Bed bugs are most active at night and usually feed when humans are sleeping. Bed bugs can bite during the day, especially if there is poor room lighting, a heavy infestation, or if the bed bugs have not fed in a while.
Under normal conditions, bed bugs feed approximately once every week. Each feeding takes about five to ten minutes. Bed bugs may take a blood meal from any other warm-blooded animal, including pets, but they prefer human hosts.
Nymphs can survive inside dwellings for several months without a blood meal, but they can only molt into the next life cycle stage with a blood meal. Adults can survive over a year under the same conditions.
Transmission of human disease has been attributed to bed bugs, but there is little evidence to support it ever occurring. Naturally, there is confusion on this topic because of the fact that bed bugs are blood-sucking insects and may ingest disease germs during feeding. An insect can ingest or carry a germ, however, that doesn’t mean that it can then later transmit that organism to another host. No study to date has demonstrated bed bug vector competence (the ability to acquire, maintain, and transmit an infectious agent). Possible transmissions of Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) have been carefully investigated. HIV has been detected in bed bugs up to eight days after ingestion, however, no virus replication has been observed within the insects, nor has the virus been detected in bed bug feces. Also, mechanical transmission of HIV failed using a system of feeding bed bugs through artificial membranes. Various specimen collections in HBV-endemic areas in northern and southern Africa tested positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAG). HBsAG is a piece of the virus that is used as a marker by health care professionals, but its presence doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire, live virus is present. A relatively successful two-year bed bug eradication project in Gambia had no effect on the rates of HBV infection.
Reactions to bed bug bites vary from person to person. Bed bugs cannot be identified by bite reactions or symptoms alone. In a test group of 1,300 people, less than one in twenty had any reaction to the bed bug bites. Of those that reacted, most reactions took place instantaneously. If there is a skin reaction, it is very similar to the reaction from a mosquito bite – itchy, red swollen spots. If the spots are not scratched then they will usually go away within a week. Blisters, hives, and secondary infections from scratching are moderate reactions to bed bug bites. Asthma and anaphylaxis (rapid onset of itchy rash, throat swelling, and low blood pressure) are more severe reactions, which again depend on the individual’s immune system.
It is impossible to put a quantitative value on the mental anguish and embarrassment associated with a bed bug infestation.
Even though evidence for disease transmission by bed bugs is unclear, issues of vector competence, reactions to insect bites, embarrassment, and mental anguish have been the basis for lawsuits against landlords and lodging corporations.
Bed bugs date back to medieval times. They mostly troubled the higher class because they could afford to heat their homes. As the quality of homes improved through the late sixteenth century, infestations became wider spread. During World War II, bed bugs were common in the United States until they were nearly eliminated after it was discovered that dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) not only killed cockroaches but was also effective against bed bugs. Improvements in personal hygiene were another helpful contributing factor in reducing the bed bug population in the U.S. but they remained prevalent in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. DDT was removed from the market in the early 1970s due to safety concerns.
The resurgence in developed countries is attributed to increases in international travel, immigration, and changes in pest control practices.
Nicknames for these pests include: “Red Coats”, “Mahogany Flats”, and “Wall Lice”
- You can’t have bed bugs when you have not traveled anywhere recently.
Travel, whether in-state or overseas, is not the only possible cause for carrying bed bugs home. Riding public transit, having a houseguest, travel abroad, or purchasing a piece of secondhand furniture can offer bed bugs a free ride into your home or apartment.
- Bed bugs are not visible with the naked eye.
Adult bed bugs are easily seen. Spotting them depends on where you are looking for them and the severity of the infestation. Adult bed bugs are about the size, shape, and color of an apple seed.
- Getting rid of your bed will get rid of your bed bugs.
Do not let the name fool you. They can occupy almost any dark crack or crevice in a room. Covering the mattress and box springs with a bed bug proof encasement will help. If you choose to dispose of it then make sure it is sealed with plastic and mark the item to indicate it has been infested by bed bugs. If possible, destroy items prior to disposal to make them unusable.
- You only get bed bugs if you live in a low-income neighborhood.
Bed bugs are an exposure pest and are not necessarily associated with living conditions. Bed bugs can happen to anyone, anywhere. You get bed bugs by coming into contact with them. Increasingly, people who frequently travel become exposed to bed bugs and bring them back home.
- You can’t get bed bugs from a neighbor in your apartment building.
In multi-family dwellings, spreading infestations is a lot more common than people believe. The risk of migration is greater because bed bugs can travel through cracks and crevices in a shared wall. If you think your neighbor has an issue with bed bugs, check your bed and living area on a weekly basis to make sure bed bugs are detected at the earliest stages. We also recommend speaking with your apartment manager or landlord to get them involved. A building-wide effort to control bed bugs is needed.
- You need to wash all of your clothes for a bed bug treatment to be effective.
