Bed bugs are a species of parasitic insects that feed solely on warm-blooded animals. Their tiny, reddish-brown bodies are difficult to spot whilst their activity is mainly limited to night-time. The common bed-bug, the cimex-lectularius, feeds primarily on humans. Other members of the cimex family prefer animals like bats or birds.
Cimex-lectularius live in warm, dark spaces. Their favorite habitat of sleeping areas, is why they’ve earned the common name, bed-bugs. Due to their small size, bed-bugs are unlikely to be noticed by sight. Usually, a diagnosis is made from symptoms followed by a search of bedding for confirmation.
Bed-bugs can exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions. Among them, skin rashes, allergies and psychological problems. Thankfully, they don’t carry pathogens or diseases like mosquitos. Nevertheless, bed-bugs are an irritating and unhygienic pest.
The recorded evidence of bed-bugs comes from ancient Rome. They’ve been prevalent in human society for thousands of years. Despite this, bed-bugs were nearly wiped out in the civilized world by in the mid twentieth century.
Unfortunately, the development of pesticide resistance in the insects alongside bans on effective anti-insect treatments have led to a resurgence. Not only that, international travel has allowed bed-bugs to spread across continents. The re-emergence of bed-bugs has led to an increase in bites and other related conditions.
Bed-bug Life Cycle
These small, reddish-brown insects are nocturnal. Their bodies are dorsoventral which allows them to flatten themselves to hide in cracks and crevices. Wingless, they live in sofa’s, chairs and mattresses. They feed exclusively on warm-blooded animals.
Like most insects, the bed-bugs begins life as an egg. Their mothers lay 1 to 5 eggs every day and up to 500 eggs during their lifespan. These milky-white eggs are laid into cracks or crevices and are roughly the same size as two grains of salt, or 1mm.
Typically, eggs are laid in clusters where they grow for two weeks before hatching. Once hatched, the young bed-bugs immediately begin feeding.
These immature bed-bugs will shed their skin 5 times before reaching adulthood. Appearance wise, the only difference to adult bed-bugs is in size and sexual maturity. When they first hatch, nymphs appear yellowy-white.
To shed their skin, or molt, a nymph has to have a blood meal. At normal room temperature, it will take around 5 weeks for a hatched nymph to reach full maturity. Each molting stage will see the nymph become darker in color and closer to the reddish-brown of adult bed-bugs.
Adult bed-bugs need to feed on a weekly basis. Like mosquitoes, bed bugs pierce the skin with long beaks. They can feed up to ten minutes at a time as well as taking more than one bite. Usually, bed-bug bites will go unnoticed at first because they are not painful. Markings will show up on exposed skin like the back, neck, arms and shoulders.
Where To Check For Bed-bugs
As their name suggests, bed-bugs are most commonly found in beds or other upholstery. When a population has grown, they may be found in less common areas. These insects are capable of flattening their body which allows them to hide in many different places.
Cracks between bed-base and legs or head-board are a common hideout for bed-bugs. They’re also known to hide in mattresses, floorboards or carpeting. These infestations are easily transferred to previously non-infested areas. So, if you notice an infestation contact pest-control immediately.
Signs Of Bed-bugs
The first place to look for bed-bugs is on your own person. Itchy spots or large red marks are a typical sign of an infestation. Second-hand furniture is a common way to bring bed-bugs into your home. If you start showing symptoms after bringing in a mattress or bed, it is a likely cause of bed-bugs.
There are a few other tell-tale signs of bed-bugs which we’ve put in a checklist for you.
- Blood marks on pillows, sheets or mattress
- Darkened or rusty colored spots. These are frequently bed-bug’s fecal matter or shed skin
- Egg shells, shed skins which build up in wall cracks and crevices where bed-bugs hide
- A nasty odor which is given off by the insects
- Bite-marks. Especially those that are on the legs or arms where skin is exposed. Also, bite-marks that appear in the morning after a night’s sleep
- Usually, after identifying bites, you should check your mattresses for other signs to confirm the initial diagnosis
Where Bed-bugs Hide
Bed-bugs have lived for thousands of years because they are evasive. They can hide virtually anywhere, but often in suitcases, shoes, mattresses and nearby furniture. Common places include box-springs, head-boards and gaps between skirting boards, floor-boards, carpets and walls.
