Bed bugs are blood-sucking insects that feed on sleeping or sedentary humans, mostly at night. The recent rise in bed bug infestations may be due to: increased global travel and commerce, widespread insecticide resistance, and changes in pesticides available.
Where do they live?
Common hiding places include: along mattress seams and tufts, beneath covers, in wood joints of box springs, in cracks and joints of bed frames, behind baseboards and headboards, behind picture frames, and inside furniture, carpet, appliances, electronics and upholstery.
Bed bugs will hitch a ride on anyone or anything. Both nymphs and adults generally feed at night and hide in dark cracks and crevices during the day, although hungry bugs may feed any time hosts are nearby and sedentary.
How do they live?
The bed bug has 3 life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Female bed bugs lay 200 to 500 tiny white eggs during their lifetimes, usually two to five eggs per day, on rough surfaces such as wood or paper near their hosts’ sleeping and resting places. The eggs hatch in about 10 to 15 days. Adults may live up to one year or more.
The nymphs appear identical to the adults except for their smaller size, thinner outer skeleton (cuticle), and lighter yellowish-white color. The life cycle from egg to adult takes about 5 weeks. Bed bugs also obtain their blood meal from some animals found near the home: chickens, rodents, and rabbits.
How do they affect us?
A bed bug can take up to six times its weight in blood during one feeding event, which takes between 3 and 10 minutes. Usually people aren’t aware they have been bitten until afterward since bed bugs inject a natural anesthetic while feeding. However, saliva injected during the feeding can later produce allergic dermal reactions such as large itchy swellings on the skin. These may become irritated and infected when scratched. Swelling may not develop until a day or more after feeding, and some people show no symptoms at all. Bed bugs have never been shown to transmit human disease.
Interestingly it is almost impossible to distinguish bed bug bites from the bites of other pests such as mosquitoes, fleas, and spiders.
How do we control them?
A number of nonchemical methods such as vacuuming, washing bedding at a high temperature, using steam or heat treatment, and sealing up hiding places can be employed. Prevention and monitoring of bed bug infestations are paramount and should be ongoing.