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Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small brownish wingless insects that feed on blood, particularly the blood of humans but will also feed on the blood of other warm blooded beings too. They are ancient creatures that are found throughout the world and who have adapted very well to environments populated by humans. Contrary to popular belief, the adult bed bugs are large enough to be visible to the naked eye.
How to spot bed bugs
They are notoriously difficult to spot, mainly because they are nocturnal and can hide themselves so efficiently. Bed bugs tend to be most active just before dawn and it is at this time that you are most likely to see them. Indeed, one of the first signs of the presence of bed bugs in your home may be bite marks. A second sign of Bed Bugs is the sudden occurrence of small specks of blood on bedding.
Bed bug bites
Bed bug bites are not pleasant. Typical bite marks can appear as red and swollen spots or welts in a row or grouped together on any exposed area on the body.
When the bug bites, it pierces the skin and injects its unlucky host with blood clotting substances and very kindly, an anaesthetic. It then sucks up the blood on which it feeds. This feeding process can last anything from a few minutes up to ten minutes before the bug relieves its host and goes into hiding again. Bed bugs like to feed every week to ten days or so but can live for many months, sometimes even as long as a year and a half without feeding at all.
If you are unlucky enough to experience a bite, you won’t feel it right away, it will be some time later, maybe even several hours later that any effects such as itching or irritation is likely to be felt, by which time the bug will be well and truly out of sight.
bed bugs are not attracted by poor hygiene as many people believe; it is exhaled carbon dioxide that they are drawn to however inadequate hygiene may prevent effective control of an infestation of bed bugs as they will get a chance to breed. A female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, each of which will hatch within a couple of weeks so it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realise that failure to deal with bed bugs can quite easily lead to a severe infestation of them after a relatively short period of time.
Although bed bugs can harbour diseases, they are not thought to be transmissible to humans; the biggest threat comes from their bites and any subsequent dermatological or allergic reactions to them. There is no doubt that an infestation of bed bugs can be psychologically distressing.
How do beg bugs get in?
bed bugs can be picked up from hostels, guest houses, hotels, bed and breakfasts, friends’ houses, or anywhere else that you may visit overnight, they can also be inadvertently brought home or transferred on infested bedding and clothing that you are carrying with you in your luggage or by acquiring second hand beds, mattresses and other items that are carrying bed bugs.
They can also move been flats in apartment blocks or any other building that is in close proximity to the next one and provided of course there is a way through. Tiny cracks and crevices can provide the perfect hiding place for a bed bug as well as a route to other unsuspecting hosts. They can travel as much as thirty or forty metres to feed.
Controlling bed bugs
- wash bedding regularly;
- vacuum the entire house regularly including the mattress of the bed
- steam clean the carpets;
- if you suspect the presence of bed bugs, purchase a standard household insecticide/pesticide spray and follow the instructions for use making sure to treat all the places they are likely to be hiding;
- for severe infestations, seek advice from a professional pest control expert.
It’s important to note that apart from the bed itself, bed bugs can hide in the carpets, along the skirting boards where the wall meets the floor, in tiny crevices in ceilings and walls, in behind the headboard or baseboard of a bed, in the carpets or curtains, in fact any nook and cranny in the home.