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Bed bugs are a relentless pest that infest homes and feast on the blood of hapless sleepers. Learn how to spot these bloodthirsty insects, the symptoms of an infestation as well as how to get rid of them.
Bed bugs, also known as Cimex lectularius, are tiny, seed-size insects that feast upon the blood of humans and mammals. These hardy pests were first eradicated in the United States in the early 1940s, but have made another resurgence in the 1990s. Experts and entomologists cite the increase in global travel, greater movement of people and the elimination of pesticides, like DDT as possible reasons for the resurgence.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like? Can One See Bed Bugs?
You can identify an adult bed bug by its light brown or reddish-brown, flat, oval-shaped body. Adult bed bugs are about 1/4 inch long (about the size of an apple seed) but can swell to 3/8 inch in length after feasting on a blood meal.
All bed bugs and their nymphs are visible and can be seen with the naked eye though the nymphs may be harder to spot due to their clear color body.
- See more pictures of bed bugs
Do Bed Bugs Have Wings? Do They Fly?
No, bed bugs are wingless creatures and do not fly. They can, however, crawl very quickly across floors, bedding and other surfaces. This can make finding or killing them difficult as the bugs tend to hide quickly when they feel threatened. Bed bugs tend to be most active at night time.
Where Do The Bed Bugs Hide?
As their name indicates, these bugs like to dwell in beds where they can feed unnoticed. 95% of the species will look for small cracks or crevices in the mattress, box spring and wood framing joints. The other 5% may gather where the carpet and wall meet, or in nightstands, electrical gadgets, upholstered furniture, wall hangings, under wallpaper, or in bedroom cabinets.
According to Terminix, the “15 Most Bed Bug Infested Cities in 2014” are:
- Philadelphia, Penn.
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- New York City, N.Y.
- Detroit, Mich.
- Chicago, Ill.
- Boston, Mass.
- Dallas, Texas
- Columbus, Ohio
- Baltimore, Md.
- Washington, D.C.
- Houston, Texas
- Denver, Colo.
- Indianapolis, Ind.
- Los Angeles, Calif.
- Cleveland, Ohio
How Do Bed Bugs Reproduce?
Bed bugs communicate using pheromones to alert others to feeding and nesting locations. They use mandibles to pierce the skin and they will typically feed for 3 to 5 minutes. Most insects will feast every five to ten days, although they have been known to survive up to a year without feeding.
Bed bugs also have a terribly strange way of reproducing. Even though females have fully functional reproductive tracts, males generally “stab” the females and inject sperm into the females’ bloodstream. They can even inject other males, who will then carry their more dominant sperm to fertile females. One female bed bug can lay around 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime. Once laid, the eggs will take anywhere from 6 to 17 days to hatch. These newborn “nymphs” will then need to feast on blood within a few months to survive. After 21 days, they will go through their first molting and become a full-sized adult. There may be three or more generations produced each year, so it’s easy to see how quickly this population can explode and become a nuisance!
How To Identify Symptoms Of A Bed Bug Infestation
Many people realize they have an infestation after getting bitten by the bloodsucking insect. The first warning sign is waking up in the morning to cluster of bites.
Bed bug bites look different from person to person, depending on an individual’s reaction. The bites can look similar like mosquito bites and even doctors sometimes have difficulty differentiating the bites from bed bugs and mosquitoes. However, bed bug bites usually come in groups of two or three, most often appearing in a cluster around the same spot where the bites are.
If you have suspicions about being bitten by bed bugs, the first thing one should do is to inspect the bed. While bed bugs are nocturnal, it does not take an expert to find the bugs. Tell-tale signs of bed bugs may include tiny brown fecal spots on your mattress, blood spots on your sheets, and molted casings left behind from growing juveniles. If there is a very bad infestation, the room can also carry a very distinctive odor resembling over-ripe raspberries, almonds, or cilantro.
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), bed bugs don’t discriminate when it comes to location and neither is an infestation a sign of unclean or unsanitary conditions. Bed bugs have been found in world class hotels, office buildings, department stores, theaters, luxury condos to multi-family homes.
Health Effects Of Bed Bugs
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are no evidence that bed bugs transmit pathogens to their hosts, even though they are capable of carrying at least 28 human pathogens (including MRSA). Instead, the worst you have to worry about are the bites which can be itchy and painful.
Some individuals who have sensitive skin or are easily allergic may develop bed bug rash or the bites can develop into large red welts.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs
To get rid of bed bugs successfully usually involves a combination of techniques including:
- Getting rid of clutter in your house that can serve as hiding grounds for insects.
- Employing intense heat like washing clothing and bedding at high temperatures for 20 minutes.
- Steam cleaning with professional grade bed bug steamer to kill off any bed bugs hidden in difficult or hard to reach spots.
- Using scientific designed bed bug proof mattress covers to contain bed bugs and prevent bites to you and your family members.
- Vacuuming, employing pesticides and making repairs like caulking and sealing holes in the walls and around the house to prevent a bed bug infestation.
Eliminating bed bugs can be a difficult and demanding task and will require a lot of effort, persistence and patience to completely eradicate the challenging pests from the house. If you find yourself unable to take care of the problem yourself, the logical step is to engage the service of a professional local bed bug exterminator who has the knowledge, training and equipment that will guarantee the success of the operation in exterminating the bed bugs.
How To Prevent Bed Bugs From Infesting Your Home
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – the famous quote made by Benjamin Franklin certainly makes a point when it comes to bed bug prevention.
With the rising reports of bed bugs infestation around the United States and around the world, the following are some simple prevention steps one can take to protect oneself:
- Do not pick up second-hand furniture off the street. If you bought or rent a used furniture, have it inspected before bringing it back home.
- If you travel, always inspect the hotel mattress, sheets and headboards. Check out Bed Bug Registry for any reports of bed bugs in the hotel you intend to stay.
- When returning home from your travels, immediately have your luggage inspected in the bathroom tub and dump all the clothing into the washing machine to be washed in hot water (minimum 120°F) for at least 20 minutes.
- Apply bed bug pesticides like Diatomaceous Earth to defend your perimeters around the apartment or house.
How To Prevent Bed Bugs And Their Bites
- Use white bed sheets so you can spot any tell-tale bed bug signs as soon as they appear.
- Encase your mattress with bed bug proof mattress cover to prevent bed bug bites, deter them from hiding inside your mattress as well as kill off any existing bed bugs.
- Do not allow sheets or bedding to touch the floor and pull your bed away from the wall. If possible, also add “Climbup Interceptor” to the legs of your bed to prevent bed bugs from climbing onto your bed.