No, mice and rats do not carry bed bugs. Bed bugs prefer to live indoors near where their human host is.
While bed bugs do feed on rats in the absence of humans, they do not live on their host’s body. They will feed for a few minutes, then promptly return to their hiding places to keep safe while digesting the meal they just had.
What are bed bugs attracted to?
Bed bugs are attracted to the smell of a human host, the carbon dioxide we exhale, and heat.
These three factors are what help bed bugs track a sleeping host at night.
When a person sweats in their sleep, they also release pheromones that the bed bugs are then able to smell. The human body is also the warmest thing in a bedroom, which the bed bugs will be drawn to. The carbon dioxide a person exhales accumulates around the same area when they are asleep and acts as a beacon for the bed bugs to track them down.
Are bed bugs attracted to mice and rats?
While rodents are mammals, exhale carbon dioxide, and give off warmth, it is not as obvious a signal when compared to humans. Humans breathe out more carbon dioxide and have larger bodies that give off more warmth than a tiny mouse, thus bed bugs find us more attractive.
The following are reasons why bed bugs do not infest a home just because they have mice and rats
Bed bugs are indoor pests
Although bed bugs can survive in the outdoors, they prefer being safe inside a dwelling. Only while safe indoors can a bed bug population set up an infestation. This makes sense because the insect bed bugs evolved from lived in caves and fed on bats. Bed bugs are not that quick when compared to other insects, especially since they can neither fly nor jump. They can only crawl away from danger. They also cannot survive on grass in the outdoors because crawling on them takes a lot of energy. Water is also an ever present danger to bed bugs in the outdoors. They can drown in a small amount of water. Surviving the winter cold for bed bugs can also be a challenge, so being cozy inside a bedroom is ideal for them.
Mice do not venture out a lot
Mice and rats are attracted to a house because it is dry, warm, and keeps them away from extreme weather. They also get a regular supply of food and water. As long as the rodent’s bare necessities are met, they will call that place home, build a nest, and start procreating. They do not have any desire to leave as long as they are content. Because of this, mice and rats do not go more than 30 feet away from their nest, so they are unlikely to get bed bugs from another place to bring back to your house.
Do bed bugs feed on mice and rats?
Yes, bed bugs can feed on mice and rats, but in a typical household setting, humans are the bed bug’s preferred host followed by large pets like dogs and cats, then rodents.
Let us say that the family goes on a month-long vacation, taking their pets with them. In the event that their top two preferred hosts are gone, bed bugs will feed on mice and rats instead of starving waiting for the humans to return.
In short, they love human blood, but in a pinch, rodent blood will do.
The ancestors of bed bugs are similar insects that fed on bats. They lived on the cracks on cave walls and waited for the bats to sleep and then fed on them.
Modern bed bugs went through evolutionary changes to be able to feed on all kinds of mammals. This is why they can still thrive in the absence of human hosts. Which is also why in large infestations, you can also find bed bug bites on your house pets.
Do mice and rats carry bed bugs?
No, mice and rats do not carry bed bugs, and here are the reasons why:
Bed bugs are too big for mice or rats to carry
Unlike fleas and lice that are small enough to hide on a mouse or rat’s fur, bed bugs are the size of an apple seed and very easy to spot on the rodent’s body. The mouse or rat can easily find them and scratch them off. The body shape of bed bugs are not ideal for climbing the fur on mice and rats. So, even if the bed bug tries to grab on, they physically cannot.
Bed bugs cannot cling to their host
Bed bug legs cannot grip onto rat hair or skin easily. The way they feed is unlike a tick’s whose head burrows into their host’s skin. They are able to stay in place even if the host tries to scratch them away.
Because bed bugs cannot cling securely to hair or skin, they choose to feed while their host is asleep and immobile. This way they know that they can feed undisturbed.
Bed bugs do not live on their host
Unlike lice and fleas that need to be on their host at all times, bed bugs do not live on their hosts. They live near their hosts, such as in mattresses and box springs. They only come out of their hiding places to feed for a few minutes. They then make their way back to their hiding places to keep safe and to digest the blood they just ingested.
Bed bugs are easily scared
Bed bugs are always wary of the dangers around them, that is why they hide away when not feeding. When they sense movement in their surroundings, they know better than to stay in an area where they can be easily spotted. So, when being around mice and rats that are skittish, bed bugs will run away from them rather than go near them.
No, mice and rats do not carry bed bugs. This is because bed bugs are too big for them to be able to hide under the rodent’s fur. Their legs are also not equipped with the proper characteristics to allow them to grab onto a mouse’s or rat’s skin or fur. Bed bugs also do not have mouths that help burrow their head into their host’s skin, unlike ticks. The skittish nature of mice and rats will frighten bed bugs back into their hiding places.
Image: istockphoto.com / Stefan Rotter