Bed bugs were extinct in the United States decades ago. Two things, however, have changed since those times: Social conscience and healthy-living initiatives have caused us to discontinue use of caustic insecticides, and an increase in global travel has allowed bed bugs to travel to the United States via human travelers and their belongings. Now, our nation is much more habitable for the bed bugs.
The common bed bug (Cimex lectularius Linnaeus) is a parasite which lives on the outside of the body of the host. Bed bugs feed only on the blood of warm-blooded hosts. They can conceal themselves in any tight crack or crevice, and are often found in padding, such as mattresses and box springs. They can also hide behind electrical faceplates, baseboards, folded areas of beds, bedding, adjacent furniture, picture frames, wallpaper and nearly anywhere inside a shelter, apartment, or structure. Bed bugs do not discriminate and have been known to thrive in the fanciest hotels and homes, to the most modest dwellings.
Unlike cockroaches, bed bugs travel by hitchhiking, and commonly take a ride on a human host, or a person’s garments or travel bags. Bed bugs usually feed at night but can take a blood meal during the day, especially in heavily-infested areas. They usually require 5-10 minutes to engorge with the host’s blood. After feeding, they move to a secluded place and hide for 5-10 days. During this time, they do not feed, but instead digest their meal, mate, and lay eggs. Here are some quick facts:
What are Bed Bugs?
- Bed bugs are small wingless insects.
- They feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals.
- Their color ranges from nearly white (just after molting) or a light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange.
- Bed bugs cannot fly.
- Bed bugs DO NOT transmit diseases.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
- Most abundantly, in rooms where people sleep.
- Generally, they hide near the bed or other furniture used for sleeping.
- They are most active in the middle of the night.
- Hiding places include the bed frame, mattress and box spring.
- Clutter around the room offers additional places for these bugs to hide. Clutter increases the difficulty for eliminating bed bug infestation.
How Can You Tell If Your Residence Is Infested?
- Bed bugs infest only a small proportion of residences, but they should be suspected if residents complain of bites that occur while sleeping.
- Bedrooms and other sleeping areas should be carefully examined for bed bugs, and signs of bed bug activity.
- Folds and creases in the bed linens, and seams and tufts of mattresses and box springs, may harbor bed bugs or their eggs.
- They may also be found:
- Within pleats of curtains,
- Beneath loose areas of wallpaper near the bed,
- In corners of desks and dressers, within spaces of wicker furniture, behind molding,
- In laundry or other items on the floor or around the room.
- Sometimes, characteristic dark brown or reddish fecal spots of bed bugs are apparent on the bed linens, mattress or walls near the bed.
- A peculiar odor may be detected in some heavily infested residences.