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Where do bed bugs like to bite humans?

Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They are a nuisance pest that can be difficult to eradicate once established in a home. Understanding where bed bugs prefer to bite can help identify infestations and prevent bites.

Bed Bug Biting Locations

Bed bugs often feed at night when people are sleeping. Their preferred biting sites on the body include:

  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Legs
  • Feet
  • Neck
  • Face
  • Shoulders

These areas provide easy access for the bed bugs to bite and feed. The bites often appear in linear patterns or clustered groups.

Why These Areas?

There are a few key reasons why bed bugs tend to bite these body parts:

  • Proximity – When sleeping, these areas are often exposed or pressed against the mattress allowing easy access.
  • Blood vessels – Many of these areas have lots of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin for feeding.
  • Body heat – The hands, arms, neck and face give off more body heat than other areas which helps attract the bugs.
  • Hair follicles – Bed bugs can crawl down into hair follicles to access the skin and bite.

Other Areas

While less common, bed bugs will bite any exposed skin they can access, including:

  • Back
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Buttocks
  • Genital area

Babies and small children are often bitten on the face and neck since they have less body surface area exposed.

Why Do Bed Bugs Bite Humans?

Bed bugs are parasitic insects that solely feed on blood. Human blood provides them with the nutrients and proteins needed for survival and reproduction. When a bed bug bites, it injects saliva into the skin that contains anesthetics and anticoagulants. This allows it to draw blood without being detected.

Feeding and Digestion

After feeding for 3-10 minutes, the bed bug retreats. It takes between 10-20 minutes for the bites to become visible. The saliva often causes an allergic reaction that results in red, swollen itchy welts on the skin. Bed bugs can survive for several months between blood meals.

Attracted to Humans

Bed bugs are specifically adapted to feed on humans. They are attracted by warmth, carbon dioxide and some chemicals in human sweat. Since they live in close proximity to humans, we make the ideal host. One bed bug will bite repeatedly over its lifetime requiring regular blood meals.

Signs of Bed Bug Bites

The bumps and welts caused by bed bug bites can take a day or two to become visible. They often appear red, swollen and itchy. Common signs of bed bug bites include:

  • Small red bumps or welts in a linear or clustered pattern
  • Itching and inflammation around the bite marks
  • Skin rash or infection from excessive scratching
  • Sleep disturbances from getting bitten
  • Blood stains on sheets or mattresses from crushed bugs

However, bed bug bites may not appear on everyone. Some people have no reaction and will show no signs of being bitten. Monitoring for other evidence of an infestation is important.

Differences from Other Insect Bites

Bed bug bites look similar to other insect bites like mosquitoes and fleas. A few key differences include:

  • Bites often appear in lines or groups
  • No central puncture or pus-filled lesion
  • Feed repeatedly on the same person
  • Slower healing than other bites

How to Avoid Bed Bug Bites

The best way to avoid bed bug bites is through prevention and monitoring. Some tips include:

  • Inspect secondhand furniture before bringing it home
  • Check for signs of bugs in hotel rooms when traveling
  • Isolate and wash infested clothing and bedding
  • Apply mattress and box spring covers
  • Eliminate clutter and sanitize living spaces
  • Treat infestations immediately to control spread

Catching bed bug infestations early can help prevent widespread biting. Being vigilant about monitoring and reducing risk is key.

Treating Bed Bug Bites

The itching and irritation of bed bug bites can be treated. Some options include:

  • Anti-itch creams and antihistamines
  • Cool compresses to reduce swelling
  • Topical corticosteroids for severe itching
  • Antiseptic for infected bites
  • Avoid scratching to prevent infection

See your doctor if bites become infected, you experience anaphylaxis or have a severe allergic reaction. Proper identification and treatment of infestations will eliminate ongoing biting.


Bed bugs commonly bite exposed skin on the arms, hands, legs, face and neck. These areas are easily accessible when sleeping. The saliva injected causes small bumps and itchy red welts. While bed bug bites can be frustrating and uncomfortable, through vigilance, monitoring and professional treatment, ongoing biting can be avoided and eliminated.