How to Avoid Bed Bugs in Movie Theaters

How to Avoid Bed Bugs in Movie Theaters

An enjoyable family night out shouldn’t be marred by the chance of getting bed bugs. That’s exactly what can happen when you head to the movie theater. But there are ways to make it less likely.

Look for online reviews and news stories to see if bed bug infestations have been reported. Avoid taking bags and belongings with you. If you have to, take disposable bags, and don’t put your things on the floor. Bag, then launder your clothes as soon as you get home.

Bed bugs are most common in theaters in big cities. There’s no way to live your life and completely avoid bed bugs, but you can stop them infesting your home. Find out why bed bugs infest movie theaters, how you can get them, and how to prevent this from happening.

Do You Get Bed Bugs in Movie Theater Seats?

Movie theaters are one of many places bed bugs can live. They tend to accumulate anywhere that there are lots of people. They especially like places where lots of people pass through for a short amount of time.

That’s because the more people pass through, the more chance one will accidentally carry a bed bug in. Bed bugs travel from place to place in people’s belongings, e.g., your bag. When you arrive at a new place, they may then escape and set up a new infestation.

That especially applies to egg-laying females. Once they mate, females head off in search of a new hiding place. They need to because if they didn’t, males would continue mating with them. That would damage their shell and eventually kill them.

This female will find her way to a new location. She can then continually lay eggs for weeks without having to mate again. That’s how you get news stories about bed bugs in cinemas.

News Reports About Bed Bugs at Cinemas

Search and you can find new stories across the country. One example from ABC News discusses an infestation in the small town of Marion, Indiana.

Another reported by KSHB details a complaint about a movie theater in Independence, Missouri. In her story, the lady claimed she felt the bug crawling on her ankle. She later found that she had two bites. She complained to the manager, who said they had received other complaints already.

A third story came from Times Square. It’s dated to 2010, before bed bugs were as common as they are today. According to CNN, the AMC Empire movie theater had to shut down temporarily to go through bed bug pesticide treatment.

There are many stories related to cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and more. It’s a growing problem.

bed bugs in movie theater seats

Why Do Bed Bugs Infest Movie Theaters?

When you think of bed bugs, you probably think of beds. Mattresses and bedding are by far their favorite place to live. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only place they can live.

Movie theaters tick several boxes for bed bugs. They are dark, which is excellent because bed bugs are photophobic. Light makes them scatter and find a hiding place, so this won’t present a problem.

Bed bugs like upholstery, too. Fabric offers lots of places for a bed bug to hide, e.g., under buttons, behind or underneath zips, and piping. Movie theater seats provide plenty of hiding places.

Aside from that, though, why would bed bugs live in a movie theater?

Opportunities to Feed

Bed bugs need to feed on people. They can only eat blood, and nothing else will do. Their mouth is set up in such a way that they can only drink, not chew or grind. They need a host.

Movie theaters offer lots of potential hosts, and lots of time in which to feed. Bed bugs typically only feed when it’s dark, and it’s unnaturally dark in movie theaters throughout the day. There are hosts (people) coming and going all day, so they can feed at any time.

When a person sits down in an infested chair, the bugs then have lots of time to feed.

Bed Bugs Like the Smell of People

Bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide, heat, and the smell of people. These attractants help them find a host in the dark. They also communicate with other bed bugs through smell.

Movie theater seats aren’t washed often, and when they are, they can’t be laundered. This allows at least small amounts of smell to build up. Bed bugs like the smell.

It’s possible to prove their preferences with a test. Put two items of clothing next to each other on the floor. One should be dirty, one should be clean. If there is an infestation, the majority of bed bugs will hide under and around the dirty clothing.

The same applies to movie theater seats. The less frequently they’re cleaned, the more they smell like people. The more they smell like people, the more bed bugs will like them.

Bed Bugs Like Carbon Dioxide

As we said, bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide. Why? Because people breathe in air, use the oxygen, and breathe it out again. We breathe out more carbon dioxide than we breathe in because we expel it through our lungs.

What this means is that CO2 concentrations are higher in areas where people breathe. This helps bed bugs find their way to you when you’re asleep. The concentration is even higher when there are lots of people together, e.g., in a movie theater.

This natural method bed bugs use to find you causes them to accumulate in places with lots of people.

Can You Get Bed Bugs from Movie Theater?

They spread from person to person, and do so without you noticing. Before you know it, you’ve got a full-blown infestation.

Bed bugs don’t live on people. They live in our surroundings. Their favorite places are mattresses, bedside furniture, couches, and other upholstery. From here they can easily find you to feed.

When a bed bug isn’t getting enough food, they will seek out a new host. There are two ways that they can do this. They will explore the immediate vicinity, within a roughly six-foot radius. This is the distance at which they usually stay away from a host. If they’re in a movie theater seat, you’re within that radius.

If they can’t find a host in this area, they will continue to search. Their activity levels will increase, and they will roam further from their hiding place.

How to Avoid Bed Bugs in a Movie Theater

Despite being so difficult to see, it’s easy to avoid bed bugs in a movie theater (or anywhere else). Doing so depends on understanding their behavior, and on knowing how to quarantine your home.

