Bed bugs or Cimicidae, are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood from warm blooded animals. They are named as Bed bugs due to the fact that they prefer to live in houses especially beds and other places where people sleep on, bed frames, mattresses and head boards or in small crevices or cracks that would be hard to reach. These insects have been named wall louse, crimson rambler, redcoat, chinche and heavy dragon by others as well. They usually feed at night when people are asleep so they can feed without their host noticing, but their feeding peak would be just before dawn. These Bed bugs use pheromones and kairomones to be able to communicat4e with others about their nest, reproduction and feeding.
These Bed bugs get around, through the help of people, by riding on clothing, luggage, used furniture and other belongings. They also are able to transfer from one unit to another by the help of holes or cracks in walls and even across wiring, in buildings and apartments. Bed bugs can also be transported by pets such as dogs, cats and even birds, including people who have visited a place where Bed bugs thrive.
Bed bugs have been around for years and they have been able to spread worldwide due to people who travel, since these creatures manage to hitch a ride on traveler’s belongings. For years, people have been trying to eradicate them. They had been a time when their infestation had reached a peak and a time when they had decreased. Yet, till today, these Bed bugs manage to find a place in our homes where they can feed off our blood and pets.
The adult Bed bugs grow up to a 4 to 5mm (quarter inch) in length and 1.5 – 3mm in width, having a reddish brown, oval, flat and wingless appearance, often being mistaken for book lice and carpet beetles. The newly hatched Bed bugs are lighter in color that then turn brown when they molt and mature. They do have wings but are short and non functional thus preventing them from flying.
Bed bugs have 6 life stages wherein the first 5 are immature stages and followed by the mature adult stage. During the molting process, Bed bugs would shed their skins all through their life stages. They would have to molt 6 times in order to become fertile adults. The shed skins look like transparent and empty exoskeletons of the Bed bugs.
Moreover, like any other insects, Bed bugs have protective structures in the outer most layer of the skin and physical structures and are wax like substances making them resilient and adaptive to physical environmental changes.
How Bed bugs Feed
As these Bed bugs are blood sucking insects they feed on humans when there are no other animals to feed on. Three main factors help the Bed bugs to be drawn to their host and these are through carbon dioxide, warmth and odors. They can feed every 5 to 10 days, but they can also survive without having to feed.
A Bed bug can pierce the skin of its host with 2 feeding tubes where one tube injects its anticoagulant and anesthetic saliva, while the other sucks out the blood. A Bed bug would feed for between 5 to 10 minutes till it is full and then return to its hiding place.
Bed bugs may feed on human blood, but unlike mosquitoes, they do not spread bacteria or any diseases. This is a fact proven, as scientists have studied that the stomach of Bed bugs have linings and peptides preventing bacteria, viruses and fungi to thrive.
The reproduction process of Bed bugs is by traumatic insemination. The female Bed bugs have a reproductive tract, but are not used by the male for sperm insemination. The male Bed bugs pierce the abdomen of female Bed bugs using their hypodermic genitalia, then ejaculates into the abdomen. The sperm then is deposited through their blood to sperm storage cavities known as seminal conceptacles where fertilization takes place in the ovaries.
An adult Bed bug can have 200 to 500 eggs that ensures that their number increase rapidly when undetected. So when you able to identify that you have Bed bug bites, you may assume that you already have a Bed bug infestation problem.
There are occasions when the male Bed bug would try to mate with another male Bedbug by piercing their abdomen. Such incidents happen when males are attracted to other Bed bugs of any sex, having their desired size and those that have just fed. The immature Bed bugs would protect themselves from males who would try to mate with them by producing pheromone to let them know of their non reproductive status.
Their presence can be identified by the dark red or deep red colored fecal stains, blood smears and molts left on the seams of mattresses, box springs, headboards, wall paper, cracks and crevices near the sleeping area. When Bed bug infestation is present, a sweet like musty odor is detected. As a matter of fact, dogs can detect Bed bugs easily. This is why certain pest control companies would use dogs to help locate the presence of Bed bugs efficiently.
The most common way for people to tell if they have bed bugs in their bed is to look for blood stains on the sheets. If you are sleeping with bed bugs there is a good chance that you will squash them when you are itching yourself at night. Looking for stains from the blood or feces is a good way to detect if you have bed bugs in your bed. Also, using a flashlight at night is a good way to search for bed bugs. During the daytime you will need to manually try and find the bed bugs hidden in the dark crevices.
How Bed bugs Bites Look Like
As Bed bugs feed at night when people are asleep, knowing that you have been bitten won’t be identified till the marks show. They bite areas of exposed skin such as arms, legs, chest, back, feet and the like. Bed bugs bites are itchy and can make victims want to scratch terribly. But scratching these bites can only cause inflammation, more itching and severe irritation. For some people, they become badly allergic and have rashes on their skin.
This is picture of bed bug bites on an arm. Notice the bite pattern and redness of the bite. (Some people won’t suffer any reaction from bed bug bites)
The saliva injected by Bed bugs contains proteins that cause that allergic reaction. The redness of their bite will vary especially on the location of the bites. These bites are a little similar to mosquito bites, or a large red welt or lumps that are white or with a depression in the middle. The lumps or welts are formed in a row having 3 or more welts one after the other. Even if the welts shrink into red spots, these spots will stay for days on your skin.
How to Manage Bed bugs Bites
As bed bugs bites are irritatingly itchy, you must avoid the urge to scratch them as it will only cause more itching and it will also cut open the welt and bleed. For some, the blood may flow and not clot as it should as traces of anticoagulant may still be present. Do not scratch them as the bleeding can lead to infection.
You can deal with these bites by washing them with warm soapy water or some ice. Application of anti- itch and anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the symptoms of Bed bug bites. Antihistamines and corticosteroids can help remove or relieve allergic reactions.
However, if the bite is infected, there is a possibility of it to become tender and release yellow, green or white substances and this is when a doctor has to be consulted for immediate treatment.
Bed bugs infestation can be avoided by first inspecting the room, especially the bed and the walls near it. Those who travel must avoid placing their suitcases or clothing on room furniture of the floor and have all clothes washed with hot water. Suitcases must be stored immediately in the garage or storage areas.
Beg bugs will thrive and infest a home regardless if it is clean or not. Nevertheless you should maintain cleanliness by maintaining furniture, floors and walls, while having beds regularly made with new clean bed sheets and that bed mattresses and the like do not have holes or tears. Vacuuming carpets and rugs and couches will help as well. If walls have cracks or crevices, having them filled in is an advantage.
The most common way for bed bugs to get inside a home or apartment is by visitors spending the night. Because bed bugs like to latch on to suitcases and backpacks, they can easily exit from the visitors luggage into your home. Always ensure that you know where your visitors have previously been staying to ensure you don’t have any unwanted pests enter your home.
How to Control Bed bugs
When Bedbugs are already present in your home, using suitable pesticides or insecticides in the infested areas can help eradicate them. There is also a possibility that several furniture and materials may have to be thrown out if they are made nesting grounds by Bed bugs. Having a professional can help efficiently eliminate any Bed bugs in your home if you are unable to control them yourself or have any doubts with handling dangerous chemicals.
It has been studied that cockroaches, ants, centipedes, spiders, mites and Pharaoh’s ant are natural enemies of Bed bugs; however, even if they manage to kill and feed on the Bed bugs, they in turn will cause another problem.
There are several Bed bug products in the market today that can help you eliminate Bed bugs, but with the risk of chemicals affecting health, sometimes, investing in professional pest control methods are safer, convenient and effective.