A single pregnant bedbug can reproduce more than 300 adults and over 1000 eggs in about three months. Do you see how serious bedbug infestation can get? If you notice any bedbugs in your house you need to act quickly to get rid of them before the problem turns into a living nightmare. Stopping them from spreading early enough is very important in preventing a bedbug infestation.
These small insects are oval-shaped, reddish-brown in color, and measure up to 7 millimeters in length. They can’t fly and, therefore, rely on people to carry them from one place to another. Bedbugs get their name because they like to hide in beds, bedding, and mattresses.
There are several pests found in households that resemble bedbugs in their appearance.
Bedbugs depend on human blood to survive and their appearance is dependent on whether or not they have recently fed. Normally, they are oval-shaped and in the size of an apple seed. After feeding, their bodies become engorged and their shells get a reddish tint from the usual brown color.
Bedbugs don’t have wings and so they are not able to fly. They typically measure about 1/5″ to 1/4″ after feeding due to the swelling. An adult bedbug that hasn’t been fed measures about 3/16″.
Other characteristics include pronounced beaks and antennae that are sectioned into four parts. They have six legs and small eyes.
Different Types of Bed Bugs
There are quite a number of different bedbug species that exist. For you to be able to distinguish between them properly, you need good experience and magnification too.
The common household bedbugs are found across the world. Their scientific name is Cimex lectularius. They survive by adapting well to the temperature and environment they live in.
Another type of bedbugs is the tropical bedbug that also feeds on humans but prefers more tropical regions. Its scientific name is Cimex hemipterus.
Although bat bedbugs primarily feed on bats, sometimes they feed on humans, especially if bats aren’t around. Their scientific name is Cimex adjunctus and they’re commonly found in tropical regions as well as temperate areas.
Then there is the Mexican chicken bug that closely resembles the common household bug. Its scientific name is Haematosiphon inodora and they’re commonly found on poultry. Their preferred hosts include domestic fowls and other bird species.
Lastly, there are the barn swallow bugs that resemble bedbugs. This species is known to live in swallow nests and feed primarily on cliff swallows. However, then bird migration occurs, the barn swallow bugs enter human dwellings.
Seeing as there are several species of bedbugs, they need to be accurately identified before treatment of the infestation commences. Inaccurate control methods will be a total waste of money and will not be effective anyway.
Bedbug Lifecycle, Feeding, Behavior, and Habitat
Bedbugs live for approximately 10 months but they can survive for longer than that. They start as eggs, move through infancy, and then into adulthood.
It all starts with a female who feeds off a host’s blood. For the male and female bedbugs to mate, they must feed at least once every 2 weeks. At some point, the female bedbug lays eggs at a rate of 3 per day – and about 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs take about 2 weeks to hatch.
The eggs are 1/32” long making them very hard to detect. It’s almost the same size as a speck of dust.
The infancy stage is referred to as nymph; they’re smaller than fully grown adults and have a translucent color. Their shells have a yellowish tint which sheds through different stages of development after multiple feedings. The nymph becomes an adult in 3 to 4 months.
Bedbugs only need one meal (although they can feed more than once) for them to move from one life stage to another. There are a total of six stages and each stage requires the molting of skin.
The egg-to-egg lifecycle takes four to five weeks.
The speed at which the bedbugs reproduce and their lifespan is affected by the room temperature
A typical infestation has approximately 400 to 500 bedbugs.
These small insects feed on blood from humans, other mammals, and birds too but most appear to prefer feeding on humans.
They are usually more active at night and prefer to feed people while they’re sleeping. However, these nocturnal creatures can go looking for a host in broad daylight if they need to feed. A regular feeding session takes 3 to 12 minutes with peak biting activity just before dawn.
After feeding, the bedbugs become engorged with blood and then they crawl back into their hiding place to digest their meal. A bedbug can survive for weeks without feeding.
Behavior and Habitat
When you understand the behavior of bedbugs, you can easily spot an infestation before it gets out of hand. After treatment of the infestation, you can check and monitor the presence of bedbugs.
Even though bedbugs have wings, they cannot fly. They move rapidly over surfaces and across walls and ceilings. Bedbugs can readily travel 5-25 ft from their hiding place to go and feed on a host. This is referred to as harborage.
