Bedbugs are small wingless insects with a flat body. Like all insects, they have six legs. Their color can range from whitish to brown, but after feeding (on blood from animals or people), they appear rusty red. Bedbugs grow to about 0.5 cm in length and can be seen by the naked eye. Their name comes from the fact that they often hide in bedding or mattresses.
In most infestations, consultation with a professional exterminator is advised because elimination is more likely to be effective if multiple pest management methods are used. These include monitoring devices, canine detection, clutter removal, vacuuming, heat or cold treatment, sealing cracks and crevices, and judicious use of nonchemical and chemical pesticides. Monitoring devices include moat-like devices (e.g., Climbup Insect Interceptor) that trap bedbugs ascending and descending furniture legs, and emitting devices that use carbon dioxide, heat, and/or chemicals (e.g., Nightwatch monitor) that attract and trap bedbugs. Specially trained dogs are reported to detect bedbugs with 97 percent accuracy and are able to differentiate live bedbugs and viable eggs from debris remaining from previous infestations.41 Vacuuming is a highly effective method for removing bedbugs, but not eggs because these adhere to surfaces.42 High-efficiency particulate air filters eliminate bedbug allergens and debris.42 Nonchemical treatments include petroleum jelly (which can be applied to legs of furniture to prevent bedbugs from ascending), heating, and freezing (see Table 36 for effective killing temperatures).
Scabies is a skin infestation of a type of mite known as Sarcoptes scabiei. These are tiny, almost invisible, eight-legged creatures that fall under the same class as spiders and ticks. Scabies mites burrow under the skin to lay eggs and will crawl around on the skin, causing intense itching. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae that emerge will burrow back into the skin, causing even more irritation.
It is important to remember that they have a very flat body that allows it to hide almost anywhere. During the initial onset of the infestation, they are only visible around the tufts and seams of the mattress. As the infestation grows, these bugs spread out and inhabit larger and larger areas. Generally they prefer rough surfaces like wood or paper for their harborages.
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that only feed on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep. They are reddish-brown in color, about 1mm to 7mm in size, and can live for several months without a blood meal. Bed bugs are not known to spread diseases, but their presence can cause itching and loss of sleep. Excessive scratching can increase the chance of secondary skin infections. Bed bugs are found all over the world and the cleanliness does not determine the presence of bed bugs.
Some people experience anxiety, sleeplessness and unease as symptoms of having had bed bugs. Let's face it, bed bug infestations are understandably significant psychosocial stressors, and some people may experience sleeplessness as they worry about bugs biting them or their family members. Not surprisingly, people have been known to self-isolate, avoiding family and friends out of concern for spreading the infestation, or (if word gets out that they have bed bugs) they may be avoided by friends or others in the community, or find they have problems at work. As a result, victims of bed bug infestations may experience moderate to severe levels of stress, anxiety and depression. In severe cases, these persons should seek counseling and treatment as required.
During the day, bedbugs tend to hide away in furniture, floors, beds, and in wood or paper trash. They typically feed on human or animal blood at night, and most bites occur just before dawn. After taking their meal, which can last as little as three minutes, they drop off the host and crawl to a hiding place. Bedbugs can live for up to 10 months and can go without feeding for weeks.
Bed bugs often hide in seams, folds and crevices of mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. A thorough inspection requires dismantling the bed so that upper and lower seams and surfaces can be examined. Things to look for are the bugs themselves, shed skins of the nymphs (immature bed bugs), and the blackish fecal spots. The dark spots of dried bed bug excrement are often present along mattress seams or wherever the bugs have resided. Box springs afford many places for bed bugs to hide, especially along the upper seams and underneath, where the bottom edge of the box rests on the frame. If an underlying dust cover is present, it may have to be removed to gain access for inspection and possible treatment. Successful treatment of mattresses and box springs can be difficult, however, and infested ones may need to be discarded or encased in a protective cover.
Bedbug bite reactions are self-limited and typically resolve within one to two weeks without intervention.15 There is no evidence that any treatment alters the natural history of bedbug dermatitis.8 If pruritus is present, nonprescription topical antipruritic preparations containing the active ingredient doxepin, or intermediate potency corticosteroids may be beneficial. Mupirocin (Bactroban) and/or systemic antibiotics should be considered in the treatment of superinfected bites.8
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.