Bed bugs could sneak into a box or package before it’s posted to you. When you open the package, the bed bugs will try to scamper away and find somewhere new to hide. There are several news reports of bed bugs entering the home that way, but how likely is this to happen in practice?
Bed bugs like enclosed spaces like envelopes and packages, and can sneak inside mail before it’s sent. However, bed bugs can’t lay eggs in the mail because they’re unable to feed. Opening your mail and checking it outside will prevent any infestations from starting in your home or office space.
It’s doubtful that a bed bug would be inside an envelope. Bed bugs like enclosed spaces, and some light would still get into the envelope. They would also likely be squashed under the weight of other mail. But bed bugs can be found in packages if adequate precautions aren’t taken.
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Can Bed Bugs Live in Your Mail?
Any number of bed bugs could live inside a package for up to a year. They go into a state of dormancy when they can’t feed, and survive for long periods. However, what bed bugs can’t do in the mail is complete their life cycle, which is as follows:
- It takes between ten days and two weeks for an egg to hatch.
- 1st instar nymph. Also known as a nymph, these bugs are only a little bigger than an egg.
- 2nd instar nymph, 3rd instar nymph and 4th instar nymph. The bed bug goes through several stages and gets bigger and bigger.
- 5th instar nymph. The 5th instar nymph is only a little smaller than an adult.
- Once they reach adulthood, they can begin mating and laying eggs.
Each ‘instar,’ which means stage, is bigger than the last. Many insects go through stages in the same way, like caterpillars that turn into butterflies.
However, bed bugs can’t grow from one stage to another in the mail. They need a blood meal each time they grow larger. Because they don’t have access to a host, they’re ‘stuck’ in their current stage.
This doesn’t harm them. They enter a state of dormancy where they don’t feed, don’t grow, and don’t mate. Instead, they wait until they have access to food again.
Can Bed Bugs Lay Eggs in The Mail?
A bed bug can’t lay eggs in the mail, either. According to PLoS One, a female must feed before she can create and lay an egg. That’s because she needs nutrients to form the egg, which she acquires through feeding.
There’s also an issue with where females lay their eggs. If a female were to mate inside a package, she still wouldn’t want to lay her eggs in there. That’s because egg-laying females leave their harborage to lay their eggs somewhere else.
The reason is that bed bugs made through a process called traumatic insemination. The male breaks a hole in the female’s shell to mate. He leaves sperm in the female’s circulatory system called the hemocoel. From there it heads to the eggs.
This process is damaging to the female. If they mate too much, her shell becomes so damaged that the female dies. Males continue mating even if the female doesn’t want to. She, therefore, has to move away to lay her eggs before she’s killed.
So for two key reasons, bed bugs can’t mate. But that doesn’t rule out a bed bug laying eggs in an envelope or package before it’s sealed.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Your Mailbox?
Even though bed bugs can get in the mail, that doesn’t mean they can live in your mailbox. They can’t get outside of a package that they’re sealed into. They also don’t like walking around outside.
There’s also no reason for them to live there. Bed bugs need a harborage close to a host. They need to be able to feed regularly. In a mailbox, they won’t be anywhere near you, or anyone else.
Not only that but the temperature inside your mailbox is too low for them. Bed bugs will pick somewhere room temperature or somewhat above. In a mailbox, while they aren’t exposed directly to rain and snow, it’s still too cold.
Can You Get Bed Bugs from Shopping Online?
Having packages delivered from Amazon, eBay or other online stores is today a regular occurrence. However, there are several vital reasons why packages typically don’t contain bed bugs.
Most packages are shipped directly from a warehouse. If you buy directly from Amazon and not a seller, the package is always from a warehouse. Products marked as ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ are also from warehouse stock.
Also, large scale sellers work with bulk orders of packaging. Sellers that work from home likely have hundreds, even thousands of parcels to deliver per month. They buy their parcels and packaging in bulk and use them when they need them. This reduces the likelihood of a bed bug infestation.
Besides that, most sellers are careful with their online business. Reviews are everything. A review that says ‘This seller’s package had bed bugs in it!’ would be terrible for business. They will, therefore, be careful to avoid issues like these.
However, that doesn’t completely rule out the idea that they may accidentally ship bed bugs to you. As pointed out above, it is a possibility. If you have a bed bug quarantine system in place, you should check your package while opening.
Can Packages from Auction Sites Contain Bed Bugs?
It’s more likely that you could get bed bugs from a package on eBay. That’s because there are more individual sellers on eBay who work from home. Because their packages are sent from the seller’s home, there’s a higher probability of an infestation.
If you’re buying fabric or clothes, these are ideal hiding places for bed bugs and their eggs. A set of glassware, by comparison, is not a good home.
If you’re worried about a particular seller delivering bed bugs in packages, look at their rating/reviews. In particular, check whether anybody comments about the quality of their packages.
How to Avoid Getting Bed Bugs in the Mail
If you want to prevent bed bugs from getting into your house, you need to have a quarantine routine. Quarantine means isolation. Through basic practices, you can avoid letting any bed bugs into your home.
When you receive a package, don’t open it immediately. If you do, there’s the chance that a bed bug inside could get out. But if you control the way you open your packages, you can prevent this.
Instead of opening the package straight away, consider one of the following methods.
1) Open the Package Outdoors
You could start by opening the package outside rather than inside. If that’s possible, this will prevent any bed bugs from getting inside your home. You could open your mail:
- In your front or back yard/garden
- At work
- In public
Of course, this won’t be an option for all mail that you receive. But by opening your mail somewhere other than your home, you make it impossible for a bed bug infestation to start there.
If you’re having something delivered, look over the item. Check it and wipe it down to see if there are bed bugs on it.
2) Check Your Items for Bed Bugs
If you have anything delivered, you should check it for bed bugs. The technique of checking for bed bugs is easy, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find them all. Check in the following way:
- Open the item. If you bought a bag, for example, open the bag and shake it out.
- Wipe the item down. Use a cloth, or just your hands. Any bed bugs in your items won’t bite, so don’t be afraid.
You should do this process outdoors. This will ensure that if any bed bugs were inside your items, they wouldn’t infest your house.
Bear in mind that if you get something delivered directly from a warehouse, it’s unlikely to have bed bugs in it anyway. You are still free to check your goods, but there’s not much need.
3) Throw the Package Away Outside
When opening your mail, throw away the package or letter somewhere outside. This applies whether you open the mail indoors or out. Any bed bugs inside can’t get from the bin to your house.
Packaging often has lots of small nooks that bed bugs can hide in. Bubble wrap is an example. The bugs could get between the bubble wrap and the package. They may also hide in shredded paper wrapping, or other packing material.
If you open the mail outside, throwing the packaging or envelope into an outside bin is easy. If you open the package inside, you could put the packaging straight into a plastic waste bag. You can then throw this out as soon as possible.
4)Use Bed Bug Interceptors to Catch Bed Bugs
Bed bug interceptors are small traps that fit around the feet of your bed. They catch any bug that tries to climb up, in a well they can’t escape.
These are used as a first defense measure. The idea is that any bed bug looking to infest your mattress will fail to do so. They’re effective against almost all different types of bed bugs.
To make sure the traps work, open up your mail somewhere other than your bedroom. If the bed bug wants to infest your mattress, they’ll have to get past the interceptor first.