Yes, as a general rule washing in hot water and drying on the hot setting can help destroy bed bugs in clothing. But you might not have to wash all your clothes. The first thing you need to do is have your home or apartment inspected by a professional pest control expert.
- It can’t be bed bugs because you share a bed with someone who has no reaction to the bites.
Only about one in twenty people show a reaction to a bed bug bite three weeks after being bit. Most of those that react show immediate signs after the feeding.
- There are over the counter bug sprays or remedies that will get rid of bed bugs.
We do not advise getting rid of bed bugs on your own. Acute illnesses reported from bed bug treatments are very common, especially by untrained personnel, including homeowners. Home remedies and retail-purchased chemicals, including foggers, can do more harm than good because most materials will repel the bed bugs into uncharacteristic secondary locations without killing them.
- It’s too cold for bed bugs.
Even cold winters do not deter or eradicate bed bugs. Bed bugs can be found in almost every country and region. Bed bugs are a global epidemic.
Bed bugs develop from egg to adult via a process called “gradual metamorphosis.” There are five larval stages, or instars, and each one requires a blood meal before molting into the next life cycle stage. Both adult male and female bed bugs feed on blood and take repeated blood meals during their lives. Females require blood for the development of eggs. The five larval stages are completed in about a month under suitable temperature and humidity conditions and with avail¬ability of hosts.
Female adults require blood meals to produce eggs. Females may lay four to five eggs per day. Adult female bed bugs deposit their eggs in the same location where they find their harborage. A single female will lay 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime. Eggs can hatch in six to ten days, but take up to 30 days in cooler areas. Nymphs hatch from eggs and go through a series of five stages taking one to five months before the adult is formed. The entire life cycle from egg to egg usually takes seven to ten weeks.
Never bring discarded bed frames, mattresses, box springs, furniture or electronics into your home. Also, be cautious when buying used furniture or clothes. Feel free to ask if the items were checked for bed bugs, and make sure to inspect the used items yourself.
If you have family or friends spend the night, then feel free to ask them if they have had experience with bed bugs – at home or while traveling. This questioning can lead into if they take any safeguards while traveling or
Before booking your hotel room research if it has a bed bug problem. This is not fool-proof of course, because bed bug cases might go unreported or recent infestations could be possibly undetected. Find bed bug reports online at bedbugregistry.org, read through online reviews such as on tripadvisor.com or hotels.com, or you can call and ask the Front Desk at the hotel.
The preferred suitcase would be the hard, smooth kind without inviting pockets, since bed bugs struggle to walk over smooth surfaces.
Pack clothes into large white plastic trash bags or oversized sealable plastic bags. Leave the bags inside your luggage during the trip.
Purchase and carry a small TSA-compliant bottle of Essentria Bed Bug Repellent – Travel Size
For extra credit, pack a small flashlight.
This is where the ‘extra credit’ flashlight comes in handy. Follow these steps to perform a quick inspection before getting settled into your hotel room:
- Place your luggage at the door or in the bathroom
- Check for blood stains and bed bug droppings as well as live bed bugs
- Peel back the bed sheets and check the mattress, paying close attention to the upper and lower seams
- Check around the mattress tag and the plastic corners of the mattress
- Inspect all niches and corners of the headboard
- Lift up the headboard and lay it on top of the bed. Carefully inspect the headboard holder and the screws that attach the holder to the wall.
- Check the outside and the drawers in the nightstand
- Look along the wall on the side of the bed that is less likely to be disturbed by cleaning staff and guests.
If bed bugs are detected, request another room. Be sure to inform hotel management. Just moving to a different room may not be the total answer. You should repeat the inspection of any new or different room you are offered.
Many places are now using mattress encasements. Do not open the encasement because it may be difficult to reseal and so compromise its effectiveness.
Avoid placing your luggage on the bed or on the floor near the bed. Some hotels have fold-out luggage stands. These stands are not “bed bug proof”
Headboards in hotel rooms are easily removed. They are basically decorative.
Avoid placing bags and personal items on beds or upholstered furnishings because these types of fixtures may harbor bed bugs.
You can store your luggage in a trash bag while you stay at the hotel. Another option is to keep your luggage in the bathtub. Stay cautious and keep suitcases, brief cases, and computers and their cases closed when not in use. Carefully inspect your luggage when you pack to leave, and also inspect each item as you pack to help detect any bed bugs or their signs.
Here are a few extra measures to take when you arrive home:
- Unpack your luggage where you can easily spot any bed bugs, such as outside, your garage, or in a bathtub
- Re-inspect your clothing as you unpack
- Keep unwashed clothing in sealed trash bags until you launder them, including any clothes that you are taking to be dry cleaned
- Vacuum your luggage
- Wash your clothing in the hottest water possible and dry on the highest setting possible for 30 minutes.
- If the garments are delicate, then dry cleaning or freezing the clothes for two weeks will get rid of any bugs that might have traveled home with you.