Bedbugs can survive almost everywhere that a host can live. Usually, they can survive and remain active at temperatures of 7°C. A bedbug will die if the temperature exceeds 45°C. The ideal temperature is 20°C.
If you want to kill a bedbug with heat, make sure that the room is hotter than 45°C so that enough heat reached it no matter where it is hiding.
Bedbugs hide in furniture, bedding, floors, wood, and paper trash as they wait for the night.
Are Bedbugs Harmful to Humans?
Bedbugs are a nuisance since they interrupt sleep. But besides that, can a bite be harmful to a person?
Bedbug bites are rarely dangerous. However, their bites can be a little itchy, cause a rash, skin bumps, redness, irritation, and in some cases, become infected or even cause an allergic reaction. These little monsters bite any part of the body such as the face, neck, hands, or legs as long as it’s exposed.
Signs and Symptoms of Bedbug Bites
It is possible for a bedbug to bite you and you don’t feel it right away. This is because these insects excrete a small amount of anesthetic which acts as a numbing agent before feeding on their host. They also inject an anticoagulant to keep the blood flow steady as they keep sucking.
This means that it may take you a couple of days for you to realize that you have been bitten by a bedbug. The signs and symptoms vary from one person to another since some people are allergic to the bites while others aren’t and don’t develop any symptoms at all.
Bedbug bites usually result in red and swollen skin. You might notice a line or cluster of multiple bites in a small area of the body. The most common symptoms of a bedbug bite are:
- Itchy burning sensation
- Red swollen spots with a dark center
- A line or cluster of multiple bites grouped together
Note that scratching the area around the bite will result in bleeding or infection. In worse case scenarios, it could develop into a fluid-filled blister. Other potential signs and symptoms of an infection are:
- Pain and tenderness in the area
- Swelling and warmth around the bite
- Red streaks or spots near the bite
- Pus or drainage from the bite
- Dimpling on the skin
- Fever and chills
Other severe allergic reactions may result in dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and trouble breathing. If you develop any of these, get emergency medical help.
Treating Bedbug Bites
Typically, bedbug bites do not require treatment. However, if the bite gets infected, apply an antibiotic cream or ointment. Alternatively, you could apply a local antiseptic lotion to the area.
Several home remedies may be helpful to treat bedbug bites. They help soothe and relieve the symptoms. You can either apply one or more of the following:
- Essential oils e.g. camphor oil and chamomile oil
- A thin paste of baking soda and water
- A cold cloth or an ice pack wrapped in a towel
If the itchiness is too much, use a cream containing corticosteroids and oral antihistamines. If the allergic reaction gets too severe, see a doctor.
What to do if bedbugs bite the baby
If you notice that a baby has bedbug bites in him/her, check their clothes, bedding, mattress, and bed frame for any sign of the bugs.
You can then clean the area around the bite using water and soap. Consider applying a cold compress or calamine lotion. Do not use any topical steroid creams or oral anti-histamine on a baby without consulting a doctor first. Check with the pharmacist if the medication you intend to use is safe for the baby.
If the baby is old enough to understand instructions given to them, ask them not to scratch the bites to prevent infections. If the baby is too young to understand, just trim their nails. You could also cover the area using a bandage.
What to do if bedbugs bite pets
As we mentioned earlier, bedbugs do not just feed on humans. They also feed on other mammals and your pets could be at risk.
Usually, the bedbug bites on pets get better on their own. However, if the bites become infected make sure you see a vet.
Also, when you hire pest control experts to get rid of the infestations in your home, make sure that you mention about having a pet. They will need to check the pet’s bed, stuffed toys, and other accessories where the bedbugs could be living.
Some insecticides may be harmful to the pet.
Do bedbugs transmit diseases?
Bedbugs are more of a nuisance than they are a health hazard. They do not carry any disease that can be transmitted to humans through their bites.
The worst that could happen after getting bitten is getting an allergic reaction that can easily be treated using antihistamines and other antiseptic lotions. These do an amazing job of relieving the discomfort.
How to differentiate between bedbug bites and other kinds of bites
You shouldn’t assume that all the bites you see on your skin are bedbug bites. The bites from different insects look very similar that it can be hard to identify them, even for doctors. The surest way to rule out flea bites, mosquito bites, spider bites, and hives is to do a visual inspection of your surroundings.
