Couches are supposed to be a comfortable place to rest after a tiring day of work. But without your knowledge, there could be some bugs hiding somewhere. Although not all bugs are harmful to humans, some of them bite painfully and cause discomfort. Some bugs can also cause allergies and can trigger asthma.
The most common kinds of household bugs that can hide on couches and other furniture are fleas, bed bugs, carpet beetles, and dust mites. These pests have different characteristics, eating habits, and behaviors.
As you most likely know, household bugs are very small, and some of them can be mistaken for each other. Also, some control methods may not work for all of them. Fortunately, this complete guide will teach you about them.
Common Household Bugs Hiding on Couches and Furniture
Scientifically known as Siphonaptera, fleas are blood-sucking ectoparasites of animals such as cats, dogs, and rodents, but they may also bite humans. There are more than 2,200 flea species worldwide, but the most commonly found ones are the dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) and the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis).
Dog fleas and cat fleas look almost the same. Adult fleas are usually dark brown, reddish-brown, or brown, with bodies flat from side to side and antennae behind their eyes. They also have piercing mouthparts and six legs. Fleas don’t have wings, but they can jump vertically, thanks to their long and powerful hind legs.
On the other hand, flea larvae are creamy white and look like tiny worms. They have dark heads, segmented maggot-like bodies, and chewing mandibles but have no eyes and no legs. Although legless, flea larvae can scrawl using their skin tube muscles, anal struts, and backward-pointing bristles on their bodies.
Adult fleas are about 1/8 inch (3.175 mm) long, while the size of their larvae depends on their age. Newly hatched flea larvae are about 2 mm long and can reach up to 4-5 mm in length once they are fully grown. Meanwhile, flea eggs are white, about 0.5 millimeters in length, and are often mistaken for dandruff.
Fleas undergo complete metamorphosis, which means that they have 4 life stages – egg, larval, pupal, and adult. Flea eggs hatch within 2-5 days, while larvae undergo three larval stages, which last for 1-2 weeks. The pupal stage is also 1-2 weeks, and adults have a lifespan of 2-3 months or up to 100 days.
Fleas have a wide range of habitats but prefer moist and humid areas when outdoors. Indoors, larvae live in areas where pets usually stay. This includes pet sleeping mats, carpets, couches, upholstered furniture, and other hidden areas. They may also stay in bed covers if you allow your pets to sleep in your bed.
Once adult fleas find a suitable animal host, they will jump on it and will take their first blood meal. Amazingly, they can jump up to around 12 inches, upward and outward. Then, they will lay eggs on the fur. Flea larvae fall off the floor, especially when the host scratches them off or if there is a shortage of food.
Adult fleas suck the blood of their host to survive and reproduce. They cannot lay eggs unless they feed on blood. Although most flea species are host-specific, some of them are not. This is why you can also find cat fleas on dogs. Larvae eat flea feces (also called flea dirt), which is mainly composed of undigested blood.
Adult fleas are a threat to their hosts, especially pet cats and dogs. They prefer to stay in one host for the rest of their lives and rarely transfer to pet owners. If untreated, infested pets will suffer from painful and itchy flea bites. This could lead to fur loss, not because of fleas, but because the host will try to bite them off.
Heavily-infested pets may also suffer from anemia due to gradual blood loss. Some dogs are allergic to flea bites, which cause intense scratching. Flea larvae also carry tapeworms, which can enter pets and humans accidentally eat. Infected fleas can also transmit flea-borne (murine) typhus disease to humans.
Signs of Fleas
Since fleas are very tiny and their eggs are almost microscopic, you can hardly see them. Yet, your pet dog or cat will show signs of their presence. Note that your pets can also have fleas even if they rarely go outside your house. This is why you have to monitor your pet closely. Here are some common signs of fleas:
- Your pet is scratching frequently and excessively.
- Your pet bites its skin from time to time.
- Your pet is slowly losing its hair.
- Your pet feels discomfort and cannot sleep well.
- Your pet has crusty scabs or pale gums.
- Your pet has dermatitis due to a flea allergy.
- Your pet has tapeworms.
- You may see some flea eggs or flea dirt on the floor.
How to Get Rid of Fleas?
