A Bloodsucking Pest: Bed Bugs

Introduction to Bed Bugs

Bed bugs feed mainly on human blood, but also suck blood from other animals, birds and bats. Bed bugs usually feed at night when people are asleep. As they feed, they inject a salivary secretion into the wound to prevent coagulation. This fluid often causes the skin to itch and become swollen. Scratching causes sores which may become infected.

The wingless adult bed bug is brown and is about 1/4 inch long. Newly hatched bugs are almost colorless and similar to the adult except they are much smaller. When full of blood, bed bugs swell and their color changes to dark red.

During the day, bed bugs hide in cracks in the walls, behind baseboards, wallpaper and pictures, where beds are joined around slats, around the tufts of mattresses and in bed clothes. The bugs have a bad odor caused by an oily liquid they emit. Bed bugs are carried into homes in clothes, second-hand beds, and bedding, furniture, suitcases, or by other people.

Bed Bug Life Cycle

Bed bugs lay eggs that are 1/25 inch long and slightly curved. They are fastened with cement to cracks and crevices or rough surfaces near adult harborages.

The eggs hatch in six to ten days. The newly hatched nymph is straw colored before feeding. After getting a blood meal, the nymph turns red or purple. There are five nymphal stages and it usually takes 35-48 days for nymphs to mature.

Female bed bugs deposit 10-50 eggs at a time. A total of 200-500 eggs can be produced per female. The eggs hatch in one to three weeks. Adult bed bugs can survive for six to seven months without a blood meal and have been known to live in abandoned houses for 1 1/2 years. In some cases they survive without humans by attacking birds and rodents.

Bed Bug Management

Steam cleaning of infested mattresses kills bed bugs living in seams and buttons. Cracks harboring bed bugs can be treated with residual sprays. Total- release aerosols can also be used to treat rooms with bed bugs.

Take the bed apart. Have a pest control technician spray the bed frames, slats and springs with enough spray to thoroughly wet them. Pay particular attention to the tufts and seams of the mattress. Spray the woodwork and all walls in the bedroom at least two feet above the floor. Brush, vacuum, and steam clean mattress and pillows, then put on clean sheets and pillow cases.

A pest control technician will have to spray again if there are any new signs of bed bugs. After two weeks, spray the bed, furniture, and walls again.