Bed Bugs

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” – we’ve all heard this phrase.  Truth be known, these tiny intruders have huge ramifications and appetites regarding your well-being beyond what was known back in the day when they were first discovered.  Hold onto your seat.  It’s time to learn why you don’t want these critters anywhere near you EVER!

What are bed bugs?  Common bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are parasites.  Essentially, their diet consists of blood – your blood!  There are other types of bed begs that feed off of animals, but for this article, we will talk exclusively about bed bugs that can inhabit our homes and exclusively feed off of us.

Where do bed bugs like to live?  They prefer warm, dark places. Hence, they take up housekeeping inside mattresses and pillows, and other areas around sleeping areas. They often can be found hiding in electrical outlets during the day, and become active at night, but not exclusively. They nourish themselves leaving behind rashes and allergic reactions on their victims.  They’ve been around for thousands of years and were almost completely eradicated in the 1940s.  But, they’ve recently made a comeback, and can be found most any place there is a bed and a warm body.

Are bed bugs dangerous?  They can cause a number of health problems including skin rashes, psychological issues, as well as causing allergic reactions. They carry about 28 human pathogens, but no study has clearly found the insect is able to pass these pathogens on to humans.  Bed bug bites can lead to visible skin infections to prominent blisters.

Discovering bed bugs in your home requires diligent treatment to eradicate them. It’s best to contact a pest control company to make sure you completely rid your residence of these pests. Bed bugs have been found to be infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Their bites are not usually noticed right away and develop slowly into low itchy welts that can take weeks to go away. They prefer exposed skin, preferably the face, neck and arms of a sleeping individual. The neck and jaw line are preferred places to feed.

What do bed bugs look like?  Adult bed bugs are very small. They are light brown to reddish-brown, somewhat flat, and oval-shaped. Their front wings are pad-like structures. They have no back wings.  Bed bugs have segmented abdomens with tiny hairs that give them a banded look. Adults grow to 4–5 mm in length and are about 3 mm wide. (About the size of rice)

Young bed bugs are translucent, light in color and gradually turn brown as they mature.  However, all bed bugs appear to have a bright red translucent abdomen after they have had a blood meal. This color fades to brown over several hours.  Within two days, they become opaque and black as the meal is digested.  Often bed bugs are mistaken for other insects like cockroaches, carpet beetles and book lice.  If the temperature is right and they are active, their movements are somewhat ant-like.

How long do bed bugs live?  In cool conditions adult bed bugs can live for as long as a year without feeding.  In warmer conditions, they will try to feed at five- to ten-day intervals.  Adults can survive for about five months without food which explains why they are very hard to get rid of. Younger bed bugs cannot survive quite as long, but it is known that even newly hatched bugs can survive for weeks without nourishment. In 2009, according to the Entomological Society of America, “newer generations of pesticide-resistant bed bugs in Virginia were reported to survive only two months without feeding”.

How do bed bugs infest my home?   There are many ways these pests can move in and take up residence in your home:

  • They can be attached to visiting pets, to a visitor’s clothing or luggage;
  • The purchase of used furniture can certainly have the uninvited pests attached. Buyer beware!
  • Nearby spaces such as the apartment next door. The pests can travel via shared duct work.
  • Bats and birds can be carriers.
  • Visiting an infested area such as a hotel, motel, rented condo, and unclean dwellings. Remember, when you bring your pet for a visit to another home, he/she may bring visitors home with them.
  • Other areas such as movie theaters, subways, buses, etc. can be infested. You can bring them home on your own clothing.

So whats a person to do?   If you have a “bite” anywhere on your body and you do not know where it came from, be diligent and search your home. Bed bugs like to hide in outlets and tiny crevices. They also burrow into mattresses and pillows.  They feed at night usually in the early morning hours, so you generally won’t see them during the day. Their eggs can be found by the 100’s in fabric seams.  They leave behind small dark sand-like droppings that occur in patches as well as blood smears on sheets, and the shedding of their exterior skeleton. The most important thing to do is contact a pest control company. Don’t let the problem get out of hand.  Let a pest control expert check out your home. There are numerous solutions to this age-old problem, and today, more than ever before, a bed bug infestation can be squelched quickly with the right treatment.