Pest Information - Bed Bugs

BedBugs had been a rarity since the 1950's, but since early 2000, they have become a serious pest problem, being encountered in homes, hotels, theaters, furniture stores and office buildings. International travel has contributed greatly to their resurgence. Learn about their Appearance, Habitat, Diet, Health Risks, and Reproduction.

Bed Bug

Bed Bugs

Scientific Name

Cimex lectularius

Appearance

Adult bed bugs are brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened, and about 3/16 to 1/5 inch long. Their flat shape enables them to readily hide in cracks and crevices. The body becomes more elongate, swollen, and dark red after a blood meal. Bed bugs have a beak-like piercing-sucking mouthpart system. The adults have small, stubby, nonfunctional wing pads. Newly hatched nymphs are nearly colorless, becoming brownish as they mature. Nymphs have the general appearance of adults. Eggs are white and about 1/32 inch long.

Habitat

Bed bugs are fast moving insects that are nocturnal blood-feeders: they feed mostly at night when their host is asleep. After using their sharp beak to pierce the skin of a host, they inject a salivary fluid containing an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that helps them obtain blood. Nymphs may become engorged with blood within three minutes, whereas a full-grown bed bug usually feeds for ten to fifteen minutes. They then crawl away to a hiding place to digest the meal. When hungry, bed bugs again search for a host.

Bed bugs hide during the day in dark, protected sites. They seem to prefer fabric, wood, and paper surfaces. They usually occur in fairly close proximity to the host, although they can travel far distances. Bed bugs initially can be found about tufts, seams, and folds of mattresses, later spreading to crevices in the bedstead. In heavier infestations they also may occupy hiding places farther from the bed. They may hide in window and door frames, electrical boxes, floor cracks, baseboards, furniture, and under the tack board of wall-to-wall carpeting. Bed bugs often crawl upward to hide in pictures, wall hangings, drapery pleats, loosened wallpaper, cracks in plaster, and ceiling moldings.

Diet

Bed bugs are parasites that preferentially feed on humans. If people aren't available, they instead will feed on other warm-blooded animals, including birds, rodents, bats, and pets.

Health Risks

Their bite is painless due to the anesthetic they inject when they bite. The salivary fluid injected by bed bugs typically causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed, although individuals can differ in their sensitivity. A small, hard, swollen, white welt may develop at the site of each bite. This is accompanied by severe itching that lasts from several hours to days. Scratching may cause the welts to become infected. The amount of blood loss due to bed bug feeding typically does not adversely affect the host.

Rows of three or so welts on exposed skin are characteristic signs of bed bugs. Welts do not have a red spot in the center such as is characteristic of flea bites.

Some individuals respond to bed bug infestations with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease.

Life Cycle

Female bed bugs lay from one to twelve eggs per day and the eggs are deposited on rough surfaces or in crack and crevices. The eggs are coated with a sticky substance so they adhere to the substrate. Eggs hatch in 6 to 17 days and nymphs can immediately begin to feed. They require a blood meal in order to molt. Bed bugs reach maturity after five molts. Developmental time (egg to adult) is affected by temperature and takes from about 21 days at 86° F to 120 days at 65° F. The nymphal period is greatly prolonged when food is scarce. Nymphs and adults can live for several months without food. The adult's lifespan may encompass 12-18 months. Three or more generations can occur each year.

Interesting Facts

A recent trend in bed bug control is utilizing canine detection teams to pinpoint infestation areas, because hiding places can be very hard to find. The bed bug dogs are trained to find the bed bugs in what is known as a sweep. The dog sweeps through suspected infestation areas and alerts to the scent of bed bugs.

Travel Tips

Since most bedbugs are carried by travelers through contact with beds and hotel rooms in infected locations, following are some tips for those traveling to hotels that might be at risk:

  1. First, examine the room for potential hiding places of bed bugs, such as carpet edges, mattress seams, pillow case linings, bedboards, wall trim, or other tiny crevices in which bed bugs might hide. Look for droppings, eggs, bloodstains, and the bugs themselves.
  2. Keep a flashlight nearby when sleeping to immediately observe suspected activity during the night.
  3. Never leave your clothing lying on the bed or floor. Hang clothes some distance from the bed. Suspend new shopping in bags.
  4. Spray your luggage with an effective repellent spray such as Cedar Bug-Free™ Bed Bug Spray.
  5. Close all luggage when you're not using it. This way, during the night, the bugs may have difficulty getting inside.
  6. Elevate your luggage off the floor to a luggage stand, a table or chair. These can also be hiding places, but they are not as likely to be.
  7. Keep any bed bug you find to show the hotel manager.