No, bed bugs do not eat food because the only thing they consume is blood. All of the nutrients bed bugs need to live are in blood. Bed bugs also do not have mouth parts that allow them to chew through wood, so even if they wanted to eat wood, they would not be able to.
There may be a misconception that bed bugs eat wood because they can often be found hiding out in the cracks and crevices of wooden furniture. Bed bugs love to set up their harborages in wooden furniture because it is dry, warm, and has lots of joints and edges that they can squeeze into for safety and to lay their eggs in.
Signs of bed bugs in wooden furniture
The most obvious signs that your piece of wooden furniture is infested by bed bugs are live bed bugs, shed exoskeletons, blood stains, bed bug feces stains, and a distinct musty and musky odor that is due to the bed bugs’ pheromones.
This may sound easy, but it can be tricky to seek out these pests on wooden furniture. The color of bed bugs allow them to essentially camouflage on wood. Their flat bodies also allow them to squeeze into the tiniest cracks and joints of the wood furniture.
How do I check my wooden furniture for bed bugs?
Get a light-colored sheet or blanket, a small knife or spatula, and a flashlight. Place the sheet under the furniture you are inspecting. Use the knife or spatula to run between each joint to disturb or dislodge the bed bugs. If you want to have a better look, use your flashlight. If there are bed bugs, they will fall onto the sheet on the floor.
Can bed bugs burrow through wood?
As mentioned above, because bed bugs love to hide out in wooden furniture, people assume that they burrowed themselves into the wood.
Bed bugs cannot burrow through wood. They do not have the physical capabilities to do it. Insects like termites eat their way through wood because they have mouths and jaws that can do so.
Bed bugs do not have mouth parts for chewing or burrowing. They have a straw-like proboscis, akin to a mosquito’s.
The cracks in wood that bed bugs lodge into are there because wood expands and contracts depending on the season. Bed bugs just happen upon these cracks and call them home. They did not have to work to make these holes and cracks, but they are thankful since they now have a place to live and lay their eggs.
Do bed bugs eat wood?
No, bed bugs do not eat wood because their sole food is blood. They cannot chew wood since they do not have jaws or teeth. Bed bugs have a straw-like proboscis that they use to pierce through their host’s skin. Their saliva has anesthetic properties that numbs the area they are biting so the host is never aware they are being fed on. Their saliva also has an anticoagulant that stops the blood from clotting so the blood continues to flow as they are feeding.
A bed bug’s mouth anatomy is so specific to their food source, that there is no way they can use it to consume anything solid.
Bed bugs also need to consume blood for every major change in their life cycle. Once a bed bug egg hatches, the baby bed bug or nymph has to feed as soon as it can. They will go through five nymphal stages and they will need to take a blood meal between each stage. They need the blood to help them grow into an adult bed bug. Once a bed bug is a sexually mature adult. They will need to feed regularly to produce healthy and viable eggs. The male bed bug also needs to feed regularly so produce healthy sperm.
Why do bed bugs only eat blood?
Bed bugs evolved from bat bugs. They belong to the same genus as bed bugs. They looked very similar to bed bugs except they live in caves and fed on bats. Over the next several thousand years, as humans began living in caves, these bugs started feeding on them as well. The bat bugs realized that humans are much better sources of food compared to bats. Humans have more blood, not as furry as bats, and humans do not preen as much as bats do. This led to their evolution towards becoming the bed bugs we know today.
How do I remove bed bugs from wooden furniture?
First, vacuum any bed bugs you can find on the surface. Then use a steamer, if you have one, to kill any remaining bed bugs. Put on a fumigation mask. Spray the pesticide in the joints and the cracks of the furniture. If you have a wooden bed frame, remove the mattress and bedding before you spray the entire construction. To be safe, spray down your mattress as well.
Wait for all the pesticide spray to dry up. You can spray the surfaces again if you want.
If you can afford to, hire a professional exterminator to perform a heat treatment in your home. This is when they bring in industrial heaters into your home to increase the temperature to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. They will keep this temperature stable for several hours to make sure that all the bed bugs and their eggs are killed. For wooden surfaces, specifically, heat treatment is the safest and most efficient method.
No, bed bugs do not eat wood because they do not have the necessary mouth parts to bite or chew through wood. They do not have teeth or jaws to burrow into wood. They also get all of their needed nutrients from the blood of humans or other warm-blooded animals.
There is a misconception that bed bugs eat wood because they are often found in the cracks on wooden furniture. But even if bed bugs wanted to eat wood, they would not be able to.
Image: istockphoto.com / Matteo Lanciano