Bed bugs are small insects that feed on blood. They have flat, rust-colored oval bodies about the size of apples seeds, one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch long. When they feed, they swell and become a brighter red. Though they do not fly, they can move quickly over floors, walls and ceilings. Young bed bugs, called nymphs, are smaller and lighter in color. Over her lifetime, a female may lay hundreds of dust-speck-size eggs. Knowing where they come from, what they look like, and how to deal with them may help to prevent bed bug infestation.
The Danger of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs pierce your skin and withdraw your blood while you sleep. They feed for a few minutes and then crawl away. Though painless at first, the bites develop into itchy red welts afterward. Some people mistake these bites for mosquito or flea bites. The bites are annoying, and bed bugs are not known to carry and transmit any diseases. However if you scratch bed bug bites, they may get infected. In addition, some people develop allergic reactions to bites that include severe itching, hives and blisters.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bed bug infestation has nothing to do with poor housekeeping. They are as likely to be found in pristine, five-star hotels as in dirty neighborhoods. You find them most often in dwellings that change occupants often such as hotels, dormitories, military barracks, apartment complexes, homeless shelters and refugee camps. To get from one place to another, bed bugs hitchhike on clothes, luggage, backpacks, purses, furniture, shoes and bedding. Once they are inside, they hide in bedding, mattresses, box springs, headboards, curtains, window sills, nightstands, dressers, under carpet edges, behind baseboards and anywhere else they find small cracks.
Signs of Bed Bugs
If you suspect bed bug infestation, look for signs such as tiny dark spots of bed bug excrement, tiny white eggs, shed skin and reddish stains caused by crushed bed bugs. The only way to be sure, though, is to find live bed bugs. Search your home thoroughly, especially in cracks where bed bugs are likely to hide. If necessary, use a flashlight and magnifying glass in small cracks. Try to catch a live bug in a zip-lock sandwich bag, and take it to a pest control expert for analysis.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs hide very well and can be very difficult to get rid of completely. Be wary of using pesticides on your own, as they can be dangerous. If the bed bug infestation is severe, the best action to take is to hire a professional exterminator. Non-chemical methods of treatment include washing and drying clothing at high temperatures and using casements to enclose mattresses and box springs. Vacuuming is effective but does not reach all hiding places. Freezing below 32 degrees Fahrenheit also kills bed bugs, but the items need to remain frozen for several days. If you dispose of bed bug infested items, be sure to either label or destroy them so others do not pick them up and carry them home.
Prevention of Bed Bug Infestation
Keep your home clean and clutter-free, and regularly inspect for bed bugs. Be especially careful about second-hand furniture. When you check into a hotel, inspect the mattress for signs of bed bugs, and set your luggage on racks instead of on the floor. When you return home, wash and dry all your clothing using hot settings.