People Facing An Epidemic: Bed Bugs

People Facing An Epidemic:Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are blood sucking, wingless insects that feed on human and other mammal blood to develop within the 5 stages of life. Findings of the formally classified ‘Cimex lectularius’ have been dated as far back as 400 B.C. and are believed to have been derived from cave dwellings. Known to leave red bumps or itchy bites on humans, these nocturnal nuisances feed at night, generally within people’s beds. As they hide in cracks, crevices’ and furniture, finding and diagnosing bed bugs can be difficult, as can fully ridding an area of infestation. 

Scientific name: Cimex lectularius Linnaeus (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cimicidae) 

What Are Bed Bugs? 

Bed bugs are small, yet visible to the eye, insects that can feed on human blood. Similar bed bugs have been referenced as far back as 400 B.C. within literature and also very common within Europe by the early 1600’s. Tested for disease transmission, they do not transfer blood pathogen diseases, but they can be nuisance. Creating large or itchy red bumps or welts on skin after biting, bed bugs can hide within cracks or walls creating difficult extermination.

Where they are found? 

Bed bugs are commonly found within furniture and travel items. These commonly include couches, chairs, comforters within homes and suitcases, clothing and bags. They are especially prevalent in second hand items and following consistent transport, as they can be carried and transferred by human contact. Homes, dorm rooms, hotels and second hand stores have the most reported cases of bed bugs. Bed bugs can hide within cracks and creases within the furniture and walls, while hiding all day and coming out at night. Capable of detecting many cleaning agents and chemicals, they can be very difficult to completely get rid of.

Description of what they look like

Generally around ¼ inch long, bed bugs have a reddish brown color. Often mistaken for other insects such as a tick or a small cockroach, bed bugs are oval in shape and flattened in appearance. Bites are generally red, itchy and swelling. When cleaning, signs of infestation include dark spots, including blood remnants. Eggs that have yet to be hatched and egg shells for new bed bugs are usually about 1 mm and clear or white colored can also be seen by the naked eye.

Life Cycle

Life cycle from egg to adult bed bugs require human or other mammal blood to nourish and support gradual metamorphosis. Female bugs are fertilized through ‘traumatic insemination’ and lay eggs generally 5 times throughout every day where they dwell. After 4-12 days, the eggs hatch from 10 -50 crevices and nymphs are born. These baby bugs must feed for an average of 5 minutes and then go back into hiding to progress onto the next of the 5 growth cycles. Each new stage requires feeding and resting over the next few weeks of development before becoming an adult that can live 6-12 months.

DIY extermination

As bed bugs can survive up to a year without feeding, it is important to fully get rid of all bed bugs and eggs as soon as signs of infestation begin. To prevent bed bugs, protected coverings can be used on furniture and washing packed clothing following a trip before putting away can be helpful. Once bed bugs have been identified and symptoms are showing, fully inspect all sides, creases and area of mattresses, box spring, bed frame and furniture such as couches and chairs. Seal with a full plastic cover, vacuum all living bed bugs and eggs. Wash all clothing and bedding well, clean the area and reduce clutter.