If you have ever drawn back your duvet, ready for a good nights sleep only to discover small, dark worms or white worms in your mattress or bed sheet, you may have a mattress or bed worms infestation.
Although there is no actual species of worm called the “bed worm”, bed worms are generally classed as the larvae of fleas, adult carpet beetles larvae, and larvae of other species of insects.
These “worms” can trigger and cause:
- serious damage to your mattress
- …and even move on to cause damage to your clothes, other infested fabric and even foods!
Let’s be honest, it’s just plain nasty to think that we’re sharing a bed accidentally with tiny worms!
In this post, we will be exploring mattress worms (bed worms) in more detail; their causes, the different kinds of bed worms, and how to get rid of bed worms.
What Are the Different Types of Bed Worms on My Mattress?
The different types of common bed worms are;
- Carpet Beetle Larvae
- Clothes Moth Larvae
Let’s go through them one by one.
Carpet Beetle Larvae
They are a common bed worm and pest, making it usual to find them in your clothing or bed.
These tiny black worms love to feed on feathers, leather, fabric, fur, wool, as well as the corpses of other insects and crumbs.
Because of their appearance, they can easily blend into any dark fabric they like.
They often migrate from place to place in search of food.
These bed worms are most likely to be confused with bed bugs as they can look somewhat similar in color (reddy/brown) but carpet beetles larvae look more “wormmy” and have more hairs than bed bugs do.
Appearance: They are usually dark, carrot-shaped with segments and long hairs.
Size: Between 1/8 & 1/4 inches long
Colour: Black, yellow, and brown tones with stripes all over their bodies(some carpet beetle larva don’t have stripes).
Are they Harmful: Carpet beetle larvae are not harmful or dangerous, though some people may be allergic.
They don’t sting or bite, and they do not transmit any disease to humans.
They can only cause damage to fabrics, carpets, items of clothing, or rugs.
Some might even contaminate dry food products.
Creepy Fact: The scary part is that female adult carpet beetles lay eggs at a rate of between 20 and 100 eggs just during the spring and early summer months!
Get ready to be creeped out!
Pinworms are tiny and white parasitic worms that crawl out of the anus at night to lay eggs on beds, and breed.
It isn’t a larva but an intestinal parasite.
They live in the anal cavity where the female crawls out to lay thousands of microscopic eggs around the anal openings during sleep.
Some symptoms of pinworm infections are; irritability, itching around the anal & genital region, nausea, stomach pain, etc.
Pinworms can be found on contaminated surfaces, such as;
- drinking glasses
- clothes (especially pajamas and underwear)
- bathroom fixtures, etc.
Because pinworms are parasites, make sure your entire family takes the recommended antibiotics to eliminate them if one person is infected.
Appearance: Thin and small, creamy-grey, almost transparent worms with brown heads.
Size: 1/4 to 1/2 inches long
Are They Harmful: Pinworms are slightly harmful because they cause certain symptoms that are mild but treatable. They are contagious too.
This makes these bed worms harmful, technically.
Clothes Moth Larvae
Clothes moths can feed on your old clothes in your
- dead skin cells
- and yes, bedding
They just love feeding on fabrics.
The mattresses are a common breeding place for them, as the environment is ideal for the moth larvae to develop and mature.
The life cycle of the clothes moths larvae is started off as an:
- Egg >
- Larvae >
- Cocoon >
- Adult moths
The clothes moth larvae are similar to the carpet beetle larvae in that they feed on similar things.
They often leave trails of silk webbing and line tunnels through your clothes with silk.
Appearance: White rice grain-like with a dark brown head.
Size: Born around 1mm and grow up to 12mm in length
Colour: Shiny and white
Are They Harmful: They are not harmful to humans since they don’t bite, but they cause damage to clothes, furniture, and and chewable organic materials.
What Causes Bed Worms on A Mattress and Bedsheets?
