Everything you wanted to know about bed bugs (but were afraid to ask).
Adult bed bugs are about the size, shape, and color of an apple seed. They are oval shaped, flat, and about 1/4 inch in length. Unfed nymphs are translucent and are about the size of a pinhead. Eggs are the size, shape, and color of a half grain of rice.
Their color will vary, depending on their stage of life and also when they last fed. Early stage bed bug nymphs are translucent to straw-colored, but will have a crimson-colored center if they have recently fed. As bed bugs get older, they darken, and adult bed bugs appear as a mahogany brown color, or a darker red if they are digesting a blood-meal.
You can see all life stages with the naked eye. You may see five different sizes because there are five different life stages.
They have an interesting form of reproduction known as traumatic insemination. Male bed bugs use their copulatory organ to puncture the body wall of the female’s abdomen, and inject their sperm directly into a specialized organ.
Bed bugs feed exclusively on the blood of vertebrates with humans their preferred host. A blood-meal is required for bed bugs to reach each life stage and to reproduce. When hosts are present and blood-meals are readily available, bed bugs will develop rapidly, and infestations will quickly progress and become unmanageable.
Identifying bed bug bites can be difficult. Here are some distinguishing factors to help discern them from other insect bites.
- If you felt the bite when it occurred, it was not a bed bug.
- If bites are random and spread out, it was probably not bed bugs.
- If the bite forms a blister, it could be a bed bug bite.
- If the bites follows a pattern (straight or a zig zag), they could be bed bug bites. My bites looked like The Little Dipper, crossing my chest onto my right shoulder. They also tend to be in groupings of three to five.
Bed bugs have beak-like mouthparts (proboscis) that are specifically designed to cut skin and suck blood. The proboscis is kept tucked beneath the bed bug when not in use.
When bed bugs feed, the proboscis is placed at a right angle to the skin, and the bugs rock back and forth during insertion. Once in the skin, cutting parts of the proboscis slide through the tissues until a suitable blood vessel is found, and the blood is then sucked up. The pressure from the blood in the vessel is used to transmit the blood into the insect.
The bed bug swells as is fills with blood, and feeding may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Similar to mosquitoes, when a bed bug bites, it releases anticoagulant and anesthetic compounds that keeps the blood flowing freely and makes the bite virtually pain-free. After feeding bed bugs will quickly return to their hiding place, where they will spend several days digesting the blood-meal.
Bed bugs are sensitive to disturbance and will remove their proboscis to discontinue feeding if the food source moves, or becomes restless. Once settled, bed bugs will re-insert their proboscis and begin to feed again. This behavior can sometimes explain multiple bites in the same, or nearby, location.
No. Their saliva contains a substance that acts as a mild anesthetic so you will not feel it.
Although humans are preferred, bed bugs will bite pets if there is not a human host present. The bites will look similar to the ones found on humans. After feeding, bed bugs will return to a protected location, so they will not be found on the host. If you are concerned about a pet, the best thing to do is take it to the vet.
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Bed bugs do not transmit disease. The medical significance of bed bugs (in addition to the fact that they feed on human blood) is associated with secondary infections at bite sites due to scratching open bites.
Probably the most problematic side effects from bed bug bites are the psychological ones. Experiencing a bed bug infestation can be a very emotional and highly stressful experience. The idea of little bugs living in your bed and drinking your blood can be creepy to say the least. Not to mention that there is still a social stigma associated with bed bugs, whereby many people think that infestations have something to do with personal or household hygiene or social status. And while things like hygiene and social status have nothing to do with getting bed bugs, unfortunately these are myths that are alive and well among the masses.
Bed bugs are most attracted to humans compared to all other potential vertebrate hosts. Bed bugs use multiple cues in order to detect humans, including:
- Body heat
- Carbon dioxide
- Human odors
- Bed bug sightings
- Small dark spots on sheets and pillowcases
- Dark spots in seams on mattresses
- Dark spots on bed frames and headboards
- Cast, shed skin (exoskeleton that appears translucent)
Bed bugs are found anywhere that humans are motionless for an extended period of time. The most common of these places is of course, the bed, which is where bed bugs get their name. Bed bugs prefer to be as close to their human food source as possible, and are frequently found on or in close proximity to the following places:
- Beds – including box springs, mattresses, headboards, mattress covers
- Couches – including cushions and pillows
- Reclining chairs
- Any other areas where people are sedentary for long periods of time.
As infestations grow larger, bed bugs tend to spread out within a room, and can end up in unusual places such as behind baseboards on curtains, along ceilings, in electrical outlets and behind pictures.
- Folds, seams and buttons on beds and furniture
- Areas where you sit often, like chairs and couches
- Under the bed, between mattresses, and within the seams of the mattress
- Cracks and crevices in bed frames and headboards
- High up on the walls or hide behind curtain rods
- Behind hanging picture frames, baseboards, dressers and lighting. Wood serves as an insulated home for bed bugs keeping them cozy
- Anywhere within 3-5 feet of where you sleep or spend a lot of idle time
Typically bed bugs feed at night but are active whenever a warm body is nearby and idle for an extended period of time. They prefer to feed when you are asleep and less likely to move or wake up as a result of them feeding. However, bed bugs will adapt to take advantage of a food source. If you work at night and are home during the day, they can feed off of you during the day while you are sleeping. In a movie theater, where it’s dark all the time, bed bugs will feed off patrons during the day.
