Finding bed bugs in the closet is something nobody wants to happen. But if you’re sure you have bed bugs, and don’t know where they are, you’ll have to search for them.
Check for living bed bugs, dead bed bugs, feces, and shells. First, take everything out of the closet and bag it up. Then, comb each crack, corner and join in the closet, especially inside and behind drawers. Then check each of your items of clothing individually and wash them if you see any sign.
Bed bugs love closets because they’re dark, and they may smell like you. They’re also reasonably close to your bed, so there’s likely to be some bed bugs in there. Find out why they pick closets, how to find bed bugs in closets, and how to get rid of them.
Table of Contents:
Do Bed Bugs Go in Closets?
Bed bugs can easily access any part of your home. They are good at hiding in cracks, which enables them to spread from place to place unnoticed.
If a bed bug wants to get in your closet, there are two ways it can. It could hide in your belongings. This is how bed bugs are introduced in most infestations. The bug may hide in your clothes or bag, for example. If you put these in your closet, the bed bug will hide in there.
Alternatively, the bed bug could make its way inside on its own. There may already be an infestation in your home. One of those bugs may want somewhere new to live. It could access the closet through the cracks between or under the doors.
If the bug that gets inside is a female, it could start an infestation. Bed bugs only need to mate once, and the female can lay eggs for weeks afterward.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Your Closet?
Closets are a good place to hide, mate, digest, and more. Your closet is likely close to your bed. The closer something is to your bed, the easier it is for bed bugs to live there.
Closets are also dark. Bed bugs are photophobic, which means they will do anything to avoid going out in the light. They prefer hiding places like under the mattress as these never see any light. Some parts of your closet likely never see light too.
There are lots of cracks, crevices and joins for them to hide in too. Bed bugs search out cracks and holes because of their evolutionary history. Their ancient ancestors lived in caves (as relatives of the bed bug still do). These caves had cracks for them to hide in.
The closet will smell like you. While you do wash your clothes, they will still smell of you to an extent. Your whole room does. Bed bugs are attracted to the smell of people.
Can Bed Bugs Infest Closet?
However, there are many places that bed bugs go, but do not infest. A good example is a carpet. Bed bugs often have to cross the carpet to feed at night. But they would rather not live in the carpet as it’s too open, and there’s too much light.
The closet is somewhere that they will live and lay eggs, though. Bed bugs search for dark places to lay their eggs. Once an egg-laying female starts laying somewhere, if she isn’t disturbed, she will set up a large infestation.
This can happen in your closet the same as it can happen in other parts of your room.
Do Bed Bugs Infest Closet Drawers?
There are many kinds of drawer you can have in a closet. Some are built in, while others you buy and place in there yourself. Bed bugs can infest both kinds.
If there are drawers in your closet, they will be the bed bugs’ favorite place to infest. The main reason is that they’re easy to access. The drawers are likely on the bottom of the closet, which means they can easily climb in and out.
Also, you may only access them infrequently. The more infrequently you use them, the more secure the area is for bed bugs. This allows infestations to develop undisturbed.
They will be especially infested if they contain lots of things for them to hide in. Folded up clothes, bags, scarves, shoes, and even random items like electronics could all become infested too.
Bed Bugs in Closet Clothing
Bed bugs like clothing. Studies show that they are attracted to clothing, especially when it smells like you. But even when it doesn’t, it offers an excellent home for a bed bug. That’s because:
- Bed bugs enjoy living on fabric, as evidenced from them living in your bedding
- Clothing has pockets and seams for bed bugs to hide in
- The clothing may be folded up in a drawer or on the bottom of the closet
However, they are unlikely to live in clothes that are hung up. That’s because these clothes are difficult to access. To infest them, the bugs would have to climb the wall of the closet, get onto the rail or hanger, and jump down.
Then, when they want to feed, they would have to jump out to make their way back. Bed bugs would rather live somewhere that’s easy to access. That’s why they infest your bed before anywhere else, as it’s the easiest place to access you from.
So, if there are any clothes folded in your closet or a drawer, they can infest them. But if they’re hung up, then it’s unlikely.
Can Bed Bugs Live on Hangers?
That being said, bed bugs can’t live anywhere in your closet. There is a limit to what they can do. They can’t live on clothes hangers, for example. There are several reasons why:
- Clothes hangers don’t offer much of a surface for them to live on
- Clothes hangers are vertical, while bed bugs prefer a flat surface to sit on
- Bed bugs prefer fabric, wood or even the wall over metal or plastic
- Depending on the hanger, it may be completely uniform all over, with nothing to hide under
They could live on or around hangers when they aren’t hung up. But this applies to almost anything, so hangers aren’t special in any way.
How to Check Your Closet for Bed Bugs
When searching for bed bugs, there are four things to look for. These are the best bugs themselves, dead bed bugs, and old shells and feces. The more signs you find, the bigger the infection likely is.
Here’s how to search for these things, where to look for them, and what they look like.
Prepare Your Closet to Search for Bed Bugs
If you jumped right in and starting searching for bed bugs in your closet, that wouldn’t be a good idea. That’s because bed bugs scatter when disturbed. As such, you may encourage more infestations to form by searching unprepared.
Start by preparing your room. Get rid of any clutter on the floor as bed bugs can hide underneath. Close the door and put something in the way of the gap underneath. This will prevent the bugs from spreading around your house.
You also have to prepare the things in your closet. If you’re like most people, then your closet will be full of stuff you infrequently wear or use. Take these things out of the closet one by one and put them directly into a sealed bag or box.
