|The bed bug, or Cimex lectularius, is a parasitic pest that has a habit of feeding on people while they sleep in their beds. / Photo by: belchonock via 123rf|
Plaguing humanity for centuries, bed bugs, for all their diminutive size, are bad news. The ancient Egyptians used spells and magic to flush them out but they overwhelmingly lost.
Today, science has come a long way since spell casting, but bed bugs persist to no end.
The hordes of bed bugs that have resurged worldwide by the turn of the millennium were in full battle gear: 15 percent thicker skin and enzymes called esterase and oxidases that break down common insecticide to make it less harmful for the insects. But scarier is the fact that a single bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs that can turn into thousands within a few months. Infestation is so fast, victims hardly notice.
What Are Bed Bugs?
The bed bug, or Cimex lectularius, is a parasitic pest belonging to the family Cimicidae. Measuring not more than 6 millimeters in length, a bed bug is barely visible to the naked eye. It is flat in shape and mottled red-brown in color. It probably received its name from its habit of feeding on people while they sleep in their beds.
Some interesting statistics on bed bug infestation:
• A female bed bug may lay five eggs per day and as many as 200 eggs during her lifetime estimated to be one year or more.
• Bed bugs survive in extreme cold and heat (temperatures ranging from freezing to as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit).
• Bed bugs consume human blood as much as seven times their body weight in one feeding.
• Bed bugs can travel up to 100 feet in search of food but prefer to remain near sleeping human hosts.
• A survey poll in the US on bed bug encounters showed the South leading at 34 percent, the Northeast second at 26 percent, followed by the Midwest and the West at 22 percent and 18 percent respectively.
Prevention and Treatment
The first step to fight against bed bugs is to check for any infestation. The most common sign of an infestation is the red, itchy marks along legs, arms, and other exposed body parts. The other warning signs are the live bed bugs, unhatched eggs or empty eggshells, molted skins, and fecal stains on surfaces of mattresses, walls, carpets, upholstery, and crevices.
It is recommended to remove all the beddings, the dust cover, and the mattress in checking. Look into the seams near the edges. Flip the mattress to inspect the bottom. Inspect as well the bed frame and headboard and the bedside tables and nearby walls. It is also advisable to pay attention to common hiding places like edges of the carpets, furniture, and other dark and warm cracks and crevices. Thoroughly inspect the entire house to help in tracking where the bed bugs are forming or thriving.
A cluttered house provides more hiding places for bed bugs. To make the bug termination easy, clean rooms and declutter. Vacuum mattress, bed frame, couch, furniture, carpets, and other areas with cracks to pull out the bed bugs. Put personal items (i.e. toys, electronics, etc.) in a separate plastic bag to avoid the transfer of bed bugs in other places of the house. Wash all linens.
After vacuuming and washing of linens, use contact spray on bed frame, footboard, and headboard to kill the bed bugs quickly. After spray, let them dry then encase mattress and box spring to prevent bed bugs from entering. Leave the mattress encasement for a year to ensure all of the bed bugs are dead and no reinfestation is happening. Limit clutter and vacuum regularly.
Additionally, wash clothes and other fabrics in hot water and dry them under the Sun or high heat. Wash clothes used during travel as outside accommodations may have infestations.
Essential oils (lavender, neem, rosemary, peppermint) can be mixed with water to make a home-made repellent spray to mitigate and control the infestation. Natural repellents are helpful but may not be enough to avert infestation. Pesticides are recommended but use only FDA-approved products. Be sure to read and follow instructions.
If repeated treatment fails, call a professional pest exterminator to administer treatment.
Myths and Misconceptions
Do not fall victim to the tall tales about bed bugs. Here are some pervasive myths and misconceptions that need to be debunked.
Myth: Bed bugs do not bite in a brightly lit room.
Fact: Although bed bugs prefer to feed at night at sleeping and unsuspecting victims, keeping the lights on will not stop them from biting.
Myth: Bed bugs thrive in dirty rooms.
Fact: Bed bugs do not differentiate between dirty and clean environments. They can be found even in plush properties. It is, however, harder to detect and control bedbug infestation in dirty environments.
Myth: Bed bugs can last for a year without eating.
Fact: Most bed bugs survive for two to three months without eating at room temperature. In colder places, they may survive longer.
Myth: Bed bugs transmit disease.
Fact: Bed bugs do not transmit disease to humans through bites. However, scratching the bite with dirty fingernails may cause infection.
Myth: Bed bugs are invisible to the naked eye.
Fact: Although bed bugs are minute in size, they are visible to the naked eye. Moreover, seeing them in the day is unlikely as they know when you’re sleeping based on the heat of your body and the carbon dioxide from your breath.
Myth: Bed bugs only live in beds.
Fact: Bed bugs can live in furniture, closets, bags, electronics, and any other place you can imagine. They thrive in dark places.
|Bed bugs can live in furniture, closets, bags, electronics, and any other place you can imagine. / Photo by: Akos Nagy via Shutterstock|
Bed bugs are lurking in the dark, wanting to suck the blood out of you. Be worried, be scared, and then exert all efforts to terminate them all.