Bed Bug FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions about Bed Bugs, their bites, and how to kill and get rid of them.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite – wasn’t it just a nursery rhyme?
- What are Bed Bugs, and how can I identify them?
- How do I know if I have a bed bug bite?
- What is the bed bug lifecycle?
- Will bed bug bites make me sick?
- How do I know if I have bed bugs?
- How do bed bugs infest my home?
- I think I’ve got bed bugs. Now what?
- How do I treat bed bug infestations?
Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite – wasn’t it just a nursery rhyme?
Long considered eradicated in most metropolitan areas, bed bugs are making a comeback. They are being found in cities across the country, everywhere from homeless shelters to five-star hotels. Contrary to popular belief, the presence of bed bugs does not indicate a lack of cleanliness.
In the past, insecticides such as DDT helped to keep the bed bug population at bay with residues that continued working after the product was sprayed. Now, with the increase in use of bait traps instead of broad spectrum sprays, specific pests such as ants and cockroaches are being targeted, and bed bugs are no longer being eliminated. Bed bugs have also developed resistance to many of the pesticides, particularly pyrethroids.
In addition, people now travel more than ever before, particularly to and from destinations where bed bugs have remained prevalent. Places that see a great deal of turnover such as hotels and motels give bed bugs the opportunity to continue their travel to new locations as hitchhikers on luggage or clothing.
What are Bed Bugs, and how can I identify them?
Bed bugs have an oval body and a short, broad head. The body as a whole is broad and flat. Unfed adults are around ¼ inch (6 mm) long, brown and wingless. After feeding, they swell slightly in size and darken to a blood-red color. The nymphs are shaped like the adults, but are yellow-white in color. Bed bugs are wingless and cannot fly or jump, but are able to enter into extremely small locations in the home because of their flattened bodies. Bed bugs can live for several weeks to several months without feeding, depending on the temperature.
Bed bugs can go without feeding for 80 to 140 days; older bed bugs can go without feeding longer than younger ones. Adult bed bugs have been known to survive for as long as 550 days (over a year and a half!) without feeding. Bed bugs prefer to feed on human blood, but will also bite mammals and birds. Bed bugs typically bite at night, but if hungry enough have been known to bite during daylight. After feeding, bed bugs turn dark red and become bloated.
How do I know if I have a bed bug bite?
Individual responses to bed bug bites will vary. Bed bugs are attracted to humans’ high body temperature and carbon dioxide production. When bed bugs bite people, they inject their saliva into the biting area, causing the skin to become irritated and inflamed. The skin lesion from bed bug bites may go unnoticed, or be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other skin conditions. Four types of skin rashes have been described in the literature:
- The most common rash is made up of localized red and itchy flat lesions.
- Small raised red swelling lesions are also common.
- In rare cases, people may develop large raised, often itchy, red welts.
- People with high sensitivity to bed bug saliva develop a lump filled with blood or fluid.
Bed bug bites most commonly occur on exposed areas of the body, including face, neck, hands, arms, lower legs or all over the body. Bed bugs bite by piercing the skin with an elongated beak through which they draw blood. Feeding takes from three to ten minutes although the person rarely knows they are being bitten. Both male and female bed bugs bite.
Bed bugs have been known to cause significant psychological distress, disruption of sleep, nervousnous and agitation. Hepatitis B Virus has been detected in bed bugs and excrement up to 60 days after feeding on an infectious meal. It is not known whether the viral persistence is capable of infection.
What is the bed bug lifecycle?
The bed bug eggs are white and about 1 mm long, and almost impossible to see on most surfaces. The female bed bug lays about 200 eggs in her lifetime, at a rate of about 3 or 4 per day. The eggs have a sticky coating and are deposited in cracks and crevices, behind woodwork and similar hidden locations. Clusters of 10-50 bed bug eggs can be found in cracks and crevices. Bed bug eggs hatch in 6 to 17 days.
A newly hatched bed bug nymph will feed as soon as food is available. A bed bug goes through five molts before it reaches full maturity. Each molt takes place after a blood feed.
