The Terrifying Bed Bugs Guide That You Can’t Miss
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If you’re looking for a guide on bed bugs, you’re at the right place.
In this guide, you’ll discover what bed bugs are, how they spread, and other critical information that helps you fight these blood-sucking human parasites.
You’ll also learn why eliminating these pests is tricky and expensive and why you’re bound to have bed bug infestation despite all the precautions.
Bed Bugs Origins
The domestic bed bug (Cimex Lectularius) belongs to the family of insects known as Cimicidae.
Bed bugs are descendants of bat bugs, the bugs that are parasitic insects that feed on bat blood.
When humans in the prehistoric era moved into caves, these bat bugs started to feed on human blood.
Researchers believe the relationship between bed bugs and humans began in the Middle East in 400 BC.
Since then, bed bugs have become common household pests and they’re infesting human habitats. Today, bed bugs feed solely on human blood.
But at times, these ectoparasites can also feed on animal blood too.
Anatomy Of Bed Bugs
Many bugs look like bed bugs. If you don’t know how to identify bed bugs, you will confuse them with other bugs.
The result would be that you’ll choose the wrong treatment processes that won’t eliminate bed bugs.
So, let’s find out what bed bugs look like so that you can identify them as the pro pest controllers do.
Bed bugs are flat and oval-shaped.
There’s not a remarkable difference between female and male bed bugs. However, the female bed bugs are a bit smaller than the males.
And the male’s abdomen has a slightly conical ending, whereas the female’s abdomen is curvy.
A bed bug’s body has three major parts – head, thorax, and abdomen.
The head is a small and easily noticeable feature, with two antennae mounted on the top.
On the head, there are two eyes. The eyes are unnoticeable. The unique feature of bed bug eyes is that it’s a compound eye.
Compound eyes have many-layered and repeating units, called ommatidia, that form each eye.
According to the Center for Disease Control, this feature makes the bed bugs’ eyes sensitive to movements.
The mouth has a small tube that elongates when the bed bug is ready to suck blood. This tiny tube is under the mouth, and it’s known as a proboscis.
The proboscis injects anti-coagulating saliva before it withdraws the blood. It’s the anti-coagulating saliva that causes the itching after the bed bug bite.
On one single bite, a bed bug sucks 0.005 milliliters of blood.
The antenna is a sensory organ in the bed bug. Just like cockroaches, bed bugs use antennae to guide themselves to the host.
After the head, there’s a thorax. The thorax has two parts, the prothorax, and the main thorax.
The prothorax is a concave portion that runs laterally below the head. For the sake of convenience, many entomologists assume it’s the neck of the bed bug.
But it doesn’t perform any function of the neck.
Following the prothorax is the main thorax, which has a pair of legs attached to it. Together, the prothorax and the main thorax are called the pronotum.
Behind the pronotum, there’s a pair of wing pads. But the wing pads don’t have any developed wings. Hence, bed bugs cannot fly.
The abdomen, the most significant portion of the bed bug’s body, is divided into 11 sections or segments.
But the central belly, where the hosts’ blood goes, is in the second and the fifth segment from the top. This section swells when the bed bugs have large blood meals.
When you touch bed bugs, you’ll feel like you’re handling a piece of leather.
It’s because their bodies are sclerotized. It’s a process when a structural protein, known as sclerotin, present in insects, hardens their bodies.
The abdomen shape is the main distinguisher between male and female bed bugs. The male’s abdomen has a pointed ending, whereas the female’s abdomen is curved or rounded.
The genitalia of both the female and male bed bugs lies in the abdomen.
Bed bugs have six legs in three pairs. The first pair is attached to the thorax.
The abdomen has the other two pairs of legs attached to it.
The legs have tiny claws that they use to grip the surfaces and human skin to crawl. Bed bugs are decent fast crawlers, and they can crawl four feet per minute.
Bed bugs’ legs don’t have suction pads which makes them incapable of climbing smooth surfaces.
The ends of the abdomen have tiny, and unnoticeable to the naked eye, bristle-like hair. Like the antennae and the eye, these hairs, known as setae, are also sensory structures that help the bed bugs to detect vibrations on the ground.
Setae play the same role as cerci play in cockroaches.
Bed bugs, like all other insects, have their skeletons outside of their body. That’s why their skeletons are known as exoskeletons.
Bed bugs need to shed their exoskeleton to grow. This process is known as molting, which you’ll find out in the next section.
Bed Bugs Mating Process
Bed bugs have a bizarre mating process. This process is known as traumatic insemination.
The male bed bug doesn’t insert its genitalia inside the female bed bug’s genitalia. Instead, the male bed bug stabs the different organ, known as an organ of berlese, numerous times.
The male bed bug deposits its sperm into this organ before the sperm travels to the female bed bug’s ovaries to fertilize it.
