Guide to Household Bed Bugs
Appearance, lifecycle, and habits
A few decades ago, bed bugs were an unusual occurrence in developed countries. However, research shows that bed bug infestations have become more common in places like the United Kingdom, U.S.A, and Canada since the early 2000s. According to a 2013 study, bed bugs may have evolved ways to resist insecticides. Two types of bed bugs are known to plague humans:
- Tropical bedbug, Cimex hemipterus
- Common bedbug, Cimex lectularius
Bed bugs are small parasitic insects that are flat, oval, approximately the same size as an apple seed, reddish-brown in color, and live on blood. Although they don’t have wings and can’t fly or jump, bedbugs can move quickly over walls, floors, and ceilings. Although the types that feed on human blood can crawl up to 100 feet in one night, they usually stay as close as possible to their host. Because of their narrow bodies and ability to live without food for months, bedbugs are ready stowaways and squatters. These insects often hide in the folds and seams of clothes and bags. They will take shelter in box springs, bed frames, headboards, and behind wallpapers for easy access to the host. Over time, bed bugs can scatter throughout the house, moving into crevices and protected locations.
Bed bugs reproduce through traumatic insemination, where the male stabs the female in the abdomen and then injects sperm into the wound. Female bedbugs can lay more than 200 eggs over a lifetime, each about the same size as a grain of sugar. Before reaching their adult form, bedbug eggs hatch and go through five stages, molting after each phase. Under favorable conditions, bed bugs can develop to maturity within a month and produce at least three generations in a year.
How to identify bed bugs
Adult bedbugs are the same size as an apple seed, about a quarter of an inch long, shiny rusty red in color, wingless, oval and flat bodied. They have six legs not longer than their bodies, two antennas not longer than their legs, and a dark mark on their backs.
Juvenile bedbugs are approximately the same size as a poppy seed, between 1/25 and 1/5 inches long, translucent tan in color, wingless, oval and flat bodied. They have six legs not longer than their bodies, two antennas not longer than their legs, and accordion-like folds on their bodies.
Bedbug eggs are the same size as a grain of sugar, approximately 1/25 inches long, yellowish-white in color, and adhered to surfaces. Once hatched, the egg shells usually remain on these surfaces.
Signs of bed bug infestation
You most likely have bed bugs if on waking up you find yourself with itchy areas, especially if you recently got a second-hand bed or used furniture. Itchy areas might be a poor indicator because they can be a result of various causes and many people have skin types that do not react to bed bug bites. Other signs of infestation include:
- Live bed bugs
- Dark, rusty spots of excrement on your beddings, clothes, and walls
- Blood stains on your beddings
- Bed bug egg shells, fecal spots, or shed skin in the hiding areas mentioned above
- A musty, offensive odor, particularly if the infestation is large. This smell usually comes from the insect’s scent glands
If you suspect a bedbug infestation, use a strong flashlight to check your beddings. Focus the inspection on the corners of the bed. Pull back the blankets, sheets, and mattress pad, and look between each for signs of bed bugs. Examine the rope edges, labels, and stickers on your mattress. Lift your mattress off the box spring, remove the dust cover, and assess the wood framing, focus more on the seams. Make sure you peel back the fabric stapled to the wood frame and examine the bed skirt’s inner edges, particularly at the head. Make sure you check around the bed, including the carpet’s edge and inside books, electrical outlets, telephones, or radios. Don’t forget the closet since bed bugs can at times attach to clothing.
If you find any sign of infestation, take the necessary steps to eliminate the pests and prevent their return.
Bed bug bites
Although they aren’t exclusively nocturnal, bed bugs are usually active at night. They feed on human and sometimes animal blood, withdrawing the blood through the sharp proboscis inserted into a victim’s skin. Bedbugs become engorged in 3-10 minutes, crawling away unnoticed once full. According to a study conducted by Purdue University, they are attracted to moisture, warmth, and the carbon dioxide we release. Bedbugs usually bite the exposed areas of a sleeping host including the neck, arms, and face. Although bedbug bites are initially painless, they can turn into itchy welts.
However, people can have varying reactions to bedbug bites. Instead of developing lesions, bumps, or pustules, some people show little or no visible reaction. Additionally, bedbug bites can look the same as other insect bites, mosquitos included. Unlike flea bites, bedbug bites occur on any exposed areas of the body and don’t feature a red spot in the center. To confirm their bite, you must locate and identify the bedbugs themselves.
