Bugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies the size of an apple seed. However, after feeding, their bodies swell and become reddish in color.
Bedbugs don’t fly, but they can move quickly across floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bed bugs can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime, each about the size of a speck of dust.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skin five times before they reach maturity and require a meal of blood before each shed. Under favorable conditions, the beetles can fully develop in just a month and produce three or more generations per year.
While they are a nuisance, they are not believed to transmit disease.
Where bed bugs hide
Bedbugs can get into your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and sofas, and other items. Their flattened bodies allow them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are usually in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards, where they can easily access people who can bite at night.
However, over time, they can spread around the bedroom and move into a crevice or sheltered place. They can also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.
Since bed bugs live only on blood, having them in your home isn’t a sign of filth. You are likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as well as dirty ones.
When bed bugs bite
Bedbugs are mostly active at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and drawing blood through an elongated beak. The beetles eat for three to ten minutes to clog and then crawl away unnoticed.
Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites, which are primarily around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin that is exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites.
People who don’t know they have a bug infestation may attribute the itchiness and sweat to other causes, such as mosquitos. To confirm bedbug bites, you need to find and identify the bedbugs yourself.
Signs of infestation
If you wake up with itchy spots that you didn’t have when you went to bed, you may have bed bugs, especially if you have a used bed or other used furniture when the bites start. Other signs that you have bed bugs include:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty patches of bedbug droppings on sheets and mattresses, bedding, and walls
- Bug feces, egg shells, or scale skins in areas where bed bugs are hiding
- An offensive, musty smell from the beetle’s scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and carefully inspect for signs of insects or their droppings. Remove the dust cap from the underside of the box spring beds and examine the seams in the wooden frame. Peel off the fabric where it is attached to the wooden frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including the books, phones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even the electrical outlets. Check your closet as bed bugs can cling to clothing. If you are unsure about any signs of bed bugs, give an exterminator a call who knows what to look for.
If you see signs of an infestation, start taking steps to get rid of the insects and prevent them from returning.
Getting rid of bed bugs begins with cleaning up the places where bed bugs live. This should include:
- Wash bedclothes, bedclothes, curtains and clothes in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Put stuffed animals, shoes and other items that cannot be washed in the dryer and let them run for 30 minutes.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub the mattress seams to remove bed bugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
- Vacuum your bed and the surrounding area frequently. Immediately after vacuuming, put the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and put it in the trash can outdoors.
- Cover the mattress and box spring beds with a tightly woven cover with a zipper so that bed bugs cannot penetrate or escape. Bedbugs can live without feeding for up to a year. Keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
- Repair cracks in the plaster of paris and tape the peeling wallpaper in place to remove places where bed bugs can hide.
- Get rid of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but be sure to clean the rest of your home from bed bugs or they’ll infect your new mattress.
While cleaning infested areas can help control bedbugs, getting rid of these bedbugs usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that are safe to use in bedrooms. Only treat mattresses and bed linen if the label specifically states that you can use them on bed linen.
In general, it is safest and most effective to hire a skilled pest control professional to get rid of bedbugs.