Can Bed Bugs Travel From Apartment to Apartment?

Bedbugs can be a building-wide problem.

Bedbugs can walk or catch a ride from one apartment to another and they are doing it more and more frequently. The Environmental Protection Agency, alarmed by the rising incidence of bedbugs in the United States, called a national summit on bedbugs in 2009. They gathered public health officials, exterminators and state and federal officials to discuss the problem. Some people feel embarrassed about having bedbugs, associating it with living in squalor. Bedbugs don't care if your house is messy or clean. Reluctance to talk about the problem means neighbors and visitors can soon share their bedbugs.


People in the United States were not troubled by bedbugs between World War II and the 1970s while pesticides such as DDT were widely used. When highly toxic pesticides were banned the bedbugs began to make a comeback. The increased ease of international travel may also be a contributor in what now is a widespread bedbug problem. Bedbugs hitch rides on luggage and clothing. Goods transported internationally also sometimes carry the bugs. Most bedbugs move from home to home, hotel to hotel or business to business in this manner. When people live in close proximity the bugs can be found more frequently.


Once bedbugs get inside a multidwelling building or single family homes that share exterior walls, they spread through walls, under doors and through windows. They can travel through cracks in any floor or wall. They do not fly but they can travel some distance and will do so when a large population of bugs makes it hard to find food in one place. Bedbugs can use wires and pipes as pathways.


Bedbug extermination requires a professional exterminator. It can be costly. In some cities the landlord bears the responsibility to exterminate any pests in the building. When landlords treat each case separately bugs have the opportunity to move from apartment to apartment avoiding extermination. Landlords or building cooperators should approach the problem as a floor-wide or building-wide issue when bedbugs are found. All apartments that adjoin the one with bedbugs should be treated even if they have recently been treated.


When you find bedbugs notify the landlord and let your neighbors know. Make sure to be on hand to open the door to exterminators. Seal any visible cracks in walls that adjoin your apartment or house from your neighbors. Help reduce the bedbug stigma by speaking freely about it and educating others when possible. Find out the building codes and rules about disposing of bedbug-infested items.