9 Early Signs of Fleas in Bed (and How to Get Rid of Them)

Fleas in bed should be taken seriously as they bite.

These bugs feed on human and animal blood and they can spread numerous serious diseases.

Fleas spread typhus which can cause extreme fever.

Cat scratch disease and tapeworms are also spread by fleas.

Fleas often go unnoticed in bed since they are very small. They can be as small as 0.03 inches which makes them barely visible.

They get on the bed from pets, animals, or even when carried by clothes or luggage.

Jumping from animals to people, fleas need to be taken seriously as rapid multiplication rates lead to quick infestations of the house.

What Are Fleas?

cat flea
A cat flea. Image by Even Dankowicz via inaturalist

Small yet dangerous, fleas are known to have a very specific diet and very clear parasite host requirements.

They only feed on mammal blood and they only jump on other hosts as a means of movement.

Fleas prefer warm weather. They are common throughout the year in the US, but specifically in the summer.

You can see fleas from late February to late fall in most US states.

Fleas are a year-round concern in Southern states such as Florida, Texas, and California.

What do fleas eat?

Fleas mostly eat the blood of mammals. This includes the blood of various animals and humans.

Fleas also feed on excrement, particularly on the excrement of other fleas since it’s made out of blood.

The larvae of fleas are known to feed on the excrement of adult fleas.

Can fleas enter homes?

Fleas routinely enter homes. They do this on purpose while facilitate by open windows, doors, or cracks in walls.

Fleas also enter homes by accident or facilitates by various logistics as follows.

  • Carried by pets

Pets that carry fleas easily spread them throughout the house.

A dog with fleas spreads flees in all areas of the house it lives in. This includes the bed where it spends time with the owner.

  • Attached to humans

Fleas can get into beds and in the house attached to people carrying fleas or attached to homes.

Like other pests that live on clothes such as body lice, fleas can be carried onto the bed by people who visited a home already infested with fleas.

  • In luggage

Fleas can’t tell the difference between hosts too well as they only distinguish light and darkness.

Poorly developed vision means fleas can jump into luggage, a suitcase, or a purse and make their way to a home and into the bedroom.

  • Through cracks

Fleas can also enter homes through wall cracks due to their small size.

Homes with pets are particularly vulnerable to an invasion of fleas over the warm months of the year.

How to identify fleas

Fleas are small insects, visible to the naked eye. They have a dark bodies and can be seen on dogs, cats, and other animals.

Fleas are seen in the fur or feathers of various animals. They can also be found on the skin of these animals.

  • Color

Fleas have a dark brown color. The naked eye can only distinguish their oval brown body with a hard shell that’s flattened to the sides.

  • Size

Fleas vary in size in adulthood but generally measure around 2.5mm. These insects are very small and might only be seen on pets such as dogs when you comb them to search for fleas.

  • Eggs

Female fleas lay up to 50 eggs per day. They can drop these eggs as they move about.

Flea eggs are a few times smaller than adult fleas, but still visible to the naked eye.

Flea eggs have an off-white color. They are the size of a grain of salt.

You can’t notice flea eggs on white bedsheets due to their bright coloring.

  • Larvae

The larvae of fleas are also white at first. As fleas pupate, this white color darkens to yellow and then brown.

A dog flea: adult, pupa, egg and larva
A dog flea: adult, pupa, egg and larva

Can Fleas Live on Beds?

Fleas can live all around the house, as well as outdoors. They need a host to live on which means they exist where animals exist.

Fleas live on your bed if you have a pet such as a dog or a cat that sleeps or plays on the bed. Itching dogs or cats on your bed are a sign of fleas or a possible bed infestation.

Flea eggs and flea larvae can also live on beds.

Flea larvae do not need the blood of a parasite host to develop as it feeds on the feces of adult fleas.

Fleas get on beds from pets

Pets are the primary reason fleas get on beds. These insects don’t particularly seek to live on beds but they get there by accident whenever pets scratch or whenever fleas jump looking for another host.

Fleas lay eggs on beds

Flea eggs are small and almost purely white. Female fleas lay these eggs on the bed as they move around.

Eggs can also get on the bed directly from the fur of pets.

Fleas produce feces for larvae on beds

Fleas can survive a long time on beds. They can develop into full adult fleas on warm beds.

One of the common misconceptions about flea eggs is that they need a host mammal, similar to adult fleas.

