Written by A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
Bed bugs hide on your bed so they can be close enough to feed on your blood while you sleep.
And, because they are nocturnal and hide in the tiniest cracks and crevices on your mattress and bed, it can be a while before you know you have them.
As the infestation grows, they will spread to other areas of the room, which is something you want to avoid happening.
However, by understanding where these blood-sucking pests shelter and breed, you can prevent a bed bug infestation from spreading.
So, let’s look further at their harborages so you have a better idea of where they are found.
Where Do Bed Bugs Usually Hide?
Even though bed bugs can hide in many different places, the infestation will begin in their primary harborage, which is your bed or wherever else you sleep or rest for extended periods, such as the couch.
Why Do Bed Bugs Live in Beds?
Bed bugs are nocturnal, photophobic (they avoid light), and thigmotactic (they like direct contact with other surfaces), and the tiny spaces in your mattress and bed provide these, making it ideal for them to hide and breed without being disturbed.
Bed bug survival depends not only on having regular access to a host’s blood, but also on being able to hide undetected so they can digest their meal, mate, and reproduce.
This explains why an estimated 70–85% of a bed bug infestation is on the mattress and mattress seams, the box spring, and the bed frame.
This pest is attracted to your blood which they need to survive and produce offspring, but there are other attractants, such as warmth and CO2 emitted from your body, that draw them to you while you sleep.
The bed bug population will start to spread away from your bed as it grows, but they prefer to stay within 3-6 feet of where you sleep because they can detect the attractants your body emits within this range.
Where Do Bed Bugs Hide on Your Mattress and Box Spring?
You now know that bed bugs live and hide as close to their food source as possible. Although they are secretive and cryptic, their harborages are predictable because they live in groups, are dependent on blood, and feed at night.
On your mattress and box spring, you’ll find them concealed in the following areas:
- along the seams and piping and behind tags and labels
- in tufts and folds and corners and creases
- on corner protectors and decorative buttons.
You get the idea! Basically, they’ll hide anywhere they can crawl into, that is dark, and they won’t be detected.
However, once the infestation starts to grow and they run out of space on the bed and surrounding area, they will spread out, searching for other hiding spots and other people to feed on. At this point, it makes them and their hideouts less predictable and harder to treat.
That’s why spotting the signs of bed bugs early is important, so you can prevent this from happening.
Where else do bed bugs hide? Another common place for these nocturnal creatures to hide is on the headboard, where they make their way into the fabric’s folds, behind buttons, and also behind and underneath the headboard.
The bed frame, either wood or metal, provides lots of cracks, crevices, and screw holes to hide in. They will also crawl into the corners and joints of the frame.
As the population level increases, the remaining 15–30% of the infestation is found nearby, such as behind cabinets, underneath wallpaper, in carpets, curtains, and upholstered furniture, on baseboards behind the bed, in floorboards, behind electrical switchplates, in furniture joints, as well as many other places.
These appleseed-shaped pests are only the width of your credit card when they flatten their bodies to hide, so if a crack in a wall can hold your card, then it can certainly be a hiding and breeding area for them.
Can Bed Bugs Live on a Memory Foam Mattress?
Bed bugs are not fussy when it comes to mattresses, so they can live on a regular mattress or a memory foam mattress.
They will also infest inside a mattress or box spring if there is a small hole or tear through which they can crawl.
Where Do Bed Bugs Hide During the Day?
It is estimated bed bugs spend 90% of their lives hiding within the bed, only emerging to feed for short periods while we sleep and remain motionless.
As they like to stay close to their host, you will find them hiding in all of the above places during both the daytime and nighttime.
You typically do not see bed bugs during the day, but when nighttime comes around, these nocturnal pests leave their hiding places to feed, being led by the heat and CO2 detected from you while you sleep.
However, if they are hungry, or if you usually sleep during the day because you work at night, they will come out during the day to feed instead.
Having said that, if you have found one bed bug crawling around during the day and you usually sleep at night, then this could indicate a heavily infested room.
You can see photos of where they hide on our bed bug pictures page.
Other Places Bed Bugs Hide
There are many more places where they tuck themselves away but always start by inspecting your bed for signs of bed bugs first.
Another common harborage site is the couch. The reason bed bugs live in the couch and other upholstered furniture is that you often rest for long periods of time or sleep on them.
Another reason is that if you are bitten by bed bugs in your bed, and you move to the couch to sleep, these pests will soon find you there as well.
Here are some other places where you’ll find bed bugs hiding:
- Furniture seams
- Furniture screw heads. The image below shows how small they are as multiple bed bugs are hiding inside a screw head.
- Laundry basket
- Pet bedding
- Mattress and box spring
- Picture frames
- Mirrors on walls
- Inside, behind, and underneath dressers and nightstands
- Cracks and crevices
- Along and under carpet edging
- Ceiling fixtures
- Light fittings
- Book spines
- Smoke detectors
- Electrical outlets and switch plates.
Evidence of Bed Bugs in Hiding Places
Although they can go undetected for long periods, there are some early signs that are clues that they are in your home, such as:
- Bloodstains on your bedding
- Bed bug eggs
- Casings/shed skins
- Dark fecal spots on the mattress and box spring
- Live bed bugs (adults and nymphs)
Of course, there are also physical signs such as welts that can, but not always, appear on exposed areas of your skin after the bug has finished feeding, which takes between 5-10 minutes as you don’t feel the bed bug bite.
Another indication is the smell of bed bugs, which is the unpleasant musty odor from their scent glands. This is usually only detected when the infestation has grown in size, but not everyone notices it.
Places Outside of Your Home Where Bed Bugs Shelter
Bed bugs get their name because they feed on you when you’re asleep in bed. But they can be spread and found hiding in other places where people gather, for example, they can find their way into your home by hitch-hiking in your backpack if you’ve used public transport, in your suitcase if you’ve stayed in a hotel that has bed bugs, or you’ve brought second-hand furniture items into your home.
It’s important to find out how you got bed bugs in the first place so you can prevent a re-infestation.
Hopefully, you’ve got a much better idea of where bed bugs hide in your home, and they can be hard to detect and get rid of once they start to spread away from the bed area.
As such, it’s always best to call a professional pest control company to inspect your property. They will look at all the areas where they could shelter, and then use the necessary pest control measures to remove them.
But this can be costly and is not always within everyone’s budget, so my detailed guide on how to get rid of bed bugs when on a tight budget will give you advice and tips on how to eliminate them yourself.
 Mallis Handbook of Pest Control.