Bed bugs have been known human parasites for thousands of years and they occur in all regions of the globe.
Appearance, life cycle and habits
Adult bedbugs are reddish brown, flattened, oval and wingless. Adults grow to 4 – 6 mm in length and do not move quickly enough to escape the notice of an attentive observer. Bed bugs can result in a number of health effects including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. The mouthparts of bed bugs are specifically adapted for piecing skin and sucking blood. Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, the bed bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anaesthetics, while the other it withdraws the bloods of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. The bites cannot usually be felt until some minutes or hours later. Patterns of bites in a row of a cluster are typical as they may be disturbed while feeding. Bites may be found in a variety of places on the body.
Bed bug bites may lead to skin changes ranging from non-visible to prominent blisters. Itchiness is common, while some victims may feel tired or have a fever. Typically uncovered areas of the body are affected and classically three bites occur in a row. Bedbugs are generally active only at dawn, with a peak attack period about an hour before dawn, though given the opportunity, they may attempt to feed at other times.
Bed bug bites are caused primarily by two species of insects:
Cimex lectularius (the common bed bug) and Cimex hemipterus.
Although bedbugs can live for a year to 18 months without feeding, they typically seek blood every five to ten days. While bedbugs that go dormant for lack of food often live longer than a year, well-fed specimens typically live four to six months. Bed bugs spread by walking between nearby locations or being carried within personal items. Bed bugs spend much of their time in dark locations like mattress seams or cracks in the wall.
Bed bug infestations affects many industries including hotels and housekeeping, charter boat operators, bus and train operators, airlines, tourism operators, environmental health officers as well as second hand furniture sellers.
Useful tips on bed bugs
- Bed bugs bites are not known to transmit any infectious disease
- Infestation is rarely due to a lack of hygiene and it is more common in high density area, although severe infestations are often associated with poor housekeeping and clutter
- The cleanliness of their environments has effect on the control of bedbugs, but unlike cockroaches, does not have a direct effect on bedbugs as they feed on their hosts and not on waste
- If bed bugs are suspected a licensed pest controller should be consulted
- As bed bugs are cryptic in their habits, complete control is often difficult to achieve with the first treatment. Especially with heavy infestations where a pest control evaluation is always advisable
- Diagnosis involves both finding the bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms
- Eliminating bed bugs from the home is often difficult. Part of this is because bed bugs can live for a year between feeding
- Good housekeeping in association with property preparation and mechanical removal by vacuuming will certainly assist in control
- Repeated treatments of a home may be required. These treatments may include heating the room to 50 °C for more than 90 minutes, frequent vacuuming, washing clothing at high temperatures, and the use of various pesticides
- Once all likely sources have been identified an approved insecticide should be applied
- Non-chemical approaches to control involve the use of hot air and/or wrapping up infested materials in black plastic and placing the articles in the sun
- Clothes can be washed in hot water and dried on the hot cycle of the clothes drier
- Delicate materials can be placed into the freezer
- Pesticides must be applied in all bed bug harbourages, such as cracks and crevices to try and prevent repeat infestations
- Second hand furniture dealers need to ensure that products being sold are fee of bed bugs