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.
The diagnosis of a bedbug infestation should be based on the clinical history and appearance of bites. A thorough inspection of sleeping quarters by the patient, a family member, or a pest control expert may demonstrate the telltale signs of an infestation15 (i.e., specks of blood-tinged insect feces and exoskeleton casts [Figure 5]). With the aid of a magnifying glass, special attention should be given to cracks and crevices of furniture, baseboards, electrical boxes, curtains, carpet, luggage, bed frames and headboards, picture frames, wall hangings, mattress and box spring seams, peeling wall paper, clothes, and linens.37 Live bedbugs can sometimes be caught by turning on a flashlight just before dawn, when bedbugs are most active, larger in appearance, and slower to scatter because of recent feeding.40
Bedbugs are found in temperate and tropical climates worldwide. The insects are most commonly found in living quarters where their host resides. Bedbugs generally hide in the seams and crevices of bed mattresses and box springs, bed frames, headboards, upholstery, old furniture, closets, and in spaces underneath baseboards or behind loose wallpaper. Clutter and disarray also provide additional hiding places for bedbugs. Bedbugs may be transported from one location to another via luggage, furniture, clothing, and used mattresses. Although they are often associated with unsanitary living conditions, bedbug infestations also occur in clean, well-maintained living quarters, including five-star hotels and resorts. Bedbug infestations have been increasingly reported in hotels, dormitories, homes, apartments, nursing homes, cruise ships, shelters, jails, and hospitals. There have been several cases in the U.S. involving litigation because of infestations of bedbugs, and thus bedbugs are considered a public health pest by several agencies.
Since bed bugs can be found throughout the world, many people have suffered from their bites. Since you are reading this, you have also most likely been a victim but don’t worry, you are not alone. Their primary diet is blood, which makes humans their meal of choice, definitely not good news for us! Based on personal experience, they can leave a rather nasty, red mark which can itch like mad. No wonder people say “Goodnight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!” What do these bites look like (and what to do if you are bitten) and what are some ways that you can get rid of them?
To avoid light, bedbugs hide in the seams of mattresses and crevices of bed frames, walls, and furniture during the day.5,7 They are attracted to human hosts by warmth and carbon dioxide; these hosts generally sleep within 3 to 7 feet (1 to 2 meters) of the bedbugs’ hiding places.8,9 Feeding usually takes place just before dawn.10 Bedbug saliva contains several anesthetic, vasodilatory, anticoagulant, and proteolytic compounds that allow the insects to feed undetected for five to 10 minutes. Three of these compounds have been identified as instigators of the subsequent hypersensitivity reactions that may be noticed when the host awakens.11–14
You can identify a bedbug infestation by checking bedding, mattress seams, furniture, and wall fixtures for the bugs or their traces. Each bedbug is about the size of an apple seed, about 1/4 inch long. You will often see their droppings instead, which are tiny brown or red specks. You may also see small blood stains on sheets or mattresses when a bedbug has been crushed after feeding. Eggs about the same size as the adults might be seen in seams or cracks and you will also see their molted exoskeletons.
Mechanical approaches, such as vacuuming up the insects and heat-treating or wrapping mattresses, are effective. An hour at a temperature of 45 °C (113 °F) or over, or two hours at less than −17 °C (1 °F) kills them. This may include a domestic clothes drier for fabric or a commercial steamer. Bed bugs and their eggs will die on contact when exposed to surface temperatures above 180 degrees and a steamer can reach well above 230 degrees. A study found 100% mortality rates for bed bugs exposed to temperatures greater than 50 °C (122 °F) for more than 2 minutes. The study recommended maintaining temperatures of above 48 °C for more than 20 min to effectively kill all life stages of bed bugs, and because in practice treatment times of 6 to 8 hours are used to account for cracks and indoor clutter. This method is expensive and has caused fires. Starving them is not effective as they can survive without eating for 100 to 300 days, depending on temperature. One expert recommends not trying to get rid of bed bugs exclusively on one's own.
All these bed bugs can be dealt with. it is best to use a non chemical treatment to make it safe for your environment . here is one i found, food grade Diatomaceous Earth found at garden centers, follow instructions, and move beds away from the walls, sprinkle in the carpet deeply, on to base boards , ( it works like borax powder for fleas and roaches) .
This morning, I stood in front of the mirror for my daily grooming routine when the most gruesome red bumps appeared before me and it’s at the side of my neck! Thankfully it’s Saturday coz I will not spend my time with my co-workers! I researched and stumble upon your website. I wish you could help me The bites are getting itchy and what would you recommend? Natural or modern medicine? Thanks i’ll be waiting for your answer…
Nightstands and dressers may need to be emptied and examined inside and out, and tipped over to inspect the woodwork underneath. Oftentimes the bugs will be hiding in cracks, corners, and recesses. Other common bed bug hiding places include: along and under the edge of wall-to-wall carpeting, especially behind beds and sofas; cracks in wood molding; ceiling-wall junctures; behind wall-mounted pictures, mirrors, outlets and switch plates; under loose wallpaper; clothing and clutter within closets; and inside clocks, phones, televisions and smoke detectors.
One thing I’ve noticed is my cat is unaffected by all this. I’m assuming I’m the tastier option of the two but I’m not discounting the fact she may be spreading eggs around my apartment. she has been carefully inspected from tip to tail with a nit brush and she has no bites, isn’t scratching and seems to be just as snug as a bug in a rug. To be precautionary I am going to begin dusting her with flea powder in the morning when i go buy some.
Don't assume your bites are bedbugs. Bites can be hard to identify, even for doctors. Rule out mosquitoes, fleas, mites, and biting gnats by conducting a visual inspection. It's best to collect and identify bedbugs to confirm bites. Look for the bugs themselves or their bloodstains, especially along the seams of mattresses. Further, look for dark spots of insect waste where bedbugs might crawl into hiding places on furniture, walls, and floors.