Jul 26 2008
What Are Bed Bugs?
Can You See Bed Bugs?
Are Only “Dirty” People Affected?
Do Bed Bugs Bite?
Why Are Bed Bugs Back?
Can Bed Bugs Pass Diseases?
How Do I Know If I Have Bed Bugs?
What Should I Do If I Think I Have Bed Bugs?
How Do Bed Bugs Spread?
How Do You Get Rid Of Bed Bugs?
Where Can I Send A Sample For Identification?
The PCO Treated My Home … Why Aren’t The Bed Bugs Dying?
What Attracts Bed Bugs?
Why Are They Only Biting Me?
What Are My Rights As A Tenant?
What If I Have More Questions?
Bed bugs are an insect belonging to the order Hemiptera (“True Bugs”).
Hemipteran insects have a mouth part called a proboscis that is modified for sucking fluids. In the case of the bed bug this fluid is blood.
Bed bugs appear flattened when viewed from the side, oval when viewed from the top, and can be anywhere from a couple of millimeters long (nymphs) to 6-8mm long (adults). Their colour varies depending upon their life stage and whether or not they have recently consumed a blood meal. Typically they are translucent yellow as young nymphs and a darker red-brown as adults.
Bed bugs are certainly visible with the naked eye and are not to be confused with dust mites.
Adult bed bugs can get to be 6-8mm long (about the size of an apple seed). Bed bugs have five juvenile stages called nymphal instars (each progressively larger than the next). The first nymphal instar is about the size of a pinhead. The fifth nymphal instar is approximately 4.5mm long.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is that bed bugs are associated with unsanitary conditions. This could not be further from the truth.
The fact is that bed bugs do not feed on crumbs, dirt, or debris associated with uncleanliness. The feed on blood.
What this means is that any environment with warm blooded hosts is likely suitable for bed bugs. This includes hostels, inns, motels, luxury hotels, homes, hospitals, care homes, cruise ships, and other modes of transportation to name a few.
Yes. All bed bugs bite. The male bed bug requires a blood meal in order to produce sperm.
The female bed bug requires a blood meal to produce eggs.
The juvenile bed bugs (nymphs) require a blood meal to moult to the next stage.
Bed bugs insert their proboscis (mouth part) into the skin of their host. Their saliva delivers an anticoagulant via one tube to promote blood flow, while another tube sucks up the blood.
Click on the image below to watch a video clip of an adult bed bug feeding (courtesy of University of Minnesota).
The truth is that bed bugs were never really gone. While bed bugs were suppressed in most developed countries, they were never fully eliminated.
This recent resurgence can be attributed to:
- Decreased use of pesticides
- Target specific pesticides (i.e. cockroach bait)
- Banning of preventative treatments
- Resistance to pesticides
- Global travel
- Immigration / Emigration
- Secondhand furniture
Bed bugs seem to posses all of the necessary prerequisites for being capable of passing disease from one host to another.
To date there are at least 27 known pathogens (some estimates are as high as 41) that are capable of living inside a bed bug or on its mouth parts.
To date there have been no known cases of bed bugs passing disease from host to host. Extensive testing has been done in laboratory settings that also conclude that bed bugs are unlikely to pass disease from one person to another.
There is however, the possibility that the saliva of the bed bug may cause anaphylactic shock in a small percentage of people.
It is also possible that sustained feeding by bed bugs may lead to anemia.
There are several tell tale signs that bed bugs are present;
- Bites – Note: Not all bites suffered at night are from bed bugs
- Fecal Spots – Dots of dried blood along mattress seams, the boxspring, behind the headboard, or anywhere else bed bugs harbour
- Cast Skins – These appear to be hollowed out bed bugs and are the sheds from the nymphal stage
- Eggs – About 1mm long and rice shaped these can be difficult to see
To be 100% certain that bed bugs are present it is best to have a reputable pest professional perform an inspection.
DON’T PANIC !
- Do not apply any chemicals – an incorrect application can spread the bed bugs
- Do not disturb the area as this may cause the bed bugs to migrate
- Have a reputable pest control company verify your suspicions (Click HERE for tips on choosing a pro)
Bed bug treatments are best left to the professionals
- Bed bugs can be introduced via luggage, furniture, etc.
- A population may spread if they are disturbed (i.e. disassembling furniture, incorrect pesticide application)
- If there is a shortage of food (i.e. no host present) bed bugs may migrate
- If there is a shortage of harbourage places bed bugs may migrate
- Bed bugs move fairly quickly and can climb vertical surfaces
- Building pipes, wires, and beams may be bed bug highways
- Mating is very traumatic for female bed bugs. Often the process causes the female to disperse from a harbourage space in order to flee the male bed bug. This can facilitate a new harbourage space and thus a new brood center
Bed bugs are by far one of the most difficult indoor pests to rid. Professional pest control companies normally have technicians that are skilled in the treatment of bed bugs. Consult a reputable company and do not be afraid to ask about their experience level in treating bed bugs.
If treated incorrectly bed bugs can spread, go dormant, or even become resistant to the pesticide being applied. For this reason bed bug treatments should be left to the professionals.
There is no need to throw out your mattress. Mattresses and box springs can be sealed in an encasement that will prevent the bed bugs from escaping, while preventing further infestation (more here).
Home remedies (i.e. double-sided tape) will not eliminate bed bug populations, but they may be a monitoring tool to alert you to their presence.
- Most pest control companies have people skilled in insect identification. Some even have free inspections.
- University or college entomology departments
Eliminating a bed bug population takes time (and patience).
a) Bed bugs must come in contact with the pesticide in order to be affected.
b) Bed bugs generally only move from harbourage (Point A) to food (Point B) and back. Sometimes after mating the females will also be “chased” out of a harbourage spot.
c) Bed bugs feed about once every 5 days (on average).
d) Eggs take 10-14 days to hatch (on average).
e) Bed bugs may require multiple exposures to a pesticide before it is effective.
f) Pesticides do not instantaneously kill bed bugs. In some cases it can take days to work.
Compile all of the above and I think you can see that activity a few weeks after treatment is “normal.”
- Heat – Our bodies emit it.
- Carbon Dioxide – We exhale it.
- Kairomones – Chemicals released by hosts (humans) that attract bed bugs.
- Perspiration – This is unclear still but it is believed that there may be a compound (kairomone) in our perspiration that attracts bed bugs.
14. Why are they only biting me?
Bed bugs bite all types of people. There does not seem to be a preference based on a person’s sex, age, gender, or ethnic background.
This does not mean that everyone does get bit. There are cases of only one partner being bitten even though they share the same bed.
Studies suggest that 70% of people do not react to bites. It is possible that you are reacting and the others in your home are not.
This is a difficult question to answer because it is going to vary from country to country and even within. In most areas of North America it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide pest free housing. This would include hiring (and paying for) a PCO to eradicate the problem. This has been hotly debated as many landlords feel it is unfair when tenants bring used furniture etc. that is potentially infested with bed bugs into an apartment, and then they are stuck with the bill for riding them.
In Canada, most provinces have a Residential Tenancy Act by which they abide.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Prince Edward Island
- Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland & Labrador
- Northwest Territories
In the United States it appears to be a little less cut and dry as each county or borough may have their own rules. I will research this further and post information as I have it.
16. What if I have more questions?
- Use the Bed Bug Forum button at the top and post your questions. Many of the world’s foremost experts on bed bugs belong to this forum.
- Use the Ask An Expert button at the top. A list of contacts will be available.
- Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org