Do They Jump Like Fleas or Fly Around
Bed bugs crawl and climb, but cannot jump.
If one observes bed bugs climbing on a wall, bed bugs might fall onto another surface like a bed. People might think that bed bugs jumped onto their bed. The truth is that bed bugs cannot jump.
The bed bug legs are not developed for jumping. Flea legs, on the other hand, are well developed to jump many times the flea’s height.
Why Do People Think They Can Jump?
Even small nymphs or the juvenile form of bed bugs cannot jump. These nymphs will readily feed on humans but they cannot jump onto their hosts. Sometimes, if a nearly invisible nymph is picked up, it can easily be dropped. People then assume that the bed bug has jumped, but this is not possible.
Falling from Wall or Ceiling
When bed bugs fall from a vertical surface such as a wall that is not best suited for them to climb or when they are alarmed, they will fall from the surface. This gives the appearance that the bed bug is “jumping from the wall” but this is not true as well. As early as 1829, bed bug “falling” from ceilings was reported by scientists and attributed to the alarm mechanism. When they drop, they make efforts to right themselves.
Another situation which appears that bed bugs are jumping is when linens are changed on a bed. If the bed bugs are infesting a bed and they are on a sheet that is being changed, the bed bugs may be catapulted into the air from the snapping of the sheets. The bed bug is not jumping but is being tossed into the air by the unwary person changing the sheets. If the person has not seen the bed bugs prior, it appears that the bed bug is jumping onto the floor.
So while there are situations which make bed bugs appear to jump, they are physically incapable of jumping.
How Do Bed Bugs Move?
Bed bugs have only one mode of transportation without help from humans and that is to crawl. They cannot jump since they have no legs developed for jumping. Also they are not aerodynamically developed so if they could jump, they would be very inefficient jumpers.
Bed bugs have vestigial wings, meaning that they have undeveloped pads incapable of supporting the bed bug in flight. Many true bugs, in the hemiptera order common with bed bugs have these vestigial wings incapable of flight. Therefore, bed bugs do not jump and they do not fly.
So how do bed bugs end up well above the floor in beds, on chairs, in couches, or in lights? They only way that they can move on their own is to crawl. They are excellent hitchhikers so they can walk onto luggage and catch a ride to that family trip. They can hide in backpacks brought home from school. They can crawl off a coat and onto a seat in an airplane or train. They conserve energy when possible but they cannot jump.
Bed bugs do not make a straight movement to hosts in many cases and this is not fully understood. Perhaps there are scent trails that they follow or heat gradients vary and are more suitable to a less direct path. Bed bugs will travel up to 60 feet to a host but will usually stay within 20 feet of a host and can best sense a host within five feet. Juvenile bed bugs can move at a pace of up to just over an inch per minute. Adults can travel about five inches per minute. Temperature of the bed bug probably plays a role.
While bed bugs are not the fastest insect, they move remarkably consistently and well. As crawling insects, they are persistent in finding their hosts.