Bed bugs have been a common pest throughout history. Many countries are now experiencing an alarming resurgence in the population of bed bugs despite the fact that the populations of these pests dramatically dropped during the mid-20th century.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause but experts suspect that their resurgence is due to the lack of knowledge regarding proper pest control of bed bugs. In fact, public health agencies all over the world have been overwhelmed by complaints about this particular insect in recent years.
Compared to other pests, bed bugs present various challenges because they affect the way people live—particularly in terms of sleep and travel. Read on and find out what exactly these pests are, how to spot an infestation, how to prevent them in the future, and what you need to do to get rid of bed bugs once and for all.
Before going over the different ways of dealing with this pest, you must first be familiar enough to identify them. Here are a few important details about bed bugs that will help you in your fight against them.
What are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small, flat, oval insects that feed on the blood of people and animals usually while they are asleep. They lack wings which means that they are unable to fly, and range from 1 to 7 millimeters in length. They are reddish-brown in color and can live for several months without the need to consume a blood meal. When engorged with blood, however, their color can change from brown to dull red.
Because their bodies are flat, they are sometimes mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Unlike ticks and cockroaches, bed bugs are not known to transmit any human diseases. They can, however, affect your sleeping habits and cause varying levels of discomfort. Temperatures between 21C to 27C are most optimal for bed bugs, allowing them to develop into adults faster and produce up to three generations per year.
The Life of a Bed Bug
Female adult bed bugs can lay roughly 200 to 500 eggs in their life. The eggs have a coating that sticks to objects and surfaces, increasing their chances of safely hatching within 6 to 17 days. The life of a bed bug typically lasts from four to nine weeks. While their life as a nymph lasts from 14 to 30 days. Adult bed bugs can survive for more than 12 months because they can enter a non-active stage if they lack a host to feed on.
Bed bugs must take a blood meal for each of their immature life stages in order to develop into the next life stage. Like all insects, they have their skeleton outside their body and they must take blood meals as nymphs in order to shed their skeleton and grow larger. They, then, become adults after going through five molts.
How and When Do They Feed?
Because they generally avoid bright light, bed bugs usually feed when it’s dark. They feed mainly on human blood and can feed for three to 15 minutes, depending on their life stage. They are easily disturbed by movement so they do not stay on humans after feeding. They crawl into a hiding place after feeding to digest their meal.
If you have experienced any of these possible bed bug indicators, then there is a good chance that they are indeed living in your home.
1. Unexplained Skin Irritation
While their bites are painless, bed bug saliva can sometimes cause an allergic reaction, severe itching, and swollen red welts on the skin. Depending on the person’s sensitivity to the bites, the size of these welts will vary. Welts often appear close together in groups of two or three.
2. Brown Sugar-Like Matter and Dark Red Spots on Sheets and Clothing
Brown, grainy, sugar-like substances may be dried blood remains and fecal matter, while dark red spots on sheets and clothing may be digested blood stains from bed bug feedings.
3. Dried Exoskeleton Remains
As we mentioned before, bed bug nymphs will shed their skins after each feeding. These small, dark skins will vary in size and may be less than ½ millimeters to about 4 ½ millimeters in length.
Now that you know how to identify whether they are living in your home, find out how they could get inside and where they could possibly hide once they get into your abode.
4. Ways They Get into Your Home
Bed bugs don’t usually have direct access to your house unless you brought them there in the first place.
How do they enter with you without you noticing?
They enter your home by coming with luggage and furniture items, such as carpets, lamps, tables, beds, and couches. Once they enter your place, they can roam to various areas like the windows, pipes, gutters, wiring, and the cracks in your walls. These pests prefer to stay in spaces that occupants in your house frequent.
5. Places They Hide
These insects prefer to hide in places that are dark and protected. Moreover, they like to stay on surfaces made out of wood, fabric, and paper—close to where humans sleep. They also often hide in the folds and seams of couches, mattresses, bed frames and box springs, under loose carpets and rugs, and in the cracks and creases of luggage and furniture.
Even if bed bugs are not known to carry disease, they are a pest of significant public health importance. They are part of a group of blood-sucking ectoparasites that also include head lice and body lice. Their differences in the biology of similar species of pests can greatly impact their ability to transmit disease.
These pests can cause a variety of negative effects on the mental health, physical health, and even in economic consequences. There are a lot of people that have a mild to severe allergic reaction to bed bug bites, with effects that range from no reaction to a small bite mark to (in some cases) anaphylaxis or severe whole-body reaction. They can also affect the mental health of people living in infested homes in the forms of systemic reactions, anxiety, and insomnia.
