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Truth About Bed Bugs [And What Pest Control Companies Don’t Want To Tell You]

Bed bugs are often seen as one of those silent enemies that you don’t know about until it’s too late. But, did you know there is so much more to these creepy crawlers than what pest control companies want to tell you?

I’m going to let you know everything you need to know about bed bugs, and let you know the information about bed bugs pest control companies don’t want you to know!

bed bug insect crawling on a white background

Bed Bugs – What Are They?

Bed bugs, known scientifically as Cimex lectularius, are small parasitic insects. You can identify these pests by their flat, oval bodies, reddish-brown coloration, and apple-seed size.

They are wingless and cannot fly, which sets them apart from other household pests that may take to the air.

As adult bed bugs grow to be about 4-5 millimeters in length, they become visible to the naked eye.

These insects are primarily nocturnal and are known for their feeding habits; they feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans.

Typically, bed bugs come out at night to feed, which can result in a series of bites that often go noticed only after you wake.

Feature Description
Size Comparable to an apple seed (4-5 mm)
Shape Flat and oval
Color Reddish-brown
Mobility Wingless, cannot fly
Activity Nocturnal; mostly active at night
Feeding Blood of humans and animals

Surviving in mattress seams, box springs, bed frames, and other areas close to sleeping hosts, bed bugs can often be difficult to detect.

As they are stealthy and only emerge from hiding to feed, it is essential for you to be aware of the signs of their presence, such as small blood stains or droppings on bedding.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

When trying to identify bed bugs, you’ll notice they are small, with an adult bed bug being roughly the size of an apple seed.

Visually, they exhibit a reddish-brown color, which can become more pronounced after they’ve fed.

To the naked eye, they appear flat and oval in shape, which aids in their ability to hide in narrow cracks and crevices in your home.

Size: Approximately 5-7mm long
Color: Reddish-brown
Shape: Flat and oval

While it’s a common misconception that bed bugs are microscopic, they are actually visible to the naked eye, although their tiny nymphs (juveniles) and eggs may be more challenging to spot without magnification.

Here’s a list that can help you identify bed bugs:

  • Adult Bed Bugs: Similar in size to an apple seed, visible to you without aid.
  • Coloration: Before feeding, they are a mahogany to rusty brown color, and post-feeding, they turn a redder brown.
  • Physical Form: They are flat and wingless, making them adept at hiding behind wallpaper, in seams of mattresses, and any other small space.
  • Nymphs: Smaller and paler than adults but grow to full size in several molts.
  • Eggs: Tiny, about the size of a pinhead, pearly white, and found in protected areas.

bed bug crawling on human skin

The Bed Bug Life Cycle

Bed bugs experience a gradual metamorphosis over five life stages, known as instars. Your understanding of this process is vital for effective detection and control.

Eggs: Your first encounter with the bed bug life cycle might be the eggs, which resemble tiny grains of salt. These eggs hatch in about 6 to 10 days.

As bed bugs grow, they require a blood meal to progress to the next stage.

  1. First Stage Nymph (1.5 mm): After hatching, the nymph seeks its first blood meal.
  2. Second Stage Nymph (2 mm)
  3. Third Stage Nymph (2.5 mm)
  4. Fourth Stage Nymph (3 mm)
  5. Fifth Stage Nymph (4.5 mm)

Each nymph stage requires at least one full blood meal to molt and progress to the next.

Adults: Upon reaching maturity after the fifth molt, bed bugs are fully grown. Both male and female adults require regular blood meals to survive and for females, to reproduce.

Adult bed bugs can live for about 4-6 months, sometimes longer under favorable conditions.

Temperature and feeding opportunity affect how quickly bed bugs move through their life stages, with the entire cycle potentially completing in as little as 40 days.

However, without a host for a blood meal, bed bugs can enter a dormant state, extending their lifespan.

Where Are Bed Bugs Found?

