For this reason, most non-chemical solutions are considered to be part of an integrated plan to kill and control bed bugs. The most important piece of this plan is knowing your enemy and preparing the battlefield. So let’s find out more about the secret life of bed bugs.
Bed Bug Life Cycle
Assume some bed bugs come into your home. These intruders could be in any of the three stages of development, from eggs to adults.
When eggs are laid, they have a sticky coating that helps them cling to whatever article they’re deposited on—helpful to a bug that oftentimes has to live in what we might consider an inconvenient space. Unfortunately, also ideal for safe and secure transport via luggage, furniture, and other objects.
The young hatchlings and adults are mobile, and can scurry into small cracks and crevices at a moment’s notice.
So it’s likely that if bed bugs have settled into your home, you have bed bugs-in-waiting (eggs), baby bed bugs (hatchlings), growing bed bugs (molting stages), and adult bed bugs.
The reason this is important is because chemical bed bug treatments are usually effective at one stage of growth or another. One chemical that kills adult bugs will not affect eggs, for instance. That’s why bed bugs are so hard to eliminate from a structure, and several treatments over time are usually necessary.
Non-chemical bed bug treatments, on the other hand, are typically effective on all stages of bugs. However, they are less likely to get all the bugs.
Bed Bug Feeding Habits
Bed bugs feeding behavior is called “cryptic”, meaning hidden. They venture out to feed on their warm-blooded hosts when they sense inactivity and carbon dioxide. Darkness helps them feel more secure about this sneakiness, but bed bugs will feed in the light if they’re hungry.
Once they’ve had a meal (anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes, depending on age), they scurry back to their hiding place to digest. Fortunately, along the way they often evacuate (poop), which is one of the tell-tale signs that bed bugs are in the home.
They like to feed roughly every 5-10 days…although they can survive for up to a year without feeding. This toughness is just one of those special qualities that makes bed bugs a challenge to eliminate from homes and buildings.
Incidentally, although bed bugs gravitate toward human hosts because of the ideal environment found in bedrooms and such, they will feed on pets or wildlife found in houses (like bats or birds). That’s important because many people go to a lot of trouble to make their living quarters inhospitable to the insects, only to find the little buggers just move to other areas of the home not normally considered viable.
Identifying Bed Bugs
Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs can be seen. But you have to be thorough and determined to find them when you undertake a search of any premises.
Since we know that bed bugs‘ ideal habitat is in the bedroom, that’s the room to focus on initially. Remember that they will travel the least distance possible for a meal, but they are capable of a pretty good hike if necessary.
You would start with the bed itself. An adult bed bug is as thin as a credit card until it gorges itself, at which point it gets a bit bloated. Since the bugs will typically feed in the early-morning hours, that’s a good time to begin your search—sometime between 3 and 5 a.m.
Remove your bedding and put it in transparent plastic bags, and seal them. That will trap any bugs that were caught out in the open when you got up. You can let them stew in the bag while you continue to search.
Inspect your bed painstakingly. The best thing to do is to disassemble it—the mattresses, frame, box spring. Peel the muslin fabric back from the spring so you can see inside.
You’re looking mainly for eggs and the shell casings left by molting (growing) young bed bugs. They will tend to be concentrated in little clumps, because the bugs typically do all their non-feeding activity in a congregation. There will likely be several congregations, so you’re not necessarily looking for a needle in a haystack.
Eggs are white, and pretty tiny. Each female lays between one and 12 eggs per day, though, so there should be a good, visible clump of eggs if they are present.
Once hatched, the bug is about the size of a pinhead, and very light-colored and translucent. That will make them difficult to see as well, so use a flashlight if you need to. After a feeding, however, the bright red blood in their body will help them stand out. At each of the five moltings on their journey from hatchling to adult, the young bed bugs become progressively larger and darker. Adults reach a size about the same as the numbers on a credit card. As mentioned, they are very flat and oval-shaped until they feed. Once engorged, they will look like round, elongated O’s.
Remember that even though they should have eaten at this point, they are still capable of cramming themselves into very tiny cracks. Consider that one good hiding place for a bed bug is the recessed head of a wood screw. Look carefully at any joints, ledges, or crevices that something that size could fit into. Even tiny unsealed cracks in a wooden bed frame or headboard—such as grain lines that were missed by varnish—can hide one or more bugs.
If you don’t find any bugs in the bed itself, turn to furniture and other items near the bed. Nightstands (and all the objects on them) should be examined just as closely. Make sure you look under, behind and inside all furniture like this.
Pictures or mirror frames on the wall above the bed could hide bed bugs, as could drapes or window frames. Peeling wallpaper and the space between baseboards and the wall are other excellent places to look. If you have wooden floors, inspect the cracks between the planks.
If you’re striking out, expand your search to the ceiling, light fixtures, electrical outlet plates, and under the carpeting at the edges of the room.
Finally, check the bedding in those plastic bags—the bugs should be visible on the plastic by now if they exist.
Bed Bug’s Effects on Humans
Most people feel a great deal of revulsion at the thought of bedbugs. Much of that arises from misconceptions about the insect. The thought of a filthy, disease-carrying pest feeding on your blood as you sleep is definitely creepy, but it’s not quite accurate.
Bed bugs will choose and stay in an area for only three reasons: they detect carbon dioxide and warmth, and there are convenient places to hide.
They do not appear because of sloppy housekeeping or any other unsanitary condition. And they do not transmit disease to humans. They are less dangerous than mosquitos, which are well-documented as disease-transmitters. But they are more difficult to eradicate, due to their adaptive qualities and life cycle characteristics.