About Bed Bugs
Bed bugs have made a worldwide comeback. They are turning up in places such as fancy hotels, hospitals, college dorms, and even homes. People and goods travel more widely than ever before. Bed bugs are nocturnal, small, shy, and easily overlooked. Adult bed bugs can survive for six months without food. Bed bugs find shelter in luggage and shipping crates.
So what should you do about bed bug infestations? Although bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, bed bugs are not known to transmit any diseases to humans. Bed bugs pose less of a risk to us than do mosquitoes. The best strategy to deal with bed bugs is integrated pest management.
What do bed bugs look like?
Bed bugs are insects. A few types of bed bugs live in association with people. The common bed bug, and the bat bug, are often found in homes in the northeastern United States. Adult bed bugs are reddish-brown or straw-colored, are wingless, and have oval shaped bodies. Their upper bodies are covered with short, golden hairs. Before feeding, they are about the size of a pencil eraser and nearly as flat as a piece of paper, which is why they can fit into such narrow crevices. After they have fed they become bloated and dark red.
Bed bug eggs are white, slightly pear-shaped and about 1/32" long, about the size of a pinhead. They are found in crevices in groups of 10-50 eggs. Newly hatched bed bugs are nearly colorless but resemble the adults, only smaller. You may find adults, young, and eggs all in the same location.
How fast do they multiply?
Indoors bed bugs can breed all year. In the northeast, they typically have up to three generations per year. The average lifespan is ten months to a year. In that year, a female may lay from 200-400 eggs. The females need a blood meal before laying eggs. Eggs hatch in about ten days. Under ideal conditions, the young will reach adulthood in five weeks to two months. Young bed bugs will shed their skin five times before becoming adults and must have a blood meal each time before shedding.
How bad is a bed bug bite?
The common bed bug prefers to feed on humans. Pets such as dogs and cats are not a major feeding ground for bed bugs. Bed bugs feed for about five to ten minutes at night, while you sleep, then crawl into a crevice where they will stay for several days while digesting. They bite all over the body, especially in the face neck arms and hands, which are areas that are usually exposed while we sleep. But you may not see this evidence of their feeding because people experience a range of reactions to bites from bed bugs. Heavy infestations of bed bugs have been shown to cause anemia in children and the elderly. Bed bug problems in the home may also cause stress and sleeplessness. Their presence may be undetected for months. Also, because they can survive for six months without feeding, bed bug infestations can persist in abandoned buildings or those that are only used seasonally.
The Bed Bug Dog