When it comes to feeding, bed-bugs tend to feed at night. This isn’t always the case. Heavily infested areas will see daily feeds occurring as well. Roughly, it takes 5 to 10 minutes for a bed-bug to feed. After that, it will hide for 5-10 days digesting, mating or laying eggs.
Bed-bugs hide in seemingly closed areas. Their penchant for small dark places mean they can easily be unwittingly spread. Handing over a second-hand mattress, for example, or carrying a suitcase abroad. Once they are brought to a new area, they multiple rapidly causing infestation.
How To Get Rid Of And Kill Bed-bugs
The battle against bed-bugs begins by cleaning areas where they live.
- Bedding, curtains or other fabrics need to be washed at high-temperatures of at least 60 degrees. After washing, they should be placed in a dryer for 30 minutes
- Scraping your mattress surface using a stiff brush has proven to be effective. This loosens eggs which can then be sucked up with a once-over from the vacuum cleaner
- When disposing of vacuum bags ensure they are sealed with no holes where bugs could escape
- Invest in an impermeable mattress cover. Place this over the mattress so that no bed-bugs can escape. Bed-bugs can live for up to a year without feeding so don’t remove the cover at any point whilst you’re trying to starve them out
- General household improvements. Clearing away clutter, applying sealant to cracks or crevices located around your bed
- Very old furniture or heavily infested mattresses should be thrown away to avoid further contamination
- Loose wall-paper is common hiding place for bed-bugs so sticking this down can be an effective counter-measure
- Using pesticides can be effective although some can be problematic for your breathing environment. If you’re looking at pesticides make sure you invest in an expert
Importantly, should you decide to invest in a new mattress, ensure the surrounding area is clear of bed-bugs. After all, if there are bed-bugs nearby they will simply infest the new mattress. To be certain, use pest control before installing new mattresses or furniture.
How Long Can Bed-bugs Survive Without Feeding
The lifespan of a bed-bug depends on myriad factors. If they’re kept in optimal room temperature they will live a lot longer than in extreme weathers. Equally, some families of bug will have built up immunity to pesticides allowing them to survive longer. Not only that, age is a factor as well. So how long can a bed bug live without feeding? The logical place to start is with the young.
Nymphs, or recently hatched bed-bugs, need to feed in order to reach maturity. They reach adulthood after molting, or shedding their skin, 5 times. Each molting stage requires a blood meal. For that reason, Nymphs feed more than adults. Despite this, they can’t live for nearly as long without feeding- a survival rate of about two weeks without feeding.
If you thought a couple of weeks was bad enough, then what about the adults? A fully-mature bed-bug feeds less, roughly once a week. If the conditions are warm, these bugs can live for up to 5 months without a meal.
Bed-bugs are parasitic insects which means they need a host to populate and survive. Once they’ve found one, they will feed for between 5 and 10 minutes. Obviously, this feeding time depends on factors like when they last fed, or how much activity they have done.
Once full, bed-bugs retire into small crevices where they can hide-out for up to 3 to 7 days. Here, they gather with other bed-bugs, mate and digest their meals. Depending on the severity of your infestation, it can be a case of waking up with new bites every day. In spite of this, the majority of the bed-bug population will be in the digestive stages.
Although largely harmless, bed-bugs can be an extreme irritant. Bite-marks are uncomfortable whilst the psychological impact of an infestation shouldn’t be underestimated. They’ve been cited as causes for lack of sleep, high-stress levels as well as anxiety.
Bed-bugs aren’t a part of life. If you’re fed up of waking up with bites, invest in a specialist. Experts have access to modern pesticides and technology to make ridding a population of bed-bugs simple. Don’t be a victim, hire professional pest control today.