Bed 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 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 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?
Sometimes 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
How 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.