Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothes?

Bed bugs are notorious pests that can cause distress to homeowners. Many people are concerned about their presence in their homes, including the possibility of bed bugs biting through their clothes. In this blog post, we will explore the truth about bed bug bites, their behavior, signs of infestation, and how to differentiate their bites from hives and no-see-um bites. We will also discuss preventive measures and how to deal with a bed bug infestation.

Bed Bug Biting Behavior: 

Bed bugs are known for their itchy bites, but they cannot actually bite through clothing. Their mouths lack the strength to penetrate fabric. Instead, they have a sharp proboscis that pierces the skin to access blood. The proboscis is akin to a straw, which is used to extract blood while injecting anesthetic and anticoagulant substances to prevent pain and blood clotting. Though they can’t bite through clothes, they can crawl under loose clothing or find exposed skin, especially if your clothes shift during sleep.

Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation: 

Identifying a bed bug infestation is crucial. Some signs include:

  • Small, itchy bites on the skin, often in a zigzag or straight-line pattern.
  • Bloodstains or fecal spots on your mattress and bedding.
  • Discarded exoskeletons, which are shed as bed bugs grow.
  • Tiny, pinhead-sized white eggs.
  • A musty odor in the bedroom.

Differentiating Bed Bug Bites from Hives: 

Bed bug bites can be mistaken for hives due to their similar appearance. However, several key differences can help you distinguish them:

  • Size: Bed bug bites are typically no larger than a pencil eraser, whereas hives can vary in size.
  • Color: Bed bug bites are red, with the surrounding skin often appearing white. Hives can vary in color, with the surrounding skin generally darker.
  • Shape: Bed bug bites tend to be round, while hives can have various shapes.
  • Location: Bed bugs usually bite exposed skin, such as arms and legs. Hives can appear anywhere on the body, but bed bugs can crawl under clothing and bite in covered areas as well.

If multiple people in your home experience similar skin markings, it’s likely due to bed bug bites, and you should inspect for an infestation.

Distinguishing No-See-Um Bites from Bed Bug Bites:

No-see-um bites, caused by tiny flies, can also be confused with bed bug bites. Differentiating between them is important:

  • Bite Patterns: Bed bug bites often form zigzag or straight-line patterns, while no-see-um bites are clustered and less uniform.
  • Frequency: Bed bug bites are usually more numerous on the body compared to no-see-um bites.
  • Healing Time: Bed bug bites typically heal faster than no-see-um bites, though individual reactions may vary.

Preventing Unwanted Bug Bites: 

Preventing Unwanted Bug Bites: 

To prevent both bed bug and no-see-um bites, consider the following measures:

For No-See-Ums:

  • Use sprays and carbon dioxide traps.
  • Keep your home cool with air conditioning to deter them.

For Bed Bugs:

  • Maintain a clean and clutter-free home.
  • Inspect secondhand items thoroughly before bringing them indoors.
  • Call a pest control specialist for a bed bug infestation.

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Can bed bugs live on clothing? 

Bed bugs can hide in clothing, but they do not typically live there. They may crawl onto clothing while seeking a blood meal, which can then be transported to other areas of your home.

How do I wash clothing and bedding to get rid of bed bugs? 

To eliminate bed bugs from clothing and bedding, wash them in hot water and dry them on high heat. Using a steam vacuum on mattresses and floors can also help. Additionally, encasing your mattress in a protector can suffocate any remaining bed bugs.

What is the best way to prevent a bed bug infestation? 

Keeping your home clean, inspecting secondhand items, and being cautious when traveling can help prevent bed bug infestations. Regularly checking your bedding and furniture for signs of bed bugs is also advisable.

Are bed bug infestations common?

Bed bug infestations can occur in any home, but they are more common in places with high turnover, such as hotels and apartment buildings. They have become increasingly prevalent in recent years.

Can I treat a bed bug infestation on my own? 

While DIY methods may help reduce bed bug numbers temporarily, professional pest control services are the most effective way to completely eradicate a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs are resilient and can be challenging to eliminate without expert assistance.


While bed bugs cannot bite through clothing, they can still crawl underneath or find exposed skin to feed on. It’s essential to recognize the signs of a bed bug infestation, distinguish their bites from hives and no-see-um bites, and take preventive measures to avoid bug bites. In the event of an infestation, professional pest control services are the most effective way to eliminate these unwanted pests from your home.