Thanks to the International Bed Bug Resource Authority and Institute for Responsible Bed Bug Control for providing the following information on bed bugs
History Repeats Itself
Bed bugs are scientifically known as Cimex lectularius L., and are the most feared and hated of all household pests today. Because these menacing bugs were missing from our country for the past fifty years, the lack of understanding them has led to infestations now running rampant.
Our goal through this education portal is to enlighten you so that you have a full understanding of what bed bugs are, know your risks and provide prevention techniques to keep your families safe from their invasion.
Today, we are experiencing a serious global resurgence of bed bugs, and because of their hidden nature, knowing whether you have them or not depends upon reactions to their bites or you discovering their signs.
Bed bugs are a people bug that feed off of human blood and are known to invade our beds, thus they got their name, Bed Bugs. Depending upon the extent of the infestation, elimination of bed bugs can be difficult. If bed bugs have laid eggs and every egg is not destroyed, they will hatch after treatment and additional treatments are needed until each of them is eradicated.
It has been discovered that standard chemical treatments lack toxicity to eggs, as well as bed bugs have become resistant to them causing many failures and further spreading. Furthermore, chemicals have been deemed unreliable and risky to people as well as environments.
Why is this happening?
Perfect Travelers: Bed bugs are great hitchhikers that attach to clothing and personal items. As bed bugs journey through the beds, dwellings and personal items of people all over the world, when they travel, they carry bed bugs with them.
Once they’ve entered our space, since they are so small and good at staying hidden, people often receive reactions from their bites, but assume they are from common bugs like fleas or mosquitoes. However, there are those who can get bitten repeatedly and have little to no reactions to the bite. Some people can get bitten and don’t show signs for a week or more. How you react to their bites depends upon your own immune system.
It’s rare that you acknowledge having bed bugs upon introduction and can happen to anyone at any time. Consequently, treatments perform better when they are discovered and treated for early, before infestations spread beyond beds to other areas of concealment.
Society as a whole is feeling the financial economic burden of bed bug infestations. The economic losses from treatments, replacement of belongings, health care, lost wages, lost business revenues and reduced productivity are quite substantial. Bed bugs do not care if you are rich or poor and they do not care whether your house is clean or dirty. They only want your blood.
Tell me more about Bed Bugs…
Bed bugs are often mistaken for other bugs and you must correctly identify the culprit in order to treat them properly. Know that large populations of bed bugs take time to develop, but if a few adults are not detected early, you could well have thousands after 3 or 4 months!
Depending on their feeding status, bed bugs look very different. An unfed bed bug looks more like a flat disk but when after taking a blood meal, they increase to approximately 3 to 4 times that of their original size.
Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color and are approximately ¼ inch in length. The adults are easily seen with the naked eye. Unless you have exceptional eyesight or a magnifying glass, bed bug eggs are not very visible to the human eye. They are similar to the size of a poppy seed, are pearl white, translucent in color and display obvious eyespots of the nymph inside when 5 days or older.
A female bed bug can lay a few hundred eggs in her lifetime of many months to around a year, but these are not deposited at one time, (regular feeding and mating are required). These eggs are attached to surfaces with a sticky substance. Depending on temperature and conditions, these eggs can hatch anywhere from three to ten days or longer.
Once hatched, the immature bed bug (nymph) is translucent, pearl whitish in color and become slightly darker as they reach maturity. Although the young nymph is not always easy to see after a nymph feeds it will become plump and red because the blood inside shows through their pale skin. Fully fed, the bed bug takes on the shape of a torpedo or football with an elongated trunk that is bright red in color. As digestion progresses, the blood turns darker and the bug flattens out due to the voiding of digested blood until its next blood meal.
The time for development (approximately 22 to 36 days) from the first nymph to adult varies according to temperature, blood meals, and conditions. During this developmental growth period, they shed their skin (or molt) as they grow to the next stage. The bedbug develops through five of these immature stages before reaching the adult reproduction stage.
Each stage, from 1st instar nymph to adult, has to take at least one blood meal in order to continue to the next successive stage to the adult bed bug. Nymphs take blood meal(s), digestion occurs, time passes and the bed bug grows and must molt or shed its skin.
Adult bed bugs have been reported to have the remarkable ability to persist and survive for months without a blood meal. But please understand that only under certain conditions can this happen. These notations are normally because the bed bug is forced into temperatures that cause them to slow down or go into what is called diapause. (A type of hibernation) When favorable temperatures resume, they will come back to life searching for regular access to blood meals.
