What Causes Bed Worms?

Posted: May 16, 2023

Bed Bugs, Fabric Pests

There are few sensations worse than settling in for a night of good sleep, only to find you’re not alone. When pests unexpectedly show up in your bed — whether they’re bed bugs, fleas, or unidentified worms — the surprise can be so unsettling you can’t sleep. But what causes bed worms?

Below, we’ll explore what bed worms are, how they end up in your mattress, and how to get rid of them safely and effectively.

What Are Bed Worms?

Bed worms, also known as mattress worms, are not a specific type of pest, but a group of pests and their larvae that can end up infesting your mattress or bedding.

Unlike adult bed bugs and fleas, their larvae have not yet developed into an insect with a hard exoskeleton, giving them a worm-like appearance. Some mattress worms are simply parasitic worms, and will remain in their worm-form their entire life. Some common worms that might appear in your home are pinworms, roundworms, and hookworms.

If you see tiny white worms crawling on your bed sheets, they could be any of the following:

  • Bed bugs
  • Fleas
  • Carpet beetles
  • Clothes moths
  • Pinworms
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms

A vast majority of bed worms are insect larvae, not parasitic worms, as parasitic worms typically thrive and lay their eggs in loose soil outdoors. Bed bugs, fleas, carpet beetles, and moths are more likely to infest the inside of your home, where hosts and other food sources live and sleep.

Are Bed Worms Dangerous?

Bed worms do not spread diseases themselves. However, the presence of worms in a bed should make anyone uncomfortable. The greatest risks for most species of bed worms are lack of sleep and physical discomfort.

Real trouble tends to start when parasitic larvae — such as bed bug and flea larvae — mature enough to start biting hosts in bed. If you see small worm-like larvae in your bed, be sure to call a pest control professional for treatment before they become blood-sucking, disease-carrying parasites.

Pinworms, roundworms, and hookworms can cause itching and irritation to skin, but rarely fully infect adult human hosts. Children are at higher risk of contracting a parasitic infection than adults. Parasitic worms cannot survive for long outside a host body, so you are far more likely to find dead, rolled-up worms in your bed than live worms.

Fiber-loving pests like carpet beetles and clothes moth larvae are less dangerous to humans, but more dangerous to your property. Carpet beetle larvae are known to wreak havoc on carpets, fabric, books, and other natural fibers in homes and museums. Clothes moth larvae are particularly drawn to bed sheets and clothing.

How Do Bed Worms Get in My Bed?

Bed worms can land in your bed in one of two ways: either eggs were laid in or on the bed by a mature parasite, or the worms were carried to the bed by a human or animal previously exposed to the worms or their eggs.

Fleas and bed bugs are attracted to beds because host humans spend so much time there. Bed bugs can sense a sleeping human by sensing the CO2 they exhale, while fleas can detect humans’ body heat, movements, and vibrations caused by breathing.

Carpet beetles, though not harmful to humans directly, are attracted to animal fibers, such as skin cells, silk, hair, feathers, and fur. They may also feed on plant materials, including books, grains, spices, and pet foods. If your bedding includes silk, cotton, or wool fibers, it may be an attractive breeding ground for carpet beetles.

Likewise, clothes moths are also attracted to animal fibers — only they can fly. These moths, found all over the world, might mate in your home and lay eggs in, on, or near your bedding so the larvae can have access to fibers as soon as they hatch. Once these eggs hatch, the larvae will build a small cocoon-like tunnel around their body to use as camouflage, making these pests relatively easy to spot and identify.


How To Get Rid of Bed Worms

If you see any signs of worms or insects in your bed, take action before the infestation becomes permanent. Most of these larvae will breed as soon as they enter adulthood, making population growth difficult to manage.

Identify the source

The first step to removing (and preventing) bed worms is to try to identify the source: What are they and how did they get into your bed in the first place? Is your home tidy and free of dirt, grime, and open food containers? Have you had pets or small children sleeping in your bed? Did you recently purchase a textile or piece of furniture that may have carried the bugs inside? If you can determine where the bed worms may have originated, it will help identify what pest you’re dealing with so you can address the source and better prevent a recurring infestation.

Treat your pets and children

If you see worms in your bed, it might indicate a pinworm infestation in your children, or other parasitic worms in one or more of your pets. Don’t remove the bed worms until you’re sure your loved ones won’t bring them right back. Talk to your healthcare provider and veterinarian to make sure your family is healthy before dealing with the discomfort of bed pests.

Wash your bedding

To rid your bed of unwanted guests, wash all of your bedding (and any other fabric in the vicinity, like clothing) in hot water. If necessary, wash them more than once. Bed bugs, fleas, and larvae are all susceptible to heat and water, so washing your linens will kill and remove anything crawling around in your bed.

Steam clean your mattress

Because most pests are susceptible to heat, steam-cleaning your mattress with high heat can help kill any remaining pests, their larvae, and their eggs. Most residential steam-cleaners spray a mist of steam with temperatures up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, far beyond the terminal temperatures for bed bugs and fleas of approximately 115 degrees. However, be sure your mattress can dry completely and quickly after a steam cleaning session, or mold and mildew will take these pests’ place — and can be more dangerous.

Seal your mattress

Zippered mattress protectors can help ward off new invaders and help kill off any remaining pests inside your mattress. Keeping your mattress fibers separated from the outside world (and your body) can starve out anything inside, and keep newcomers from laying eggs by hiding the crevices and folds they tend to hide in.

Use chemical insecticides and repellents

Store-bought chemical insecticides and repellents can kill pests in your mattress, disrupt their life cycle by killing eggs, and make your mattress less attractive to pests. While these chemicals can be highly effective, they can also be dangerous if inhaled for long periods of time (for instance: while you sleep) and can emit an unpleasant odor. For a more natural, less harmful alternative, consider creating a spray of essential oils, such as peppermint, lavender, or tea tree oil, as their strong scents are noxious and repulsive to many in-home pests.


Dodson Pest Control Can Do it Right the First Time

Long-term exposure to insects can cause a number of health issues, so don’t guess at your pests. If you see pests in your bed — or anywhere on your property — calling a pest control company is the best way to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible.

For more than 50 years, Dodson Pest Control’s trained and certified pest control experts have been helping homeowners identify and remove unwanted pests in their homes. We’re proud to offer thorough inspections of your home and safe, effective, and affordable treatment options to meet your unique needs.

Don’t wait!

Call Dodson Pest Control today to schedule your free home inspection.
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