A few decades ago, bedbugs were somewhat of a novelty in developed countries. But since the early 2000s, infestations have become more common in places like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 2013 study in the journal Nature Scientific Reports suggested that bedbugs have evolved ways to resist insecticides.
Bed bugs are an increasing cause for litigation. Courts have, in some cases, exacted large punitive damage judgments on some hotels. Many of New York City's Upper East Side home owners have been afflicted, but they tend to be silent publicly in order not to ruin their property values and be seen as suffering a blight typically associated with the lower classes.
"We originally thought the bedbugs might prefer red because blood is red and that's what they feed on," study co-author Corraine McNeill, an assistant professor of biology at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, said in a statement. "However, after doing the study, the main reason we think they preferred red colors is because bedbugs themselves appear red, so they go to these harborages because they want to be with other bedbugs, as they are known to exist in aggregations."
Summer means more time outdoors–and more opportunity for annoying critters to bite you. Most of the time, all you’ll get is a little red bump with itching and maybe a little swelling. These insect bite symptoms can be treated easily with anti-itch creams and over-the-counter antihistamines. Occasionally, bites can cause allergic reactions that lead to severe swelling and shortness of breath; if that happens to you this season, you need to be seen by a doctor.
Bed bugs occur around the world. Before the 1950s about 30% of houses in the United States had bedbugs. Rates of infestations in developed countries, while decreasing from the 1930s to the 1980s, have increased dramatically since the 1980s. Before the 1980s they were common in the developing world but rare in the developed world. The increase in the developed world may have been caused by increased international travel, resistance to insecticides, and the use of new pest-control methods that do not affect bed bugs.
Bed bug infestations are primarily the result of two species of insects from genus Cimex: Cimex lectularius (the common bed bug) and Cimex hemipterus. These insects feed exclusively on blood and may survive a year without eating. Adult Cimex are light brown to reddish-brown, flat, oval, and have no hind wings. The front wings are vestigial and reduced to pad-like structures. Adults grow to 4–5 mm (0.16–0.20 in) long and 1.5–3 mm (0.059–0.118 in) wide.
Bedbugs reproduce by a gruesome strategy appropriately named "traumatic insemination," in which the male stabs the female's abdomen and injects sperm into the wound. During their life cycle, females can lay more than 200 eggs, which hatch and go through five immature "nymph" stages before reaching their adult form, molting after each phase. [Infographic: Bedbugs: The Life of a Mini-Monster]
Bed bugs are annoying insects that hide in soft, warm places like beds, couches, and clothing. These bugs feed on their hosts at night, leaving small bite marks that, though rarely dangerous, should be treated right away to prevent unwanted symptoms and potential allergic reactions. To prevent more bites in the future, you’ll need to get rid of your bed bug infestation completely.
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
Well I had my house tented for bed bugs. It cost me $2600. My home is about 2000 sq ft. They said it wasn’t necessary to wash anything unlike some of the other treatments. It is more than worth it to me as long as it works. I haven’t stayed in my house for over a week now. I’m still itching, but no new bites. Is that common, to still itch for so long afterwards? I just don’t feel comfy/cozy at home any more. I don’t want to be here. I’m seriously thinking of selling or renting my home and moving out. I’ll keep you posted as to whether it worked or not as soon as I can start staying home again.
Bed bugs occur in all regions of the globe. Rates of infestations are relatively common, following an increase since the 1990s. The exact causes of this increase is unclear; with proposals including greater travel, more frequent exchange of second-hand furnishings, a greater focus on control of other pests, and increasing resistance to pesticides. Bed bugs have been known human parasites for thousands of years.
A common concern with bed bugs is whether or not they transmit diseases. Although bed bugs can harbor various pathogens, transmission to humans has not been proven and is considered unlikely. Their medical significance is most commonly attributed to itching and inflammation from their bites. Antihistamines and corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce allergic reactions, and antiseptic or antibiotic ointments to prevent infection. Though not known to carry diseases, bed bugs can substantially reduce quality of life by causing discomfort, sleeplessness, anxiety, and embarrassment. According to some health experts, the added stress from living with bed bugs can have a significant impact on the emotional health and well-being of certain individuals.
Many news reports in recent years have focused on the discovery of bedbugs and their health effects (even in upscale five-star hotels), and a number of lawsuits have been filed by guests of fashionable hotels who awoke to find hundreds of bedbug bites covering their skin. Searching on travel-review web sites regularly reveals information and even photos confirming the presence of bedbugs in numerous hotels.
