Remember the old night time saying, "Good night, sleep tight. Don't let the beg bugs bite."? That old rhyme has been around since the mid-20th century. Parents have whispered that saying to their children for many, many years as a cute way of saying goodnight when the kids drift off to sleep. However, at one time that may not have been so comforting, and now it appears that these pests are once again on the rise. The 'don't let the bedbugs bite' part has prompted some to suggest that the 'tight' refers to the tightness of bedclothes, intended to keep bedbugs at bay. That's hardly likely, as bedbugs live in mattresses and wouldn't be avoided by tying bedclothes tightly. Also, '...bedbugs bite' is an extended version of the original 'sleep tight' bedtime message, which didn't start to be used until the mid-20th century - well after 'sleep tight' was first used, according to www.Phrases.org.UK.
Bed bugs are increasingly becoming a problem within residences of all kinds, including homes, apartments, hotels, cruise ships, dormitories and shelters. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs and their relatives have evolved as nest parasites. Certain kinds inhabit bird nests and bat roosts and await the return of their hosts; others have adapted well to living in the ‘nests’ (homes) of people. Hatchling bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are about 1/4 of an inch in length. From above they are oval in shape, but are flattened from top to bottom.
Their color ranges from nearly white (just after molting) or a light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange. The host’s blood may appear as a dark red or black mass within the bug’s body. Because they never develop wings, bed bugs cannot fly. When disturbed, bed bugs actively seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices. Cast skins of bed bugs are sometimes discovered. Although such a finding confirms that bed bugs had been present previously, it does not confirm that any continue to infest the residence. Thus, inspect carefully for live crawling bed bugs. Because many other kinds of small brown bugs may be discovered, it is critical to ensure that the bugs are correctly identified.
All Bed Bugs feed on blood and come out at night, as they are often averse to sunlight, according to KQED.org. Their most preferred feeding time is an hour before dawn when most hosts are in their deepest sleep. They are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide as well as the heat a human body gives off. When biting, they inject two hollow tubes. One tube injects saliva into the host which is full of anticoagulants and anesthetics while the other tube withdraws the blood.
This allows the blood to thin and flow freely without disturbing the host. Most often it is several minutes or hours later when a person will feel a bed bug bite, usually because of intense itching caused by a reaction to the agents injected. Though itchy, Bed Bug bites do not appear to carry any pathogens or diseases. Bed bugs prefer to come out and eat every five to ten days but can go up to a year without feeding. Well fed bed bugs will live up to nine months but those that go dormant due to lack of food can live upwards of eighteen months.
Bed bugs infest only a small proportion of residences, but they should be suspected if residents complain of bites that occurred while sleeping. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the bedroom and other sleeping areas should be carefully examined for bed bugs and signs of bed bug activity. Folds and creases in the bed linens, and seams and tufts of mattresses and box springs, in particular, may harbor bed bugs or their eggs.
They may also be found within pleats of curtains, beneath loose areas of wallpaper near the bed, in corners of desks and dressers, within spaces of wicker furniture, behind cove molding, and in laundry or other items on the floor or around the room. Sometimes, characteristic dark brown or reddish fecal spots of bed bugs are apparent on the bed linens, mattress or walls near the bed. A peculiar coriander-like odor may be detected in some heavily infested residences. Adhesive-based traps used for sampling insects or rodents are not particularly effective for trapping bed bugs.
Bed bugs are also very well traveled and fare well in large cities, according to KQED.org. Chicago and New York have seen a great deal of infestations, in part due to international travel. Locales of choice include mattresses, couches, and furniture near their hosts, often found in hotels, motels, hostels and apartment buildings. Given their small size, they can hide easily - even in a picture frame or a battery compartment of a clock! If a suitcase is laid on an infested bed in a hotel, it is easy for bedbugs to hitch a ride. The best prevention to take is to check furniture in hotels and put luggage up on luggage racks and check everything upon returning home. As it turns out, infestations can also be caused by second-hand furniture.
According to Orkin.com, females can deposit one to five eggs a day, and may lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Under normal room temperatures and with an adequate food supply, they can live over 300 days. Pest control professionals administer the most effective treatments. It is advised that anyone with a suspected bedbug infestation contact their local expert to arrange an inspection and consultation. Although their bite can cause irritation and even infection, bedbugs do not carry or transmit diseases.
Bedbug bites can become itchy and may leave red bumps and marks. According to www.Orkin.com, Bedbug bites may appear similar to a number of other insect bites. However, unlike those of other insects, bedbug bites appear in tight lines of multiple, small, red marks. Bedbugs are not social insects, so groups of bites are most likely the result of one specimen continuing to feed upon its victim.
Some bites leave large wheals, although these marks are not typically an indication of a serious problem and will fade to small, red marks within a few days. Bedbug bites can cause itchiness. Initially, a victim may detect a slight burning sensation. The burning area then develops red bumps, known as papules or wheals. In extreme cases, bites may swell dramatically or turn into blister-like skin inflammations. However, many bites leave no mark and go completely unnoticed.
The oil of the aromatic cedar wood is sometimes placed around a bed to prevent bedbugs, according to Orkin.com. However, pest control experts advise against the sole use of this method of bedbug control, as it proves largely inefficient in addressing widespread infestations. Cedar wood oil is most effective when used in conjunction with other medications as a treatment for bedbug bites.
Topical or oral corticosteroids and antihistamines can be combined with a few drops of cedar wood oil to address inflammation or irritation caused by bedbug bites. Steam cleaners may be used to remove bed bugs, but they must be used thoroughly to be effective. The entire room should be steam cleaned. If only the mattress is treated, infestations may persist. A commercial steam cleaner is ideal, as it can be used for longer periods of time. However, the most effective bedbug extermination methods are those administered by pest control professionals.
According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some tips to avoid being bitten by bed bugs:
--Cover up. Because bedbugs don't tend to burrow under clothing, you may be able to avoid bites by wearing pajamas that cover as much skin as possible.
--Bug spray. Insect repellents designed to protect against mosquitos or ticks aren't very effective against bedbugs.
--Mosquito netting. Some studies indicate that bed nets impregnated with the pesticide permethrin may help protect sleepers against bedbug bites. However, this practice may be helping bedbugs develop resistance to this pesticide.
Next time you see these pesky little varmints, call an exterminator and load up on a good anti-itch cream from your local pharmacy. Bed bugs used to be the scourge of poor families who were not able to keep their homes clean. And they have been bothering humans for thousands of years. After WW II, they were largely eradicated by the use of DDT. However, since that chemical has been pulled off the market for common use, bed bugs have come back with a vengeance, perhaps to reek revenge on mankind. Now, they are found in many places that anyone can encounter, even in popular hotels and other common areas. Be careful when you travel, and watch for any infestation that might crop up even in your home. They won't kill you, but the bites sure are a nuisance.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.