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Bed Bug Facts

What Are Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are tiny insects that are reddish and brown in color but are not so easy to find in your home and are very tiny (about 3/8 " long) and move quickly. If you do a proper inspection and you happen to find larvae and eggs, then you probably have bed bugs in your home.

Bed Bugs cause discomfort to most people, primarily through their bed bug bites. These bites are generally itchy and cause redness on the skin. They are generally itchy sometimes with localized swelling of the skin as well as blisters around red marks. And as you can see, all of them appear on the skin and are easily noticed by the naked eye. Although there is no known health problem with bed bug bites, it is simply unwelcome to people because of the uneasiness they bring.  Bed bug bites are not known to be harmful to the body and they usually fade after few days. However, if they fail to fade for weeks, please seek a doctor's help to ensure that no problems will occur. Some people experience certain allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock. Consulting your doctor with any concerns can be very helpful in ensuring your health and avoidance of further health problems in the future.

Most people have never seen a bed bug and only heard of them through the old nursery rhyme Good night sleep tight. Until the last 5 years, even pest control professionals were not getting calls. Bed bug infestations were common before World War II. But with improvements in hygiene, and especially the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and '50s, the bugs all but vanished. The pests remained fairly prevalent, in other regions of the world including Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. In recent years, bed bugs have made a comeback in the North America. They are increasingly being encountered in homes, apartments, hotels, motels, health care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools, and modes of transport. Other places where bed bugs sometimes appear include movie theaters, laundry/dry cleaners, furniture rental outlets and office buildings. 

Adult bed bugs are about 3/16" long and reddish-brown, with oval, flattened bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks or cockroaches. The immature (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are smaller and lighter in color. Bed bugs do not fly, but can move rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces. Female bed bugs lay their eggs in secluded areas, depositing 1 or more eggs per day and hundreds during a lifetime. The eggs are tiny, whitish, and hard to see on most surfaces without magnification (individual eggs are about the size of a dust speck). When first laid, the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to surfaces. Newly hatched nymphs are straw-colored and no bigger than a pinhead. As they grow, they molt (shed their skin) five times before reaching maturity. A blood meal is needed between each successive molt. Under favorable conditions (70-80°F), the bugs can complete development in as little as a month, producing three or more generations per year. Cooler temperatures or limited access to blood extends the development time. Bed bugs are resilient. Nymphs can survive months without feeding and the adults for more than a year. Infestations therefore are unlikely to diminish by leaving premises unoccupied. They prefer feeding on humans, it will also bite other warm-blooded animals, including dogs, cats, birds and rodents. 

Bed bugs are active mainly at night between 3 and 5 am. During the daytime, they prefer to hide close to where people sleep. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices — especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Characteristically, these areas are marked by dark spotting and staining, which is the dried excrement of the bugs. Also present will be eggs and eggshells, the brownish molted skins of maturing nymphs and the bugs themselves. Another telltale, though less frequent, sign is rusty or reddish blood smears on bed sheets or mattresses from crushing an engorged bed bug.

Bed bugs prefer to hide close to where they feed usually about 10-15 feet from their next meal. Initial infestations tend to be around beds, but the bugs eventually may become scattered throughout the bedroom, occupying any crevice or protected location. They also may spread to adjacent rooms or apartments.

Bed bugs usually bite people at night while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin which they withdraw blood. Engorgement takes about three to 10 minutes, yet the person rarely knows it’s happening.

Conventional insect repellents, like those used to deter ticks and mosquitoes, do not appear to be effective against bed bugs. Attempting to avoid being bitten by applying insect repellent at bedtime is not recommended. Sleeping with the lights on is not likely to deter hungry bed bugs either.

How Infestations Originate

It often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere. The bugs are efficient hitchhikers and are usually transported in on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, and other items. This is a particular problem for hotels, motels and apartments, where turnover of occupants is constant. Bed bugs are small, cryptic and agile, escaping detection after crawling into suitcases, boxes and belongings. The eggs are especially tiny and are usually overlooked. Acquiring secondhand beds, couches and furniture is another way that the bugs are transported into previously non-infested dwellings. Bed bugs also can be carried in on a person’s clothing or shoes, resulting in an infestation.

Once bed bugs are introduced, they often spread throughout a building. The bugs can travel from room to room or floor to floor either by crawling or via a person. Unlike cockroaches that feed on filth, the level of cleanliness has little to do with most bed bug infestations. Pristine homes, hotels and apartments have plenty of hiding places and an abundance of warm-blooded hosts. Thus, they are almost as vulnerable to infestation as are places of squalor.

Where They Hide

Bed bugs can live in almost any crevice or protected location. The most common place to find them is the bed. Bed bugs often hide within seams, tufts and crevices of the mattress, box spring, bed frame and headboard.

Do I Have to Throw Out the Bed?

Eliminating bed bugs from beds can be challenging. If there are holes or tears in the fabric, the bugs and eggs may be inside, as well as outside. There's also restrictions on how beds can be treated with pesticides. For these reasons, companies sometimes recommend that beds be discarded, especially when heavily infested or in poor condition. Another option is to encase both the mattress and box spring in a protective cover.  Bugstop Encasements are specifically designed to help protect against bed bugs and are available through The Allergy Guy. Once the cover is installed and zipped shut, any bugs which happen to be inside are entombed and eventually will die.  Encasements also help protect newly purchased beds and make it easier to spot and destroy any bugs residing on the outer surface during subsequent examination. Keeping the cover on for more than 12 months will ensure that they do not survive and you can get a peaceful sleep.  Encasements will not keep bed bugs from crawling onto a bed and biting a sleeping person.

When traveling what to do?

Concerned travelers may want to get in the habit of checking their bed for signs of bed bugs, a common practice in the past. This would entail examining the bed sheets and upper and lower seams of the mattress and box spring, especially along the head of the bed. Some also suggest removal and examination behind the headboard, a frequent hiding place for the bugs in hotel rooms. Headboards are heavy and cumbersome, however, and untrained persons should not attempt removal themselves. If bed bugs are discovered, travelers can request another room, preferably in another area of the building. Vigilant travelers may also want to elevate suitcases off the floor on a luggage stand, tabletop or other hard surface. You could also encase your suitcase in a large plastic bag. Should travelers experience itchy welts suggestive of bed bug bites during their stay, it would be prudent upon returning home (before unpacking) to place all clothing in disposable plastic bags and directly into the washer and/or dryer. Inspecting or vacuuming luggage upon arrival home is less useful since it’s hard to spot bed bugs inside a suitcase. The suitcase itself can either be treated or discarded.

Remember to hire a trained professional to combat the problem and encase your mattress.