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Bed bugs have become a common problem across the country. They have been found in homes, hotels, college campuses, businesses, and other places. Many people associate bed bugs with unsanitary conditions, as often is the case with pests such as cockroaches. However, bed bug infestations can occur to anyone regardless of their income (although the cost of controlling bed bugs can make it more difficult for people who lack the financial means to hire a company to help fix the problem.
Why have bed bugs becoming a bigger problem? Some experts attribute the increased problem to a number of causes such increased travel & tourism, changes in the methods we use to control other pests such as cockroaches, and an increasing resistance by bed bugs to the most commonly used insecticides.
Our primary concern is with the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius. Another species in the bed bug family (Cimicidae), Cimex hemipterus, is usually found in more tropical areas and may show up particularly for people who travel frequently overseas. There are other species found more commonly with birds and bats but on occasion they will invade homes.
Life Cycle and Habits
Although humans are the preferred host, bed bugs feed on many warm-blooded animals including rats, mice, dogs, cats, poultry and other birds. Bats, swallows and chimney swifts may serve as hosts and may be responsible for causing infestations in or around buildings but they are more typically fed upon by other species in those situations.
There has been no scientifically-based evidence showing that bed bugs transmit diseases. Our major concern is more about the affect of their feeding. Bed bugs do not bore into the skin.They insert their mouthparts into the host's skin and suck out blood. As bed bugs feed, they inject saliva which may produces an allergic reaction that often causes slightly delayed swelling, itching, and irritation that can persist for a week or more. Large infestations of bed bugs may have a noticeable "sweet" odor.
Bed bugs can feed and breed year round when they have favorable conditions. They typically hide during the day in mattresses or cracks and crevices. The picture above shows a bed bug and fecal stains in a mattress seam. Under favorable conditions, each female lays 200 to 500 eggs. When the insects feed regularly, eggs are laid in batches of 10 to 50 at 3 to 15-day intervals. Maximum egg laying occurs when the temperature is above 70F (21C). Eggs are typically not deposited when temperatures drop below 50F (10C). The eggs are coated with a sticky substance that dries after the egg is deposited and causes the eggs to adhere to the object on which they were deposited. Eggs and the eggshells are found, singly or in clusters, in or near the crevices bed bugs are hiding. At temperatures above 21C (70F), eggs hatch in about 10 days. At lower temperatures, hatching may take as long as 28 days.
Newly hatched bugs feed at the first opportunity. They molt five times before reaching maturity and require at least one blood meal between each molt. Immature stages can survive more than two months without feeding; however, most nymphs usually develop into adults within 2 to 6 weeks. Indoors, three or four annual generations may be produced and you will find all stages of bed bugs in an established infestations. Bed bug adults can survive up to a year or more without feeding, which means that infestations may continue to survive even if a house was left vacant for several months. .
Bed bugs cannot fly or jump and do not normally crawl long distances. Their primary means of dispersal is through human activity, i.e., people move them from one place to another in luggage, laundry, etc. Animals, particularly birds and bat, may be involved in bed/bat bug dispersal. Piles of cast nymphal skins often accumulate in bed bug hiding places. The picture at the right shows piles of shed skins at the base of bed headboard.
Step One - confirm that you do have bed bugs. Bed bug bites often leave reddish slightly swollen welts that can resemble mosquito bites but they typically last longer. Some people do not react as severely and in some cases, the bites may not become visible for 2 or more days.. The bites may be in a pattern of 3-4 in a row (depending on the number of bed bugs present and how a person lies on a mattress). However, a bed bug problem cannot be reliably identified strictly on the basis of bites or other what may seem to be insect-related bite marks. It is critical to find actual evidence of the bed bugs: actual insects, shed skins, fecal spots, etc. as shown in the pictures above.
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