One of the major causes of bed worm infestation is a dirty environment; they can be attracted to:
- spilled drinks
- dropped food and food stains
- body sweat and oil
- peeling or dead skin cells
If your bed sheets or mattress are made of organic matter from animals like:
..then carpet beetles and cloth moths in particular will be attracted to, infest, and feed on them.
More specific causes can include:
Dirty Beds and Living Areas
Let’s start with the obvious. Most types of bed worm are only there because you’ve made it comfortable for them to be there.
Many of us tend to eat in bed while watching TV; you can be the most skilled eater but while eating, even undetectable food fragments will fall on the bed.
The likes of cloth moths larvae and carpet beetle thrive on these fallen food fragments.
The insects may chew the stained area of your bed covers causing holes in it.
Also, if you have a dirty bed, rugs, carpets, or any soft and damp cloth, they will certainly attract bed bugs (though most are transported accidentally) and bed worms.
Note that living rooms and other rooms in your home that are filthy and messy will harbor worms.
Damp Rooms And Dirty Kitchens
Ironically, these worms can start in a totally different room like the bathroom or kitchen and move over to the bed.
This is one of the main attractions for pests to enter your house.
High dampness in bathrooms and dirty kitchens are ideal places for some of these worms to breed.
Some of them invade the pantry and bathrooms, and also sneak into the bedrooms; so even though they prefer to infest your kitchen, you’d still find them in your bed if it has food stains and leftover crumbs on it.
One sure way to attract bed worms is to keep dirty laundry around for a while before washing them.
These can be hot beds for tiny insects and tiny critters to call home and then make their way to your bed (especially if you throw your clothes on the bed before washing!)
Open Windows and Doors – Cracks And Crevices On Windows, Door Frames, And Walls
Gaps and cracks, as well as open windows and doors, are the most common ways for bed worms or adult beetles and female moth species to gain entry into your home.
The moth’s larvae stage can begin again in these perfect environments for them to lay eggs. Same for adult beetles.
Unknowingly, you can bring them into your home inadvertently; for example, an adult carpet beetle can be found in potted plants you bring home.
How to Get Rid of Bed Worms From a Mattress & Bed Sheets
Here are some steps you can take to eliminate bed worms
1) Stand Your Mattress Up
Standing your bed mattress up will allow you to get a glimpse of your mattress worms and what is going on under the bed, and identify the areas that need cleaning.
You can then use one of the methods below (like hot water or steam) to clean the tiny brown worms and other bed worms from your mattress.
2) Apply Heat via Steam
High heat is the instant killer of mattresses and bed worms.
Using a steam cleaner to apply heat to your bed is the fastest and easiest way to get rid of bed worms.
Steamers can produce very high heat starting from 130° Fahrenheit and some can even top out as high as 325 degrees!
There’s debate about how long bed worms can survive at certain heats, but some worm species have been known to survive for 7 hours at 122 degrees F, and can spend 15 minutes at 130 degrees F.
They only died immediately at 140 degrees F (60 degrees Celsius). This may not be needed for these species, but crank your steamer up to 140 to be absolutely sure.
This makes it unbearable for the bed worms and their eggs.
NOTE: If you have a bed bug infestation, this will help but requires entirely raising the temperature in the affected room to 122 degrees F. A pest control professional is usually required for this to be performed safely. Bed bugs start to die within 90 minutes of 118 degree F temperatures, but 122 degrees F kills them instantly.
3) Remove Clutter
You can find bed worms in cluttered areas because it allows them to hide there.
Ensure to remove all unnecessary and irrelevant cluster from your surroundings including old clothes in your cabinets, drawers, and closets.
Be prepared to part with some of your favorite old shoes, and other of your personal belongings in order to save them from being eaten to bits!
4) Air And Wash Your Bedding
Wash any suspected fabric items in hot water (130° and above), and dry them outside especially when the sun is hot.
Make sure you wash all soft clothing and beddings you have near, and on your bed; ensure you clean where you sleep.
