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Every office has those afternoons when employees’ minds start to wander toward the unusual. One day that happened to the editors at Claims Magazine, when the subject of bed bugs came up. “If an insured brings bed bugs home from a hotel, is there coverage?” asked one editor. Since I’m known for my penchant for answering the odd and unusual (skunks, dead bodies, destructive exes), the question was e-mailed to me.

Let’s start with a little bit about the creatures themselves. Bed bugs feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. When they feed, they inject a tiny amount of saliva into the skin. Repeated exposure to bites over a period of several weeks or more may sensitize people to the saliva, with additional bites resulting in mild-to-intense allergic responses. Treatment often includes the use of antihistamines and corticosteroids.

Aside from the fact that they bite, they like to hide in cracks and crevices when disturbed, particularly in bed frames, mattresses, and box springs. They do not transmit any infectious agents. Because they like small crevices, though, they are easily transported in luggage, clothing, boxes, and other objects when these are moved between apartments, homes, and hotels. They can live for months without feeding, so an apartment that appears clean could already be infested. They also wander between voids in walls and holes through which wires pass. Bats and birds can introduce them as well, so if there is an infestation of bats or birds in an attic, then it is a good idea to look for bed bugs.

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