Bed bugs are parasitic insects, and typically feed on human blood. Although bed bugs primarily attack humans, they can feed on any warm blooded animal. They typically feed on a bed's occupants at night, and that is the origin of the name bed bug. The bed bug is found worldwide and probably came to the US from Europe in the 17th century.
Bed bugs were largely eradicated in the developed world by the 1940s. However, starting in the mid 1990s there has been a growing increase in the incidence of bed bug infestations in the U.S., especially in larger cities. This may be due to increased foreign travel, resistance to pesticides, or other factors which are not fully understood at this time.
Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown, flattened, oval, and wingless, about 1/4-inch in length. Bed bugs are wingless, and from above they are oval in shape, but they are flattened from top to bottom.
Reproduction and Biting
Female bedbugs can lay more than 500 eggs over a lifetime. Each bed bug will molt, or shed its shell, five times as it grows. A blood meal is required for each molt. If blood meals become scarce, bed bugs can slow their life process until a blood meal source is found.
The saliva of the bed bug may cause a swelling on most people when they are bitten but they do not leave a wound. Swelling may include redness in some sensitive people. A number of health effects may occur due to bed bugs including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms.
Bed Bugs like to hide in small cracks and crevices close to a human environment. They can be found behind baseboards, wallpaper, upholstery, and in furniture crevices (especially bed frames and mattresses). Bed bugs are also excellent at relocating by hitching rides in luggage, boxes, shoes, and any other mobile material.
An infestation of bed bugs is NOT evidence of unclean or unsanitary living areas. World class hotels have reported bed bug infestations in recent years.
Commonly, the first sign of bed bug infestation is the appearance of small brownish or reddish dots on bed linens. These are fecal spots or droppings on the surface of linens from these bugs. Occupants may also notice swelling where they have been bitten.
Non-chemical bed bug prevention procedures should be implemented when traveling, because many infestations originate in luggage that is harboring bed bugs and/or their eggs. Another common source of infestaton is used furniture, especially bed frames and mattresses. When traveling, use the following suggestions to minimize your chance of bringing bed bugs home:
- Vacuum suitcases after returning from a vacation.
- Check your bedsheets for tell-tale blood spots.
- Consider bringing a large plastic trashbag to keep your suitcase in during hotel stays.
- Carry a small flashlight to assist you with quick visual inspections.
If you home has been infested, it is imperative to seek assistance from a licensed pest control service provider. Treatment options may include both chemical and non-chemical methods (heat treatment), as well as reducing clutter or stored items in the affected areas.