What Are Bed Bugs?

So did you say it again before going to bed? “Good Night! Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

But did you ever wonder if this expression still holds true? And do your kids know what bed bugs are? Well, beds bugs are not a thing of the past. They are very much here and prospering. This article tells you what exactly Bed bugs are some of the most important things about them which must not be left untold.

adult bed bug

Adult Bed Bug

What are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs have a scary scientific name – Cimex lectularius (Cimicidae). And these criminal sounding small insects feed on blood, just like their winged cousins called mosquitoes. Bed bugs are wingless, though.  Their pattern of nutrition is called hematophagy – meaning that they thrive only on the blood of warm-blooded animals. So, we, the humans rank quite high on the list being warm blooded.

If you go by the theory of evolution, these little devils started as the parasites that resided in the nests of the birds and the roosts of the bats. But with due course of time, they invaded the human abodes too, making the bed their favorite nest.

bed bug eggs

Bed Bug Eggs

These are visible to the human eye at all stages (see this site for more bed bugs pictures):

  • Starting as eggs
  • Hatchlings/nymphs – the newborns are the size of a poppy seed
  • Adults are can grow up to a quarter of an inch
Bed Bug Nymphs

Bed Bug Nymphs (baby bed bugs)

Here is a quick fact list about bed bugs:

  • They are pretty tiny brown insects that cannot fly but can crawl pretty fast.
  • Human blood is their favorite meal.
  • They get their name “bed bugs” because they nest in beds, sofas, and mattresses
  • Their best time of the attack is when the prey is asleep
  • They ambush approximately an hour before the sunrise.
  • All it takes for them to feed on is 5 minutes, and they are back to the pavilion.
  • They like to bite in rows.
  • It can take up to nine days for the bite to become conspicuous.
  • Their females lay about five eggs a day. That is alarming because that amounts to almost five hundred in their lifetime.
  • They are just not easy to get rid of. You may need professional help.
bed bug marks on window

Signs of Bed Bugs on Window Sill

How Do You Get to Know if They are Present in Your House?

It is pretty simple to spot a bud bug once it appears in front of you. Though, people sometimes mistake them for ticks. However, the odds are that you may not see them until a long time after they have invaded your bed, furniture, and nooks of the house.

Bed bugs make their presence felt by their bites. Most people do not remember having been bitten because it happens while they are asleep.

Typical Symptoms:

  • Red and raised welts
  • Itching with a burning sensation
  • Rashes on arms, face, legs or back
  • Bites continuing in lines

Make sure that you look for them at the following places:

  • Mattresses of the bed (Tufts and seems too)
  • Box springs
  • Creases of bed linen
  • Behind the loose ends of wallpapers
  • Nooks and crannies of the drawers and dressers
  • Corners of desks and bedside tables
  • Laundry

They can also adapt to temporary habitats like buses, trains, cars and travel luggage.

If you are unable to spot their person but are still apprehend that they are present, look for the trails. Their droppings leave spots that are reddish brown just like their color. The droppings may sometimes be in the form of tint bead, but it is just a stain, more often than not. An excess of it tends to smell like coriander.

If you have a pet dog, you have a sure shot way to uncover these bugs wherever they may be.

cluster of bed bug eggs on wall

Bed Bug Eggs Stuck on Surface

How Do They Feed?

They typically attack the host around an hour before the sun rises. But, if they are hungry at any other time of the day, they are open to a hearty meal, that is if the host arrives right at their den. Even if they hate sunlight and enjoy nocturnally, time is no barrier to their hunger.
They move to any a presence of warmth and carbon dioxide. So, if they are in bed, they will pounce right upon the host. But if they are away, they will cross a big distance, traverse the walls and the ceiling and find the host with the presence of carbon dioxide and the warmth that emanates from the human body.

Here is a description of the medical precision with which the suck the blood. With the hollow tubes that they have on their mouth, this is what they do. They insert one tube that injects a dose of anesthesia so that the host doesn’t wake up because of the bite. It also sends in an anti-coagulant that helps the blood flow easily. Now the other tube is inserted that sucks the blood out.  It take them just five minutes to complete the process and voila! They are back to hiding in a nearby  mattress seam.

The poor host, however, will not notice it till it starts itching. And the bite may not even be visible for days. Bites are not noticed by the host until at least a few minutes or some hours afterward. Hosts, for example, humans, will be aware of a bite after scratching it. Often bites may not be noticeable for several days.

Thanks to their metabolism, they do not feed every day. Once in five to ten days is enough for them. But, if situations are daunting, they can even last for several months without food. They then take to the tactic of dormancy for up to or even more than a year.

A bug that feeds on a regular schedule has a life span of around six to nine months.

two bed bugs feeding on skin

Bed Bugs Feeding on Skin

How Do Bed Bugs Procreate?

two bed bugs procreating

Bed Bug Procreation

The terms that follow now seem a bit painful but they really are not. The process of conception is called traumatic insemination or hypodermic insemination. The male bug has hypodermic genitalia, i.e., they have syringe-like hollow genitalia that pierces through anywhere on the female bug’s abdomen.  The male sperm gets diffused inside the female and ultimately reaches the ovaries to get fertilized there.
The female lays approximately five eggs in a day, amounting to almost 500 eggs in the entire lifetime of hers. Eggs are sized at about 1mm long, milky white in color, and can be seen with a naked eye.

Here’s another fiendish thing about them. The baby bed bugs or nymphs shed their skin 5x before they can reach maturity and each time they shed it; they need blood. They are clear colored and swell into bright red ones after they suck in blood. Sound like a gothic vampire story. Doesn’t it?
But it’s a solace that bed bugs can reproduce only once after achieving maturity.

The fact is that they had vanished from the USA in 1950’s but have recently made a threatening come back. The reason for the disappearance was the treatment that was used to control them. But now, it is suggested that they developed immunity towards the same.

The infestation that is taking place now could be due to their ability to reproduce ultra-effectively through inbreeding. It means that even if they are very few, they are enough to produce copiously and that to healthy offspring.

two bed bugs

Bed Bugs on Surface

Are Bed Bugs a Threat to Humans?

Bed bugs are no carriers to any infection per se, but the bite itself can be pretty pestering and painful. They can trigger allergic reactions and ramify skin infections.

They also have a devastating socio-economic effect. Residential projects and hotels that are infested by these troublesome bugs can face social disgrace and financial losses.

What Should One Do to Keep Bugs Away?

Getting rid of bed bugs isn’t as easy as using a mosquito repellent. They have a resilience that is unrivaled and even of a couple of them survive; they are bound to infest again sooner than you can expect.
There are many do-it-yourself things that you can do to kill these bugs but, one – it is a behemoth task; two – there is no guarantee that your efforts will put an end to their clan. Discarding an entire lot of furniture altogether is not a solution, for the enemy may be hiding in your walls. So, you have to look for them first; make a strategy and then spring into action.

You can vacuum your upholstery, mattresses, and furniture; wash your linen in disinfectants; and reach the corners of your house as well as all the furniture to kill them with your hands. You can also use treatments that claim 100% eradication, but for that, you need to be sure if it is legal according to the law of the land.

You can opt for professional services that have expertise in this area but make sure that they have a valid license for the procedure; that they use a legal procedure; and that they use legal and approved products.
In case you are living in rented accommodation, you must inform the landlord right away, so that appropriate action can be taken.