6 Signs Fleas Are In A Bed And What To Do About Them

by | Fleas, Insects

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We know fleas live on animals, in the yard, and in our homes, but could they be crawling around in your bed? Well, it turns out that…

Fleas can live in a bed, usually in the bedding, pillows, pillowcases, mattress, box spring, and/or headboard. The most common signs of fleas in a bed are flea bite marks, flea dirt, adult fleas, eggs, larvae, pupae, or flea skins in the bed.

Knowing where to find fleas in your bed and bedroom, and how to get rid of them, can save you many flea bites and a bigger flea infestation down the road.

By the end of this post, you’ll know:

  • The 6 signs there are fleas in a bed
  • Where fleas hide in a bed
  • How long fleas can survive in a bed
  • Where fleas hide in a bedroom
  • How to get rid of fleas in a bed

6 signs there are fleas in a bed

Look for any of the following signs to tell if you have fleas in your bed:

Flea bite marks on your body

Look for flea bite marks on areas of your body that are exposed when you sleep, such as your calves, shins, ankles, feet, waist, armpits, neck, the bends behind your elbows and knees, and in other skin folds.

Flea bites are often found in groups or rows of three – a pattern that’s known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner”. The bites themselves are tiny red bumps that sometimes have a red ring or halo around them.

Photo of flea bites
Fleas in a bed bite in areas that are exposed when you sleep. These bites are usually in groups of three.

Flea dirt

Fleas leave behind flea dirt, which is basically flea poop. Flea dirt is a mix of blood from whatever the fleas are living off and waste material.

Flea dirt looks like black pepper grains and is often confused with regular dirt. To be sure you have flea dirt in your bed, put the dirt on a damp paper towel. If it turns red from the blood in it, you know it’s flea dirt and not regular dirt.

Photo of a cat's fur with flea dirt in it
Flea dirt looks like regular dirt but it’s actually flea poop, made up of blood mixed with waste material. Source: Adapted, with thanks, from Dr Zak, Wikipedia

Adult fleas

An adult flea is less than an inch (2 – 4 mm) long. It can be brown or black with a long, narrow, oval-shaped body, which becomes quite red and round when the flea is full of freshly sucked blood.

Contrary to popular belief, fleas won’t be jumping around in your bed, unless they’re trying to jump onto you or an animal as a host. Most fleas spend their time hiding and being quite still. When they do want to move around, fleas usually walk or crawl in the bed, and they don’t travel very far.

Photo of a flea with labels on traits of a flea for identification
You can identify an adult flea using the traits shown in the picture above.

Please scroll down to the next section of this blog post to the heading “Where fleas hide in a bed” for a list of all the places to look for fleas and how to do this.

Flea eggs

You could get flea eggs in your bed from adult fleas that lay them there or from pets that drop the eggs in your bed.

Flea eggs are small, white or translucent, and oval-shaped, looking a lot like grains of rice or salt. Flea eggs are dry and easily roll around the bed, unlike bed bug eggs which are sticky and stay in one place.

Click here for info on how to tell the difference between bed bugs and fleas.

Photo of flea eggs
Flea eggs are white or translucent and are a sure sign that there are fleas in your bed. Source: Adapted, with thanks, from Auguste Le Roux, Wikipedia

Flea larvae and/or pupae

Fleas go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult flea. If you have fleas in your bed, you might find signs of one of these stages or several stages.

Illustration showing the flea life cycle
The picture above shows the four stages of the flea life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult flea.

When looking for signs of fleas in your bed, it’s best to use a magnifying glass with a light (such as this one from Amazon) to look for both flea larvae and pupae:

  • Flea larvae are translucent or white. They look more like worms or maggots than fleas when they are in this stage of their life cycle. Flea larvae eat the poop of adult fleas or any organic matter they find nearby.
  • Larvae cover themselves with a protective cocoon to become pupae. During this time, the cocooned pupae look a lot like flea dirt as they turn into adult fleas.

It is easy to miss both larvae and pupae when inspecting a bed for fleas.

Larvae have an instinct to crawl away from bright light, and to stay hidden in dark, warm, humid places where they have the best chance to survive. This might be in cracks in the headboard or under the seams of your mattress, where you might not think to look.

Larvae usually stay in their hiding places when they turn into pupae.

Flea skins

As the worm-like larvae grow and become bigger, their skin does not. This is why flea larvae must shed their skin twice during this phase of the flea life cycle.

If the larvae are living in your bed, they leave their skins there – and you can look for these skins as a sign that there are fleas in your bed.