First of all, you can still have fleas inside your house even if you don’t have pets. This is because opossums, raccoons, or squirrels nesting in your attic can also bring them in. Some fleas can later reach your couches hoping to find a host. With that, here are some ways to get rid of fleas, whether you have pets or not:
- If you notice that your pet has symptoms of fleas, carefully inspect its body, especially in the furriest areas and where your pet scratches a lot.
- For dogs, use dog shampoo with natural oils such as Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Advanced Strength Dog Shampoo .
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- For oral treatment against fleas on dogs, administer Capstar Oral Flea Treatment for Dogs .
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- For large cats, use cat flea treatments such as Advantage II Flea Prevention and Treatment .
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- For oral treatment against fleas on cats, administer Capstar Oral Flea Treatment for Cats .
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- Comb your pets using a flea comb with fine teeth, such as Hartz Groomer's Best Flea Comb for Dogs and Cats .
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- Vacuum every corner of your house, especially the areas where the fleas were found. Vacuum regularly to prevent fleas from coming back.
- For carpets, use a carpet steam cleaner such as Wagner Spraytech On-Demand Steam Cleaner .
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- Wash pet bedding with hot water and soap at least once a week.
- Get rid of opossums, raccoons, skunks, or squirrels in your attic.
- Don’t use flea treatments for dogs on cats. They contain permethrin, which can be very toxic to cats.
- Don’t use flea treatments for cats on dogs. They will most likely not be effective on dogs.
Related: How To Kill Fleas? Best Flea Killers
2. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects that belong to the Cimicidae family. There are around 90 bed bug species, but the two most common ones are the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) and the tropical bed bug (Cimex lectularius). They can be present in your homes, except that the latter live primarily in tropical climates.
Adult bed bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts, antennae, and six legs but have no wings. Their flat, oval bodies are reddish-brown when hungry but will become purplish-red when full. Considered true bugs, these nocturnal pests also have a hard shell called the exoskeleton, just like that of many other insects.
Immature bed bugs (nymphs) look like adults, except that they are smaller. They are usually yellow-white but will turn reddish-brown as they grow older. These nymphs also feed on blood; otherwise, they will not go to the next instar stage. Bed bug eggs are white, elongated oval, and have a hinged cap at one end.
Adult bed bugs are about 1/4 to 3/16 inches (6.35 to 4.76 mm.) long. The sizes of nymphs depend on their ages. Newly hatched nymphs are around 1/16 (1.58 mm) long and can grow up to 1/6 inches (4.23 mm) long in the last instar stage. Bed bug eggs are about 1/16 inches long and look like very tiny grains of rice.
Bed bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, which means that they have no larval stages. Instead, eggs hatch within a week, while nymphs pass through 5 instar stages, which last for about 5 weeks before they become adults. Under normal conditions, the average lifespan of an adult bed bug is about 10 months.
Amazingly, bed bug nymphs can survive for 3 to 6 months without a blood meal. On the other hand, adults can live for more than a year with no food, especially during cooler months. However, hungry bed bugs cannot reproduce. This is why leaving a house for a long time is not a guarantee that bed bugs will be gone.
Contrary to their name, bed bugs are not only found in beds. They can also live in chairs, couches, sofas, and furniture. During heavy bed bug infestations, you can also see them in curtains, between cushions, electrical and electronic appliances, wall hangings, on the floor, on the ceiling, and even in screw heads.
Bed bugs suck blood to survive and reproduce. Although they don’t live on their host, they are still considered parasites. These opportunistic feeders mostly bite humans but may also feed the blood of pets, such as cats and dogs. Despite being most active at night, bed bugs also attack during the day if given the chance.
Bed bug bites can be extremely itchy but don’t pose health risks. Instead, they leave small red bumps or welts surrounded by blisters. Once a bed bug bites, it pierces the skin and injects an anesthetic before withdrawing blood. This is why their bites are initially painless. Hence, they can lead to insomnia and anxiety.
Signs of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are very small fast crawlers and are usually in hidden areas. They also mostly bite at night while people are sleeping, which makes them even more challenging to find. In most cases, their bites are only the ones that tell us their presence. With that, here are some signs of bed bugs that you should know:
- Bed bug bites look like mosquito bites but are usually in a straight or zigzag pattern. Mosquito bites are usually in a random pattern.
