No matter how clean you keep your house, your couch can still be a hotbed of insect activity. Some bugs are attracted to the upholstery fabric, while others are lured by the fur, hair and dust that couches collect. Bed bugs, fleas, carpet beetles and dust mites can all become unwanted sofa guests.
As the name implies, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are most commonly found on beds, but they'll also move into couches. That's because people rest on sofas, and the pests are attracted to carbon dioxide and warmth, both of which indicate a viable food source.
Bed bugs are flat, oval, reddish-brown insects about 1/4 inch long -- about the same size as an apple seed. Their shape allows them to slip through tiny cracks. and the pests like to burrow into dark areas, such as in couch seams, bed frames or clothing folds.
Signs of Bed Bugs
You know you have a bed bug problem if you see live pests crawling on your sofa. Bed bug bites are another sign of an infestation, but not all individuals experience reactions. Those that do often mistake bed bug bites for mosquito bites, flea bites, hives or a rash. Look for signs of bed bug excrement, which looks like dark brown to black spots on the upholstery, or crushed beg bugs, which leave behind red or rust-colored stains on the fabric.
If you suspect you have bed bugs in your couch, use a flashlight to inspect the couch seams, in between the cushions and around the frame. Keep in mind that tiny bed bugs are about the same width as a credit card, so if you can fit a card into a little crack, then a bed bug can get in there, too. If you spot bed bugs in your couch, then you need to inspect and treat all areas of your home immediately.
Couches often host fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) because pets love to sleep, sit and walk on furniture. Fleas are small, wingless pests that reach about 1/8 inch in length and feed on mammal blood. Adult females lay up to 50 eggs every day on their animal host, but those smooth eggs fall off the pet onto furniture and the floor. After hatching in about two days, the larvae stay hidden in cool, shady, out-of-the way places, such as beneath sofa cushions or the couch itself.
Signs of fleas
You know you have a flea problem if you see adult pests hopping about on your couch. Fleas also leave behind reddish-brown "dirt" -- or excrement -- where they like to rest. Adult female fleas feed on hosts because they need blood meals to mate and lay eggs. Not only do flea bites make your pets itchy and miserable, but the fleas can also bite people and cause small, itchy bumps to erupt on the skin, especially on the lower legs and ankles. Individuals allergic to flea bites might also break out in hives or a rash within 12 to 24 hours of being bitten. There's no need to suffer from flea infestations, because there are so many ways to eradicate them.
Many species of carpet beetles (Anthrenus spp.) exist, and all of the adults have oval bottles that reach approximately 1/8 inch in length. The most common nuisance in couches and other upholstered furniture is the furniture carpet beetle (Anthrenus flavipes), an insect with a black body and mottled white and yellow markings. Carpet beetles don't bite people or pets. Instead, they consume keratin, which is the main protein found in fur, hair and feathers.
Adult female carpet beetles lay between 35 and 100 white eggs in cracks and crevices. The eggs hatch in 7 to 21 days and start feeding on upholstery fabric, shed fur, lint or other tiny debris your couch collects. Larvae prefer feeding in dark areas that aren't disturbed very often, which includes beneath couches as well as in between the cushions.
Signs of Carpet Beetles
The primary signs of a carpet beetle infestation are the numerous little holes eaten through the fabric. If you suspect beetle damage, look for the brown, bristly skins the pests leave behind when molting.
When you suspect carpet beetles, you need to search for them in areas where cat or dog fur accumulates, including beneath furniture and under cushions. The larvae can travel throughout your home and cause a lot of fabric damage, so treat the pests as quickly as possible.
Dust mites (Dermatophagoides spp.) are microscopic arachnids that live in dust. You might not be able to see them, but their droppings and body parts contain proteins that can cause allergies or asthma symptoms in sensitive people. Dust mites prefer feeding on sloughed-off flakes of dead skin, as well as on shed hair and pet fur, so the pests tend to congregate where people and pets rest, including couches, bedding and mattresses.
Signs of Dust Mites
Because dust mites are too small to see with the naked eye, so it can be hard to know you've got a problem. You're most likely to realize you have a dust mite infestation when sensitive people start experiencing symptoms, such as:
- runny or stuffy nose
- sinus pain
- watery or itchy eyes
- sore throat
- coughing or wheezing
- skin rashes
- University of Kentucky: House Dust Mites
- Healthy Child: Protect Allergy-Prone Kids From Household Dust Mites
- Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force: Bed Bug Quick Relief Guide for Tenants and Homeowners
- Mother Earth Living: Ants, Bedbugs and Dust Mites: DIY Natural Home Pest Control Solutions
- University of Kentucky: Fabric Insect Pests: Clothes Moths & Carpet Beetles
- Orkin: Fleas
- AgriLife Extension: Controlling Fleas
- University of Kentucky: Ridding Your Home of Fleas
- University of Florida IFAS: Furniture Carpet Beetle
- University of Florida IFAS Featured Creatures Bed Bug
Growing up in a family full of landscapers and carpenters, Amber Kelsey learned all about home and garden topics through osmosis. Her articles in The Green Girl's Guide and Altar demonstrate her eco-friendly nature, and she uses organic practices in her various gardens. Kelsey holds master's degrees in English writing and cultural anthropology.