Flea larvae skins are soft, white, and tubular. If you do find these lost skins in your bed, then you are sure to have more larvae, pupae, or adult fleas there.

Where fleas hide in a bed

It’s unusual to find fleas in a bed, but not impossible.

Fleas will never choose to live in a bed – they’d much rather live on an animal or a bird. But if fleas are carried in or flea eggs are dropped in your bedroom or bed, they will live there until they find a host animal to jump on or until they can catch a ride to another room in your house where an animal might be.

Fleas thrive in dark, humid, and warm places. If they’re hiding in your bed, you’re most likely to find them under pillows, inside pillowcases, between the sheets, on the mattress, in cracks or dark corners of the bed frame or headboard, or by the box spring.

To find signs of fleas in a bed, look closely at the edging, folds, seams, and around the tags of the bedding, mattress, and box spring. Check the corners and under the mattress, box spring, bed frame and headboard for flea eggs, larvae, pupae, adult fleas, or flea dirt.

When inspecting the bed, use one or both of these inspection methods:arr

  • Take a magnifying glass with a light and use it to look closely at anything that might be a sign of fleas in the bed and base.
  • Take a bank card and a white piece of paper. Scrape the card over the mattress, bedding, and box spring, letting whatever it catches fall onto the white paper. Take a close look at what you pick up on the paper at regular intervals – remember that you’re looking for flea eggs, larvae, pupae, adult fleas, or flea dirt.

How long fleas can survive in a bed

The amount of time fleas can survive in your bed depends on the type of flea, the environment, and what stage of their life cycle they are in…

Most fleas can stay alive in your bed for up to two weeks if the conditions are warm and humid enough, unless they get squashed, killed, or removed. If a pet comes within a few inches of them, the fleas will jump onto the animal and leave the bed.

Pupae can stay hidden in their cocoons in a bed for up to five months. They only come out of hiding when they get signs that an animal is close by.

[source: Agrilife Extension]

Where fleas hide in a bedroom

If there are fleas in your bed and they have enough time to reproduce or move around the house, there are probably fleas hiding in your bedroom too. Below is a list of all the places to look for fleas that might be hiding in your bedroom:

  • In pet bedding
  • In curtains and drapes
  • In carpets, rugs, baseboards, cracks in floor tiles, and between floorboards
  • In and under wood furniture and other household items
Illustration showing where to look for fleas living in a bedroom
The picture above gives you ideas on where fleas could be hiding in your bedroom.

How to get rid of fleas in your bed

Below is a list of some of the best methods and products from Amazon to get rid of fleas in a bed:

  • Remove and wash all bedding using the hottest cycle that won’t damage the material – fleas die at temperatures above 95°F (35°C). Check the label and make sure it says the bedding can tolerate a “warm wash” or “hot wash”, which means it’s safe to wash the bedding at 100°F (40°C) or above. Hang the bedding to dry in the sun or dry it in the dryer.
  • Sprinkle flea powder, like this one, on the mattress, headboard, frame, and box spring. Make sure the powder goes into all hidden spots and cracks, as these are places where fleas love to hide. Leave the powder for at least 24 hours to kill fleas and eggs.
  • Vacuum the powder off the mattress, base, frame, and box spring. Seal and dispose of the vacuum bag so you don’t spread the fleas. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning a bagless vacuum cleaner.
  • Wash the headboard and bed frame with soapy water and a damp cloth – you can try using this homemade dish soap solution that kills fleas and other pests. Seal and throw away the cloth after.
  • Stop pets from jumping on your bed. Treat all pets for fleas using products recommended by your vet. This may include a:
  • Find an indoor spray that kills all stages of the flea life cycle and is made from natural ingredients– here’s a home spray that works. Spray it directly onto the mattress, headboard, frame, and box spring. Make sure you spray it on all sides, including underneath where fleas are very likely to be hiding.

Once you’ve taken all or as many of the above steps as possible to kill fleas in your bed, you’ll need to maintain a flea-prevention routine until you’ve destroyed the entire flea life cycle:

  • Check your pets regularly over the coming weeks. If you see signs of fleas, take more steps to get rid of them (speak to your vet if you are struggling with fleas).
  • Get rid of any wild animals living in your roof, attic, or chimney.
  • Spray the entire bed with a natural product that kills fleas (like this one) every two or three days.
  • Wash bedding on a hot cycle at least once a week.

If there are no signs of fleas for at least six weeks in a row, there’s a good chance you no longer have fleas in your bed.

I'm Monique. I love gardening and spending time in my backyard growing things. Here's where I share what I know about backyard pests and what to do about them, so you can enjoy your yard too.

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Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.


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