Bed Bug Facts, Identification & Control
Cimex lectularius L.
Bed bugs are flat, reddish-brown, oval insects up to 4 to 5 mm long or the size of an apple seed. Swollen and reddish after a blood meal.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Bed bugs only feed on blood. Under cool conditions, bed bugs have been able to survive up to a year without a meal. They prefer to be more active at night when the host is asleep. Found in cracks and crevices, including mattress seams, sheets, furniture, behind baseboards, electrical outlet plates and picture frames. Often found in hotels, where they can travel from room to room and in visitors’ luggage or other personal belongings such as purses and briefcases.
Females can deposit one to five eggs a day, and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Under normal room temperatures and with an adequate food supply, they can live for more than 300 days.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
There are many possible signs of bed bug activity. The first would be seeing the bugs. Adult bed bugs are about the shape and size of an apple seed. A second sign would be case skins. As the juvenile bugs grow, they shed their skins, discovery of which can indicate their presence.
After feeding, bed bugs return to their harborage to hide. They eventually defecate in these areas, which appears as black to brown stains on porous surfaces or black to brown mounds on nonporous surfaces.
Bites also may indicate bed bug activity, but further signs will need to be found, since other sources can cause red welts on the skin.
Bed bugs are small, nocturnal, wingless insects that belong to the Cimicidae family. They feed on human blood and other warm-blooded hosts. Bed bugs are also known as “mahogany flats,” “red coats” and “chinches.” The adult bed bug does not have wings and has a flattened body.
Bed bugs are at an advantage because they are dorsoventrally flattened and thin. They can hide in cracks and crevices like no other. Bed bugs can be found in many places other than beds, such as behind baseboards, floor cracks, and under carpets or behind loose wallpaper. Not only can they be hard to detect, but bed bugs also tend to stay close together and have a distinctively sweet, yet unpleasant smell. Their bites can leave itchy welts on the skin and can cause allergic reactions, though not everyone reacts to their bite.
Bed bugs have existed since the ancient times and are found throughout the world. There are different species of bed bugs, but the common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is particularly adaptable to human environments. Other species are known to prefer birds and bats but also will feed on humans if necessary. Since they can survive in birds’ nests, they can be seen in houses and buildings that have several bird nests, particularly on rooftops. Bed bugs have a great worldwide distribution, due to human travelers who transport them in luggage, clothing, bedding and furniture. Though they may reside in unusual places, they are also likely to be found in small cracks near a bed or in comforters and bed sheets.
How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs
It’s possible to pick up bed bugs almost any place—they’ve infested offices, stores, hotels, gyms and countless other places. They can hide in your luggage, personal belongings, or even on you, and hitchhike a ride back to your home, condo, townhouse or apartment. Once indoors, they can be extremely difficult to control without the help of an experienced pest specialist.
A bed bug infestation has nothing to do with cleanliness — you can pick them up in the finest hotels, and they can hitchhike into the cleanest homes at any time. But, you can help reduce your chances of a costly bed bug infestation by catching them early.
TravelingWhen traveling, remember the following steps to help avoid bringing bed bugs home with you.
- Assess all surfacess for signs of an infestation, such as tiny rust-colored spots on bed sheets, mattress tags and seams, and bed skirts.
- Lift and look for all bed bug hiding spots, including underneath the mattress, bed frame, headboard and furniture. Typically, they come out at night to feed, but during the day they are most likely found within a 1.5 meter radius of the bed.
- Keep your luggage on a luggage rack away from the bed and wall, since bed bugs can often hide behind headboards, artwork, picture frames and electrical outlet panels.
- Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and when you return home. Always keep luggage off the bed and store it in a closet or other area, far away from your bedroom.
- Immediately place clothing in the dryer on the highest seting for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting upon returning home from travel.
- In the House
- When at home, follow these handy tips to help keep bed bugs at bay.
- Remove all clutter from your home, which makes finding bed bugs easier.
- Wash and dry your bed linens often using the hottest temperature allowed for the fabric.
- Closely inspect any second-hand furniture for bed bugs before you bring it into your residence.
- Inspect your residence regularly—after a move-in, a trip, when a service worker comes in or guests stay overnight.
Think You Might Have a Bed Bug Infestation?
Notify your local pest management provider immediately, or tell your property manager if you are renting so they can begin to create a customized treatment for your bed bugs. Bed bugs can multiply quickly, so early detection is critical to help prevent an even larger infestation.