You can get rid of different types of worms by washing bed sheets and your fabrics regularly; hand scrubbing your bedding manually can also remove bed worms and remaining larvae.
5) Spray Essential Oils On Your Mattress And Bed Sheets
Essential oils are a great option to try out when eradicating bed worms.
You can use:
- Cinnamon spray
We recommend starting with neem or peppermint spray.
Spray sufficiently all over your bed and your bed frame.
At worst, you will repel insects and prevent mattress worms once you have got rid of them.
FUN FACT: For extreme cases like bed bugs, you can even decide to freeze your infested bedsheets, clothes or fabrics – the bugs and their eggs will freeze with them after 4 days of 0 degree temperatures! This is obviously not possible for bed bugs in your mattress due to the size constraints..unless you have a huge walk-in or storage freezer.
How to Prevent Bed Worms from Coming Back
- You can use mastic caulking to fill any cracks or crevices around your bed, windows and doors.
- You can also use spray foam insulation to fill in any space around baseboards, windows, and door frames.
- After that, keep windows and doors closed during the spring and early summer seasons.
- You can apply essential oils, especially peppermint spray (it repels bed worms).
- Hot wash your fabrics and cotton bed sheets regularly
Frequently Asked Questions
When researching, we found the below questions the most common ones asked when it comes to repelling bed worms:
Can Bedbugs Look Like Bedworms?
They both can have striped colors on their bodies, but have very different appearances.
Bedbugs look like bugs with legs and are uniformly brown colored while carpet beetle larvae (a type of bed worm) have hairy, segmented and darker bodies.
Why is there a black worm in my bed?
The only bed worms that are black are the carpet beetles.
Carpet beetles larvae are usually carrot-shaped and have hairs with brown, yellow, or black tones. Some may even have stripes on their bodies.
What are bed worms attracted to?
They are attracted to food crumbs, dirty carpets, rugs, furniture, closets, dirty bed sheets, etc.
What Are The Little Tiny White Worms in My Bed?
They are likely to be cloth moths larvae or fleas larvae.
If you don’t see any maggot-like segments on them, they may even be a case of pinworms or threadworms in a worst case scenario. They look like long grains of rice or threads.
Pinworms are tiny little white worms that come out of the anus at night to breed and lay their eggs.
Do Bed Bugs Ever Look Like Worms?
No. Bed bugs do not ever look like worms.
Bed bugs do not even have a larval stage where they can look like worms. They look like tiny transparent bugs at this stage.
They are little-reddish brown insects that have a nymph stage and feed on blood.
A bed bug’s shell is also a very obvious indicator that you have an infestation. They are transparent and look like shed skin in the shape of a bug.
They are very hardy bugs and although there are DIY methods to try and get rid of bed bugs, we’d always recommend getting a pest control company or professional in to deal with these tough pests.
Are Bed Worms Dangerous or Harmful?
No, they are not harmful; however, they can cause sleepless nights and a lot of discomfort, especially if they cause allergies.
Pin worms are likely the most “harmful” as they’re an intestinal parasite but are unlikely to cause much damage to you and are easily treated.
Do Bed Worms Bite Humans?
No, most bed worms do not bite humans.
The only type of “worm” (that isn’t really a worm at all) that will bite is the bed bug or adult fleas but these are easily identifiable and you wouldn’t confuse them with being worms.
They can cause skin lesions and irritations when they come in contact with human skin.
Some of the effects include; redness, itching, and swelling of the affected area.
Flea larvae (who do look like worms) are unable to bite humans or your pets.
Larvae feed on organic material and natural fibers (this includes moth and beetles at the larvae stage).
Summary & Final Thoughts
Any person that has ever dealt with bed worms/mattress worms knows how annoying and frustrating they can be.
You can also try out our natural remedies in order to get rid of them in your environment.
Ensure you get rid of anything that might attract them and you’ll ensure yourself a good night’s rest!
As for pinworms, ensure you and your family see your Doctor if you suspect you’ve been infected and take their recommended antibiotics to eliminate them entirely.