You can come back to these things later and check/treat them for bed bugs. Leave your closet empty so that you can start your search.
Search for Living Bed Bugs
Bed bugs reproduce quickly. Even a single female bed bug can lay lots of eggs, provided she mated beforehand. You’re likely to find many bed bugs in an infestation.
Bed bugs are small, but are visible to the naked eye. They are brown and about the size of an apple seed. Their rear end is wider and longer than their head and upper body (thorax).
They have six legs and can scuttle quickly when disturbed. They normally only come out during the night, and sit and digest in the day. To find bed bugs, search in the following places:
- Cracks and crevices, which are dark, and so a good place to hide
- Underneath drawers in your closet
- Underneath clothes that have been sitting in place for a long time
If there is one bed bug, there are likely to be more. However, if you can’t find any in these places, you will have to search for the signs of them instead.
Search for Dead Bed Bugs
Wherever there are bed bugs, there will be dead bed bugs too. Bed bugs have a waxy coating on their shells that stops them dehydrating. They don’t rot, and hardly anything eats them as they can’t access their hiding places.
All of this means that when a bed bug dies, its body will stay there for at least a while. You will find them anywhere that you find bed bugs. You can identify that they’re dead bed bugs because:
- They don’t move if you disturb them
- They don’t move if you poke them
- They may be curled up
- They may be on their back
Dead bed bugs are a sign of infestation. However, the infestation may have already gone. If you have previously had bed bugs, and had them treated, the dead bug could be left over from last time. You will need to find a live bed bug to confirm a current infestation.
Search for Bed Bug Shells
Bed bug shells are hard and inflexible. As such, as bed bugs grow from an egg to an adult, they have to shed their shells multiple times. This is the case for all bed bug species, and both male and female.
These shells are made from a similar material to nails. So, like dead bed bugs, they don’t rot or dry out entirely. Nothing eats them. They remain in place until they’re cleared away, so again, they may be a sign of a previous infestation.
You’re likely to find them in corners. Bed bug frequently live in corners. Also, if the shell has been around for a long time, it may have been knocked or brushed into the corner and stayed there.
Search for Bed Bug Feces
Bed bugs feed on nothing but blood, and their feces reflect that. It is dark red to black. When fresh, it is liquid, if stickier and thicker than blood. It sits on fabric in tiny droplets.
It dries over time into a solid black dot. The dot sticks hard to the surface it’s left on, whether wood or fabric.
To find bed bug feces, look in corners and cracks. Bed bugs leave it behind wherever they live. Do bear in mind, though, that feces may not be a sign of immediate infestation. It may be left over from old infestations, like shells and dead bugs.
If you find any, clear it away. According to the journal Pest Management Science, new infestations are attracted to old bed bug feces. This is an evolutionary tactic developed because it indicates a host is nearby.
How to Check Your Clothes for Bed Bugs
Next, you have to check your belongings for bed bugs. If you didn’t find any in your closet, then it’s unlikely that there will be any in the belongings from inside. However, it is possible.
All your belongings should still be bagged or boxed securely from the beginning of this process. Take the bag outside, where there is a lot of natural light, and the bugs can’t easily re-enter your home.
Then, take each item out of the bag one by one. Wipe it all over with a cloth if possible, or pass over it with your hands. Either way, check each part of the item before putting it in a new bag.
Do I Have to Wash Hanging Clothes for Bed Bugs?
There is a way of cutting down on this process. You could take all of your clothes and put them directly into the washing machine. Wash your clothes as you usually would, and leave them to dry somewhere there aren’t any bugs.
This will ensure that there are no bugs in your clothes whatsoever. Once you’re sure your closet is bed bug free, you can put your clothes back inside.
This isn’t strictly necessary. It’s highly unlikely that your hanging clothes will have bed bugs in them. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Closet
Getting bed bugs out of a closet is difficult. It’s the same for any furniture. No matter how you try to treat them, you will have trouble reaching their deepest hiding places.
This is the case whether you hire an exterminator or try to treat the infestation yourself. So, if you’re looking for a bed bug treatment for closet, follow our brief guide below.
Bed Bug Treatment for Closet
We advise hiring a pest control professional. It is possible to terminate bed bugs yourself, but it takes time. In the meantime, as you try to terminate each bed bug, you will still be continuously bitten. A pest controller can terminate them immediately.
Contact a pest controller with good reviews and ask for heat treatment. Heat treatment is a bed bug pesticide alternative. The exterminator will raise the temperature inside the room to 140 degrees or higher, which is the temperature required to terminate bed bugs.
After the treatment is complete, every bed bug should be dead. You will then have to go through the process of cleaning them up.
You could opt for pesticide treatment. The exterminator will spray anywhere they think there are bed bugs. However, insecticides take weeks to terminate every single bed bug.
Plus, according to a paper in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, bed bugs are becoming immune to pesticides. That’s because they both change their behavior, and grow thicker shells. Heat treatment is the superior option.
DIY Bed Bug Closet Treatment
There are many ways to terminate bed bugs on your own. Some of the better-known methods include:
- Using handheld spray cans containing an insecticide
- Using homemade bed bug sprays, e.g., those made from essential oils
- Using diatomaceous earth to dry bed bugs out and terminate them gradually
- Fitting an encasement to your mattress
If you can’t afford an exterminator, or you’d rather do it yourself, you can. But before you try, be aware that it’s not likely to be as effective as proper treatment.