Bed bugs can move pretty fast, with adults crawling up to 5 feet in about a minute.
They transfer on personal objects via close proximity. A person can transport bed bugs on an infested item, such as a backpack, handbag, or piece of luggage. Once set down, bed bugs will leave these items in search of a blood-meal and can climb onto other items – spreading the infestation. Bed bugs can also be transferred via the purchase of used, infested furniture, or second-hand mattresses.
Bed bugs have been around for thousands of years. Many experts believe that bed bugs have evolved from bat bugs, hypothesizing that bed bugs switched from feeding on the blood of bats and birds to feeding on humans, when cave dwellers first began taking up residence in the same caves as the bats.
Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers and can crawl into your luggage, or other belongings, and catch a ride to your residence. They can also lay eggs on your belongings and return to their hiding spot, leaving behind a future generation that will emerge at a new location. You can pick the resilient little creatures up from any infested area or from visits by friends and family carrying belongings that have also been to areas with an infestation.
Housing that is multi-family, such as apartment buildings and condominiums have led to the expansion of some bed bug populations. In these types of housing, bed bugs can crawl out of one residence, down a hallway, and into another residence. They can also travel within the walls.
Anyone can have bed bugs introduced into their home through used bed materials, furniture, luggage after traveling, or any public place such as waiting rooms, movie theaters, public transportation, etc.
Bed bugs are found in 5 star hotels as well as low-end motels, and in any home, regardless of the race, ethnicity or culture of its inhabitants. Bed bugs also don’t discriminate between those who are clean and those in need of a shower.
A dirty or cluttered house has nothing to do with bed bug attraction. However, rooms with extensive clutter can provide more places for bed bugs to hide, and therefore make bed bugs harder to remove.
Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. Routinely cleaning and clearing clutter can eliminate the hiding places for bed bugs. You should also carefully inspect any items brought into your home.
It all depends on the situation. The use of a heat treatment, in conjunction with some chemical applications, has proven to be very effective. However, conventional treatments with chemical treatments can also eliminate infestations.
It typically takes between 6-10 hours.
For any multi-family property or hospitality building, your risk is fairly high. Single family homes are also at risk.
Bed bugs are brought in either on clothing, personal belongings, or furniture.
Studies show that female bed bugs migrate away from their host if left uncontrolled. This often leads to infestations in common rooms, lobbies, adjoining rooms or neighboring units. Infested rooms or units may not report seeing bed bugs. Over 30% of people living with bed bugs don’t realize they are being bit. It is common for people to be hesitant to report having bed bugs for fear of embarrassment, eviction, and the stigma of being unclean.
No. Most likely the bed bugs will move with them. The bed bugs could be living or hiding in their belongings. Bed bugs left behind can migrate to other rooms for a blood meal, and they can live up to 1 year or more while waiting for their next blood meal.
Yes. You should inspect the items for any signs of activity, and when in doubt, have any furniture professionally treated. New clothes should be fine, but used clothing can be dried on high heat if you are unsure if it is infested.
We do not recommend throwing away furniture or belongings until a professional comes and assesses the situation. Most items can be treated. If you must get rid of something, wrap the items in plastic and seal it with packing tape. If it is small enough, place it in a trash bag and seal with tape.
Place any clothes that may be infested into a dryer set on high for a least 30 minutes. This also works for dry clean only items. As long as the item is dry, it shouldn’t be damaged, but you should talk to the maker of the clothes first. We are not responsible for damaging any clothes.
That can help, but without treatments, the new items will rapidly become infested by bed bugs that are living in walls, cracks and crevices, etc. Bed bugs are frequently spread when someone moves infested furniture out of a room without encasing the items in heavy gauge plastic. Bed bugs reinfest buildings through reintroduction of infested items from a dumpster.
We caution against the use of over the counter products as most bed bugs are genetically resistant to common household insecticides. Only professionals can access the products and training required to control bed bugs. Using over-the-counter or “do-it-yourself” pesticides or repellents may make the infestation worse by aggravating them, causing them to scatter into remote areas like bed frames, molding and picture frames. Contacting a professional is the best step in managing your bed bug removal.
They could; a repeat infestation can occur just like the original infestation.
- Avoid used furniture. If that’s not possible, carefully inspect used furniture before it is brought in.
- Inspect units with new tenants or with frequent turnover (such as hotel rooms) on a regular basis.
- Ask tenants to avoid visiting or allowing anyone that has a known bed bug infestation in their home to visit your property or home until they have successfully eliminated the bed bug infestation in their own home.
- Use caution while traveling and staying in hotels; inspect the area before unpacking your bags.