Bed bugs are small, nocturnal insects that feed on blood. Despite their name, bed bugs can be found in a variety of environments outside of bedding such as furniture, walls, office buildings, college dormitories, etc. Recently bed bugs have undergone a massive resurgence and are quickly becoming a worldwide problem.
Adults are small, brownish insects, just under a ¼” long and are relatively flat. They are nearly as wide as they are long, and oval in shape. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are much smaller and lighter in color. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and are no bigger than a pinhead.
No. Although bed bugs carry over 28 human pathogens, there has been no documented case of bed bugs transmitting disease. The medical concerns of bed bugs are typically limited to the itching and inflammation associated with their bite. The bites’ effects are similar to allergic reactions and can vary from itchy welts to severe and painful rashes that require medical attention. Often, the emotional trauma associated with discovering a bed bug infestation is considerable.
Bed bugs were a common problem during WWII. The use of DDT insecticides nearly eradicated the insect from North America and they have not been a significant problem for nearly 50 years. Although changes in pest management practices and increased international travel may be blamed for the resurgence of bed bugs, the lack of public awareness may be the primary reason these bugs continue to spread at their current rate.
Bed bugs need to be introduced into an environment. They do not jump or fly but are excellent hitch-hikers and can be transported on clothing, luggage, used furniture and various other objects. Risk for bed bug exposure increases in several of the following situations:
- Purchasing or using second-hand furniture and mattresses
- Entertaining or being an overnight guest
- Staying in hotels, college dormitories, boarding schools
- Children coming home from summer camp
The most reliable way to confirm you have bed bugs is to contact an entomologist or pest management professional and have them identify a sample collected from your home. However, there are key warning signs that you may have an infestation:
- Waking with bites, welts or rashes. Bite marks may appear in rows and clusters.
- Dark spotting or blood droplets on mattresses or bedding. These are waste products bed bugs excrete while digesting a blood-meal.
- Visible observation of eggs, molted insect skin, or the insect. The failure to locate an insect does not indicate they are not present. Adult bed bugs are difficult to locate and immature bed bugs can be difficult to see due to their size.
There are several steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of infestation:
- Carefully inspect or avoid second-hand furniture, mattresses and bedding
- During hotel visits, do not place luggage on the bed or furniture until you have inspected the bedding, mattresses and headboards
- When traveling, periodically inspect your luggage and bag
- Encase your beds with bed bug proof encasements such as Protect-A-Bed bed encasements
No. Bed bugs have been found everywhere from low-income housing to five-star hotels. Anywhere bed bugs can be transported, they can infest. Everyone should take precautions regardless of socio-economic status.
Additional information on bed bugs can be found at the following websites: