Bedbugs are a species of insect known as cimex lectularius (literallycimex is Latin for bug and lactularius is Latin for bed). There is a second common species of bedbugs known as cimex hemiptera. These are known as the tropical bedbugs, staying within 30 degrees of the equator. There are published reports, many without supporting evidence, that each of the common bedbug species has chemically different saliva. Some researchers, however, have found no difference in the reactions caused by each species.
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.)
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
Bed bug bites occur most frequently while you’re asleep. As bed bugs bite they inject their victims with an anesthetic (as well as an anticoagulant), numbing the area and making it very rare for someone to wake up when bitten. Bites normally take a day or two to appear, although depending on your individual reaction they may be more visible sooner.
It often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere. The bugs are efficient hitchhikers and are usually transported into dwellings on luggage, clothing, beds, furniture, and other items. This is a particular risk for hotels and apartments, where turnover of occupants is constant. Bed bugs are small and agile, escaping detection after crawling into suitcases, backpacks and belongings. Acquiring secondhand beds, couches and furniture is another way that the bugs are transported into buildings. Bed bugs also can be carried in on one’s clothing, shoes or wheelchair. Once bed bugs are introduced, they can crawl from room to room or floor to floor. They can also be transported throughout buildings on people and their belongings.
These nocturnal creatures can hide in beds, floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day. We humans usually become their dinner during the night, with peak biting activity just before dawn.They can obtain their meal in as little as three minutes, after which they are engorged and drop off the host, then crawl into a hiding place to digest their meal. Bedbugs can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.
Wash the bites with soap and water. Wash the area with mild soap and water; use a bar of soap and enough water to wet surface of your hands. Work the soap in your hands into thick, soapy lather. Rub the lather over the affected area liberally. Repeat until the entire area is covered. Leave on and do not rinse. Allow the soap lather to dry over the bitten areas. You should experience immediate relief from itching.
General housecleaning measures, (e.g. vacuuming floors and surfaces), seldom reach where bed bugs hide. For this reason, repetitive vacuuming by occupants may not be worth the effort, especially compared to other important preparatory activities. Targeted vacuuming of bed bugs and infested harborages, however, can help remove some of the bugs before other treatment measures are undertaken. Bed bugs and especially the eggs can be difficult to dislodge. Optimum results will be achieved by moving and scraping the end of the suction wand along infested areas such as seams and fabric folds of beds and sofas, and the perimeter edge of wall-to-wall carpet. Bed bugs can survive the high speed trip down a vacuum, so it’s important to carefully dispose of the vacuum contents in a sealed trash bag afterwards.
The size of bed bug bites varies with a number of different factors. Bed bugs inject an anti-coagulant along with their saliva when they pierce the skin to take a blood meal. This anti-coagulant is mostly responsible for how a person reacts to the bite and determines the size of the bug’s bite. Since people will have various sensitivities to the bed bug’s bite, the size of the bite will vary, as well. Another factor that influences the size of a bed bug reaction is the number of times a person is bitten. Bite reactions of people bitten many times are also variable, and their response may be either more or less intense as the number of bites increases.