Bed bug infestations were a common occurrence during the Second World War. Thereafter, they were believed to have been eradicated, however, since the 1990s, these tiny pests have made a comeback. Bed bugs are a problem everywhere today and not just in the developing countries.
Typical bed bugs infestations can occur anywhere: college dormitories, hotels and motels, prisons, shelters or apartment buildings. Bed bugs do not necessarily care whether your home is squeaky clean or miserably dirty as long as they have food (blood) readily available for them. It is important to understand and learn everything about bed bugs in order to get rid of them for good.
What are bedbugs?
As their name suggests, bed bugs are tiny little insects that live in bedrooms where they can abundantly feed off the blood of sleeping human beings at nighttime. Apart from humans, bed bugs also take other warm blooded animals as hosts including pets like cats, dogs or birds and even bats and rodents.
People suffering from bed bug infestations wish to know whether these pests are dangerous. The answer is a reassuring no; needless to say that bed bug bites are intensely annoying and can ruin a good night’s sleep. Most cases of bed bug infestations are also not responsible for the spread of any diseases though scratching the site of their bite can lead to various skin infections.
Signs of bed bugs
To determine if you have a bed bug infestation, you need to either call in the professional exterminators or conduct a complete investigation yourself. In most cases of bed bug infestations, one will be able to see a few tell tale signs rather than the actual culprits themselves.
- The first tell tale sign is that people would have been bitten on their faces, arms or legs. The problem is: bed bugs also release an anticoagulant and anesthetic, so most human victims do not realize they have been bitten until welts and red marks appear on the skin.
- A second sign is the presence of bed bug exoskeletons which may be seen lying around the mattresses, sofas, in the bed corners etc.
- Thirdly, bed bugs excrete fecal matter that contains blood. So one can spot rust colored stains on the affected areas.
How do bed bug infestations occur?
Bed bugs use the same means of transportation as humans: they can arrive via air, bus lines, trains or commercial ships. Infested luggage, clothing, reusing mattresses and beds, furniture bought from yard or garage sales, people staying over in infested hotel rooms etc can all aid in transporting these pests from one location to another. Research has shown that bed bugs are capable of traveling 100 feet each night but they typically stay within 8 feet of their hosts.
How big are bed bugs? What is the life cycle of bed bugs?
Let us now consider the anatomy of bed bugs in brief.
Adult bed bugs are typically rusty brown to mahogany red in color. The nymphs or baby bugs are colorless; they start to turn brown as they grow. Bed bugs are elongated, swollen (when fed) and oval shaped. An adult bed bug can measure up to 1/4th inch in length and typically resembles a tiny apple seed.
A female bed bug lays up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. The babies or nymphs grow to full adult size in 21 days and they go through five different developmental stages. Well fed adult bugs can live for years. They seek their hosts when they are sleeping and typically need 5-10 minutes to engorge on the blood. After the feeding period is over, bed bugs go and hide in crevices in the beds, mattresses and other dark hidden areas where they lay low for about 5-10 days. They use this period to mate, sleep, lay eggs and digest their food.
These parasites can be nasty and even a bit frightening. However, by understanding exactly how they appear, their life cycle and habits, one can select a good control and management program to get permanently rid of bed bugs.