However, flea eggs turn into larvae that feed on the feces of adult fleas. These feces mostly contain blood traces larvae feed on.

How do Fleas Get into Your Bed

Fleas get into the bed the same ways they get into homes, mostly by a mammal host such as a dog, a cat, or rodents. 

They can also be carried onto the bed by luggage or clothing.

  • Fleas get into bed with wildlife

Wildlife is prone to fleas compared to pets. Wild animals such as foxes, pigeons, or squirrels can get into your house looking for food or shelter.

These animals can carry and spread fleas easily, especially if they spend more than a few minutes indoors.

  • Pets carry fleas to the bed

Pets are also prone to carrying fleas on the bed. They can sleep, rest, or play on the bed with the owner.

Fleas can jump on the bed on their own or they can be scratched out by the pets

  • You can carry fleas to the bed

Fleas can also be carried by people. A reduced bathing frequency is normally tied to a higher chance of carrying fleas.

You can carry several fleas on the bed where they can lay eggs and multiply.

  • Luggage can transport fleas to the bedroom

Luggage, Bags, and backpacks can also carry fleas. People can carry fleas when returning from a hiking trip with their clothes or backpacks.

Luggage that has been in a home infested with fleas can also carry fleas.

How Long Do Fleas Live on Beds?

The lifespan of fleas on beds depends on the presence of a host to serve as food.

Fleas can see pets as hosts. People sleeping on the bed can also be seen as ideal hosts for an endless blood supply.

  • Fleas live up to a year whenever there’s a host

If you sleep on a bed infested with fleas you are facilitating a long insect lifespan of up to a year.

However, this lifespan is considerably shorter in reality as most people realize they have fleas in the bed and act to remove them.

  • Fleas live up to a few weeks without a host

Fleas that get on the bed and they have no access to a new host such as pets or people die within a few weeks.

Beds you don’t sleep on are locations where you can find dead fleas, mainly due to a shortage of food through a host.

9 Signs of Fleas in Bed

Seeing jumping flees on the bed is the most obvious sign of an infestation of your bed. Other signs can be more subtle.

1. Flea Dirt On Bed

Flea dirt is found all over the bed in case of an infestation. Feces can be visible if you have bright color sheets and bedding.

Flea dirt has a red to black color.

This type of dirt is mostly influenced by the blood fleas eat. 

Flea dirt can cause allergic reactions and even infections when in contact with human skin.

Larvae of fleas also feed on flea dirt on the bed.

Flea dirt can be identified so that you don’t mistake it for other types of dirt.

Water washes down dirt showing only the blood remains in the dirt which means it turns red.

You can spray water on flea feces on the bed to confirm if your bed is infested.

2. Flea Bite Marks

Flea bite marks
Flea bite marks

Flea bite marks are common when fleas live on beds. You can identify them by their prevalence.

  • One bite mark

One bite mark alone can be a flea bite. However, fleas tend to bite multiple times, especially in an infested bed.

  • Cluster of bites

A cluster of bites is more common in fleas. These clusters can appear anywhere on the body.

When outdoors, flea bite marks are common around the ankles and on the legs, since many jump from short animals such as cats and poultry.

The most common signs of flea bit marks can be confirmed as follows.

  • Red spots on the skin

Red spots are characteristic of flea bites on the skin. These red marks are the result of the bite itself.

The skin reacts to the bite every time. 

  • Raised red skin 

Raised or swollen skin in the area of the bite is also common, alongside skin coloration.

The elevated portion of the skin is solely tied to the red area of the bite. Skin elsewhere on the body appears unaffected.

  • Itching

Itching is one of the common signs of flea bites. You can check for red spots on the skin in the area of the bite to confirm it.

Not all red itchy bitten areas of the skin are caused by fleas, but you can check the bed for fleas whenever you see red itchy spots on your body.

  • Shortness of breath (anaphylaxis)

More severe flea bite marks symptoms include shortness of breath.

These types of reactions also required immediate attention.

Shortness of breath following flea bites is a sign of an allergic reaction.

  • Infection (with fever or nausea)

Some fleas carry disease-causing bacteria. Flea bites can trigger an infection and a type of disease.

Infections following flea bites are frequently accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, rashes, or a general feeling of weakness.

Flea bite marks vs bed bug bite marks

You can further distinguish flea bite marks from other bites such as bed bug bites by analyzing the pattern of the red skin.

Flea bite marks tend to be present in clusters while bed bug bites tend to be linear.