1) Is There a Bed Bug Registry for Movie Theaters?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a ‘bed bug registry’ is a resource with information on places that have bed bugs. The most popular, TheBedbugRegistry.com, has around 20,000 individual reports from the period since 2006.

Unfortunately, TheBedbugRegistry.com only has reports related to hotels. It doesn’t have any reports on movie theaters, even in hotspots like New York City.

That being said, you can still research your local movie theaters. If there are bed bugs there, it will say in their online reviews. There may even be news stories related to the issue. Your first step should be avoiding movie theaters you know to have a bed bug problem.

2) Buy Bed Bug Interceptors

The bed bug-catching process begins and ends at home. It doesn’t matter how careful you are: there’s still a chance you could catch one, entirely by accident. You should prepare your home in case this happens.

The best way to prepare is by buying bed bug interceptors. These are tiny traps that fit around the feet of your bed, and furniture in your home. The idea is that bed bugs can climb inside, but can’t climb out again. This stops them from infesting your things.  

You should fit them around the feet of your bed at least. If possible, put them around the feet of your couch too. These traps are cheap, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

They work well with regular bed bugs (Cimex lectularius). However, the tropical bed bug can perhaps climb out of them. You should fill the traps with a small amount of water. This will drown them, as bed bugs can’t swim.

Another way you can prepare your home is with a mattress encasement. These fit around your mattress to stop bed bugs accessing them. If you fit your bed both with interceptors and an encasement, you make an infestation much less likely.

3) Check for Bed Bugs in Your Movie Theater Seat

When you arrive at the theater, you should check your seat to see if there are any bed bugs there. Arrive in plenty of time so that the lights will be up when you do.

Check the seams of your seat, underneath the seat, and down the sides and back of the seat. Any cracks and crevices are potential hiding places.

If you do find any, it’s likely they will be infesting each of the seats. You should head somewhere else to watch your movie. If you do want to stay in the same theater, find a seat that isn’t infested to sit in. Let the management team know of the issue so they can take steps to rectify it.

bed bugs from movie theater

4) Will Bed Bugs Get in Your Bag in a Movie Theater?

Once you’ve prepared your home, it’s time to think about how your behavior can influence your chances. While catching bed bugs wouldn’t be your fault, there are things you can do to make it unlikely.

Taking lots of things with you to a movie theater is an easy mistake to make. But aside from making you uncomfortable in your seat, they could also allow bed bugs to come home with you.

Bed bugs love to hide in people’s belongings. They wait until they have the cover of darkness before increasing their activity. If one of the bugs wants to find somewhere with a regular host, they will look for something that smells like people. Your bag would fit that description.

But, if you don’t bring any bags or big puffy coats, there’s nothing for them to hide in.

5) Don’t Put Your Things on the Floor

When a bed bug needs to get from place to place, it usually walks across the floor. The floor is safer than crawling on their host, for example. There’s less of a chance of them being squashed if you can’t spot them.

You can get bed bugs from putting your things on the ground. If the bug wants a new host, it will come out from its hiding place. It will smell the smell of your things, and be attracted. It will then hide inside. And all the while, you can’t see a thing.

So, if you must bring a bag with you, keep it on your lap. There’s no way a bug could get inside without crawling over you. If it does, you’ll likely spot it.

6) Use a Disposable Bag

If you have to bring a bag, use a disposable plastic bag rather than a rucksack or handbag. There are several reasons why.

Even if a bed bug gets into a disposable bag, that’s not a problem if you get rid of it. You can dispose of it in the garbage outside before you get home. Take a quick look over the belongings you had inside and you should be fine.

Also, handbags can’t be cleaned easily. If a bed bug gets inside, you would have a difficult time getting it out. That problem is made worse if the bag has lots of pockets, fabric seams and zips they can use to hide. You can’t launder them, either, which is one way to kill bugs.

7) Launder Your Clothes to Kill Bed Bugs

Bed bugs don’t usually hide in clothes that you’re wearing. They don’t like to be close to a person unless they’re feeding, and they can’t feed when you’re moving. But it is possible that they hide inside the hem or pocket.

Bed bugs can’t survive a laundry cycle. It’s a combination of several things they can’t survive, which are as follows:

  • Bed bugs never go outside, so don’t know how to swim. They die eventually, even when placed in a small amount of water.
  • Like any creature, bed bugs are susceptible to heat. Temperatures in a washing machine and/or dryer are enough to kill.
  • Even basic dish soap can kill bed bugs on contact.

However, you have to be careful to launder your clothes the right way. As soon as you get home, bag them up and seal them tight. Take them to the washing machine and dump them directly inside.

Whatever you do, don’t put your worn clothes on your bed. Don’t leave them anywhere in your room. If you do, there’s a chance the bug could escape and hide somewhere.

If you didn’t bring lots of things with you—only the clothes on your back—then this step is enough to prevent any new infestations completely.

How Common Are Bed Bugs in Movie Theaters?

This depends on where you live. Bed bugs are most common in areas of high population, i.e., big cities. Places like New York City, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and similar have high rates of infestation. Small towns in the Midwest don’t have as much of a problem.

The problem is so bad in NYC that local council members are attempting to introduce legislation to deal with them. A new bill recently introduced would require theaters to undergo yearly bed bug inspections. It would also allow the council to find any that did have bed bugs.

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