Photo by Piotr Naskrecki
Photo by Piotr Naskrecki

A bedbug is any of a group of small bloodsucking insects found all over the world and among the commonest parasites of man. They are about one-fifth of an inch long, and have oval reddish-brown bodies. They have useless stubby pads in place of wings. The bedbug has a beak that is specially constructed for piercing skin and sucking blood. When swelled with blood, bedbugs are dark red in color.

The bedbug has a beak constructed for piercing skin and sucking blood. The most common bedbug attacks humans.

Bedbugs are usually carried from place to place on clothing. They are easily picked up in theaters, schools, and other public places. The most common bedbug (Cimex lectularius) usually feeds on human blood, but it will feed on the blood of rats, mice, guinea pigs, and poultry if man is not present. Bedbugs have been suspected of transmitting disease organisms that live in the blood from one victim to another.

Common bedbugs usually live in crevices in the walls and floors of bedrooms, in mattresses, or in furniture upholstery. At night they crawl out of their hiding places and attack people as they sleep. The bite leaves red marks that may itch and swell, but it is usually less annoying than a mosquito bite.

Bedbugs normally complete their life cycle in six to eight weeks. Females deposit from 200 to 500 eggs in two or three months, a moderate number for an insect. After hatching, the young take several weeks to mature; their rate of growth depends on temperature and food supply. There are usually one or two generations of bedbugs every year.

Bedbugs can be exterminated with insecticides. However, current recommendations should be followed, because many formerly useful insecticides have been restricted or banned. Kerosene or a spray containing a petroleum distillate, placed in bedroom cracks, kills bedbugs once they have hatched. It is hard to know when the pests have been completely exterminated, because they are capable of surviving without food for a year or longer.

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