around the building.
And oh, the places bed bugs will go. The bugs moved “extensively” throughout the apartments they were initially released in—and into other apartments. The researchers write that “bed bugs from any room within an apartment, even those located at host sleeping sites, have the potential to disperse to neighboring apartments.” In vacant apartments, they found surviving bed bugs up to five months later (meaning the bugs can survive without feeding for that long). The estimated number of bed bugs in each of those six apartments ranged from 2,433 to a staggering 14,291.
Weirdly, the fact that bed bugs travel between apartments—which anyone in a pest-infested building knows all too well—wasn’t confirmed by the scientific literature before this. “The active dispersal of bed bugs from an infested apartment to neighboring apartments has long been suspected, but never proven,” the study asserts.
Why they do so, however, is still up for debate. Why strike out for unknown territory when there’s a ready supply of fresh blood just lying there for eight hours a night? We're still awaiting scientific confirmation that pests enjoy torturing as many humans as possible.