Bed Bugs on Airplanes | How to Protect Yourself During Flights

Written by Thomas Matthews

Imagine yourself going to the airport to catch a plane for a vacation planned some months ago. You are obviously excited and thinking about this vacation for some time now. However, you could get bitten while sleeping on the plane or your luggage might get infested while getting transported by a plane.

Can bed bugs survive in airplanes? Bed bugs can survive in airplanes because they have lots of hosts to feed on. They boarded the airplane with their already-infested hosts. Other passengers can carry bed bugs into the airplane in their clothes or luggage.

What should you do if you are on a bed bug-infested airplane? Well, there are a couple of strategies that you can apply. One way is to cover your skin, and not give bed bugs a chance to bite you, but there are a couple of more things that you can do that we will talk about later in the article.

How Can Bed Bugs Survive a Plane Flight?

How Can Bed Bugs Survive a Plane Flight

Bed bugs are brought into the plane in the luggage or on the clothes of the host. The temperature for bed bugs on the airplane is ideal. The best living conditions for bed bugs are in human homes, and the temperature with all the other environmental factors in the planes are pretty much the same, so they can comfortably live and thrive in a plane.

The most important thing for bed bugs’ life is the temperature. If the temperature is right, they will function normally. During their long life around us, bed bugs evolved to be able to adapt to our life.

They find us as the best hosts because we live in closed homes, and we don’t move that often. Our homes are sheltered from environmental influences, so bed bugs can reproduce without any problems. We can connect all these elements with a plane.

One more thing about bed bugs and planes – it is very hard to find them because there are a lot of places for them to hide. And even if you find some, you can’t be sure that you found them all. Some of them can remain on passengers, and later they can carry them to their homes, and that`s how bed bug infestations are born.

How Did Bed Bugs Get Into the Plane In The First Place?

How Did Bed Bugs Get Into the Plane In The First Place

Someone could have a bed bug infestation at home and carry some of them on their clothes or in luggage to the plane. Also, there are a lot of bed bug infestations roaming in hostels and even some hotels, so someone could have carried a couple of bed bugs with them on the airplane. Before you leave your accommodation, it is recommended to check for bed bugs, if it`s possible.

A few bed bugs are enough to infest the whole plane. Bed bugs are reproducing quickly. Thus, an airplane is a great home for them, with a lot of hosts to feed off, so they have all the prepositions to multiply very quickly.

How to Protect Yourself from Bed Bugs on a Plane?

Before you take your seat on an airplane, spare a minute and check your seat. This is how you get confronted by your first problem – how to spot a bed bug on a plane. It is even harder to check for bed bugs on an airplane than at home. There are a lot of gaps and it is hard to check places where they can hide, and also, you can`t check under your seat.

At home, you don’t have like 200 or 300 people distracting you from your search for bed bugs. Even so, do your best, and look where you can, because if you spot one, you possibly stopped a bed bug invasion – plane style. If you want to avoid bed bug annoyance during flight, you can take some precautionary measures:

  • Don’t use any pillows or blankets offered by the plane staff. They could be infested with bed bugs
  • Use a seat cover to protect yourself from the nasty bugs
  • Wrap your luggage with a plastic bag, to stop any bed bugs from going in there
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  • It is recommended to put all the clothes you wore during the flight in the washing machine as soon as you get home.

All this will help you if the plane is infested with bed bugs. Continue with the reading if you want to know what to do if you actually see them.

How to Spot Bed Bugs on Your Airplane Seat?

How to Spot Bed Bugs on Your Airplane Seat

When you actually see a bed bug, inform the plane crew. If you can catch one or more of those nasty insects, put them in a plastic bag. That way, you can be sure that they won’t escape.

If you don’t manage to stay bed bug-free after your plane trip, and you bring them back to your home, use a bed bug spray to kill them right away. You can also eradicate them with some heat treatments using a steamer, dryer, or washing machine.

Bed bugs are nothing to joke about because in no time your entire house will be filled with bed bugs. Professionals know where to look for them, and with what chemicals they can destroy them but be aware professional treatments can be very expensive.

How Did the Problem with the Bed Bugs on Planes Start in First Place?

The problem with the bed bugs on planes started when flights to some countries which still have big problems with bed bugs, became cheap and available. When you add into the equation that the USA banned some of the pesticides that were good for getting rid of the bed bugs, you get an ongoing bed bug apocalypse.

These are some of the incidents that were recorded by passengers regarding bed bugs

How Long Does It Take for Bed Bug Bites to Fully Show After the Flight?

Usually, it takes around 24 to 48 hours for the bite from the bed bugs to show. So don’t rush to judge the air company for a bed bug bite. If you noticed the bed bug bites when you settled on a plane, chances are they might have happened before the flight, but you didn’t pay attention to it.

So pay attention and don’t lash out at the cabin crew if you don’t have any evidence for that. You will bring panic to a whole plane, and that is not good when you are flying 10000 meters above the ground.

If you felt the bite, you can check the place you felt it and see the marks. But in that case, it won’t be blistering red, and that is a confirmation that you`ve been bitten recently by a bug. You still need to confirm if that was a bed bug.

What Should I Do After the Flight That Was Infested with Bed Bugs?

If you didn’t protect yourself and your luggage from bed bugs in the first place, you should wash everything as soon as possible. If you carry a few bed bugs or their eggs, which you will have difficulty seeing, you can have a home infestation in no time.

List of Sources

Keep bed bugs from moving in after travel. Michigan State University.
Sutherland, A. M., Choe, D. -H., Lewis, V. R. (2013). Bed Bugs. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.
Bed Bugs FAQs. (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thomas Matthews
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