PHYSICAL SIGNS OF BED BUGS
Because of the bed bugs amazing ability to hide, you may not always find a live bed bug. As you do your inspection routine, you will want to be looking for these other signs. (NOTE: These pictures are highly magnified to show detail)
FECAL STAINS (POOP)
This sign of bed bugs is fecal (poop) dropping or stains. The larger the infestation, the greater amount of these will be found. These stains appear to be minute “ink dots”, (like from a black marker pen). Some materials are “impervious to moisture” and the dropping may “bead up” on the surface.
MOLTED BED BUG SKINS (CASTINGS) AND EGGS
These are when the bed bug grows out of its skin and leaves the old one behind. They are normally a paper-thin opaque duplication of the bed bug.
Depending on how long you have had an infestation, you may find different “sizes” as each stage of growth to maturity is a little larger than the last.
You may also find empty egg shells within the clusters of cast skins.
Outside of bite marks, people may find blood spots. These spots may be recognized as rusty spots on bedclothes, sheets, furniture and surrounding walls.
And last, is a peculiar “odor” from defecated blood and oxidized iron in the blood, a sort of rusty smell. There are actually many bed bug infestation odors (and have been said to be like coriander, cilantro, citronella, and/or spoiled raspberries). These odors are mostly associated with higher numbers of bed bugs and longer infestations, and like any of the normal human smells and scents, if you reside in the room on a regular basis you may become “use to” the smell.
BED BUG BITES AND FEEDING HABITS
Bed bugs are drawn by our human smell, warm temperature, carbon dioxide and are known to feed on the exposed skin while you are sleeping. Nevertheless, bed bugs can feed at any time of the day or night whether you are sleeping or not and adjust their feeding time to adapt to the host’s sleeping patterns. They will bite any exposed area of the body, face, neck, arms, and hands. The act of biting is usually not felt.
PREVENTION TIPS FOR BED BUGS
CLEANING UP THE CLUTTER
Bed bugs are experts at hiding and finding them can present quite a challenge. Heavily cluttered dwellings create a million and one places for bed bugs to hide. Having clutter can cause complete failure of bed bug treatments. If you have piles of boxes, newspapers, magazines or just “stuff”, it’s time you clean it up. Doing this will make it easier to find them if you should ever get them.
BEDS AND LOUNGING AREAS
Change your bed linens regularly; check piping on mattresses and box springs for early signs. Vacuum couches, chairs and carpets regularly.
MAKING HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS
Take away as many possible harborages for bed bugs. Separations between baseboards, grout, seams of wallpaper, crown molding, door jams.
Clear silicone fills these areas so bed bugs cannot enter. Consider replacing worn carpeting with tile; and because bed bugs travel along routes created by pipes, cables and electrical conduits, seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into your home.
BEST FURNITURE DESIGNS FOR BED BUGS
Consider modern clean-lined furniture, which is less hospitable to bed bugs. The smoother and harder the furniture or surface, the less likely that a bed bug would find a place to hide. Take into consideration the ease of decontamination should you get bed bugs. Would the finish stand up to treatments like heat, hot steaming or scrubbing? Can cushions be removed or put through the dryer?
MISCELLANEOUS PREVENTION POINTERS
Avoid shopping at thrift stores, pawnshops, and Craig’s list. Be mindful of anything borrowed or given to you or discarded furniture or mattresses found at the curbside. Any of these items should be thoroughly inspected for bed bugs before bringing them into your home.
Use a large plastic self-locking bag to contain items like computer bags, purses, jackets, backpacks, and lunch boxes when transporting them back and forth from work, school or places visited.
Be sure to inspect all items a visitor may bring into your home or workplace. These include an out of town guest, maintenance and service people, delivery people, sales clerk, and social workers.
TRAVEL TIPS SO YOU DON’T BRING BED BUG SOUVENIRS
Wrap and seal your luggage in plastic that can be removed upon arrival. Re-wrap with fresh new plastic before returning home. Consider using soft fabric duffle bags. These can easily be thrown into a hot dryer once your trip is over to kill any possible hitchhikers.
SAFEGUARDING YOUR BELONGINGS AT HOTELS
Leave your luggage and belongings outside the room, in your car, place them in the shower, or tub until your bed bug inspection is complete.
After your inspection, still, consider not placing your luggage or belongings on the bed or soft chairs and couches. Hang your clothing in the middle of the clothing rack and place luggage on the luggage rack (After inspecting) Do not place clothing in drawers without being in a sealed plastic bag. Avoid placing your shoes under the bed or laying clothing on the bed, couch or chairs.
PRECAUTIONS FOR RETURNING HOME
No matter how careful we are, the possibility of a bed bug “souvenir” latching onto your luggage is always there. To be sure, unpack in your garage or an area outside your dwelling. Remove bagged clothing for proper cleaning and thoroughly vacuum or steam clean your luggage. If you have a duffle bag, place it in a hot dryer for 40-60 minutes.