- There is bed bug poop in bedsheets in the morning. These feces are dark spots that look like blood stains since they are blood expelled by bed bugs.
- There is bed bug shed skin. They are usually translucent and have hollow outlines of nymphs.
- There is a moldy smell, which also smells like berries. This musty odor can be stronger if the infestation is already heavy.
How Do I Know if I Have Bed Bugs on the Couch?
Aside from your bed, your couch is also not safe from bed bugs, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting on it. Once you have bed bug bites from staying on your couch, you should immediately take action. But instead of throwing away your couch, here are some tips to know if there are bed bugs on your couch:
- Get an old credit card or playing card to kill bed bugs or force them to come out.
- To help you see them better, use a flashlight. Don’t forget to wear gloves.
- If your couch has a slipcover, remove it so you can inspect it better.
- If you spot some bed bugs, place the slipcover in a plastic bag and wash it. If possible, use hot water.
- Check every corner of the cushion, as well as the zipper and edges of your couch.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are solitary creatures, but you can sometimes see them in groups in dark places. They also don’t build nests and don’t have a queen to serve. But whether the infestation is heavy or not, these notorious bloodsuckers are quite difficult to eliminate. With that, here are some ways to get rid of bed bugs:
- Clean and scrub the infested furniture thoroughly with soapy water. For better results, use Harris Toughest Bed Bug Killer Aerosol Spray .
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- Cover your mattress with a zippered mattress encasement for at least a year. This will cause the bed bugs to die of starvation.
- For infested clothes and bedding, you can use a multi-purpose steam cleaner.
- For small items not sensitive to freezing, wrap them in plastic and freeze at 32°F (0°F) or lower for several days.
- If possible, heat-infested items at a temperature of at least 133°F (56°C) for 3-4 hours.
- To help prevent bed bugs from coming back to your bed and other furniture with posts, place interceptor cups such as Climbup Insect Interceptor Bed Bug Trap on each post.
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- For the same purpose, avoid furniture from touching the walls or very near them.
3. Carpet Beetles
There are three most common carpet beetle species – the black carpet beetle (Attagenus unicolor), the varied carpet beetle (Anthrenus verbasci), and the furniture carpet beetle (Anthrenus flavipes). Adult carpet beetles are nuisances outdoors, while their larvae are considered notorious household pests.
Adult carpet beetles look like common ladybugs because they have the same oval bodies. They are also sometimes mistaken for clothes moths. These beetles have short antennae, chewing mouthparts, four wings (outer and inner), and six legs. Their sizes and colors depend on the species, while larvae look similar.
Adult black carpet beetles are usually dark brown or shiny black with brown legs, while adult varied carpet beetles are mostly black with some patterns of brown, dark yellow, or white wing covers. Meanwhile, adult furniture carpet beetles have black spots that are scattered on their white or dark yellow bodies.
Adult varied carpet beetles are about 1/10 inch (2.54 mm) long, while adult varied carpet beetles are slightly longer. Adult furniture carpet beetles are 2.0-3.5 mm long. Carpet beetle larvae are about 1/8 to 1/4 inches (3.175 to 6.35 mm) long, depending on the species. Their bodies are covered with colored stiff hairs.
Carpet beetles undergo complete metamorphosis. In general, eggs hatch within 10-20 days. Larvae pass through several larval stages, which last between 220 and 630 days. The pupal stage usually lasts from 8 to 14 days. Female adults have a lifespan of 4-8 weeks, while most males live shorter, up to 4 weeks only.
Adult carpet beetles live outdoors, usually in gardens, landscapes, and other areas with flowery plants. They can also be seen in window sills when there is light. But then, most females tend to enter houses to lay eggs. They find food sources for their larvae. This includes pantries, dry food storage, and cabinets.
On the other hand, carpet beetle larvae live in their food until they emerge as adults. If there is a lack of food, they will slowly crawl to other areas where they can find food. This includes carpets, couches, furniture, closest, under baseboards, and inside floor vents. These destructive pests are unlikely to leave on their own.
