Bed Bugs - What You Need to Know
What are bed bugs?
There are 2 types of bed bugs – one found in birds’ nests (the ‘martin bed bug’) and the more common ‘common bed bug’.
These common bed bugs are small, oval insects, about 5mm long. They don’t have wings and are a reddish-brown in colour. Young bed bugs are smaller and a lighter beige colour. They cast off this light shell as they develop into adulthood.
Bed bugs feed on human blood and are active at night – drawn out of their hiding places by warm sleeping bodies and the carbon dioxide from our breath. They feed once every 10 days or so but can survive for up to a year without feeding.
The good news is that they don’t carry disease (and up to 70% of people who are bitten don’t show bite marks) but they are a nuisance as the bites can be itchy and if they stop you sleeping, this can be harmful to your health in the longer term. The itch can be relieved with antihistamine cream or tablets from the pharmacy or doctor.
Where are bed bugs found?
Surprisingly, not just in beds (as the name would suggest). Typically they live in bed mattresses but also in the bed frame and sheets etc, clothing, seams of furnishings on sofas and couches, in furniture frames, picture frames and even in plug sockets. Anywhere where people spend large amounts of time – so at home and in the work place.
They are carried from room to room and building to building by our clothing or furniture and live in both clean and dirty areas, but favour the latter.
Do I have bed bugs?
To check if you have bed bugs in your home or in a hotel etc that you might be staying in, look for any of the following signs:
- Brown spots on the bedding, which is bed bug excrement
- Spots of blood on the sheets from bites
- Pale brown/beige ‘crumbs’ which are the young bed bug shells (called casts) that have need shed
- Bed bugs themselves, which are apple pip sized, reddish-brown ovals
- In cases of bad infestation there may be a smell of sweet almonds.
Why are bed bugs becoming more common?
The increase in bed bugs in New York has been highlighted in the media recently. Experts believe that it’s a problem in many cities and that international travel, migration and immigration are contributing to this.
In addition there is an increase in the bugs’ resistance to some of the pesticides used to kill them.
Bed bugs breed very quickly and it’s much easier to deal with a small bed bug problem than a large one, so early treatment is essential.