Bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, have resurged to quickly become a commonplace pest of the 21st century, as they invade numerous urban areas. Societies worldwide have had a 30+ year break from this pest, when bed bugs were almost completely removed from homes worldwide as a result of mass treatments with older types of insecticides (DDT, Chlordane, Lindane). Recently though, bed bugs have found ample opportunity to increase in numbers and spread through society in Europe, Australia and the U.S.A. Their success is a result of a combination of factors: increased travel of people; improved treatment methods that specifically target other insect pests (and thus not impact bed bugs); and the lack of public awareness. In addition to homes and hotels, bed bugs are also being found in schools, shops, office buildings, libraries, transport and other public areas.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY?
Bed bugs are parasites that feed on the blood of people, using these blood meals to grow and reproduce. They do not distinguish between dirty or clean homes and all people are vulnerable to infestations in their homes. Bed bugs are also capable of feeding on animals, including dogs, cats, and other pets.
They live close to areas where people typically sleep, rest, or sit for long periods. Hungry bugs will move out from their hiding places, in search of exposed skin. Typically, the head and neck are bitten, but bed bugs will also bite bare arms, hands, and legs. When searching for a place to feed, these bugs can move very quickly. Once an appropriate site is found, they feed for 2-5 minutes until full, and then move quickly away from the person and into a hiding place. Itchy red patches and especially a neat line of red dots on the skin indicates that you have been a meal.
In addition to bed bugs moving towards a person when they are least likely to notice the insects, the result of their bites may also go unnoticed, or can be mistaken for the bites of other pests. All people are not equally sensitive to bed bug bites, so while some victims break out in rashes from the bites, other people may not display symptoms. When a reaction does occur, the results of feeding can be mild (a simple red spot) to severe (rash or even hives). The reactions caused by feeding might be mistaken for other problems. Fleas, mosquitoes and other biting insects, sensitization to detergents and soaps, and irritants (e.g., poison ivy) are some of the conditions victims of bed bugs thought they were dealing with.
Bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases to people. They have been discovered to harbour 28 different human pathogens, but fortunately, the transmission of these diseases to people has not been evidenced.
HOW DO I RECOGNIZE THEM?
Adult bed bugs are oval, flattened, brown, and wingless insects approximately 1/4" to 3/8" long (5-9 mm). After the bug has taken a blood meal, its colour will change from brown to purplish-red. Also after feeding, it is larger and more cigar-shaped making it appear like a different insect. Young bed bugs are much smaller, 1/16" (1.6 mm) when they first hatch, and nearly colourless except after feeding, but resemble the adult in general shape. You may also find cast skins, which are empty shells of bugs as they grow from one stage to the next. After a blood meal, bed bugs deposit fecal spots (composed of digested blood) in areas adjacent to the feeding site or back at their hiding places.
HOW DO THEY LIVE?
Bed bugs are active at night and generally hide during the day. After mating, females lay white, oval eggs (1/16-inch long) into cracks and crevices. An individual bed bug can lay 200-250 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch in about 6-10 days and the newly emerged bed bug nymphs seek a blood meal. Immature nymphs moult five times (i.e., they shed their outer exoskeleton in order to grow) before reaching adulthood. They need to feed at least once before each moult, although they could feed as often as once a day. There may be three or more generations per year. All ages are found in a reproducing population. Immature bed bugs may live for several months without feeding while adults may survive as long as one year without a meal. Under normal circumstances, adult bed bugs will live for about ten to eleven months.
HOW DO I KNOW I AM A VICTIM AND HAVE AN INFESTATION?
Bed bugs typically cluster together in favourable harborage areas. However, some bed bugs will live by themselves, away from the rest of an infestation. The best way to determine if you have an infestation is to look for bed bugs where you sleep (or rest). In bedrooms, look particularly on and around boxsprings, mattresses, bed frames, tufts, folds, and buttons on mattresses, headboards, furniture, such as desks and chairs, behind wall paper, clocks and pictures, cracks in wood floors, and under the edge of carpet. If you travel also check your luggage, where you typically set it down when you enter your home and where you store it.
While bed bugs are most commonly found in bedrooms, infestations can also occur in other rooms, including: bathrooms and living rooms. Dark blood spots on sheets and bedding may indicate bed bug feeding. Bed bugs will sometimes excrete while they are feeding. This results in darker (dark reddish or brownish) spots or smears found on bed sheets, pillowcases and mattresses, or in nearby areas. This material is composed mostly of digested blood and the stains are very characteristic. In severe infestations, bed bugs may be more noticeable. The accumulation of bugs, cast skins and fecal spots will be very apparent upon close inspection.
Remember these insects are small (1/16" to 1/4") and very flat, so they can move into very tight corners and cracks. In some infestations, they can be found under picture frames, in between the glass and the frame, behind wall hangings, behind electrical sockets and even small tears in the wallpaper.It is also possible for them to get behind the electical sockets and use the cables as a route to other rooms or even neighbouring properties. Be prepared to do some close inspection and when in doubt, you should consider having the inspection done by a pest control specialist company such as Sankeys.
