What are bed bugs?
The common bedbug scientifically known as Cimex lectularius is a small wingless oval shaped bug (about the size of an apple seed), about a 1/4” long, oval, flat, 6 legs, and range in colour from almost white to brown and looks a bit like a beetle that exclusively feeds on blood of warm-blooded animals, particularly humans. Bed bugs are becoming a common problem worldwide, due to the increasing number of people traveling. As the bed bug is a wingless insect, they are transported from place to place, country to country, in suitcases, on clothes, in shoes, almost any place their tiny flat bodies can hide. The bed bug gets its name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses. The bed bug lays eggs called Nymphs; a female can lay 5-7 eggs per week, laying up to 500 in a lifetime.
Their eggs are a white sticky cocoon shape structure and can take between 3-10 days to hatch depending on the temperature. They become adults in 5 weeks and go through 5 molts to reach adult size—meaning they shed their old skin 5 times. They must feed before each molt.
Where do bed bugs live and how do you get them?
As bed bugs are a small flat bug, they can hide and live in many places in and around your home. As they do not fly, they are transported from place to place as stowaways in luggage, clothes, used furniture and second hand beds, they can hide and any nook or cranny. In a lot of cases they are brought into homes after someone has been traveling. Bed bugs can’t fly only crawl and will scurry into dark, tight spaces to hide, they can move as fast as an ant. Bed bugs are not social insects like ants, so they don’t need a colony to survive.
Check the following areas for bed bug signs, e.g. clusters of small black spots, blood stains on bedding bed bug eggs, bed bug casings.
- Bed heads, material or timber if there is a crack they can hide there.
- Mattresses, including around any seams, top and bottom
- Bed base and under any material covering it
- Around legs and casters of the bed base
- Bed side tables top and bottom, turn furniture over and check base
- Telephones and electrical sockets
- Skirting boards
- Cracks around architraves
- Carpet edges and under any loose carpet
- Floor boards
- Behind pictures/mirrors
- Books, between pages and bindings
- Tops and bottoms of curtains
How do Bed Bugs feed?
As bed bugs are attracted to carbon dioxide, which we exhale while we are asleep, the bed bug is generally most active and likes to get their feed of blood just before dawn. They insert their piercing and sucking mouth parts. The bedbug pierces your skin with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood. It feeds for about five minutes, the bug crawls back to its hiding place. Normally, you won’t feel the bites until minutes or hours later, as the skin reacts to the injected agents. Although bed bugs can live up to one year without a feed of blood, they typically seek blood every five to ten days.
Are Bed Bugs harmful?
If you’ve seen bed bug bites, you know they can be pretty frightening, but don’t worry. Scientific test have been done with concluding evidence that these blood sucking insects have never been shown to transmit diseases. When bedbugs bite you, they inject a chemical that acts as an anesthesia; chances are you won’t feel a thing while the bedbugs are feasting on your blood. Everyone’s reaction is different to this chemical injected when a bedbug bites. Some people are very allergic to the chemical, and break out in a rash, or possibly raised welts that might appear and may last as long as a few weeks before completely clearing up. Normally you will only get the raised, itchy welts which should disappear in a few days. There is no real cure for bed bug bites, but if itching is severe, Use calamine lotion or anesthetic creams to treat the itching. If symptoms persist you should seek medical advice.
How to recognise symptoms of Bed Bug bites
The first sign of bed bugs bites may be red, itchy bites on the skin. Bites may be found in a variety of places on the body. Since bedbugs inject an anesthetic you won’t feel them bite. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear and can take anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bed bug bite is very similar to that of a mosquito or a flea.
Identifying Bed Bugs
The bed bug is wingless, reddish-brown, flattened oval shaped insect that grows up to 1/4 inch (7 mm) in length. Bed bugs may be mistaken for other insects, such as small cockroaches or carpet beetles, however when warm and active, their movements are more ant-like They can move rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces (apparently, they have a hard time crawling up smooth metal surfaces, though). The bed bug preferred habitat is houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bed bugs are mainly active at night, as they are attached to the carbon dioxide we exhale when we are asleep. Being such a tiny flat insect they can live and hide in any crack or crevice anywhere in the house. They can live and hide in suitcases, cupboards, bed bases and mattresses, furniture, tops of curtains. They are elusive, nocturnal creatures… Bed bugs can also hide in electrical switch plates, picture frames, wallpaper and nearly anywhere inside a home.
Biology of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are becoming a common problem around the world. They have been found in homes, hotels, backpackers, businesses, and many other places. Many people associate bed bugs with unsanitary conditions, as often is the case with pests such as cockroaches and rodents. However, bed bug infestations can occur to anyone, any time. The Female bed bug normally laid their eggs in secluded areas; they can feed and breed all year round when they have favourable conditions. When the female bed bug feed regularly, they can deposit 1, 2 or more eggs per day. The eggs are tiny, whitish, and difficult to see on most surfaces without magnification (individual eggs are about the size of a pinhead).