Adults usually live for around 10 months, but can live for a year or more. In a home, where the environment is conducive to their reproduction (their ideal breeding temperature is between 21° to 28°C), bed bugs can breed year round.
Bed bugs have a unique form of mating called “traumatic insemination”. The male penetrates the female’s abdomen with his external genitalia, inseminating into her body cavity. This sexual activity produces a wound in the female and probably endangers her longevity and productivity.
Will bed bug bites make me sick?
While bed bugs are not known transmit any pathogens or diseases, their bites usually result in swollen red, itchy welts. Though bed bugs are not known to transmit disease, bed bugs can severely reduce quality of life by causing discomfort, sleeplessness, anxiety, and embarrassment. Many people are not aware that they have been bitten, but some people may be more sensitive to the bite and may have a localized reaction. As a bed bug is biting, it injects anesthetic saliva to numb the pain. It also contains anti-coagulant to keep the blood of its meal host flowing.
People can be allergic to bed bug bites, which can cause swelling, itchy welts and in some cases infections. These infections can be serious, especially if they are from a resistant form of bacterial pathogen such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
How do I know if I have bed bugs?
Small reddish or brownish spots on one’s linens are often the first sign of an infestation. These spots are the bed bug’s droppings. Bed Bugs often hide in mattresses but they can also survive in furniture, behind wallcoverings and pictures/paintings. They will crawl and nest inside tiny crevices anywhere indoors, as long as there is a source of food (blood). Another sign is swelling where a bed bug has bitten.
How do bed bugs infest my home?
Bed bugs are moved into and around a dwelling through infested furniture and bedding. They can also enter a home or hotel by being carried in on clothing or luggage. Bed bugs are often carried into a home on objects such as furniture and clothing. Bed bugs can also travel from apartment to apartment along pipes, electrical wiring and other openings. When bed bug infestations are small, the bed bugs tend to reside near the bed.
As infestations grow larger, they tend to move beyond beds into other locations such as sofas and upholstered chairs. Bed bug females may lay their eggs away from a heavy infestation to provide greater chance for survival. If the infestation is heavy, a sweet smell may be noticed in the room.
I think I’ve got bed bugs. Now what?
If you think you have a bed bug problem, check for live bed bugs or shells in the following areas:
- Seams, creases, tufts and folds of mattresses and box springs
- Cracks in the bed frame and head board
- Under chairs, couches, beds, dust covers
- Between the cushions of couches and chairs
- Under area rugs and the edges of carpets
- Between the folds of curtains
- In drawers
- Behind baseboards, and around window and door casings
- Behind electrical plates and under loose wallpaper, paintings and posters
- In cracks in plaster
- In telephones, radios, and clocks
How do I treat bed bug infestations?
The best way to treat bed bugs is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which combines a variety of techniques and products that pose the least risk to human health and the environment.
The best method of treating bed bugs is a heat treatment, because heat can kill all stages of the bed bug, ranging from eggs to adult bed bugs. Heat treatments are able to reach inaccessible areas that chemicals or other pesticides can’t. Using heat is also the safest method to control a bed bug infestations.
Other elements of a successful IPM program in addition to heat treatments are:
- Use a nozzle attachment on the vacuum to capture the bed bugs and their eggs. Vacuum all crevices on your mattress, bed frame, baseboards and any objects close to the bed. It is essential to vacuum daily and empty the vacuum immediately.
- Wash all your linens in the hottest water possible and place them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. Consider covering your pillows and mattress with a plastic cover.
- Remove all unnecessary clutter.
- Seal cracks and crevices between baseboards, on wood bed frames, floors and walls with caulking. Repair or remove peeling wallpaper, tighten loose light switch covers, and seal any openings where pipes, wires or other utilities come into your home (pay special attention to walls that are shared between apartments).
- There may be some bed bugs that successfully evade the lethal temperatures, that may migrate to untreated areas, or that are brought in after treatment. In this instance, contact Magical to discuss residual treatments such as diatamaceous earth or other treatments that can be used that are safe.
Toronto Public Health, Bed Bugs Fact Sheet
Health Canada, Pest Management Regulatory Agency
University of Kentucky, Entomology, ENTFACT-636, Bed Bugs, by Michael F. Potter
Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Database