Adult bed bugs are about 3/16” long and reddish-brown, with oval-shaped, flattened bodies. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks, cockroaches, carpet beetles or other household insects. The immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are smaller and lighter in color. Bed bugs do not fly, and they don’t jump like fleas do ― but they can crawl rapidly over floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces. Adult females lay their eggs in secluded places, depositing 1, 2 or more eggs per day, potentially hundreds during their lifetime. The eggs are tiny (about the size of a dust spec), whitish and hard to see without magnification, especially on light-colored surfaces. When first laid, the eggs are sticky, causing them to adhere to surfaces. At room temperatures, bed bug eggs hatch in about a week. Newly emerged nymphs are straw-colored and no bigger than a pinhead.
The new plague has an old name: bed bugs. They’re in all 50 states, and can be found everywhere, from airports to motels to mansions. They feed silently in the dark, and leave behind a distinctive calling card: a cluster of itchy red bites. If you believe that you’re suffering a bed bug infestation, you’ll want to take action against the bugs right away, but while you’re fighting them, you may also want to treat the bites.
Caregivers, firefighters, and other service providers are sometimes required to enter and work in bed bug-infested dwellings. In doing so, there is the potential to transport some bugs home or to the workplace. It should be noted that bed bugs do not fly, nor jump onto people/pets as fleas do. During the day, bed bugs usually remain hidden and immobile, becoming more active at night when seeking a host. Consequently, the chance of picking up bed bugs by merely walking into an infested dwelling during the day is unlikely. The risk may increase while providing care but can be lessened by taking some precautions.
Avoidance is the best means of preventing bedbug infestation.8 While traveling, sleeping quarters and bedding should be closely inspected for signs of bedbugs. Suitcases should be placed on metal racks away from walls and furniture. Frequent travelers might consider obtaining a portable heating unit for luggage and clothing (e.g., Packtite) as an additional precaution. Items at yard sales and secondhand stores should also be carefully examined before purchase.8 All potentially infested items should be sorted and sealed in plastic bags and removed only when ready to be disinfested (see Table 36 for instructions regarding effective care of infested items). Wearing long-sleeved nightclothes can minimize exposed skin, and although insect repellants have not been shown to be reliably effective, oil of lemon eucalyptus or diethyltoluamide (DEET) might help deter bites.44,45
Before you run off and buy every cream the pharmacy stocks, you’ll want to confirm that the marks are actually from bed bugs. Even if they match the description – round, red marks that may bump, swell, itch, and/or burn – the marks could be allergic reactions to food or fabric, irritations from a rough material, or bites from another pest like mosquitoes or carpet beetles.
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When it comes to controlling bed bugs, "do it yourself" should not be anyone's motto. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate - 76 percent of pest professionals say they are the most difficult pest to control. As such, people who suspect a bed bug infestation should turn to a qualified pest professional with expertise in treating these pests. The pest professional will evaluate the extent of an infestation and recommend the best course of treatment. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorses that appropriate control of a bed bug infestation requires an experienced pest management professional and recommends that victims be advised against attempting to control measures themselves.
Blood spots found on one’s sheets, bites and the presence of bed bug feces and cast skins are some of the indications of a bed bug infestation. Bites are commonly found on the parts of the body that are more likely to be exposed to bed bugs during sleep – the hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs and arms. While not always the case, bed bug bites are often grouped together in a small area and at times may occur in a line or a zigzag pattern. Bites normally look like small, flat or raised areas that may become inflamed, itchy, red or blistered. Bed bug bite reactions don’t always appear immediately after you’re bitten and may take a few days to begin causing symptoms. However, not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same manner.