If at any time a bed bug is found: discontinue inspection and initiate control activity! Do not continue with the inspection alone, as bed bugs will move from their hiding places once disturbed. Further inspections must be accompanied by control measures.
HOW DO I DEAL WITH AN INFESTATION?
We highly recommend that you seek assistance from a professional pest control company such as Sankeys.
Controlling an infestation requires very detailed work, much moving and disassembly of furniture, and specialty equipment. Careful inspections must be completed in conjunction with non-chemical controls (such as heat treatments, vacuuming, and steam treatments) and insecticide treatments. The insecticides available are commercial products requiring special equipment and training. The insecticides available in over-the-counter products and methods used by residents are not effective in controlling bed bugs.
Another method that pest control specialists use for controlling bed bugs in homes is the use of heat treatment. Specialized equipment is used to raise the temperatures in target areas to 118° F and then maintain it for at least 70 minutes. All stages of bed bugs are killed when this is done properly. While very effective, heat treatment does not prevent bed bugs from being brought back into a home and reinfesting it.
It is important to cooperate with a pest control specialist. However, it should not be necessary to have to move or discard your furniture and your belongings out of your home, especially from an apartment, bedsit or flat. Sometimes furniture is removed and heat treated in a container but it would be rare to actually need to throw items away although doing so reduces the risk of another infestation due to one of them escaping the treatment - especially a pregnant female. There are known cases where the occupier has used powder and sticky tape all around the bed to prevent the bed bugs getting access....only to find that they have climbed up the wall, accross the ceiling and then dropped down onto the bed to get at the sleeping occupant!
WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE?
When working with a pest management company, there are some additional measures that you may be asked to do to help eradicate bed bugs.
You can use your washing machine and dryer to kill bed bugs that may be infesting clothes. Clothes laundered in hot water and/or dried in temperatures hotter than 122° F for 20 minutes will kill all stages of bed bugs. This is typically the medium-high setting. If you are not sure what temperature you drier can reach, ask a professional to test it for you. You can also sterilize curtains and other fabrics, rugs, shoes, backpacks, stuffed animals, toys, and similar objects by drying them for about 30 minutes.
Cold temperatures can kill bed bugs if they are exposed to it long enough and at temperatures that are cold enough. If you place objects into a freezer, at 0° F all stages of bed bugs will be killed when they are left in it for 7 to 10 days.
It is a common assumption that if you put infested furniture outdoors during winter when it is cold, that the temperatures are sufficient to kill bed bugs. While you will undoubtedly kill some bed bugs, there is no guarantee that you will kill all of them. There is little research that has examined how cold and for what duration you need under those circumstances.It is believed that if you expose furniture to 0° F or less for four days or more, that may be sufficient.
Even if you put furniture outdoors at 0° F, consider that the temperature where the bed bugs are hiding may not be as cold as the air temperature. Also, any sun shining on the furniture can raise the temperature in localized areas. Although it may seem cold, the odds of the temperature remaining consistently at 0° F or less for four consecutive days are unlikely.
Although you cannot guarantee that freezing temperatures will kill all of the bed bugs infesting an object, you can use the cold to immobilize any bed bugs that are present until you decide what to do with the object.
Home residents are discouraged from attempting to treat bed bugs themselves. The insecticides available in over-the-counter products are not very effective in controlling bed bugs.
Bug bombs, also known as total release foggers, are popular but are not effective when treating bed bugs. These products throw insecticide into the air of which very little, if any, comes in contact with bed bugs which are hiding in cracks and behind and under objects. Its use will not have any impact on a bed bug infestation other than the possibility of scattering them over a bigger area or to a new location. Unfortunately, it is too easy for people to misuse or over use bug bombs which can result in unnecessary pesticide exposure. Bug bombs are also potentially flammable if used incorrectly.
Although home residents are discouraged from trying to treat bed bugs themselves, if you should decide to use a pesticide, it is very important to carefully to read and understand the label before using and to follow all label directions. The product you intend to use should be labeled for bed bugs.
The greatest risk for encountering bed bugs appears to be while people are traveling. Regardless of the type of accommodations you stay at, it is a good precaution to check your room. Check around the headboard and adjacent areas of the bed. Also inspect luggage stands or other areas where suitcases are typically set down. Be aware of any unexplained bites you may find in the morning; that could be the result of bed bugs. Also watch for fecal spots, which could occur on bed sheets or nearby areas. Inspect your luggage when you get home after a trip for any bed bugs that may have escaped your earlier attention.Bear in mind that public transport including buses, trains, cruise ships and aircraft are also possibly infested !
Other sources of bed bugs can be associated with the scavenging of used furniture. Residents and tenants are strongly cautioned against "scavenging" beds and furniture that have been discarded and left by the kerb for disposal, or behind places of business. Bed bug infestations are not limited to beds and mattresses, and they can be found on tables, drawers, and even electronics if these items were located in a bedroom or other place that could support an infestation.It has been known for them to set up home in laptops!
Good night !!
Member since: 4th June 2013
An owner of Thebestof Portsmouth, I have lived in Portsmouth and Southsea all my life, so I like to think I have a good idea about what makes us tick. I am passionate about all things Portsmouth and Southsea,...