Bed bugs are adaptable pests often found where humans frequent. Though their name suggests a proximity to sleeping areas, your entire living space can be susceptible to an infestation.

Sleeping Areas:

  • Mattresses and box springs are prime habitats where bed bugs hide during the day.
  • They may also reside in the cracks of your bed frame and headboards.

Around the Bedroom:

  • Check behind wallpaper, inside picture frames, and in furniture crevices.
  • Nearby furniture like nightstands and dressers can harbor these pests as well.

Beyond the Bedroom:

  • Shelters and hotels report frequent infestations due to the high turnover of guests.
  • Infestations are not limited to the bedroom; these insects may spread to different rooms in your home.

Public Places:

  • Public transportation such as busestrains, and even cruise ships can become unwitting carriers of bed bugs.
  • Dorm rooms experience outbreaks given the close living quarters and high occupant turnover.

bed bug insect found on the top of a mattress

How Bed Bugs Travel

Bed bugs are adept hitchhikers, and their primary method of spreading is through human travel.

You can inadvertently transport these tiny pests in various personal items, and once they’ve established themselves in a new environment, they can be challenging to remove.

Personal Belongings:

  • Luggage & Suitcases
  • Purses
  • Gym bags

Items kept near sleeping areas are particularly vulnerable. As you move from one place to another, bed bugs can crawl into the folds and seams of these items.

They are not limited to any one specific type of belonging; any item that provides a hidden crevice or fabric fold can be a potential vehicle for bed bugs.

Hiding Spots: Bed bugs excel at hiding, seeking refuge in compact spaces where they are unlikely to be disturbed.

When staying in hotels or using public transportation, inspect your surroundings and maintain cleanliness to reduce the risk of unknowingly inviting bed bugs into your belongings.

It’s important to note that bed bugs do not latch onto hosts like ticks or fleas but instead seek refuge in objects close to where humans rest. Regular inspection of your travel items could help detect these pests early.

Preventing Spread: Simple measures can be taken to minimize the risk:

  • Examine second-hand furniture for signs of bed bugs before bringing it into your home.
  • Utilize protective covers for mattresses and box springs to eliminate hiding spots.
  • Vacuum luggage after returning from a trip.

How Fast Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are relatively slow-moving insects. They typically crawl at a pace similar to an ant, approximately 1 meter per minute.

This slow movement is often unnoticed, especially during the night when they are most active. Unlike other bugs, they cannot jump or fly, relying solely on crawling to reach their feeding destination.

Their speed is sufficient for moving across surfaces like beds, furniture, and walls, but their primary mode of long-distance travel is through passive transportation – hitchhiking on objects like luggage, clothing, and used furniture.

This method of movement is a key factor in the rapid spread of bed bugs in environments like hotels, apartments, and public transportation, where they easily cling to personal belongings and move to new locations.

How To Know If You Have A Bed Bug Infestation

Recognizing a bed bug infestation early is crucial for effective control. Inspect your sleeping area regularly as these pests often reside close to where you sleep.

Bedding and Sheets: Look for small, rust-colored stains on your bedding—the result of bed bugs being crushed or excreting after feeding. Check for tiny, yellowish-white eggs in seams and tufts of your mattress and box spring.

Physical Signs: Bites on your skin, particularly on the facearmsneck, and hands, may be a sign. These bites often appear as small, itchy, red welts, sometimes in a row or cluster.

Allergic Reactions: While some people might not react noticeably to bed bug bites, others may experience significant itching or an allergic reaction.

Inspection Guide

  • Mattress and Box Spring: Examine the seams, tags, and piping. Look for live insects, eggs, and shed skins.
  • Furniture: Check the cracks and crevices of bed frames, headboards, and bedside tables.
  • Hidden Areas: Investigate behind wall hangings, loose wallpaper, and even electrical outlets.

