Latin Name Cimex lectularius
Description Bedbugs are a small, parasitic insect species that feed on blood. They are light brown to reddish brown in color and shaped like flattened ovals. They have vestigial wings and segmented abdomens. Bedbugs are very small, to an order of only three to six millimeters long. If the bedbug has recently consumed a blood meal, they will have a bright red abdomen that will change color as they digest. They can be mistaken for other insect species and give off a characteristic unpleasant scent when squished.
Bedbugs often arrive in homes by the way of clothing or fabric from an infested area. They feed most often at night, leaving their place of hiding and drinking blood from their human host. They can also survive from the blood of cats and dogs, but they prefer to feed from humans. They feed by means of a “rostrum” that they use to pierce the skin of their hosts, feeding on the blood in the same manner of a flea.
What to Know Bedbugs are an incredibly invasive species, causing considerable disruption and requiring serious extermination measures. Though the bedbug issue was largely eradicated in the 1940s, there has been an increase in infestations since the early 1990s. Bedbugs have five distinct stages of life and feed on humans throughout this life cycle. While bedbugs can be infected by human pathogens, they cannot transmit those to a new host, but they can cause rashes, allergic reactions and psychological complications for those experiencing an infestation. Bedbugs can also contribute to the cost of being a homeowner due to the difficulty of extermination, leading them to be one of the top nuisance pests in the U.S. They’re particularly harmful in large urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles, and Houston.
Bedbugs are most comfortable in areas that are largely undisturbed, such as beds and stored clothing. They favor an environment that will allow them to remain undisturbed, even going so far as to colonize electrical sockets. Bedbugs are detectable, when not visually identified, by the characteristic smell of rotten raspberries. They aggregate for many reasons, from finding a good source of food to finding a mate or predator. Female bedbugs remain separate from large groups more than the males do, which can cause extermination efforts not to be as effective.
Signs of Infestation Bedbug are nocturnal insects and are best detected during that time. Their eggs are adhesive and can be found in the folds of fabric in clusters that number into the hundreds. Another sign of infestation is the reactions of humans that live within a dwelling infested by bedbugs. Signs can range from small reddish spots to outright blisters. Allergic reactions are common in people who already have high sensitivity to allergens.
While there may not be many bedbugs at first, once an infestation is established, their numbers can multiply rapidly. They are strictly parasitic and feed exclusively on blood. While they do not need to be constantly attached to a host, the reason these parasites have come to be known as “bed” bugs is their need to remain close to their food-source. As they are usually active at night, the most convenient area to make their home is the bed or bedding.
Treatment and Prevention Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to exterminate. Early detection is the most effective means of bedbug control. It is also recommended that inspection of unused or undisturbed fabric is routinely done. Since the preferred area for bedbugs to aggregate is sleeping and other heavily lived in areas, it is not recommended that chemical extermination methods are used. Bedbugs are easily spread in densely populated living areas such as hotels, apartment building and dormitories, so if you live in any of these areas and there is a bedbug infestation, it is prudent to consult with an extermination service to help prevent cross-contamination.
Worried about bed bugs in your home? Contact your local pest professional for a full evaluation.