When traveling, inspect the bedding prior to exposing yourself or your belongings. Seal your dirty clothes in plastic bags. You may even consider encasing your luggage in a plastic bag while you are in a hotel room. Launder your clothing as soon as you get home. You can treat your suitcase by vacuuming, using a clothes steamer, or handwashing it with hot water and soap. You might also consider encasing luggage in a plastic bag between trips.
Bedbugs are highly resistant to many sprays. There are, however, certain sprays that may be able to kill bedbugs. Check with a professional exterminator about advice using sprays to try and remove the bedbugs yourself. Dead bedbugs usually won't move, may be arched back, or red in color. Ultimately, you may be better off replacing your mattress and bedding and fumigating your home to kill the bedbugs.
The Internet abounds with so-called miracle cures for bed bugs. But bed bugs are hard to get rid of, so anything that advertises an immediate solution is not accurate—it's snake oil. These "cures" have included (as reported by pest control operators who come in afterward to tackle bed bugs correctly) using bleach, ammonia and even DIY heat treatment, which carries fire risk.
Objects or insects in the ear can be placed in the ear by patients themselves, or an insect crawling in the ear. Ear wax can also cause ear problems if Q-tips are overused to clean the ears. Symptoms of an object in the ear are inflammation and sensitivity, redness, or discharge of pus or blood. When to seek medical care for an object or insect in the ear is included in the article information.
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.
Bed bugs were mentioned in ancient Greece as early as 400 BC, and were later mentioned by Aristotle. Pliny's Natural History, first published circa AD 77 in Rome, claimed bed bugs had medicinal value in treating ailments such as snake bites and ear infections. (Belief in the medicinal use of bed bugs persisted until at least the 18th century, when Guettard recommended their use in the treatment of hysteria.)
Every morning, even after countless treatments of our bed and linens, I wake up with 20-30 new bites. I react extremely strongly to them, they can swell as big as a half dollar, and they itch sO badly I often end up ripping them open, leaving them prone to infection. I’m now a diagnoses anemic, which the doctor is sure is because of the number of bites…they are literally eating me alive…and killing me.
Hi there! Honestly, if you have checked properly (like really well) and you don’t see any signs of bed bugs, it might be another insect. Unfortunately, there are so many little insects that could be biting you (such as fleas, etc.) but maybe start with giving all your laundry a good hot wash. Once that is done, see if you continue getting the bites and then we can investigate. Good luck, if you appreciated my help, please share my blog with your friends and family.
Very helpful article, plus everyone’s comments. I wish you all the best of luck with bedbug problems. We went to a cabin near Yosemite before Christmas and I saw bugs on the bed. Luckily we didn’t sleep there and left right away. However I’m afraid some came home with us. About 3 weeks after our trip, I got a rash on my neck, but it’s not very itchy. Haven’t seen any bugs at home, but am worried. Will try the tips in the article–any suggestions how to heat a bedroom to 120 degrees?
If you have been bitten by bedbugs, the good news is that they aren't associated with any disease. You need only to avoid scratching the bites and getting a skin infection. Anti-itch creams may help. Treating your home or possessions to eliminate an infestation is more of a challenge, and you may need both nonchemical and chemical treatments. Learn how to treat your bites and get rid of bedbugs.
The common bed bug (C. lectularius) is the species best adapted to human environments. It is found in temperate climates throughout the world. Other species include Cimex hemipterus, found in tropical regions, which also infests poultry and bats, and Leptocimex boueti, found in the tropics of West Africa and South America, which infests bats and humans. Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily infest bats, while Haematosiphon inodora, a species of North America, primarily infests poultry.
Bed bug infestations have resurged since the 1980s for reasons that are not clear, but contributing factors may be complacency, increased resistance, bans on pesticides, and increased international travel. The U.S. National Pest Management Association reported a 71% increase in bed bug calls between 2000 and 2005. The number of reported incidents in New York City alone rose from 500 in 2004 to 10,000 in 2009. In 2013, Chicago was listed as the number 1 city in the United States with the worst bed bug infestation. As a result, the Chicago City Council passed a bed bug control ordinance to limit their spread. Additionally, bed bugs are reaching places in which they never established before, such as southern South America.
I moved into my apt in April and started getting bitten in June , my apt have been professionally treated 3 separate times. I have a 3 year old and I’m so worried for her she doesn’t seem to get bitten or if she is she doesn’t have the bad reaction that I do which is good. I have 18 bites in the past week the worst I’ve ever had. I can’t find the little blood suckers but I found a bed bug spray at home depot. I’m going to treat my house wash and dry all my clothes in hot temps , then caulk every crack and crevice in this apt. I plan to do this every week until my lease is up and I can move out this apt 7 more months.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.