3. Fleas on Your Pets

Fleas are more common in pets. You can identify flea bites on pets by looking for one of the following symptoms.

  • Scratching

Excessive scratching is a clear sign your pets have fleas. Some scratching is normal but when seen multiple times per day and even multiple times per hour it’s an indication of fleas.

If you see your dog or cat scratch more than usual you should thoroughly check them for fleas.

One of the signs fleas are already on your bed is seeing them scratch on the bed.

They can easily push fleas out of the fur and send them right onto the bed when they scratch.

Many dogs and cats sleep with the owner. This is the time when fleas make their way onto the bed themselves, even without any scratching.

  • Welts And Red Skin

Skin discoloration is an indication of fleas in your bed. Red skin patches are an indication of an underlying flea problem.

Any type of skin coloration should be seen as a sign of a bad infestation.

Red skin marks can turn white when scratched in excess. You might only notice these scratches when they begin to cause extreme itching.

  • Pale Gums

Pale gums are one of the signs of anemia in pets.

Fleas are known to cause extreme anemia in cats and dogs. It’s best to check for the coloration of your pet’s gums whenever you look for fleas.

  • Hair Loss

One of the reactions pets have too large flea infestations is hair loss.

This type of reaction isn’t uncommon as pets try to lick and chew the bitten area.

Continuously biting and chewing the area eventually leads to hair loss.

  • Restless Pets

Pet behavior can change in different circumstances. However, a restless pet is an indication of fleas.

Extreme itching and even pain can be caused by numerous flea bites.

Pets start to lose sleep and become restless.

Changes in their behavior and appetite are an indication of a possible flea infestation.

  • Anemic pets

Anemia is one of the direct causes of prolonged flea infestation in pets.

Your pets can become anemic and start to lose iron whenever they are facing exposure to fleas over a few continuous days.

4. Flea Eggs On Bed 

Seeing flea eggs on the bed is a clear indication adult fleas have also invaded your bed.

Flea eggs might not be easy to spot if you don’t know what to look for.

Flea egg size

Flea eggs have an average size of 0.5mm. They resemble a grain of salt in size but they have tapered ends, similar to a grain of rice.

Flea egg color

Flea eggs have an off-white color which means they might not be visible on white bed sheets. 

One of the easiest methods to discover flea eggs on your bed is by using a lint roller.

Egg sticks to the contrasting lint roller so that you can see them immediately.

5. Flea Larvae And Flea Pupae On Bed

Flea larvae on the bed are indications eggs are about to turn into adult fleas.

You can recognize flea larvae by their worm-like appearance. These larvae are of an off-white color that darkens as the larvae approach pupation.

Flea larvae measures just a few millimeters.

The pupae of fleas look light brown.

At this stage, the emerging flea sits in a thin pupal cuticle. Its legs emerge from the thin cuticle first.

6. Flea Skin On Bed

Flea skin comes from larvae or flea pupae.

The larval stage of their growth comes with a thin skin that sheds during the molting process.

Flea larvae molt twice and flea pupae molt twice.

As a result, there’s a total of 4 molts before new fleas emerge.

These molts lead to skin and skin traces around the bed.

These skin traces are very small and not visible to the naked eye. You may only see them under a microscope or a magnifying glass.

If you look for this skin with a magnifying glass you should see cylindrical-shaped skin from the larvae and parts of the skin from the pupae.

7. Adult Fleas on Bed

Adult fleas on the bed are a sign of a bed infestation. A single adult flea might lead to a serious invasion that causes itchy and painful problems.

Some people aren’t sure the bugs they see on the bed are actual fleas.

You can test the bugs on your bed to see if they’re truly fleas. 

These bugs are attracted to light and heat. While they can’t see very well, fleas can distinguish bright and dark shapes which attract or deter them.

Test fleas with a white sock

White socks rolled over the bed should attract fleas. You can place a white sock on the bed to see if fleas jump on it.

Moving the sock around the bed should uncover more fleas if they’ve infested your bed.

Test fleas with a flashlight

Since fleas are attracted to light you can also use flashlights to confirm you have a case of flea invasion.

You can put the socks on and turn the flashlight towards them.

Alternatively, you can live the flashlight on to see if fleas start jumping on it attracted by the artificial light.

8. Pet fur

Pet fur is an indication of flea invasion on your bed. Pets scratching on your bed will eventually begin to lose fur.

