Understanding bedbugs is step 1 to being able to eradicate them and most importantly to keep them out of your home. This is just one of those issues that you need to get right from the start which is often not the same as “right now” and as such stopping to actually understand the problem will help you make the correct decisions on how to resolve them.
The primer below offers the very basic information and provides the perfect foundation to expand your knowledge while you work towards a solution. Bedbug eradication does not come at all costs and the “hit ‘em hard” approach often does more harm than good as we have seen in the many homes we have to rescue from both bedbugs and the work of over zealous DIY’er and so-called “professionals”.
- Common Name
- Native bed bug
- Cimex lectularius
- Scientific Name
- Tropical bed bug
- Cimex hemipterus
Bedbugs are parasites that preferentially feed on humans. They are a persistent pest and have developed a number of highly evolved abilities to remain close to humans. They are not nocturnal but as they are mainly active when people are stationary they tend to be active at night in bedrooms as we sleep.
Bedbugs have been documented as pests since the 17th century although they have been around for much longer and most likely followed man out of the caves millennia ago. Bedbugs were common in the UK prior to World War II, after which widespread use of synthetic insecticides such as DDT greatly reduced their numbers. At one stage in the 1930’s over 30% of all homes in the UK were infested!
In the past decade, bedbugs have begun making a comeback across the world. Although they are not considered to be a major pest or health hazard they can be highly unpleasant to live with and can cause a severe lack of sleep. International travel and commerce are thought to facilitate the spread because eggs, young, and adult bed bugs are all readily transported in luggage, clothing, bedding, and furniture. Bedbugs can infest aircraft, ships, trains, and buses as well as offices and public spaces. I some recent cases we have found that the source of infestation was connected with the journey rather than staying in an infected location.
Bedbugs are most frequently found in dwellings with a high rate of occupant turnover, such as hotels, motels, hostels, dormitories, shelters, apartment complexes, tenements, and prisons. Such infestations are not usually a reflection of poor hygiene or bad housekeeping but that a previous occupant had come into contact with them at some stage.
Adult bed bugs are brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened, and about 5mm to 7mm long. Their flat shape enables them to readily hide in cracks and crevices. In some cases colonies have been found in places where it is difficult to insert a sheet of paper.
Female bedbugs lay from one to twelve eggs per day, and the eggs are deposited on rough surfaces or in crack and crevices. The eggs are coated with a sticky substance which dries quickly so they adhere to the surface. Eggs hatch in around 10 days, and nymphs can immediately begin to feed. They require a blood meal in order to moult and develop into the next stage. Bedbugs reach maturity after five moults. Developmental time (egg to adult) is affected by temperature and takes about 21 days at 86° F to 120 days at 65° F under optimal conditions. The nymphal period is greatly prolonged when food is scarce and after many weeks they will starve to death. The adult’s life span may encompass 12-18 months and they are known to be able to survive for 12 months between feeds. Because of their incomplete metamorphic lifecycle juvenile bedbugs are nymphs rather than larvae (caterpillars are larvae and turn into adult butterflies). This simple fact can often be used to establish if someone knows what they are talking about or if they are just memorising all the incorrect facts they have read on the Internet.
The bite is often painless at the time but will typically causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed. Individuals differ greatly in both the extent and timing of their response to a bite. A small, hard, swollen, white welt may develop at the site of each bite which can occur in rows or batches of three or four although this does vary from person to person and is not a confirming sign of bedbugs. This is usually accompanied by severe itching that lasts for several hours to days. In rare cases an allergic reaction may follow – in such cases seek medical attention immediately. The morphology of bites is highly variable and bedbugs are impossible to diagnose on bites alone.
It is believed that 1 in 10 people show no signs of biting, often leading to the myth that they only attack certain people. Cases of extreme reaction seem to be on the increase and affect as many as 2 in 10 people. If you have a severe reaction to other insect bites such as fleas and mosquitoes you are more likely to have an extreme reaction to bed bugs. We have also noted increasing anecdotal evidence that once you have been bitten, the environment that you find yourself in can induce a more severe reaction so if possible avoid areas of high pollution or concentrations of irritants that will enter through the open wounds.
Some individuals respond to bedbug infestations with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Bedbugs are not known to transmit any diseases although some studies have shown that they are capable of carrying infectious material it is believed that their evolutionary path prevents them from transmitting anything person to person. If an infestation is heavy or prolonged it is advisable to use an Iron containing dietary supplement as anaemia or iron deficiency can develop. If you are feeling tired and lethargic this may help significantly.
There is some evidence that prescribed anti histamines can help reduce the effects but it is essential that you explain to your GP that the problem is bedbugs related as the symptoms can be mistaken for more serious complaints such as scabies although they are in no way related. We advise our clients that they should show the evidence newsletter in the Helpful Advice section to their GP. To get relief from the itch Eurax cream which is available from pharmacists is recommended but as with all medication you should consult a medical professional.
The only confirming signs of an infestation of bed bugs are:
- Live samples
- Cast skins
- Faecal traces
The gallery section of this website includes images to compare with. A bedbug infestation may also sometimes be associated with blood stains seeping from wounds or by rusty (sometimes dark) spots of excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls. Faecal spots, eggshells, and shed skins may be found in the vicinity of their hiding places. An offensive, sweet, musty odour from their scent glands may be detected when bedbug infestations are severe. As the smell develops over time you may become accustomed to it and not detect it.
Do not bring infested items into the home. It is important to carefully inspect clothing and baggage of travellers, being on the lookout for bedbugs and their tell-tale faecal spots. Also, inspect all second-hand beds, bedding, and furniture. Identifying the source is one of the key aspects to eradicating an infestation. Unless the source is excluded from the property the supply of bedbugs will be continually replenished and the life cycle will continue.
Like all issues, early detection ensures that you are able to identify the problem and start dealing with it before it spreads out of control. Proactive monitoring with passive bedbug monitors helps ensure that the issue is identified quickly and can be resolved with minimal disruption and impact on your life. The advanced educational section of this site contains information on the various uses of Passive Monitors including early detection, assisting with treatment, quality assurance, and post-treatment monitoring.
Control of bed bugs is best achieved by following an integrated pest eradication (IPE) approach that involves multiple tactics, such as preventive measures, sanitation, and possibly chemicals applied to targeted sites. It is a job where experience is essential to getting rapid results. The fact that most home owner have rarely encountered bedbugs means that self treatment may seem cost effective and simple but the reality is that its a steep learning curve and can be a gamble with your families health and safety.
Bed Bugs Limited have been tackling infestations of bedbugs since 2005 having pioneered a focused scientific approach making their service a unique bedbug eradication service not simply pest control. We offer both green and chemical solutions depending upon your needs and the circumstances of your infestation.
Pre Treatment Preperations
Although many pest controllers will tell you it is essential to prepare a room prior to inspection and treatment we take a very different view. Until the problem is confirmed and inspected how do you know what preparations will be needed to treat an area, after all it may not be bedbugs. We have assessed many cases where homes have been unnecessarily disrupted and infested items have been moved during pre-visit a preparation. This has often resulted in a simple minor infestation becoming more major and involving multiple rooms.
Health and Safety
All our work is carried out to the highest standards with due regard of health and safety, as evident from our membership to independent schemes. Furthermore, no work will be carried out until any infestation is confirmed and the extent of the problem has been identified.