Be thorough and methodical—bed bugs are elusive and may hide in very small spaces. If you discover signs of an infestation, contact a pest control professional to discuss treatment options. 

bed bug sitting on the top of a white bed sheet on a bed

How To Tell If You’ve Been Bitten By Bed Bugs

Bed bug bites are often the first sign of a bed bug infestation. Itchy bites are a common symptom; however, not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same way.

Here’s what to look for if you suspect bed bug bites:

  • Appearance: Initially, the bites may appear as small, red, and itchy spots. Over time, they can develop into raised welts.
  • Pattern: Bed bug bites often occur in a line or cluster, as these pests tend to feed multiple times in a row.

In some cases, you might experience more severe reactions to these bites. Here are additional signs:

  • Allergic Reactions: If you are allergic, bites can lead to intense itching, blisters, or hives.
  • Infection: Scratching the itchy spots excessively may cause an infection, indicated by swelling, warmth, or pain around the bites.

If you notice signs of an allergic reaction or infection from suspected bed bug bites, it’s important to see a doctor for appropriate treatment.

While bed bugs feed on blood, they are not known to transmit diseases through their bites. However, prevent scratching to reduce the risk of secondary infection.

Lastly, ensure to inspect your sleeping area for other signs of these pests, such as small blood stains on your sheets, to confirm the presence of bed bugs.

If bed bugs are found, consider contacting a pest control professional to address the infestation.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

To control and prevent bed bug infestations, it’s important to combine various pest control strategies. Here’s your step-by-step guide:

  1. Identify the Infestation: Inspect your sleeping areas thoroughly. Look for tiny, brownish insects or small blood spots on bedding.
  2. Contact Professionals: If you confirm an infestation, consider hiring a professional pest control service. Experts use methods like heat treatment, which is highly effective against bed bugs.
  3. Use Pesticides Carefully: Self-administered pesticides may be part of your plan, but must be used judiciously. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines on safe pesticide use for bed bugs. Always follow instructions on the label.
  4. Apply Heat: Wash and dry infested clothing and bedding at high temperatures. Heat is lethal to bed bugs and is an excellent non-chemical control method.
  5. Maintain Cleanliness: Regularly vacuum your space and dispose of the vacuum contents in a sealed bag outside your home. Keep clutter to a minimum to reduce hiding spots for bed bugs.
  6. Use Protective Covers: Encase your mattress and box springs with bed bug-proof covers to prevent infestations.

bed bug crawling along the seam of a mattress

Common Myths About Bed Bugs

One misconception is that bed bugs can be found only in unsanitary homes and businesses with poor hygiene standards.

In reality, bed bugs can hide and live in any home or business, no matter how clean it is.

Other common myths include the belief that bed bug infestations happen due to a lack of cleanliness when it is really caused by inadvertent introduction into an environment; the idea that bed bug bites are painful when they usually aren’t; the notion that one species of bug will not cross-breed with another when this actually happens; and finally, the persistent myth that pesticides are effective against all species of bedbugs—while in fact some species show resistance to certain types of pesticide treatments.

Some people mistakenly think that washing clothes and linens will get rid of bedbugs on their own without professional help.

While laundering may help remove evidence of recent infestations such as eggs or droppings on fabrics, it does not kill existing insects – only professional treatment methods solve the problem effectively. 

Summary

 Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They move through five instars over their life cycle, with adult bed bugs living up to 4-6 months.

You can identify them by their size (apple seed), shape (flat and oval), color (reddish-brown), mobility (wingless, cannot fly), activity (nocturnal) and feeding habits (blood).

They are often spread when people unknowingly transport them in personal items, such as luggage and suitcases, while traveling.

To reduce the risk of introducing an infestation into your home, examine second-hand furniture and luggage from trips. 

Signs of an infestation include small blood spots or droppings on bedding and itchy red welts from bites that may occur in a line or cluster.

If you discover signs of these pests, contact a professional pest control service immediately as treatment options vary based on the severity of the infestation.