The stabbing creates a cavity-like wound on the female bed bug’s body. This wound needs to heal before the female can lay eggs.
The mating process is traumatic for the female bed bugs because several male bed bugs stab a single female bed bug.
The female bed bugs escape the mating process as soon as possible and hide in the cracks and crevices to lay their eggs.
However, there’s one crucial requirement for bed bugs to mate. And that’s human blood.
Bed bugs need to bite humans to get human blood.
That’s why bed bugs infestation gets severe if they bite and consistently feed on human blood.
The more the bed bugs feed, the more they lay eggs. A single female bed bug lays up to 115 eggs yearly; after a blood meal, she can lay up to 7 eggs.
So, even a single fertilized bed bug can cause an infestation in the house.
Bed Bugs Eggs
The lifecycle of bed bugs begins when the female bed bugs lay eggs.
Bed bugs’ eggs are impossible to notice because they’re tiny, like a grain of salt, pearly white, always inside the cracks and crevices of the bed frame, in the seams of the bed mattress, and the box springs.
It is mainly when the infestation has spread beyond your bed and in different rooms.
Bed bug eggs need an ample amount of warmth and humidity to hatch. The sad part is that most homes have them both.
The optimal temperature for the female bed bugs to lay eggs and for the eggs to hatch is 70° F and 90° F.
That’s why bed bugs are active in the summer and can also be active in the winter months in the heated homes.
At these temperatures, the hatch rate of bed bug eggs is 97%. 60% of eggs hatch when they’re six days old. 90% of eggs hatch when they’re nine or more days old.
Baby bed bugs, also known as bed bug nymphs or juvenile bed bugs, hatch out of these eggs.
And with these nymphs begins the lifecycle stages of bed bugs.
Bed Bug Lifecycle
Below is the pictorial description of the bed bug’s lifecycle.
The baby bed bugs go through successive stages of development, known as instars before they mature into adult bed bugs ready to breed.
Nymphs go through five instar stages. And to progress to each instar, nymphs molt. Molting is the process of shedding the exoskeleton to accommodate the new exoskeleton. That’s how many bugs grow.
However, for the nymphs to grow, they need blood.
It means the baby bed bugs will bite humans to feed on blood. Without bloodmeals, these nymphs can’t grow.
If these bed bug nymphs don’t get access to blood, they remain in that instar stage till they starve to death.
The time from the bed bug egg to an adult bed bug, by going through all the five instar stages, ready to breed is 37 days.
37 days seems quite many days. That’s why the initial stages of bed bug infestations in homes are challenging to spot, especially when they start with only bed bugs.
But if there are too many bed bugs in the house, the infestation spikes quickly because all the female bed bugs are laying eggs.
Bed Bugs Infestation – How Does It All Begin?
The primary way bed bug infestations begin is by hitchhiking. They end up in homes by latching on to things like clothes, luggage, second-hand furniture, and other items.
The root of the infestation lies in other infested homes or establishments such as hotels.
Home dwellers often bring bed bugs home when they visit places with a thriving bed bug infestation. Or when someone from a bed bug-infested area visits your home or brings things with bed bugs.
As I said, a single bed bug in the house can cause an infestation.
The infestation is hard to detect initially. But slowly and steadily, these parasitic blood-sucking insects manifest themselves and take over your entire home.
Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?
Bed bugs initially hide in your bed. No matter where they’re in the house, they’ll track and find humans and end up in the bed.
So, the cracks in the bed frame, headboard, footboard, mattress seams, pillows, and box springs are their primary hiding places.
But only for a short time.
As they continue feeding and breeding, bed bugs spread inside the house.
They move into the furniture, soft furnishings such as carpets, couches, and clothing storage sections in the bedroom.
Any gaps and crevice in the bedroom become their hiding place.
Taking things out of the bedroom and putting them in different rooms causes the bed bugs to spread in the house’s other rooms.
So, if one room has bed bugs, it’s only a matter of time before different rooms face the brunt of bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs are nocturnal insects. They remain hidden during the day.
But bed bugs come out to bite and feed when the room is dark and you’re asleep.
That’s why most people wake up with bed bug bites, and bed bugs are more likely to bite you during the night than at day time.
However, starving bed bugs in homes and apartments vacant for months can bite during the day.
Bed worms in the bed are often confused with bed bugs. But bed worms are insect larvae that don’t feed on human blood.
But bed worms like the carpet beetle larvae can cause a skin condition known as carpet beetle dermatitis, which appears as bed bug bites.
Signs of Bed Bug Infestation
The signs of bed bugs become quite apparent when the infestation becomes severe. However, bed bugs leave signs like most bugs, even with low numbers.
Live Bed Bugs
The glaring sign of bed bugs in the house is live bed bugs.