To confirm that it’s indeed a bedbug bite, you must find at least one bedbug. Alternatively, look for rusty or tarry bloodstains on bed sheets or along the seams of mattresses. Adult bedbugs and large nymphs void remains of earlier blood meals while still feeding – this explains the bloodstains.
For further confirmation, look for dark spots of insect waste on furniture, walls, floors, and anywhere else that the bedbugs might be hiding.
If you cannot see a single bedbug but the biting seems to persist, then it’s time to call in professional exterminators to help locate the bedbugs.
Bedbug bites Vs Flea bites
Both bedbug bites and flea bites cause red bumps on the skin. These are quite similar even in the level of itchiness.
The main difference comes in when it comes to the areas of preferred biting. While bedbugs are more likely to bite exposed upper parts of the body like the face and neck, fleas usually bite on the lower half of the body and prefer warm and moist areas around joints. Fleas mostly bite the feet, legs, armpits, and the inside of the elbows and knees.
To confirm the presence of fleas, check the family pet, carpet, or upholstered furniture. That’s where you are most likely to find fleas. You will still need to get the home or pet treated to get rid of the fleas.
Bedbug bites Vs Mosquito bites
The bites from both mosquitoes and bedbugs can be red, swollen, and itchy. Both types of bites also get better on their own; usually in 7 to 14 days.
The difference between bedbug bites and mosquito bites is that the former appear in only a small area of the body and tend to form a pattern. Mosquito bites appear in no particular pattern
Bedbug bites Vs Spider bites
Just like bedbug bites, spider bites also turn red and are itchy. But unlike bedbugs, spiders barely bite you more than once. If you notice just one bite, it’s highly likely that the bite isn’t from a bedbug.
Again, spider bites take much longer to heal compared to bedbug bites. The skin reaction could also be pretty serious.
If a spider bites you, seek medical intervention immediately. Some spiders are very poisonous.
Bedbug bites Vs Hives
A lot of people mistake hives for bedbug bites. Hives are small red itchy bumps that appear on the skin usually as a result of an allergic reaction although it may be due to other reasons.
The difference between bedbug bites and hives is that hives often get larger, change their shape, and spread from one part of the body to another in a short period.
If you notice hives that are accompanied by breathing difficulties, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting you should seek medical help right away. This could be a case of anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.
The risk of getting bedbugs
Bedbugs are not only found in peoples’ homes but can also live in public areas. They’re common in places that have a lot of people, a lot of turnover, and close quarters. A person is at increased risk of getting bedbugs if they work or live in hotels, hospitals, homeless shelters, military barracks, movie theatres, college dorms, apartment complexes, retails stores, and public business offices.
Since these bugs can hide in small crevices, they can easily hitch a ride on your luggage or even pets.
Travelling is one major way through which bedbugs are carried from one place to another. They are very resilient and can withstand the elements as you move from one place to another. However, this isn’t the only way that you can pick up bedbugs. They can easily be brought into your home on secondhand furniture so you must inspect such items carefully.
Bedbugs are a well-known problem at hotels and motels due to the high turnover of guests who unintentionally bring them from their homes to hotels.
If a single bedbug gets into your clothing or luggage during a trip, it could cause an infestation into your home. But all this can easily be prevented by doing the following:
- Keep your suitcase away from the hotel’s bed or any furniture inside the room you can temporarily place the suitcase on the luggage rack on in the hotel bathroom.
- Investigate the bed for signs of bedbugs. Check the linen, mattress, the headboard, baseboards, and cushions.
- Search all furniture. Pay special attention to upholstered furniture pieces. Lift the couch pillows and check underneath.
- If you find any bedbugs in the room, alert the staff and request a new room. If possible, the room should be as far away as possible from your previous room. Inspect the new room too after you have moved.
- During your stay at the hotel, store your luggage in a large plastic bag. Ensure that the plastic bag is sealed at all times to keep out any bedbugs.
Even when you don’t suspect that there could have been bedbugs in the hotel room, remain cautious so that you don’t carry them home with you. Here is what you should do:
- While packing your luggage ready to leave, inspect all your clothing and other accessories.
