Bed bugs are parasites, so their only food source is human blood. They are dependent on humans for their survival, and have to stay close to us. Their eggs are extremely small and nearly translucent in color, meaning they’re tough to spot.
Bed bugs are ectoparasites, which means that they live outside of the human body at every stage of the life cycle. They only interact with humans when it’s time to feed. Instead, they lay their eggs around the home, usually in the crevices in mattresses and bed frames, carpets or even inside furniture.
Let’s discuss whether bed bugs can get under the skin, and where they lay their eggs. We’ll also examine how to find and identify bed bug eggs. Finally, we’ll explain the difference between bed bugs and other parasites that CAN lay eggs in and on the skin.
Can Bed Bugs Get Under the Skin?
Like many other parasites, bed bugs need to drink blood to survive. They’ve evolved to be specifically drawn to and adapted to human blood. Though they can feed on other animals, they much prefer humans.
To drink blood, bed bugs have a specialized mouthpart which can pierce our skin. They inject us with anesthetic (so that we can’t feel them biting us), and an anticoagulant (to keep the blood flowing freely). Then, they drink their fill, and crawl away from us again.
Bed bugs can only create a tiny hole in our skin to drink through. It certainly isn’t large enough for a bed bug – which can reach 4.5mm long – to squeeze through. Bed bugs are too big to get under the skin and lay eggs there, and they’re unable to bite through clothing.
Not only this, but they wouldn’t want to lay eggs on or under our skin anyway. The human body is a scary and volatile place for a bed bug to be – at any moment we could roll over and crush them. Not to mention, the eggs would likely fall off of our skin as we move around.
The safest and most logical place for a bed bug to lay eggs is around the home, in tiny cracks and crevices where we won’t disturb them.
Where Do Bed Bugs Lay Eggs?
So, now that we know that bed bugs don’t lay eggs on or under our skin, where do they lay them?
Bed bugs could lay eggs anywhere around the home that isn’t directly on a human or animal’s skin. There are two main criteria that bed bugs follow when choosing a spot to lay their eggs:
- It should be in a location with easy access to humans. As soon as the nymph hatches from the egg, it will start hunting for a blood meal. Laying the eggs relatively near a place where humans sleep (or sit for extended periods of time) makes the most sense.
- The location should not be open or easily disturbed by humans. Good egg-laying spots are hidden away, where they won’t be disturbed.
As you can imagine, this leaves bed bugs with hundreds, if not thousands of options. Bed bugs could lay eggs:
- In your mattress, box spring or bed frame (including underneath)
- On your sheets or inside your pillowcases
- Inside electrical outlets, and cracks and crevices in walls, such as the gap between the baseboard and the wall
- Inside thick carpeting or the folds in curtains
- Inside the grooves in furniture
- Inside toys such as stuffed animals, or electronic gadgets.
They may lay eggs in any room in the house, as long as it’s not too far of a trek to reach a sleeping (or relaxing) human.
Do Bed Bugs Lay Eggs Inside Your Ears?
People are often worried about bed bugs laying eggs inside their ears. After all, our ear canals are small, dark orifices – wouldn’t a bed bug consider it the perfect spot?
Fortunately, bed bugs are naturally disinclined to laying eggs on our bodies. They can detect the heat and chemicals that our bodies give off, and deliberately avoid us when laying eggs. Instead, they will choose a location away from humans, but still close enough to reach us when necessary.
That isn’t to say that it could never happen – just that it’s extremely unlikely. One case, documented in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, describes a person who had a bed bug trapped inside their ear for several days. However, even then, the bed bug didn’t lay any eggs.
What Do Bed Bug Eggs Look Like?
Now that you know where bed bugs lay eggs, it’s time to learn how to identify them. What do they actually look like, and how can you identify them in your home?
Unfortunately, bed bug eggs are extremely hard to find. This comes down to three main reasons:
- They’re tiny. Bed bug eggs are oval, and approximately 1mm in length – that’s about 0.04 inches. Each egg is smaller than President Lincoln’s nose on the one cent coin.
- They are very pale. Bed bug eggs are a whitish-clear color, which can almost appear translucent. They blend in very easily with its surroundings. If your box spring and mattress are white, it will be hard to notice them.
- Bed bugs find tiny cracks and crevices in which to lay their eggs, and “glue” them down with a sticky substance so that they stay put. They can even lay them upside down. If there were bed bug eggs inside your pillowcase and you shook it, they probably wouldn’t fall out.
While the eggs can just about be seen by the naked eye, you could very easily miss them if you weren’t looking hard enough.
How to Find Bed Bug Eggs
Bed bugs typically won’t lay their eggs on open surfaces that are visible to humans passing by. Instead, they’ll search for tiny cracks and crevices to crawl into.
A bed bug is approximately the same width as a credit card. If a credit card could fit into a gap in your home, a bed bug could have laid eggs in there. To have the best chance of finding them:
- Use a powerful flashlight and a magnifying glass. You can buy magnifying glasses with lights built in, to make things simpler.
- Start with your bed. Check every fold, crease and crevice in your mattress and box spring or bed frame. A favorite spot is the piping along the edge of the mattress.
- Investigate your bedroom carpet, curtains and curtain rod, walls, and baseboards. Don’t forget to check inside electrical outlets and under switch plates.
- Check any furniture in your bedroom, such as dressers, chairs and bedside cabinets. Bed bugs can infest any type of furniture, and can sneak into tiny grooves and hinges. Don’t forget to check underneath.
- When you’ve finished in the bedroom, search the other rooms, especially anywhere that you spend a lot of time sat down – such as the couch, or the home office.
Bugs That Lay Eggs Under Human Skin
By now, we know that bed bugs don’t live on or in our skin. They only approach us when they need to feed, and stay away most of the time.
So, if you do have a problem with bugs living in or on your skin, bed bugs aren’t the issue. There are, however, a few different parasites that might be responsible.
Scabies is a parasitical infection caused by mites called Sarcoptes. They aren’t insects, but arachnids, distantly related to spiders. Scabies mites live inside human skin, and lay eggs there.
The scabies vs. bed bugs rash looks entirely different. Scabies mites tunnel through the skin, leaving burrow-like tracks. They also leave clusters of tiny, pimple-like bites. Bed bugs usually only bite once or twice, and the marks tend to be larger.
You may be wondering: can you get scabies from bed bugs? Luckily, you can’t – they’re different animals, and nothing to do with one another. You could have both at the same time, but it would be a coincidence.
If you can see a bug with your naked eye, it isn’t scabies. According to the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology, scabies mites can only be detected accurately under a microscope.
Fleas and Lice
Fleas and lice don’t live or lay eggs inside the skin, but live on the skin’s surface, in amongst the host’s hair. Fleas have evolved to live on dogs and cats, but they can feed on humans if necessary. Lice, on the other hand, are at home on a human’s body.
Different species of lice can live on different areas of the body. Head lice, for example, live on the head. They are all much smaller than bed bugs, but much larger than scabies mites.
If you think you have an infestation – whether it’s bed bugs, scabies, fleas or lice – you should visit a doctor to have your rash examined. If the doctor suspects that it may be bed bugs, call an exterminator to carry out an assessment on your home.