Bed bugs are the size of an apple seed, growing between 5-7 mm or 3/16 – 1/4 inches. They’re flat, oval-shaped insects that are dark brown when unfed.
After feeding on blood, bed bugs look bigger and turn reddish brown. Whereas, the instars, which are tinier, appear as poppy seeds.
These live bed bugs become visible on the bed sheets and in other areas of the bed.
However, when the bed bug infestation is bad, you can notice them in places like walls, floors, and furniture.
From your home, bed bugs can also spread to unlikely areas like your car, baby car seat, and garage.
Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bites are red lumps appearing in straight lines or clusters. It’s because a single bed bug can bite multiple times till it finds the nerve to draw blood.
These lumps are incredibly itchy. The itching and red welts are allergic reactions to the bed bug saliva that bed bugs inject into your bloodstream to prevent the bed from clotting.
Bed bug bites, except the hairy places, can appear anywhere on your body.
Bed bugs can’t bite through clothing. They can need your bare skin to insert their mouthparts to draw the blood.
After feeding, bed bugs retreat to their hiding places.
The surprising part is that bed bugs don’t feed daily. They feed once every 5-7 days.
However, bed bug bites can appear daily because of the multiple number of bed bugs in the house.
Some people will not show any sign of bed bug bites. It’s because they’re not allergic to the bed bug bites.
However, they don’t being non-allergic doesn’t mean that bed bugs aren’t biting them.
People who are non-reactive to bed bug bites always confuse others in the same home. The reactive ones wonder why bed bugs bite me, not others.
Bed bug bites don’t cause any diseases. And they don’t transfer any pathogens in the human blood.
Blood Stains On The Bed
Your body weight can crush some bed bugs with blood in their bellies. The blood will splash out, causing stains on the bed sheets and pillow covers.
Those blood stains and bite marks are a sign of bed bugs in the bed or bed mattress.
Bed Bug Feces
Bed bugs feed solely on the human blood. So, their fecal deposits are always liquid.
The fecal deposits dry up and appear as tiny reddish-black stains on the bed sheets, bed frames, pillow covers, and inside the cracks where bed bugs hide.
Remember, those reddish dots can also be flea feces if fleas are in the bed.
However, flea feces are in the form of dirt particles, also known as flea dirt. Whereas, bed bug feces appear as spots. That’s the main difference between flea feces and bed bug feces.
Bed Bug Shell Casings
Remember, bed bug nymphs molt to grow? So, you’ll notice their shed skin in their hiding areas.
The shed skins appear as empty casings in the shape of bed bugs.
These shells are easily noticeable. You’ll need to insert a thin card inside the crevices and slowly pull it out to find the casings.
Pulling the card out, you’ll notice bed bug skin shells stuck with the card. This is a method that professionals use to find where bed bugs hide in the house.
Bed bugs also lay eggs in their hiding areas. You may also notice bed bug eggs stuck with the card.
Musty Bed Bug Odor
Bed bugs produce pheromones to communicate with each other. When these pheromones are fresh, they smell acidic or musty.
The smell is quite detectable in homes with severe bed bug infestation.
You can smell the bed bug’s musty odor when you sniff the infested items.
Bed Bug Control
Bed bugs are one of the worst pests that your home can ever have.
These bugs are quite challenging to eliminate and they’re pretty contagious.
Bed bugs in an apartment complex can spread from one apartment to another. Their hitchhiking capabilities have made them one of the worst pests in the US to raise their heads in the past decade.
The worst part is that bed bugs have developed immunity to many pesticide chemicals that are easily available.
So, over-the-counter sprays and bed bug bombs or fogger sprays rarely work. They make the infestation worse. And that’s the primary reason bed bugs came back in the US despite being driven to extinction for 40 years.
Hiring a bed bug exterminator is your best option against bed bugs. But bed bug treatment costs are expensive, starting from $500.
The price increases depending on the house’s size and the infestation’s intensity.
But don’t just hire any random exterminator. Hire the exterminators after going through their reviews and feedback.
Hiring a reliable and professional bed bug exterminator is essential because bed bug treatments can last for weeks and sometimes for a few months.
Bed bug treatment is not just a one-off treatment. The pest controllers track bed bugs after the treatment and can use extra treatment measures to eliminate bed bugs.
Depending on the severity of the infestation, the exterminators can treat the home with heat and chemicals. This process is known as IPM or integrated pest management.
Bed bug treatment, if not executed thoroughly, can make the bed bugs come back.
Many homes have noticed bed bugs despite two or three treatments.
Bed bugs can also return after 5-6 months or a year from the treatment.
Taking preventative measures is also essential so that bed bugs don’t come back after your home is purged off bed bugs.
