Bed bugs are back and with a vengeance!
We all know what ants, fleas, fly’s, ticks, termites, mosquitoes, and cockroaches are because they are common everyday pests but did you know that bed bugs are now being added to the list?
“Don’t let the Bed Bugs Bite” is no longer the nursery rhyme we remember from years ago.
Why are bed bugs back after being gone for so long?
- International travel – Many more people travel now days to and from areas where bed bugs are on the rise spreading them everywhere!
- They have developed resistance to commonly used pesticides
- A large percentage of people show no allergic reaction to the bites
- Bed bugs are great at hiding and people tend not to notice them
- A whole generation of pest control operators that have never encountered or seen a bed bug
- Lack of society education
Begin with knowledge…
Bed bugs have been around for many centuries. The earliest historical citations go back to 423 B.C.
In the United States, bed bugs were thought to come over with the first explorers and were quite a problem until the first major advance in bed bug control was introduced in the late 1930’s – Chlorinated Hydrocarbon / known as DDT.
Prior to the 1950’s bed bugs were as common as an ant in many households throughout the United States. They acquired the name “bed bug” because of their preferred habitat, mattresses, couches, easy chairs and other soft furnishings where people relax.
Years ago DDT, Chlordane and Lindane (now restricted chemicals) were used for elimination of bed bugs. We got a break for 40-50 years until the late 90’s where they started to rear their ugly heads once again in hotels, apartment complexes, businesses and homes throughout many countries.
As the years continue to pass, the numbers of new sightings and the severity of bed bug infestations are continuing to grow exponentially throughout the world. Because of this, worldwide education will have to be ongoing process until we all realize this is an insect we will be living with for a while.
Known for their “elusive and hitchhiking behavior”, until all living humans understand what they are, how to know if they have them, what to do if they have them and how to avoid them, they will continue to be the challenge they are today.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs, scientifically known as Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) are small insects that are flattened dorsally. Bed bugs have evolved as “nest” parasites from inhabiting the roosts of bats and nests of birds’ centuries ago.
Bed bugs feed upon warm blood, and we as humans are perfect hosts.
Because bed bugs have their exoskeleton on the outside of their body, growth is constrained by the rigidity of it and it must be shed in order to grow to the next stage of development. This shedding of the exoskeleton is called Ecdysis or molting. After molting, its translucent soft-body is exposed and within a couple of hours, the cuticle hardens and starts to darken. (A bed bug in any stage must take a blood meal in order to molt into the next stage successfully).
Life Cycle and Development
The bed bug has five developmental life stages. Each immature life stage (called nymphs or instars) must take a blood meal in order to develop into the next life stage. This development process from an egg to an adult can take place in approximately 24 to 36 days at optimal temperatures (72° F) and regular blood meals.
After growing through five successful instar molts, the bed bug then becomes an adult. Adult bed bugs, both male and female, must also take regular blood meals for reproduction.
What do they look like?
It is very important to know what bed bugs look like compared to similar insects as the treatment options and costs are very different. Often people tend to mistake other bugs for a bed bug.
Adult Bed Bugs
The adult bed bug are easily be seen with the naked eye. They are reddish brown in color, and are approximately ¼ inch in length. Although they can move swiftly in horizontal and vertical positions, they don’t fly and they don’t jump.
Depending on their feeding status, bed bugs look very different. An unfed bed bug looks more like a flat disk but when after taking a blood meal they increase in size to approx. 3 to 4 times that of their original size. Fully fed, the bed bug takes on the shape of a torpedo with an elongated trunk bright in color. As digestion progresses the bed bug darkens in color and flattens out until the next blood meal.
Regardless of what you have read or unless you have exceptional eyesight or a magnifying glass, bed bug eggs are similar to the size of a poppy seed are not very visible to the human eye. The eggs are pearl white, translucent in color and display obvious eyespots of the nymph inside the egg when 5 days or older.
A female bed bug can lay a few hundred eggs in her lifetime of many months to around a year, but these are not deposited all at one time, (regular feeding and mating are required). Depending on temperature and conditions, these eggs can hatch anywhere from three  to ten  days or longer. The eggs are attached to surfaces by a sticky substance.
The youngest stage of life and the most challenging to see is the first instar nymph freshly hatched unless they are moving or have recently fed (bright red when full of blood). These newly hatched nymphs are translucent pearl whitish in color.
PHYSICAL SIGNS OF BED BUGS
Although bites can be a strong indication of bed bugs it is not the way to accurately identify whether one has bed bugs or not and signs of them must be found.
Finding a live bed bug would be best but because of the bed bugs amazing ability to hide, you may not always find a live bed bug. As you do your inspection routine you will want to be looking for these other signs.
FECAL STAINS (POOP)
This sign of bed bugs is fecal (poop) dropping or stains. The larger the infestation, the greater amount of these will be found. These stains appear to be minute “ink dots”, (like from a black marker pen), can be found just about anywhere. Some materials are “impervious to moisture” and the dropping may “bead up” on the surface.
MOLTED BED BUG SKINS (CASTINGS)
These are when the bed bug grows out of its skin and leaves the old one behind. They are normally a paper thin opaque duplication of the bed bug. Depending on how long you’ve had an infestation, you may find different “sizes” as each stage of growth to maturity is a little larger than the last.
Outside of bite marks people may find blood spots. These spots may be recognized as rusty spots on bedclothes, sheets, furniture and surrounding walls.
The next sign is a peculiar “odor” that can be from defecated blood and oxidized iron in blood, a sort of rusty smell. There are actually many bed bug infestation odors (and have been said to be like coriander, cilantro, citronella, and/or musty raspberries). Some of the odors are usually associated with higher numbers of bed bugs and longer infestations, and like any of the normal human smells and scents, if you reside in the room on a regular basis you may be “use to” the smell.