What are bedbugs?
Bedbugs are small, elusive insects that belong to the insect family Cimicidae. They feed on the blood of warm blooded animals – including humans. Cimex lectularius are commonly called “Bedbugs” because they are mainly active at night between 2am and 5am.
Bedbugs are a growing source of aggravation, particularly in the developed Western world, because bedbugs were by and large wiped out in the late 1950′s with the widespread use of DDT. Prior to 1995, most people under 50 years of age had never seen a bedbug. Bedbugs have since begun making a major comeback worldwide.
What Do Bedbugs Look Like?
Adult bed bugs reach 5-8mm in length, while nymphs are as small as 1.5mm. Bedbugs have flat bodies, are wingless, and are sometimes mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Bedbugs feed by sucking blood from humans or animals. Adult bedbugs are reddish brown in color while nymphs are clear in color but appear bright red after feeding. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, and as the bedbugs grow moult, they become a deeper brown.
Symptoms of Bedbug Bites:
Bedbugs bite and suck blood from humans. Bedbugs are most active at night and bite any exposed areas of skin while an individual is sleeping. The face, neck, hands, and arms are common sites for bed bug bites. The bite itself is painless and is not noticed. Small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin are the most common sign; redness, swelling, and itching commonly occur. If scratched, the bite areas can become infected. A peculiarity of bedbug bites is the tendency to find several bites lined up in a row. Infectious disease specialists refer to this as the “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” sign signifying the sequential feeding that occurs from site to site.
History of Bedbugs:
Bedbugs were common in the U.S. before World War II and became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT began in the 1940s and 1950s. They remained prevalent in other areas of the world and, in recent years, have been increasingly observed again in the U.S. Increases in immigration and travel from the developing world as well as restrictions on the use of stronger pesticides may be factors that have led to the relatively recent increase in bed bug infestations. Bedbugs have been resurgent in the past decade and are nearing epidemic proportions.
Where are bedbugs found?
While bed bugs are often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are poor or when birds or mammals (particularly bats) are nesting on or near a home, bed bugs can also live and thrive in clean environments. Crowded living quarters also facilitate the spread of bed bugs.
Bed bugs can live in any area of the home and can reside in tiny cracks in furniture as well as on textiles and upholstered furniture. They tend to be most common in areas where people sleep and generally concentrate in beds, including mattresses, box springs, and bed frames. Other sites where bed bugs often reside include curtains, the corners inside dressers and other furniture, cracks in wallpaper (particularly near the bed), and inside the spaces of wicker furniture.
As bedbugs can live for months without feeding, they can also be found in vacant homes.
Bedbugs are very difficult to kill because of two main factors: (1) their natural resilience and (2) their resistance to contemporary domestic chemical pesticides.
Their resilience is largely due to a waxy coating on their bodies which protects them from surface pesticides and the chemical tolerance bedbugs developed during the 1940′s and 1950′s to chemical pesticides during the widespread spraying of DDT.
The waxy coating of bedbugs blocks their dehydration, which is why they can lie dormant for up to six months waiting for a suitable blood meal. It is also the reason why most contact pesticides are unsuccessful. Therefore, one of the most effective tactics for exterminating bedbugs is getting rid of the waxy coating.
People realized this 150 years ago, but they did not have the technology to really take advantage of the information. People often used to put down crushed dried leaves or sharp sand. In the 19th century, lime, ash and diatomaceous earth were used to wear away the outer waxy coat. The latter was especially effective and has seen an upsurge in usage over the last few years as an alternative to chemicals.
There are three basic kinds of chemical insecticides.
(1) The first type attempts to mimic the effects of diatomaceous earth. It is a spray that includes pulverized glass or silica mixed with a contact pesticide.
(2) Contact insecticides have limited effect, to a degree due to the waxy layer, but also because to be effective they have to be strong and this makes them a repellent, which means that the bedbugs will just avoid it if they are able to.
(3) Insect growth regulators are effective at killing the young, which is fantastic, but the adults can live for about a year, so that is not so good, unless you are thinking about a long vacation.
Heat treatment can be very effective in killing bedbugs – particularly when a fine dusting of diatomaceous earth is applied to surfaces after heat treatment. None of the bed bug’s life stages can survive temperatures above 45c, so you could try this technique by hiring a steam wall paper stripper or a hot air paint stripper for the weekend and going over your bed frame, walls, woodwork, and any other surface that could possibly be harboring bedbugs or bedbug eggs.
Read More About Bedbugs:
The top 4 signs you may have a bedbug infestation in your home are:
Bedbug bites are fairly generic and often resemble mosquito or flea bites. A good indicator though is the pattern of the bites.
A peculiarity of bedbug bites is the tendency to find the bites lined up in a row or located in a cluster of 3-4 bites. Specialists refer to this as the “breakfast, lunch, and dinner” bedbug bite pattern signifying the sequential feeding that occurs from site to site within a bedbug bite cluster.
Bedbugs are most active at night and will bite any exposed areas of skin. The face, neck, hands, and arms are common sites for bedbug bites. Small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin are the most common sign; redness, swelling, and itching commonly occur.
The reaction to bedbug bites is usually limited to localized itching and swelling at the site of the bite. If the itching sensation is intense and you scratch the bites, there is a chance of causing infection. For most people, ice and anti-itch cream is sufficient for treating bedbug bites.
You’ll often find blood or fecal stains on mattress seams and in other cracks and crevices. Bed bugs are small and flat and often remain hiding in such places.
Sometimes bedbugs are interrupted during feeding if move or roll over while in bed. Red stains on your bedding or mattress can be the result of squished bedbugs. Bedbugs may also leave a blackish looking trail of fecal specks on your mattress, bedding, or bed. The spots will be about the size of pepper grains.
Take apart your bed and check your headboard, mattress and box spring very carefully – there are often the most undisturbed parts of the bed and make a comfortable nest for bedbugs. Also check seams your pillows, furniture cushions, baseboards, and side table for both bedbug blood and fecal stains.
Exoskeletons are the hard outer shell of a bedbug. This shell protects the bed bug and provides the structure for its muscles and organs. When the bed bug grows, it does so through a process called molting.
During the process of molting, the outer layer of the bed bug’s exoskeleton (called the cuticle) cracks and is sloughed off. This allows the bed bug to expand. A new shell will harden and the bed bug will be at a new size. They leave the exoskeletons behind. When you see them, it is an indication that bed bugs are there.
There are three stages in the bedbug life cycle – egg, nymph and adult. Bedbugs look vastly different based the current life stage. The female lays her eggs in batches of 10 to 50, they are white in colour and deposited on various surfaces with a thin glue. The eggs are white and about 1 mm long. The bedbug nymphs look like adult bedbugs but are smaller. Female bedbugs lay about 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. In ideal conditions, the bedbug eggs will hatch in about seven days. The nymphs will molt five times before reaching adulthood, taking a blood meal between each molt. With a regular food source available, the nymphs will molt every three days.
Check for bedbug eggs and exoskeletons in the same places you would for bed bug feces: seams of pillows and cushions, folds in bedding, baseboards, etc.
When a significant bedbug infestation is present, it is possible to smell a sickly sweet aroma. Below is a list of bedbug odour descriptions we have heard:
-coconut or rotting coconut
-almonds or rotten almonds
-raspberries or rotting raspberries
-an old granola bar
Keep in mind that if your infestation is not severe, you may not smell anything.