Getting Rid Of Bed Bugs Cheaply – Is It Possible?
Eliminating bed bugs on your own can be cheap. However, there’s a catch.
You’ll need to catch the infestation early and do repeated treatments to stop bed bugs from raising their heads.
Refer now to my guide on how to get rid of bed bugs on a tight budget to follow a proven step-by-step DIY to get rid of bed bugs cheaply.
Bed bugs can’t withstand extreme heat and cold. If you’re going down the DIY to get rid of bed bugs, you may need to use these two elements.
Identifying the bed bugs is essential for DIY removal. Many tiny black bugs bite and itch in the home and outdoors, and they can resemble bed bugs.
Harmless bugs, such as clover mites, can also end up in the bed and trick you into thinking they’re bed bugs, causing unnecessary panic and stress.
Bed Bug Infestation In Hotel Rooms
It’s not only your home where you’d find bed bugs.
Bed bugs are common in other establishments like offices, hospitals, schools and daycares, and hotels.
It’s quite common that you may introduce bed bugs from these places into your home.
For example, if you’ve been traveling and stayed in a hotel room with bed bugs, then bed bugs can easily latch on to your clothing or luggage. You’d bring them to your home without you even being aware of it.
So, it’s always a best practice to remain vigilant about their presence and check for them before you settle into your hotel room.
Once you check-in, look for the bed bugs in the most common hiding places that you’ve found out in the post.
As a precautionary measure, do not keep your luggage on the floor or the bed the moment you get inside the room. Instead, keep it on any elevated hard surface like on a stand or a table.
The majority of bed bug infestations in hotels are limited, often to just a few rooms. Even with ACs on in the hotel rooms, bed bugs can survive.
If you discover bed bugs, you can request another room, preferably in a different hotel area. It’s because bed bug infestation can extend to nearby units.
If there isn’t any other room available, then you can ask for a refund.
If you’re experiencing itching on your skin, then it would be best that, after returning home, you put all the clothing directly into the washer/dryer.
Inspecting or vacuuming suitcases is time-consuming and overwhelming since it is difficult to spot bed bugs in luggage.
The best thing you can do to get rid of bed bugs in your suitcases or luggage is steam cleaning.
Use a steam cleaner on the infested luggage. The heat from the steam cleaner will kill the bed bugs hidden in your luggage.
How To Prevent Bed Bug Infestation And Re-infestation?
Bed bugs always make a return if the treatment hasn’t been comprehensive or you’ve been careless in your prevention measures.
These are the steps that prevent bed bugs from coming back. If you never had a bed bug infestation, following these steps will protect your home from the onslaught of bed bugs.
Quarterly Pest Inspection
Savvy homeowners always hire professionals to check their homes quarterly or half-yearly for pests.
These inspections are cheaper than a full-fledged pest control or bed bug control. And it saves a lot of money in the long run.
Many reputable pest control companies don’t charge extra if they find any pests during the inspection. Every homeowner should do it.
Not Visiting Places That Have Bed Bugs
We all can bring bed bugs accidentally. But we should never visit a place that has a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs in the infested places will latch onto us and travel to our homes.
If you’ve been to a place with bed bugs, wash your clothes in hot water and treat the luggage items with steam cleaner before entering the house.
Vacuum Clean Daily
Cleaning the home, especially the bed mattress and other soft furnishings such as carpets, exponentially reduces the chances of bed bug infestation in homes.
Using Bed Bug Repellents
Bed bugs hate the smell of repellents like peppermint oil and white vinegar.
Spraying them in your home, especially in your bedroom around the sleeping area, prevents bed bugs.
Checking Second-Hand Items For Bed Bugs
Many second-hand items, especially furniture, can have pests like bed bugs, fleas, and termites.
Inspect those items thoroughly before buying them. Clean those items with a vacuum cleaner before bringing them to your home.
Don’t Sleep In Different Rooms If Your Bedroom Has Bed Bugs
Many people change their sleeping rooms if their bedroom has bed bugs. That’s a bad idea!
Bed bugs will track you to your new room. Changing the room and moving things out of the infested room will only cause the bed bug infestation to spread.
Instead, use mattress encasement and bed bug repellents to prevent bed bug bites, and sleep in the same room till you treat the room for bed bugs.
So, sleep in the same room that has bed bugs. Sounds counter intuitive, but that’s how you can prevent bed bugs from becoming a home-wide menace.
Final Thoughts On Bed Bugs
Bed bugs spread like a contagious disease. They’re extremely hard to eliminate and can be difficult to spot during the early stages of infestation.
And that’s where things start to go down. Failing to catch the bed bugs early causes the infestation to spread.
Hiring an exterminator is the best way to treat bed bugs. And preventive measures after the treatment are also vital because these blood-sucking pests are likely to come back if you don’t.