All You Need To Know About Bed Bugs

bedbug on skin

Bed bug infestations were largely unheard of until recent years. Though tiny, these little pests can be a big problem for homeowners. Bed bugs were very common before World War II until the introduction of washing machines, DDT, and other new pesticides. As a result of these new and exciting innovations, the bed bug was nearly completely eradicated in the United States. Yet, a few still remained. Many experts believe that a rise in popularity with travel in the early ’90s could be the cause for the rise in bed bug infestations. A drop in societal awareness about bed bugs may also be a contributing factor to their resurgence.

Now that bed bug infestations have been increasing over recent years, it’s imperative that New Haven homeowners who are at risk for bed bug problems know the health risks, treatment, and prevention measures necessary for getting rid of these pests and getting back to a calm and happy lifestyle.

Bed Bug Appearance 

Bed bugs are known by a few nicknames: “wall lice”, “crimson ramblers”, and “mahogany flats” just to name a few. Bed bugs grow from egg to nymph, to adult bed bug in their life cycle. After mating, female bed bugs will lay eggs, about one per day. These eggs are about 1/16 of an inch in length and are normally found in cracks and crevices around the home. Due to their small size, they are not easy to detect with the naked eye.

In a lifetime, a female will lay anywhere between 200 and 250 eggs. In six to ten days, the eggs will hatch into nymphs. Once hatched, the nymphs will immediately begin to search for a blood meal. Once they have consumed a blood meal, the bugs will have turned from colorless to a brown or dark red color. It will also grow larger and resemble the shape of a cigar. Adult bed bugs are usually between five and nine millimeters in length and look similar to a wood tick. Adults will also change color after taking a blood meal. In normal conditions, bed bugs can live up to about four months. 

Bed Bug Behavior

Bed bugs are blood-eating insects, meaning they will bite humans and some animals like dogs or cats to take in blood meals. Bed bugs like to stay close to where their food source is, and prefer to feed while their host sleeps - hence the name “bed bug”. Even though bed bugs will bite to obtain their food, their bites are painless, and you are unlikely to notice being bitten. Bed bugs rarely stay nearby once they have taken a blood meal; once they have fed, they will crawl within minutes to a small crevice to hide and digest their meal. Bed bugs cannot jump or fly as fleas do; they get around by crawling. They will typically group together in areas that are out of the way of their host, yet still nearby. Some bed bugs may venture out on their own away from a group. Despite their name, bed bugs have been known to reside in more places than just your mattress- couches, chairs, carpets, air vents, bags, and electronics are all favorite hang-out spots for bed bugs.

Bed bugs also seem to come from nowhere, because they really just get around by hitchhiking on belongings like backpacks, luggage, purses, and bags when people are traveling. Bed bugs won’t travel on people, just in the things that they carry along. Bed bugs may also reside in old furniture. Couches and mattresses left on the side of the road or sold secondhand are also big risks for a bed bug infestation and therefore are not recommended for use.   

Bed Bug Treatment & Prevention

Bed bugs are difficult to spot and even harder to get rid of. Because they reproduce so quickly, it may take several attempts to fully eliminate bed bugs from your home. If you suspect there are bed bugs living with you, it’s important to know what signs to look for, and what treatment and preventative measures should be taken to solve the problem for good. Because bed bugs like to hide, it is helpful to check baseboards, air vents, carpet edges, electrical outlets, couch cushions, box springs, folds, creases, and little crevices that a little flat bug might crawl into. You may also see little smears of blood or fecal matter where bed bug activity is suspected. Mattresses, box springs, cushions, and bedding are common places where these would be found.

Bed bugs can be most effectively prevented through a careful and thorough inspection of your belongings. Eggs are too small to easily see without magnification, but they are sticky which can make them more noticeable if you come in contact with them. It is also a good idea to check hotel rooms and luggage when traveling, as this is the bed bug’s primary way of getting around and infesting homes. A frequent concern with bed bugs is that they carry diseases, but this is (fortunately) untrue. Bed bugs are not vectors for diseases, but their bites do itch intensely. Not everyone may have a reaction to bed bug bites, however, if you or someone you know has been bitten by bed bugs, a doctor or medical professional should be sought for swelling and itch relief. 

Getting Rid Of Them 

When it comes to treating a bed bug infestation, there is no time to hesitate. Bed bugs multiply quickly and can take several treatments before a homeowner will be bug-free. If you do find bed bugs, you need to be very careful in handling the problem to prevent it from spreading to different areas of your home, or even other residences nearby. Bed bugs like the warmth, but they can only take so much. Washing your clothes or bedding with your washer and dryer set to the highest heat should kill the bed bugs that are infested- a temperature of 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit should do. Sealing belongings in plastic bags will also help to contain the infestation. Encasing mattresses in a protective cover designed for bed bug prevention is another extremely helpful aid in keeping these pests from disturbing your sleep. However, these measures will only contain the infestation, not get rid of it. To fully get rid of bed bugs, reaching out to your local pest control provider is the most effective way of keeping your home bed bug-free.