Bed bugs are the fastest growing pest control emergency in the developed world. A lot of people live in fear of bed bugs without really knowing that much about them. Here are some facts about the insects that will clear up some misconceptions and hopefully lead to less unwarranted dread.
First and foremost, unlike mosquitos, bed bugs don’t spread disease. When they ingest human blood, the human’s disease pathogens decompose in the bug’s digestive system. Additionally, when bed bugs bite you they don’t inject you with the blood of creatures they’ve previously bitten. They may be unappealing but at least the worst thing their bite can do is leave a red, itchy bump.
Bed bugs have made humans their prey for over 3,500 years. Fossils of bed bugs have been found at various archaeological digs around the world. In ancient Egypt, people were recorded to have boiled them and drank the brew as a cure for snake bites. In ancient Rome and Greece, bed bugs were burned to make leeches release their hold.
Bed bugs were almost entirely wiped out in the 1950s due to a chemical pesticide called Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloro-Ethane or DDT. DDT was the first of its kind to be used in common households. One treatment of the pesticide could kill an entire colony of bed bugs. In 1985, the registered use of DDT was suspended in Canada. Unfortunately, however, it was harmful to not only the bugs. Exposure to DDT has been linked to breast cancer, male infertility, miscarriages, nervous system and liver damage, and developmental disabilities in children. Thankfully, other methods of bed bug extermination that don’t lead to health complications have been implemented.
Bed bugs are easy to identify as they differ in appearance to other pests that can be found around the house. Bed bug eggs are white, oval and extremely tiny (approximately 1.5 mm). Bed bugs in their nymph stage of growth start off translucent then gradually turn into a straw-like colour.
Fully-grown bedbugs are about 5 mm in size but can grow up to 9 mm after a feed. They are plump, bulbous and reddish brown in shade. They are typically about the size and shape of an apple seed.
Approximately half of all people have no reaction to bed bug bites. That is, there will be no mark on their skin nor any itching. People who do have reactions will have varied symptoms. The bites typically resemble those from insects like mosquitoes or flies in that they’re itchy and red. Sometimes these symptoms can be delayed for up to 14 days after the person is bitten. The bites are frequently found in a row in areas that are exposed while sleeping so the face, neck, arms, and legs.
Colonies of bed bugs can include thousands of the little vampiric critters. Despite their name, the colonies do not always make their homes in beds. These pests will find a home anywhere they can hide. This includes tiny areas such as behind light switches, outlets, peeling paint or wallpaper, or cracks in the wall. They do not like heat so they prefer to burrow themselves in cave-like areas.
The bed bugs don’t have wings so they can’t fly and they can’t jump. They can, however, cover a lot of ground by crawling. The pests typically crawl approximately 30 metres a night to find a victim to feed on.
Exposure to temperatures above 46 degrees Celsius will kill bed bugs and their eggs. Bed bugs have to be exposed to extreme heat for a long period of time in order to be exterminated. Therefore, simply turning the heat up in an apartment for a day will not do the job. This is because of diapause. Diapause is essentially a kind of hibernation for bed bugs. The insect enters a deep sleep where it survives on stored energy until it runs out or it is woken up. This also means that attempting to “starve out” bed bugs by placing infested belongings in garbage bags doesn’t work because bed bugs can survive over a year without food.
Steam treatments are an extremely effective method of exterminating bed bugs as hot steam will kill them and their eggs as long as they come into direct contact with the steam. However, there are various modern methods that are effective in wiping out the pests.