What Are Bed Bugs?

bed-bugBed bugs are wingless insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans and have been around for thousands of years. They are small and oval shaped with a brownish/red color and can grow up to a quarter inch long. They mainly look flat until they feed  in which their bodies swell and become red in color. Their life span is usually around four to six months but can live longer under ideal conditions.

Bed bugs are a growing problem that not only are found in homes but dorms, cruise ships, shelters, hospitals, and even on public transit. Here’s an article of bed bugs being found on the train in Chicago.

They are called “Bed bugs” because they are mostly found in or around the bed in homes. Scientifically the common bed bug are known as Cimex lectularius. There are other types of bed bugs that feed on bats (Cimex pipistrelli) and other animals but we are more familiar with the common bed bug that bite and cause us severe itchiness when they infest our home.

It’s good to know that bed bugs cannot fly or jump so their only means of travel is by walking and climbing. With this knowledge, bed bug detectors were made so they can get in but can’t get out.


Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?

Bed Bugs in seamsBed bugs love to hide in seams. They don’t like light so they are mostly active during the night unless they are really hungry in which case they will actively look for a meal during the day.

Other places they like to hide are all over your mattress, box spring, bed frame, headboard, couches, furniture, clothing, electrical outlets, baseboards, pretty much anywhere they can get into which is why they are so hard to fully exterminate. Their flat bodies allow them to get into tight spaces so they can be literally anywhere but usually they stay near the bed so they can have easy access to their host at night.


How Do Bed Bugs Feed?

Bed bugs have a long needle like mouth that they inject into their host to suck blood. Their saliva contain anticoagulants which allow the blood to flow freely without clotting. The saliva also contain anesthetics similar to mosquitos so you won’t even notice they’re feeding until they’re long gone.

They find their host by sensing carbon dioxide which is found in their breath when they sleep at night. They also are attracted to warmth and prefer to feed on exposed skin like the face, neck, and arms but will most definitely bit any other parts of the body where they can get fresh blood.

It usually takes around 5 minutes for them to fully feed at which point they go back to hiding which is why they’re so hard to find and get rid of. Often times you wouldn’t even know you had a bite until a few minutes or sometimes even hours after. I remember when I got bit I would rub against an area and it would get progressively more and more itchy.

Bed bugs usually feed every five to ten days but it is known that they can survive for several months without feeding and can even become dormant for over a year under ideal conditions.


How Do Bed Bugs Reproduce?

Bed Bug Traumatic InseminationBed bugs reproduce in a strange way called traumatic insemination. This is when the male bed bug pierces anywhere in the female abdomen and ejaculates sperm into her body cavity. The sperm then travels through the blood and eventually reaches the ovaries for fertilization.

After insemination, the female usually goes into hiding away from other bed bugs.  A female bed bug can lay about 5 eggs in one day and about 500 during her lifetime. The eggs are quite small at 1mm long and are hard to spot with the naked eye.

After the female lays her eggs it takes roughly two weeks to hatch. The baby bed bugs, called nymphs, will start feeding on blood immediately and will go through five molting stages before they reach maturity which takes around five weeks. Bed bugs can only reproduce when they reach maturity so it is vital to kill all adult bed bugs to prevent them from reproducing.


Do You Have Bed Bugs?

Bed Bug BitesSometimes people mistaken bed bug bites for other insect bites such as mosquito bites but there are some ways to help identify that they are indeed bed bug bites. Bed bug bites are usually in a linear pattern and relatively close together. This is because if they are disturbed when they’re feeding (maybe you rolled around or scratched the area) they will move a few centimeters away and start feeding again so if you see that your bites have this linear pattern then you might have bed bugs.

Another way to see if you have bed bugs is to examine the creases and seams of your bed linen, mattress, and box spring. Bed bugs usually like to stay in groups so if you see some small black or brown dots that is probably their feces.

You can also buy products that you place around the legs of your bed that will trap bed bugs if they exist. Or special flashlights that help you see them in the dark at night. You can read more about it here.


Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites are extremely annoying. When you are bitten you’ll see a small red bump often mistaken as mosquito bites but a bed bug bite usually doesn’t have a red dot in the center. The components in the bed bug saliva which they inject causes an allergic reaction which is why the red bumps appear.

The bumps will become extremely itchy and last a longer time than mosquito bites. As I mentioned before, they tend to bite in a linear pattern often with two or three bites in a row.

Some people show no symptoms at all which makes identifying the problem much more difficult. Others can have extreme allergic reactions or even skin infections from scratching the bites. One thing to note is that bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases.


Bed Bug Bite Treatments

It can take up to one or even two weeks for the itching to subside. Some effective bed bug bite treatments include:

  • wash the bites with soap and water to help reduce itchiness and prevent infection
  • apply a corticosteroid cream to reduce itchiness
  • apply calamine lotion to relieve itching and help dry and protect the skin
  • take an oral antihistamine to help control allergic reaction associated with the bites
  • consult your doctor if itching persists for more than one or two weeks

bedbugsprayHow to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

There are several ways to get rid of bed bugs but hiring a professional is one of the best ways. Make sure you do research and ask questions on what methods they will be using to exterminate bed bugs. You want to make sure their techniques are safe and not harmful especially if you have any young kids or pets.

If you don’t want to hire a professional or find it too expensive there are other effective ways you can battle bed bugs by yourself.

Read More About How to Kill Bed Bugs

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10 thoughts on “What Are Bed Bugs?

  • Oh wow… not sure I want to sleep tonight without checking the mattress first LOL! Great article – very informative and clear. I think I know TOO MUCH about them now! 🙂
    I read once in our local newspaper that the city’s public libraries were having trouble with bedbugs hiding in the spines of books, and traveling from house to house that way. It makes sense to me after reading what you wrote about them able to be dormant for so long. Creepy!
    All the best with your website!

    • Yeah it’s really a nuisance and a big pain for those who have to deal with them. I know it was a nightmare to deal with when I had them and I did so much researching and some things worked and some didn’t. I hope to make those decisions easier for the next person so they don’t have to be tortured for so long.
      Thanks for your comment!

  • My family and I went through this about a year ago—it was the worst! It sucks because anybody of any type of house, clean or dirty living can have this problem. It really doesn’t help others to try and fix the problem alone, without professional help, in my experience. The job either doesn’t get thoroughly done or someone gets careless. I don’t like to eat out much because these bugs can travel anywhere, from anybody: fast-food restaurants, expensive diners, movie theaters, etc. Heck standing in LINE somewhere lol Not to be paranoid, but these really are the ultimate hitchhikers.

    A family member started the fiasco by bringing a bed-bug to the house, unawares. Apparently someone they worked with, brought their infestation to the work-place, without throughly checking and getting rid of their clothes—check their cars. A factor that makes bed-bugs increasingly more of an issue, is how people don’t pay attention to their habits enough in public. Me, for instance: I don’t put my purse on floors, I don’t lay my coat or scarves in sitting ares, etcetera. I try to keep my things close to me and away from anything else. But, again, like you mentioned, these critters can get any-which-where. I never knew they could hide in electrical outlets, though! A daring place to hide lol Wonders never cease.

    • Yeah they really are the ultimate hitchhikers! And you’re right, you can get them from practically anywhere. There’s recent news where some libraries had to shut down because there was an infestation there. And another case where there were bed bugs on the public train! You really do have to be careful out there because they are really hard to get rid of once you get them.

  • In my last trip, I have lots of bites. I thought these were mosquito bites, however they were linear. Now I am sure they are bed bugs. I will use corticosteroid cream to help with bites. However, is it hypo allergenic? because my skin sometimes reacts very badly.

    • Yeah those sound like bed bugs. There are different types of corticosteroid cream and there are hypoallergenic ones so you just have to read the label or ask the pharmacist for the correct one.

  • This was an epidemic in some hotels not far from where I live not all that long ago. Some of them had a really tough time with it. It sounds and looks like a horrible thing to have to deal with, but I’m betting your site will be a big help to a lot of people at a time when they really need it.

    Would it be wrong to suggest I hope I never have to come back here? Lol. Just kidding – sort of – as the preventive information you’re giving is a good help too.

    Keep up the great work. May you be bed-bug free from now on!

    Best wishes,

    Kevin

    • Thanks Kevin! Yeah I definitely hope you never have to deal with bed bugs but it’s also great info to share with others who might be struggling with the situation.
      Hiring a professional is always a good idea but it was way too expensive for me so I had to find other alternatives. Just trying to aggregate all the info I learned to hopefully help others.

  • This article is making me check my bedding even now, throwing everything in hot water to wash it. Reading about bed bugs is causing me to itch like crazy. LOL.

    I am not a big fan of any insect in the house.

    I didn’t know that bed bugs could be transmitted so easily until now. I

    always thought it began with infected bedding, now I know better and can keep a better eye out. Thank you for this article it helps a lot.

    • Yeah, bed bugs are not fun to have. Don’t bring in second hand furniture unless you’re 100% there’s no infestation. They can be in public places as well and can crawl up on you at any time. Don’t want to live in paranoia everyday but just have to be aware and act fast if you happen to get bed bugs before things get worse.
      Hopefully my site can educate others and give them some options on how to get rid of them.
      Thanks for visiting!

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