Due to the noted decline in the population of these pests in the latter half of the 20th century, research on the health effects of bed bugs has been very limited. Additional information is needed to determine the reasons for the resurgence of this pest, their potential to transmit disease, as well as their impact on public health—now that their populations are rapidly increasing.
Infestations can also be a burden on society through its economic effects. Although the exact dollar amount is unknown, the economic losses from health care, reduced productivity, lost wages, and lost revenue can be very substantial. Because bed bug control usually requires multiple visits by a licensed pest control operator, the cost of completely eliminating an infestation may cost much more than eliminating other pests.
Diligence on the part of those who currently have bed bugs in their home is also an important part of the control. Single-family home infestations are easier to control compared to multi-family homes because the pests frequently travel between units. Coordinating and encouraging participation from multiple residents can also incur additional costs and complexities.
Controlling a bed bug infestation is challenging when a community starts to experience it due to the limited resources often available to local public health departments. Bed bugs are not seen as a priority and organizations even have trouble delegating those who are responsible for controlling them. Landlords and tenants alike often dispute who is responsible for the cost of control and treatment.
It is much easier to stop a bed bug infestation before it starts. Here are some tips that can help you prevent having bed bugs in your home in the first place.
1. Inspect Second-Hand Clothing and Furniture
Everyone likes finding a good deal on used items. However, before you bring these used items into your home, inspect them carefully to make sure that they do not have bed bugs or any signs of infestation. Some signs to look out for are adult bed bugs, eggs, and nymphs that may be hiding in creases, folds, cracks, seams, loose areas, and tears. You should also look out for signs of brown sugar-like matter or dark red spots.
2. Always Vacuum Suitcases
After returning from a trip or when buying used luggage, make it a habit to clean out your suitcases immediately and then vacuuming them. Remove and dispose the vacuum bag outside of your home as soon as you finish cleaning them.
3. Maintain Your Home
Keep up with the general cleaning and maintenance of your home. Wash all bedding and clothing regularly to ensure any potential hiding and nesting places are exposed.
4. Keep Your Home Clutter-Free
Piles of clothes, boxes, shoes, toys, and other items on surfaces like floors, inside closets, or under beds should always be put away when not needed. These can make ideal places for the bugs to hide.
5. Inspect Your Furniture Regularly
Open your dressers, cabinets, and closets and look for any crevices they may hide in. Look under stereos, tables, televisions, speakers, and other equipment and search behind picture frames and even in stacks of clothing.
6. Turn Your Bed Over Regularly
Finally, inspect the place these bugs are named after. Mattresses, bed frames, and box springs are places they most likely will be found. Watch out for signs of infestation on your sheets or the edges and seams of box springs and mattresses. Bed bug resistant mattress covers can also help as well as applying anti-bed bug products.
Now that you have sufficient knowledge about this pest, it is finally time to determine ways to control, manage, and get rid of bed bugs. They are generally considered difficult to control because of the following reasons:
So what can you do when an infestation is already underway? Fortunately, there are some things you can do to attempt a do-it-yourself bed bug control. With patience, diligence, and a little bit (or a lot) of hard work, you can have a fighting chance of getting rid of this pest in your home.
First of all, it is best to alert the property manager if you live in a condominium or an apartment. A coordinated plan of action, ideally with a pest control company, is generally needed in these situations. People are often unaware that they already have a problem because bed bugs can easily move from apartment-to-apartment. If one apartment is already infested, it would be wise to assume that the adjoining units to the left, right, above, and below are also infested unless shown otherwise through monitoring or inspection.
There are also things you can do on your own in order to reduce their population in your home such as:
1. Know which Rooms are Infested
While bedrooms are the principal locations for bed bugs, they can also be likely found in any room where people sleep in your home. Common sites (aside from the bedroom), where these pests reside, include sofas and sofa beds. Keep in mind that an infestation starts in one room and slowly spreads to other areas, where people sleep—so find them as soon as you can!
2. Don’t Throw Your Bed Away Yet
The first thing you might instinctively do when finding out that an infestation has occurred in your home is to dispose of your beds or bedding. But without correctly identifying the source in the first place, chances are that any new beds, box springs, or mattresses you bring in your home will quickly become re-infested. It is expensive to replace beddings. Perhaps, you might want to spend your money in a better way by hiring pest control professionals instead.
3. Create a Safe Place to Sleep
Staying in your own bed will reduce the risk of bugs spreading throughout your home which is critical in containing these pests. The bugs will eventually follow even if you move to another room to sleep. Make your bed a safe space to sle