Bed Bug FAQ’s
Frequently asked questions about Bed Bugs, their Bites, and how to kill and get rid of them.
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Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite – wasn’t it just a nursery rhyme?
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.
Bed bugs have also developed resistance to many of the pesticides, particularly pyrethroids, commonly used today.
In addition, people now travel more than ever before, particularly to and from global destinations where bed bugs have remained prevalent.
Places that see a great deal of customer turnover, such as hotels and motels, give bed bugs the opportunity to continue their travel to new locations as hitchhikers on luggage or clothing.
Identifying bed bugs
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. The nymphs range in size from nearly microscopic to adult. The first and second stage instars are very difficult to identify because of their small size.
Itchy welts on skin, blood spots on sheets and/or black or brown spots on mattresses, bed frames or walls often indicate that there is a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs are also known by several names: wall louse, house bug, mahogany flat, red coat, crimson ramblers as well as others.
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 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 seen in bed bug victims:
•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.
- In people with high sensitivity to bed bug saliva, people may 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 10 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 their excrement up to 60 days after feeding on an infectious meal. It is not yet known whether the viral persistence is capable of infection.
What are bed bugs?
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 hours.
After feeding, bed bugs turn dark red and become bloated.
What is the bed bug lifecycle?
The bed bug eggs are white, 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 three or four 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 six 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?
Although no current studies have demonstrated that bed bugs transmit diseases to humans, a recent study (Abbott et al 2011) demonstrated that bed bugs are vectors of several human pathogens. It is likely that disease can be transferred to humans via the vector route even if direct transmission is not yet proven. Additionally, 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?
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 on human skin where a bed bug has bitten.
I think I’ve got bed bugs. Now what?
- 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
If you find signs of an infestation or are still concerned, contact a ThermaPureHeat® Professional.
How do I treat bed bug infestations?
Bed bugs have developed a resistance to many pesticides and insecticides. Additionally, pesticides will not kill all phases of the bed bug, particularly eggs. Oftentimes many treatments are required to successfully kill bed bugs with pesticides.
A bed bug dipped into insecticide lived four days and still laid eggs.”
- Stephen Kells, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Department of Entomology
The best method of treating bed bugs is ThermaPureHeat® because it will kill all stages of the bed bug from egg to adult. ThermaPureHeat® will reach inaccessible areas that chemicals or other pesticides are unable to reach. ThermaPureHeat® is the safest most effective method to control bed bug infestations.
Other elements of a successful IPM program in addition to ThermaPureHeat® 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 your ThermaPureHeat® licensee about residual treatments such as diatamaceous earth or other treatments that can be used that are safe.
What kinds of methods can I use to prevent bed bug infestations?
Be careful when buying used furniture or clothes. Make sure to inspect the used item, and feel free to ask the retailer if the items were checked for bed bugs.
Use caution when bringing home used furniture or clothes from the curb side or garage sale. These items may be infested with bed bugs.
When travelling take the following precautions to prevent bed bugs:
- Inspect the room and furniture: inspect all cracks and crevices of the mattress and box spring, and look for blood spots or live insects. Request a different room if you find evidence of beg bugs.
- Protect your luggage: keep all belongings in your luggage and wrap your luggage in plastic to help prevent bed bugs from entering when traveling. Keep luggage on the shelf or up off the floor.
- Protect the bed: move the bed away from the wall, tuck in all bed sheets and keep blankets from touching the floor.
- Upon returning home: keep your luggage in an isolated area of your home, such as the garage. Inspect the luggage. Wash all your clothes in the hottest water possible and put them in a hot dryer for 20 minutes.
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
Bed Bugs at bed-bug.org
Armed Forces Pest Management Board Image Database