Losing fur is natural in pets. But losing a higher amount of fur and finding fur around the bed is an indication of a flea invasion.

You need to check both the bed and the pets for fleas when you see fur inside the house.

The good news is bald spots on your pet can be fixed once the fleas are removed.

You can use certain supplements such as pet Omega 3 supplements too but fur growth.

Adding some types of preventive powders or flea collars to your pet can keep them from losing fur due to fleas in the future.

9. Lethargic pets

Low red blood cells are known as anemia. This is an indication of fleas on your pet.

Anemia can manifest itself in a lethargic pet. 

You should check for lethargy signs in your pets as follows.

  • Low energy levels weight loss
  • A lack of biting force
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Black stools

Types of Fleas in Bed

All fleas feed on the blood of animals and humans but not all look the same.

Similar in size, various types of fleas are different in coloring and they can make it on your bed.

Dog fleas

Dog fleas are some of the most common types of fleas found on beds in homes with pet dogs.

These fleas grow to a full size between 1 and 4 mm.

Dog fleas are dark brown or black but they turn slightly red soon after they eat.

A large amount of blood these fleas suck from dogs colors them red.

This red color slowly fades away turning dog fleas to brown or black in-between meals.

Dog fleas are dangerous for both dogs and humans. Tapeworm is known to affect these species.

Cat fleas

Cat fleas are known to have a dark brown color. They feed on the blood of cats and can be identified by their 3mm body.

Cat fleas are known to have genal combs under the mouth and pronotal combs behind the head, unlike other species of fleas.

These types of fleas can feed on the blood of humans, but they tend to drop and seek cats whenever they bite people.

Bird fleas

Bird fleas are also brown. Their size varies according to the types of birds they use as hosts.

Some of the smallest bird fleas measure just 1mm. They can be seen on pigeons or chickens around the house.

Some of the largest bird fleas can measure up to 8mm. They are common on farms with plenty of birds where they have a constant blood supply.

Human fleas

These fleas are known for biting people. Their proboscis easily pierced human skin causing itching and spreading bacteria.

The human flea (Pulex irritans) easily transitions to animals, especially pigs.

It’s believed the human flea comes from South America.

Rat fleas

Rat fleas can also get on the bed. As their name implies, rat fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) are considered a type of parasite insect that lives on rodents.

Close contact with the blood of rodents means these fleas can easily spread diseases.

Rat fleas were responsible for the spread of bubonic plague cases.

Chigoe fleas

Chigoe fleas are characteristic of tropical and sub-tropical climates.

These fleas prefer to feed on humans which means they can easily get into beds.

Sitckfight fleas

Stickfight fleas are native to Australia. They attack poultry, horses, cats, dogs, and humans.

Eradicating stickfight fleas from poultry is easy since these types of fleas have to lay eggs on the ground.

Laying a concrete slab in the area of the poultry fixes this flea problem.

Why do You Need to Remove Fleas in Your Bed?

You need to remove fleas from the bed as soon as you see them. Rapid multiplication rates mean that fleas can quickly infest the entire house.

  • To stop them from multiplying

One of the top reasons to remove fleas from the bed is to stop them from laying eggs and multiplying.

Fleas can lay tens of eggs per day.

Female fleas can lay as many as 8 eggs each time after having a blood meal. This means the bed can quickly become a breeding ground for fleas.

  • To get keep flea bites away

Flea bites cause red skin and rashes, and they can even lead to infections and diseases.

Some of the most common diseases spread by fleas include.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Bed?

Getting rid of fleas is a complex task that requires cleaning, vacuuming, and washing.

Given it’s your bed alone that houses fleas, you can consider the following steps.

Vacuum and wash bedlinen

Bed linen needs to be vacuumed first. You need to vacuum all fleas and eggs you can see before adding bedlinen to the washing machine.

You then need to wash bedlinen at a temperature of at least 95 degrees or the highest degrees your washing machine programs run.

High temperature kills fleas on the spot.

Vacuum and wash pillows

Pillows also need to be washed just as bedlinen.

Make sure to vacuum pillows as much as possible before washing them.

You need to discard the pillows in a sealed plastic bag if you cannot wash them in the washing machine.

Vacuum and wash quilts

Quilts and all bed coverings need to be vacuumed and washed at high temperatures as well.

Some quilts such as those made from wool may not be washed at high temperatures.

These also need to be discarded in a sealed plastic bag.