Adult carpet beetles feed on pollen from flowers such as buckwheat, crape myrtle, and spiraea. This is why they are mostly outdoors. On the other hand, larvae eat animal-based materials such as wool, fur, feathers, and stuffed animals. Larvae of some species feed on dry foods, including seeds and grains.
Adult carpet beetles become a threat once they are indoors and lay eggs. Hence, larvae are major threats not in only homes but also museums. They damage dry foods, clothes, blankets, leather items, upholstered furniture, and other similar items. Nonetheless, larvae don’t eat synthetic fabrics such as nylon.
All stages of carpet beetles don’t pose health risks to humans and pets. They don’t bite and sting. Also, they don’t carry diseases. However, direct contact with larvae brittle or sked skin may cause allergic reactions and skin rashes in some people. Allergy due to carpet beetles is not dangerous and can easily be treated.
Signs of Carpet Beetles
Adult and larvae carpet beetles are very small but can still be seen by the naked eye. However, they are in the dark most of the time, especially larvae. With that, most homeowners are not aware that there is already an infestation. To help you out, here are some major signs of carpet beetles inside your house or property:
- Adult carpet beetles in window sills, especially in the spring when they are most active
- Small, scattered holes in fabrics, carpets, couches, and upholstered furniture
- Shed skins and brown or black fecal pellets in carpets, fabrics, and cupboards
- Damaged dry food packages and stuffed animals
- Developing larvae crawling on floors
How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles?
Using insecticides against carpet beetles on food is strongly discouraged. There is also no scientifically proven method to eliminate them permanently. Yet, there are several ways to kill them. There are also some preventive measures, but you should do them regularly. Here are some ways to get rid of carpet beetles:
- To kill adult carpet beetles, place non-toxic sticky traps such as Catchmaster Double-Sided Flying Insect Trap on windows sills.
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- To kill carpet beetle larvae, place infested belongings inside a freezer at -20°F (-28.9°C) for at least three days. For sensitive items, place them at 40-42°F (4.4°C-5.5°C) for a long time.
- Alternatively, place infested items under direct sunlight or at 105°F (40.5°C) for at least 4 hours.
- Sprinkle baking soda on items infested with carpet beetle larvae. Although non-toxic, large amounts can ruin glass, marble, ceramic, and wood.
- Sprinkle boric acid on infested items. Note, however, that it can be toxic to humans when ingested or inhaled. Huge amounts can also damage metal and concrete.
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- Spread Food-grade Diatomaceous earth (DE) on areas with larvae. DE is effective in killing carpet beetles as long as they are in a dry place.
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- Vacuum the areas where the larvae were found, and vacuum regularly to help prevent them from coming back.
- Inspect dry food packages thoroughly before bringing them inside your house. Transfer them to tightly-sealed containers.
- Wash seldom-used fabrics at least once a month.
- Seal gaps and crevices, and replace damaged window screens.
4. Dust Mites
As the name suggests, dust mites are microscopic creatures that are associated with dust. There are more than 13 dust mite species in the world, but the two most common ones are the American house dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).
Adult house dust mites are clear to creamy white and have a hairy globular body shape and eight hairy legs. Therefore, they are not insects but are related to spiders and ticks. Dust mites have no eyes, no wings, and no antennae. These flightless insects also don’t jump but rather hitchhike on clothing through the dust.
Dust mite eggs are cream-colored with a sticky substance. Females lay one egg a day or about 50 eggs in their lifetime. Although adults and nymphs cannot be seen by the naked eye, there could be thousands of them in just one gram of house dust. This means that an infested mattress can have millions of dust mites.
Adult house dust mites are only about 0.5 mm long, which means that they can only be seen using a magnifying glass or microscope. Dust mite nymphs are much smaller but look the same as adults. Female dust mites are around 420 microns (0.42 mm) long and 320 microns (0.32 mm) wide, while males are quite thinner.
Like all arachnids, dust mites undergo incomplete or simple metamorphosis. They pass through 5 life stages – egg, larva, protonymph, tritonymph, and adult. During optimum temperature and humidity, their life cycle can be completed within a month. Adult dust mites have an average lifespan of 1 to 2 months.