They will lay the majority of their eggs when the temperature is above 70°F (21°C). And will stop laying when temps drop to 50°F (10°C). When first laid, the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to surfaces. Newly hatched nymphs (baby bed bugs) are a pale tan coloured and about the size of a pinhead. Eggs can hatch in about 5-10 days in warm temps and at lower temperatures; hatching may take as long as 28 days. Newly hatched bugs feed at the first opportunity. As the nymphs grow they molt and shed their skin, up to five times before reaching maturity. Most nymphs usually develop into adults within 2 to 6 weeks. Adult bed bugs can live up to a year without a feed of blood.
Bed Bugs: They’re on the increase and they want to feed on you! What you can do about Bed Bugs.
Bed bugs are making a comeback worldwide and the accommodation industry is being warned there is no escape. In fact they are more of a problem now than ever before. It’s not just the accommodation industry that is at risk of infestation of bed bugs, but residential homes can face problems from the Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug. The name “bed bug” is derived from the insect’s that preferred the habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale while we are sleeping, thus sending out an invitation to the bed bug to come and feed on our blood.
Bed bugs are highly resistant to pesticides and a lot of chemicals found in the U.S., making their elimination difficult. Bed bugs are also prolific breeders, as females can lay eggs up to five times a day for her entire life. Bed bugs can also live up to a year without a meal. There are many different ways of treatment being tested now to try and control infestations of bed bugs. The use of steam is very effective as it will kill the bed bugs as well as their eggs, which is good as the use of chemicals will not kill the eggs as it cannot penetrate the bed bug casing. Diatomaceous earth is also being used as well as many types of traps, glues, tapes and now some pest controllers are using trained sniffer dogs to track down bed bugs. Special designed bed bug encasements are a solution to stop infestation in your mattresses, bed bases and pillows. Early bed bug protection is critical to the prevention and management of these parasites. There are many ways to detect the presence of bed bugs within your home.
Most often, suspicions are aroused when a person starts to wake up with bites on their body after a night’s sleep. These bites will primarily appear on the parts of the body that are uncovered while you sleep, such as arms and lower legs,which look similar to raised red bumps like those that appear from mosquito bites. There are usually many bites in one area, such as in a grouping or in a line. The bites will be itchy and are easily misdiagnosed as mosquito bites, if you notice bites similar to these, further inspection for bed bugs is needed if you are bitten by Bed Bugs, avoid scratching the bites and use an anti-itch cream if the bites start to itch or swell.
Where to look for bed bugs
First, begin looking around your mattress, bedding and bed base. With large infestations of bed bugs, there are often little brown or near-black dots on the mattress seams, on bedding or on the bed base. They can also be found hiding in cracks and crevices, cabinets and drawers, picture frames, drapes and curtains, sofas and other furniture. With the presence of many bed bugs, they become more visible to the human eye. So spotting an actual bed bug is likely, and it will looks like a small, brown, flat, wingless parasite – similar to a tick or small cockroach. The best way to look for bed bugs is to take a flashlight and start your inspection. Look between the mattress and bed base and under your bottom sheet. Bed Bugs are quite efficient at quickly processing their meals and will litter the area on their way back with blood drips and their droppings. To the naked eye, these droppings or blood spots will look as if someone dusted the area with black pepper.
Bed Bug control
Once you have Once you have found you have a bed bug problem the best thing to do is act fast to try and prevent an infestation. If an infestation occurs bed bugs and their eggs can sometimes be a very hard and nerve-racking thing to eradicate.
One of the main areas you will get bed bugs are in the bedroom, so let’s start with some things you can do yourself before calling a pest control company.
Wash all bedding in hot water about (120°F minimum) and in the dryer on warm to hot for 15-20 minutes.
Remove all clutter from room as they live and hide in any nook or cranny. Check for signs of bed bugs if found, place in plastic bags and throw away if possible.
Check along edges of carpet and skirting boards, around door and window frames, if there is any cracks or holes the tiny bed bugs can hide in there. Look behind pictures on the wall, tops and bottoms of curtains under furniture, word ropes, in and behind books.
The next thing to do is thoroughly inspect your mattress and bed base for blood spots bed bug faecal spots and eggs. Look along top and bottom seams of the mattress and base, turn base over and check underneath. If bed bugs or eggs are found use you’re vacuum to suck them up and empty the contents in a plastic bag seal and throw away.
If bed bugs are found you should encase your mattress, bed base and pillows ASAP with a quality brand bed bug encasement. The encasements will prevent bed bug from entering or escaping. Even if there are bed bugs you can fit the encasements and no need to throw away your expensive beds. Don’t bother spraying household pest sprays or ‘bug bombs’ they are ineffective against bed bugs.
Unfortunately, if you are still having trouble with bed bugs you will have to call on a professional exterminator. Make sure he has dealt with bed bugs before, ask them how many times he is coming back for treatment, will they guarantee their work. They should come back a least twice, with 2 weeks break between treatments. Chemicals will not kill the bed bug eggs. If there are eggs on the first treatment they will have hatched by the 2nd treatment. While professional help can be expensive, most exterminators do a thorough job.