Known scientifically as Cimex lectularius (Cimidae), bed bugs are small insects that feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals. These creatures belong to the insect family Cimicidae, and are biologically different from dust mites. If you smelled a sweet, musty odour in your home, then there is a chance that you are living with these pests.
Bed bugs have flat bodies that are reddish-brown in colour and can appear more reddish after feeding. Adult bed bugs can reach up to five to seven millimetres in length while nymphs are as small as 1.5mm and the same as the size of two grains of salt. Thankfully, they can be seen by the naked eye.
A female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs during her lifetime. Just like any other insect, a bed bug’s life starts with an egg that is grain-like and milky white in colour. After one to two weeks, eggs begin to hatch and turn into white or yellow-white nymphs.
A nymph must start to feed with blood in order to complete its molting stage. It molts five times before reaching adulthood. A temperature of 70F to 80F is most favourable for bed bugs, making the nymph stage last only for three weeks and turn them into adults. In cooler temperatures, nymphs may take months to mature.
Once mature, it will turn into an adult bed bug and live for about 10 months or longer.
Did you know that bed bugs have vestigial wings? Despite this, they cannot fly nor jump but they can crawl rapidly, transferring from one place to another.
What do they eat
Bed bugs live mostly on blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. They feed mostly at night where people are asleep. However, there are instances where they can be seen on broad daylight and feed especially when they get hungry.
Where can you see them?
From the name itself, bed bugs hide in beds, mattresses, box springs and headboards. However, they can also hide on folds, cracks and crevices, curtains, edges of the carpet, corners of the dressers, cracks in wallpapers and seams of upholstered furniture.
Unlike lice and fleas, bed bugs are not biologically programmed to have claws that allow them to navigate your hair. They can still get into your hair but they don’t really want to be there and prefer your bare skin more.
Also, bed bugs don’t live and cannot travel with your pets. Just like humans, bed bugs are more likely to cling to your pet’s bedding or clothing so they can travel and infest different areas.
How do you get bed bugs into your home?
The existence of bed bugs is not a sanitation issue. Keep in mind that they are excellent hitchhikers where they can move from place to place as people travel. They cling to your clothes, suitcase, laptop bags, backpacks or even purse so they can infest other areas. If you recently purchased second-hand furniture or came from a bed bug infested area or home, then there is greater chance that you’ll bring the bed bugs with you.
You are also at risk of getting bed bugs when you live in multi-unit buildings and one room is infested. At the same time, they can get through hollows in walls and holes, and tubes that wires and pipes go through when they are disturbed or there is a need for food and harbouring spaces.
Despite their mode of transportation, bed bugs don’t really cling to your skin and are more interested with your blood.
Bed bugs and your health: Is it affected?
Bed bugs are more of a nuisance than being dangerous. They are more of a psychological issue since some people tend to become paranoid which affects their sleep patterns. They can also result to distress, nervousness and restlessness, especially for those who have been frequently bitten.
Also, there is a possible risk of infection when bed bug bites are scratched incessantly to the point of breaking your skin. Therefore, the best way to treat a rash is to use an anti-itch cream or antihistamine to bring relief. Placing an ice pack on the affected area can help too.
They are generally harmless and do not carry diseases. However, if you have asthma, you can experience an asthmatic reaction due to the shed skin left by the bugs. There are also cases where bed bug bites can result to an allergic response.
Bed bugs are not like mosquitoes that carry deadly dengue virus. Nonetheless, there are studies that suggest that bed bugs can transmit virus which can lead to Hepatitis B or Chagas disease. However, these claims need to be verified.
What to do when you have bed bugs?
Getting rid of bed bugs may be difficult – and this does not mean moving and transferring to a new place. If your home is infested with bugs, then there is a possibility that they will come with you and cling so much on your mattresses, furniture and other soft items which you will bring in your new home.
Still, here are some things you can do:
- Wash beddings, garments and clothes and launder and dry them at a very high temperature.
- Sun-dry items that cannot be washed for 24 hours.
- Vacuum areas that are infested by bed bugs. To make it more effective, scrape the area as you vacuum.
- For best results, contact a pest professional that employs integrated pest management approach so they can thoroughly inspect, treat and get rid of bed bugs.
Tips on how to bed bug proof your home.
Prevention is better than cure. If you want to make your home free from bed bugs, here’s what you can do:
- Clean everything – from suitcase to clothes – you travelled with.
- Wash clothes, bed sheets and pillow cases in hot water.
- Stay away from second-hand furniture and mattresses unless thoroughly examined by a pest control professional.
- Regularly inspect areas where pets sleep for signs of bed bugs.
It takes time to get rid of bed bugs. Still, they are more of a nuisance than a health concern. But with the right care and techniques, you will be able to deal and eventually avoid bed bug infestation.