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BED BUGS

BACKGROUND | BIOLOGY | BEHAVIOR

 

BACKGROUND:

  • Bed bugs have been around for centuries. In the United States, bed bugs were very common until about World War II.
  • With the use of pesticides such as DDT, a great decrease in infestations occurred.
  • It was not until the last decade that reported cases indicated a rise in bed bug infestations.
  • Possible factors fueling the return of the bed bug include: 
    • Increase in international travel. 
    • Increased resistance to certain insecticides. 
    • The introduction of new pest control methods that leave bed bugs unharmed (treatments and treatment sites are more pest-specific, i.e. bait treatment for roaches). 

BIOLOGY:

  • Adult bed bugs are less than 1/4? long (the size of an apple seed), flat, oval-shaped and brownish-red in color.
  • Bed bugs feed only on blood from mammals and birds.
  • Bed bugs are not known to transmit any human diseases.
  • They have piercing mouthparts like a mosquito and inject fluids into the wound to prevent coagulation and numb the “bite” site. 
    • This fluid may cause the skin to itch and become swollen although some people do not have a reaction to bed bug bites. 
    • Scratching causes sores which may become infected.
  • Bed bugs have claws on their legs used for gripping rough surfaces. They do not have pads like roaches, so they cannot climb smooth surfaces such as glass.
  • Their life cycle, under ideal conditions, takes four to five weeks (egg to egg).
  • They attach their eggs to surfaces, usually in crevices where the bugs hide in loose groups or clusters (this grouping behavior is similar to that of German roaches).
  • The immature bed bugs need a blood meal to molt and grow into their next developmental stage (there are 5 stages).
  • Adult bed bugs can survive for 6-7 months without a blood meal. 
    • In some cases they survive without humans by feeding on birds and rodents.
  • A female may lay 200 to 500 eggs in her lifetime (approx. one year under ideal conditions), laying anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs at a time.

BEHAVIOR:

  • Bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices during the day and come out to feed at night when the host is unaware they are being fed upon.
  • They are attracted to carbon dioxide and heat produced by their host.
  • Activity starts around 7:00 p.m. and continues until midnight or later. 
    • There is a sharp decline in activity after 7:00 a.m., but they can adapt to daytime sleepers if hungry.
  • Bed bugs like darkness, dryness, rough surfaces, wood and fabrics.
  • Some of the most common ways bed bug infestations may be introduced include: 
    • Spending the night in an environment which is already infested by bed bugs. 
    • Having a guest visit who has come from such an environment. 
    • Renting furniture or buying used furniture or bedding.


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