Everything you need to know about bedbugs
“CREDITS TO: Last updated Tue 13 February 2018 By Christian Nordqvist Reviewed by Judith Marcin, MD”
Bedbugs are small, wingless insects that feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Humans are the preferred hosts for the two main species.
There are two species of bedbugs that are known to feed on human blood. They are known scientifically as Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus. They have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians from 3,500 years ago.
Over millions of years, bedbugs have evolved as nest parasites, inhabiting the nests of birds and the roosts of bats. Some of them have learned to adapt to the human environment.
Newborn bedbugs, called hatchlings or nymphs, are tiny but visible and about the size of a poppy seed. Adults grow to about 0.25 inches long with an oval and flattened shape when they are not feeding. After feeding, they can double in size. Nymphs, eggs, and adults are visible to the naked eye.
They are called bedbugs because of their preferred habitat in human homes: Sofas, bed mattresses, clothing, and other soft furnishings. They also prefer the dark.
Bedbugs are seen as a growing problem within all types of dwellings, including private homes, dormitories, cruise ships, army barracks, and shelters.
When seen close up, their color may range from a white, light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange color. When they have fed, a dark red or black blob may be observed within their body. They seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices when disturbed.Fast facts on bedbugs
- Bedbugs are small wingless insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals.
- Most bedbugs feed on their hosts while they are asleep.
- The peak time for feeding is between midnight and 5 am.
- Bites can be seen quickly but may take up to 14 days to become visible.
- Bed bugs need to feed regularly to reproduce, lay eggs and survive.
A bedbug may cause a coriander-like smell.
The most obvious sign of bedbugs in the home is that people complain of bites that occurred while they were asleep. If this happens, examine the bedrooms for bedbugs and signs of bedbug activity.
Look carefully in bed linen and the seams and tufts of mattresses and box springs for bugs or eggs. The eggs will look like tiny, pale poppy seeds.
Signs of bedbug activity may occur beneath loose areas of wallpaper near beds, in the corner of desks and dressers, in the laundry, and in drawers.
Keep an eye out for dark brown or rust-colored bedbug droppings that stain material and mattresses. Bedbug excrement is a liquid that looks either light brown or black, and it usually either beads up or is absorbed by the material around it.
A large population of bedbugs may produce a coriander-like odor.
Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and includes:
- topical creams, such as cortisone, to relieve itching
- an oral antibiotic, if infection occurs because of skin irritation around the bite
- corticosteroids, if a person has a severe allergic reaction
- antihistamines, to help relieve allergic reactions
Most bites heal within 1 and 2 weeks of occurrence.
Some of these treatments are available for purchase online, including cortisone and antihistamines.Bed bug bites: What you need to knowClick here for more in-depth information on treating bedbug bites.READ NOW
Since bedbugs can hide in a wide range of places in the home, they are not easy to remove. It is advisable to bring in a pest control professional.
Removing excess clutter from the house, giving the bedbugs fewer places to hide, makes inspection and removal less difficult.
Some pest control companies request that furniture is pulled away from walls and mattresses and box springs stood on edge before they enter the home. Other companies prefer everything to be left where it is so that they can perform a check before moving the furniture themselves.
Scientists at Ohio State University have determined that combining the chemical signals of bedbugs with a common insect-control agent can make it an effective treatment for killing the bugs.
Bed bug bites
Bed bug eggs
Most bedbugs feed on their hosts while they sleep. They draw blood in a painless way.
While feeding, they inject a small amount of saliva into the host’s skin. If they feed on one particular person for several weeks, the individual may become more sensitive to their saliva and the chemicals that it contains. The host might eventually develop an allergic response.
Bedbugs, like fleas, tend to bite in rows. There are likely to be two or three bites in each row. This is probably because the bedbug is interrupted while feeding, and then comes back about half an inch further down for its next bite.
Bites can take up to 14 days to become visible but often appear within several days. Bedbug bites are larger than fleabites and do not usually have a red dot at the center. The bites tend to be raised and red.
They can be scattered or occur in clusters of three over the paths of blood vessels, known as the “breakfast, lunch, and dinner sign.”
Most people who are bitten show no symptoms at all and often do not know it happened. This makes it more difficult to prevent or identify potential infestations. Some individuals, however, may become ill and nauseous. It is possible to get scars and skin infections from scratching the bites.
Very rarely, people might have an anaphylactic reaction to bedbug bites. It is possible but rare to have an asthmatic reaction to bedbugs.