Since these insects live solely on blood, bedbug infestations are not a sign of dirtiness. Bed bugs are considered more of an annoyance than a serious health hazard because they do not transmit infectious diseases like mosquitos and ticks. However, several health risks are associated with bedbug bites including:
Allergic Reactions: Some people will have a mild or extreme reaction to bedbug bites, and in some cases, hypersensitivity to the bite leads to life-threatening conditions like anaphylactic shock. Immediate medical attention is paramount in such situations.
Infection: Although they are not known to spread blood transmitted pathogens, bedbug bites can be extremely itchy, and one could easily introduce germs into the wound. Bedbugs often attack at night, which means you might scratch yourself spontaneously and infect the bite site.
Insomnia: Bedbugs can keep you awake all night long and deprive you of a good night’s sleep, and this could, in turn, prove physically and mentally exhausting. You may also suffer from other effects of insomnia like anxiety, inability to focus, irritability, depression, and loss of appetite.
How to prevent bed bugs
The elimination of bed bugs begins with cleaning where they live, and this process should include the following steps:
- Clean your clothing, beddings, linens, and curtains in hot water and use the highest dryer setting to dry them. Place the items you cannot wash in the dryer and run it on high for 30 minutes.
- Before vacuuming, scrub the seams of your mattress using a stiff brush. This helps to remove the bedbugs and their eggs.
- Vacuum your bed and the surrounding area on a regular basis and dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag immediately after vacuuming.
- To keep the bedbugs from entering or escaping, encase your box springs and mattress with a tightly woven and zippered cover for a year because bed bugs can live for a very long time without feeding.
- Glue down any peeling wallpaper and repair every crack. This helps to ensure the pests won’t have a place to hide.
- Get rid of any clutter around your bed
Because they reproduce quickly and hide so well, bedbugs are hard to exterminate. Their eggs are also resistant to many forms of treatment. Your chances of success will depend on the following:
- Site-specific challenges
- Extent of the infestation
- Level of neighbourhood participation
If you set the freezer to zero degrees Fahrenheit, cold treatment might be a successful method of elimination in the home environment. However, you will have to leave your items in the freezer for about four days, making sure the temperature stays at zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Although these eco-friendly methods will help reduce the number of bedbugs, they are not likely to eliminate the infestation entirely.
While you can use pesticides, chemical treatments require carefully care and adherence to the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure you get EPA-registered pesticides with bed bugs listed on the label.
Desiccants can be effective in some situations because they dry out bedbugs, meaning they cannot develop resistance. Refrain from using pool-grade or food-grade diatomaceous earth since this type might cause harm when inhaled. While they can be helpful, desiccants can take long work.
You can also use foggers, albeit with extreme caution. Improper use might cause a fire or harm your health. You should not use foggers as the sole mode of bedbug control because they involve a broadcast spraying action that might not reach the inside of cracks and crevices.
Once you have completed the cleanup and control processes, make sure you carefully look for evidence of bedbugs every few days.
Are bed bug pesticides safe?
While the majority of bed bug pesticides are safe, some can have unwanted effects. You might have an allergic reaction to some of the chemicals used, which is why you must take special care and adhere to the instructions included. It is also important that you use EPA-registered pesticides with bedbugs listed on the label.
Professional treatment versus DIY
With the increasing prevalence of bed bugs, people are looking for the cheapest way to get rid of the blood-sucking pests. Although you can easily find do-it-yourself pesticides on the internet, not all of them are effective. In fact, your do-it-yourself bed bug control efforts can do you more harm than good. Additionally, controlling bed bugs takes 3-4 treatments on average. To help you understand the importance of professional treatment, here are the most important benefits:
Guaranteed results: With professional pest control companies, no trials and errors are involved. Instead, they plan for long-term prevention after assessing the level of infestation. As such, you are sure of desirable outcomes and a healthy environment. Pest control professionals usually offer a 30-day guarantee, which means they will come back and treat recurring infestation issues at no extra charge.
Controlled use of pesticides: Because they understand the risks associated with chemicals, professionals will use pesticides only when necessary. On the other hand, you will probably use more pesticides than needed, which might impact your health, property, or the environment negatively.
Planned approach: Unlike do-it-yourself pest control projects, professionals always implement a well-thought strategy. Without the expertise and know-how that comes with experience, you probably won’t get to the source of the issue.
Time-efficient and cost-effective: Considering the number of treatments required, hiring a professional saves you time and possibly money.
Although cleaning up helps to control infestations, getting rid of bed bugs usually calls for chemical treatments. Since treating your home with pesticides might be harmful, you must use safe products and follow the instructions included. However, engaging a professional remains the most effective and eco-friendly solution to bed bug infestations.