Chances are, you or someone you know has had a run-in with bed bugs. It might have happened in a scrupulously clean bedroom. Or maybe it was a hotel room, office or college dorm. In the February issue of Scientific American entomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky explains how, after a lengthy absence, bed bugs are staging a comeback. The good news is scientists are intensively studying these insects, and their insights suggest novel ways of detecting the bugs and eradicating infestations. Some of those potential solutions are a long way off, however. In the meantime the best bet is to avoid bringing bed bugs home in the first place. I called Haynes to ask him how to do that and what to do if one suspects an infestation (eek!), among a bunch of other practical-minded questions.
Bed bugs typically feed at night when we are sleeping. Even though these pests commonly feed for 5 minutes, the bite itself is painless and usually goes undetected at the time. In fact, bed bugs inject an anticoagulant (a blood thinner) as they feed, which makes feeding easier for the bed bug and also less detectable to you. Although you may not see the bed bugs, or feel their bites, they know when you are around. Bed bugs are attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide. So, if you are alive, warm, and breathing - then you are broadcasting loudly and clearly to all nearby bed bugs that "dinner is served!"
Bring in only what is needed, and avoid sitting or placing coats and other items on beds, floors and sofas where the bugs commonly reside. Essential items can be placed on a tabletop or other hard surface, preferably away from bedrooms and sleeping areas. Better to sit on a hard (non-upholstered) chair than on sofas and recliners. Also try to avoid leaning or brushing against beds and upholstered furniture. If such items are carried out of infested dwellings (e.g., by sanitation workers or firefighters), it’s best to wrap them in plastic or at least not hold them against your body during transport. Emergency Medical (EMS) personnel may need to take additional precautions, such as removing a patient’s bed bug-infested shoes or clothing, or installing plastic sheeting before transporting them in the emergency vehicle.
Avoiding repeated bites can be difficult, since it usually requires eradicating bed bugs from a home or workplace; eradication frequently requires a combination of pesticide and non-pesticide approaches. Pesticides that have historically been found to be effective include pyrethroids, dichlorvos and malathion. Resistance to pesticides has increased significantly over time and there are concerns of negative health effects from their usage. Mechanical approaches such as vacuuming up the insects and heat-treating or wrapping mattresses have been recommended.
The best way to confirm that the bites are from bed bugs is to find other evidence of a bed bug infestation. Common telltale signs can be found on or near your mattress: pull up your sheets and check the seams and folds for thin black fecal streaks or small red blood spots. You might also find bed bugs, living or dead, and their discarded shells in various hiding places, such as the joints of your bed frame.
Hi, I’ve been in my apartment for over 8 years. We just had new neighbors move into our building. Now me and my children are getting bit at night by something. So, this morning, I was sitting on the couch in my bedroom and a bug crawled up my pants’ leg. I captured it in a plastic bag. I believe it’s a bed bug but is there a way to submit a picture to you, so you can take a look? Thank you!
Treatment is symptomatic. Eliminating bed bugs from the home is often difficult. Part of this is because bed bugs can live for a year between feeding. Repeated treatments of a home may be required. These treatments may include heating the room to 50 °C (122 °F) for more than 90 minutes, frequent vacuuming, washing clothing at high temperatures, and the use of various pesticides.
No. Bed bugs are also pests in poultry operations, and they're known to parasitize bats. Some labs that study bed bugs rear them on guinea pigs and mice. The bugs might feed on cats and dogs. Fur is probably a barrier to them, but they could feed at any place on the body without fur. Bed bugs are not specific to humans, but they are adapted to parasitizing us.
As if you needed something else to worry about, bedbugs, those pests from the old bedtime rhyme are making a comeback. More of a nuisance than a health hazard, they’re showing up to suck blood from people in hotels, college dorms, and hospitals. Take an informative look at bedbugs: what they are, where they lurk, and how to spot them before they get you.