As mentioned above, dust mites live where there is dust. Note that dust contains dirt, fibers, mold spores, microplastics, pollen, and human debris, such as hair and skin cells. Interestingly, humans shed skin around 1/5 ounces (5.6 grams) of dead skin every week. This is why dust mites also live in beds and mattresses.
Dust also contains animal dander, which is the dead skin shed by hot-blooded mammals such as cats and dogs. This animal shed skin looks like dandruff but is much smaller. Contrary to what some people think, homes without pets also have animal dander. Dust mites can also be hiding on couches and other furniture.
Dust mites eat bacteria, fungi, and pollen, as well as human and animal dander. These hungry pests don’t feed on newly discarded dander because it has keratin which is not digestible for them. Instead, they wait for the skin scales to contain bacteria, fungi, and molds. Dust mites don’t drink but absorb water from the air.
Dust mites are not parasites, and they don’t bite or sting. Nevertheless, they are a threat to people with dust mite allergies, especially those suffering from asthma. Note that dust mites are not the cause of allergies but the enzymes present in them. Dust mite debris also becomes airborne, which affects indoor air quality.
Signs of Dust Mites
Dust mites are everywhere, every day in homes but are more common during summer months. Although they seem to be invisible and don’t bite humans, their mere presence causes skin allergies and can trigger asthma. To help you detect if you are infected by dust mites, here are common signs of dust mite allergy:
- Audible wheezing sound when exhaling
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Facial pain
- Frequent sneezing
- Frequent upward rubbing of the nose (especially children)
- Itchy nose or throat
- Itchy, red bumps or eczema
- Itchy, red, and watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Runny nose
- Swollen eyes
- Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites?
If the signs of dust mite allergy persist for a week, the patient may need some medications. Seek a doctor’s advice before taking any medicine, as he might first suggest the patient have a blood test. Once confirmed to have an allergy due to dust mites, here are some tips on how to get rid of stubborn dust mites at home:
- Vacuum carpets at least twice a week, and avoid having wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Wash bed sheets, blankets, and pillowcases in hot water at a temperature of least 130°F (54.4°C). This will kill all life stages of dust mites.
- To help prevent dust mites from entering your mattress and pillows, place them in zippered, dust-proof hypoallergenic covers such as Microfiber Zippered Mattress Cover and Everlasting Comfort Waterproof Pillow Protectors .
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- Instead of upholstered beds and couches, use those with a wooden or metal frame.
- If any of your household members have asthma, don’t expose them to stuffed toys.
- Relocate or remove furniture from dust-prone areas.
- Dust mites thrive within a temperature range of 68-77°F (20-25°C), with humidity levels of 70-80%. Aside from improving your ventilation system, try installing a reliable dehumidifier such as Gocheer Upgraded Dehumidifier .
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Tips for Avoiding Household Bugs With Secondhand Furniture
To save some money, buying secondhand furniture is better than buying a new one. But aside from some damage or scratches, there could also be some bed bugs that come with it. If you ignore them, it could be a costly mistake on your part. Here are some tips to avoid household bugs from secondhand furniture:
- If possible, visit the store or home of the seller of the used furniture. If it looks unsanitary, look for another seller.
- Avoid buying large secondhand furniture with lots of joints and tiny spaces where bugs can hide.
- Inspect the furniture thoroughly before bringing it inside your house. Also, be aware of a possible foul smell.
- Shake it well and check if some bugs are falling off.
- Clean the furniture with bleach solution or vinegar. To check if your cleaner will not damage the surface, test using small amounts.
- Let it dry under direct sunlight for at least a day. Make sure that all surfaces face the sun.
Regardless of the type of household bugs you have in your house, the best preventive measure is proper sanitation. You should have a regular general cleaning schedule for your beds, cabinets, sofas, couches, and other furniture. If you have pet dogs and cats, bathe them regularly and monitor their activities.
List of Sources
Potter, M.F. (2018). Flea Control and Prevention. University of Kentucky.
Gripp, S. I., Quesada, C. (2022). Biology, Habitat, and Management of Bed Bugs. PennState Extention.
Choe, D-H. (2020). Carpet Beetles. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.
Ogg, B. Managing Dust Mites. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Denmark, H. A., Cromroy, H. L. (2020). House Dust Mites, Dermatophagoides spp. University of Florida.