- Repeat another thorough inspection when you get home and are unpacking
- Wash all your unpacked clothes in hot water before putting them with your other clothes in the closet.
Detection – How to find bedbugs
Bedbugs are quite sneaky making them hard to find. If you suspect that you have a bedbug infestation, it’s good to find them early enough so that you can put a strategic response in place to rid your home of these pests.
The main reason to suspect a bedbug infestation would be the presence of bites on your skin. We already discussed the symptoms experienced after being bitten by a bedbug.
To accurately conclude that there is a bedbug infestation in your home, you need to actually find one by physical inspection. A flashlight and magnifying glass could come in handy as you canvass the whole place.
Bedbugs leave behind evidence of their presence in their home. Some common physical signs to look out for are:
- Live adult bugs or nymphs
- Red stains on bedding
- Dark dots that are bedbug excrement
- Yellow casings which are exoskeletons that have been shed. These are approximately 1mm
- Translucent clusters of milky-white eggs in a grain-like shape.
Where to check
Bedbugs like to hide in warm and dark spots not very far from where people sleep. The usual place to check would be pillows, mattresses, bedding, and the bed’s frames, headboard, and footboard. However, in a heavily infested house, bedbugs can be found all over the place. Other places you should check include:
- Electrical outlets
- Cushions and cushion seams
- Pictures and wall hangings
- Door and window frames
As you carry out the inspection, pay close attention to the cracks, crevices, seams, and tags since bedbugs may be clustered here. You can use a ruler to scrape these spaces that are quite difficult to reach.
After inspecting and confirming that indeed your home is infested with bedbugs, what next? The next move is to call a specialist who will assess the situation and recommend a treatment plan depending on the severity of the situation.
The treatment should target the bedbugs and their larvae to prevent them from maturing into adults.
Treatment – Getting Rid of Bedbugs
These fast-multiplying intruders are notoriously hard to eradicate especially without any form of professional assistance.
Getting rid of a widespread bedbug infestation is costlier than a minor infestation which is far less costly and inconveniencing. A widespread infestation is harder to treat and also takes longer to eradicate the bedbugs – it may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The only problem with minor infestations is that they’re more challenging to detect.
Generally speaking, bedbugs are very hard to eliminate. They require up to 3 treatments to completely get rid of an infestation.
Several insecticides to kill bedbugs are available in the market. These may be confusing to you as you wouldn’t know which one works best and how exactly to use it. For this reason, it’s recommended that you work with a pest control company as they have all the necessary equipment.
The chemicals found in the insecticides are carefully chosen to maximize environmental friendliness and effectiveness in eliminating the pests. Treatment methods vary; the only the safest option that will give the best results is chosen.
The professionals will come to your house and do a comprehensive assessment to see what can be salvaged and needs to be discarded.
Before treatment is started, infested items such as bedding and clothes should be isolated. For the case of a carpet, vacuum it and empty the vacuum outside afterwards.
There are pest control professionals who use portable heating devices to raise the temperature of the room in which the bedbugs are. The heat becomes unbearable for the bedbugs and it gets to a certain point where they die. Any sensitive item should be removed from the premises.
As treatment goes on, people and pets are not supposed to be in the house.
Before choosing a good pest control company, look around and do your research well. Check reviews left by their previous customers online. Be sure that the company’s treatment options have a high success rate. Ask all the questions you might have before you start working together.
Are there any home remedies for dealing with bedbugs?
If you cannot afford the services of an exterminator, you can still get rid of the bugs all by yourself.
In addition to over-the-counter bedbug treatments, you could also do the following to eliminate an infestation:
- Steam-clean floors, mattresses, furniture, and appliances
- Launder your clothes, bedding, and curtains at high temperatures in your washing machine and dryer (at about 46°C)
- For items that cannot be laundered, seal them in plastic bags and freeze them at -17°C for several days.
- Fill out any cracks and crevices in walls and furniture with caulking
Bedbugs multiply very quickly. So you should call a professional immediately you notice that there’s an infestation. If you wait longer, the problem will only keep getting worse. Exterminators are your best bet. Thanks to their experience, they know exactly what to do and how to do it to eliminate the bedbugs.
After treatment, monitoring needs to be done to ensure that all the pests are gone and that they don’t come back.