Vacuum the mattress and under the bed

The mattress can host fleas and flea eggs. It needs to be vacuumed on all sides a few times to eliminate all fleas.

Some fleas might hide under seams and on the underside of the mattress. It’s best to vacuum it on all sides.

How to Prevent Fleas in Bed?

Keeping fleas away from the bed is easier than dealing with them once they infest your home. 

A few preventive measures help keep them out for good.

Vacuum and wash bed linen frequently

Bedlinen needs to be washed regularly. This prevents fleas and bed bug invasions or limits their spread.

Bedlinen should be washed at a high temperature so that fleas and other bugs that might make their way onto the bed can be killed.

Don’t allow pets to sleep on the bed

Pets are one of the more serious vectors for fleas on the bed. If you know your pets get in contact with other animals with fleas during the day you should not allow them to sleep on the bed.

Cats are some of the pets that travel long distances during the day, often mating and meeting with stray cats that have fleas.

You should not allow your cat to sleep on the bed if you fear it’s carrying fleas or scratching itself more than usual.

Regularly check pets for fleas

All pet owners should check their pets for fleas weekly.

Flea collars for cats and dogs might be a good investment when it comes to keeping fleas away for good.

You need to check to ensure all other animals on the property such as poultry are also free from fleas as home pets can make contact with these animals.

Eliminate rodents from the house

Rodents such as rats are also known for carrying and spreading fleas.

Eliminating rats from the house is mandatory to keep fleas out of the bed and out of the house.

Setting up rodent traps is one of the methods to keep them out.

Sealing all possible entry points to the house is also recommended when it comes to keeping rodents and the fleas they carry out for good.


Can fleas survive without a host?

Most flea species can survive up to a few weeks without a host. 
This is a time when their metabolism is slower. All fleas die without a host by the 6th week without food.

Can fleas live in your hair?

Fleas can live in your hair as adults as well as eggs and nymphs. 
Some fleas transition from pets to human hair and bite on the scalp to suck blood. 

Can fleas escape a vacuum?

Fleas can escape vacuuming by jumping. 
Frequent vacuuming is different as it reduces the chances of escape. 
Some fleas escape vacuuming in their eggs or larvae stage when they aren’t as easily visible to vacuum.

Can fleas reproduce without pets?

Fleas can still lay eggs without pets. 
Female fleas lay up to 50 eggs while jumping around per day. Fleas cannot survive without pets in the long term.

Can fleas travel on clothes?

Fleas can travel on clothes such as coats, shirts, socks, or dresses. 
They reach clothes by jumping from a host mammal. Light color clothes are known to attract fleas more compared to dark color clothes.

Can fleas burrow under human skin?

Most fleas don’t burrow in human skin. 
Exceptions apply to fleas that live in tropical areas such as sand fleas. These types of fleas burrow into the skin and are difficult to remove.

Can fleas affect pregnancy?

Pregnancy is affected by flea bites. 
Some bacteria carried by fleas can be passed to the baby directly. 
Babies can also be born with certain defects caused by bacteria carried by fleas such as the Bartonella bacteria.
Using certain solutions against fleas such as flea sprays may not be recommended during pregnancy.
Applying certain flea sprays on your pets is not recommended when pregnant.
These sprays can be inhaled and their chemicals can be transmitted to the baby at all stages of pregnancy.

Can fleas survive in the cold?

Fleas can survive brief periods of cold weather. 
They only die when exposed to temperatures below the freezing line. 
Fleas begin to die after 5 days of exposure to temperatures lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Does washing bedding in hot water kill fleas?

Fleas die when exposed to temperatures higher than 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Washing bedding at a high temperature kills both fleas and flea eggs. 

Can fleas climb walls?

Fleas can’t climb walls as they prefer to jump. 
Movement patterns for their jumps are sideways and up, but rarely on walls.

Can fleas bite through clothes?

Fleas can’t bite through clothes. 
Their mouthparts can pierce human skin but they aren’t strong enough to bite through clothes. Wearing long pants and socks is one of the ways to prevent flea bites when out in nature.


Fleas can be found in beds. They make it onto beds carried by pets or humans that carry fleas.

While they prefer an animal or humans as a host, fleas can still survive on the bed for up to 6 weeks.

They might also jump around the house looking for a new host and even lay eggs.

Fleas can be removed from the bed by vacuuming and washing bed sheets, pillows, and mattresses.

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