Bed bugs are notoriously unpleasant to live with. Feeding on human blood, they can make their hosts quite uncomfortable with the itchy marks that they leave behind. Learn how to identify and eliminate bed bugs in your home.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Image via Flickr by Gilles San Martin

Bed bugs are nocturnal insects that feed on human and animal blood. Bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases, but they are a serious nuisance. Bed bugs can produce three or more generations each year. Females lay hundreds of eggs over their lifetimes. Young bedbugs, known as nymphs, shed their skin five times as they grow toward maturity. Before each shedding, they must feed.

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown in color, and oval shaped. They're about 1/4 inch long. After feeding, they will appear larger with a redder tinge to their appearance. Nymphs are less than 5 millimeters in length and almost colorless, making them extremely difficult to identify.

One of the more reliable ways to identify bed bugs is to look for evidence of the infestation on your mattress or sheets. These insects will leave red or rust-tinged stains in these areas. You may also see feces from these bugs, which appears as small dark dots about the size of a pencil point.

Where Do Bed Bugs Live?

Bed bugs can live nearly anywhere in the home. They're most often found in box springs and mattresses, as the name suggests. However, they can also dwell in bedding, upholstered furniture, picture frames, electrical outlets, and wallpaper. Bed bugs may even live in cars, trains, and buses. Suitcases and backpacks may house bed bugs as well and can carry them easily from one place to another. The bed bug's primary consideration is finding a reliable food source.

Bed bugs take five to 10 minutes to feed. Therefore, they often prefer to do so at night when people are sleeping. After feeding, the bed bug will retreat to a secluded area for roughly five to 10 days as it digests its meal. Bed bugs prefer to feed on humans, so they will seek out inhabited areas over rural ones. They are able to feed on other warm-blooded creatures but prefer not to.

Problems With Bed Bugs

The most common reaction to a bed bug bite is a red, itchy welt. Some individuals will have only small dots with no discomfort. Others can have more severe allergic reactions. Bed bug bites usually appear on parts of the body that are exposed at night, such as the neck, face, hands, arms, and legs. These bites are often in a line or zigzag pattern with several appearing in a row.

Bed bug bites will usually heal within a week or two, but the presence of bed bugs in the home will lead to an ongoing problem. In addition to discomfort from the bites, individuals often suffer from sleep deprivation due to the stress of worrying about the bugs coming out to feed. These bites also increase your risk of infection, as the skin is compromised. The itchiness may even cause you to scratch the welts open.

Bed bugs can spread easily, so it's important to get rid of them both for your own comfort and to prevent them from hitchhiking with your visitors and multiplying in other homes.

Pest Control Solutions for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are difficult to remove, so it's important to seek the help of a professional exterminator if you want to do the job thoroughly. Rubbing alcohol will kill visible bed bugs on contact. You can eliminate bed bugs that are hiding in your bedding or clothing by laundering it in water that's over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can kill bedbugs hiding in other items with heat as well. Wrapping a box spring or mattress in plastic and leaving in the sun for a few days will typically kill the bed bugs hiding within.

While these measures are an effective start, you should work with a pest control expert to make sure the job is finished properly. Professional exterminators can use a combination of chemical treatments, sanitation processes, and preventive measures to help you efficiently eradicate all of your bed bugs. Look for a professional that has experience with bed bugs. This is a unique type of pest that requires a knowledgeable approach.

Expect for the process to begin with a home assessment. This allows the exterminator to thoroughly examine the home and understand the scope of the problem. After this, you will typically receive a quote for the entire job, as well as a detailed explanation of what approach the professional will take and how long the process will be.

Other Bed Bug Information

Learn more about bed bugs so you can better understand the threats posed by this pest.

Bed Bugs Aren't Dirty

There's a common misconception that bed bugs are a pest associated with unsanitary living. However, there's nothing inherently dirty about this type of infestation, and homeowners shouldn't be embarrassed to call for help with this problem. Bed bugs aren't attracted to dirt and grime. They're attracted to carbon dioxide, blood, and warmth, which is present in any inhabited environment.

Bed Bugs Like to Travel

Many bed bug infestations are the result of a recent trip. These insects are skilled travelers and like to catch a ride in your bags or the cuffs of pants. Watch out for bed bugs when you're traveling. Check mattresses and box springs when you check into hotels and leave if you see the signature stains associated with this insect. Store your luggage in plastic and keep it off the floor anywhere you go. When you return from a trip, wash all your clothing in hot water, whether it was worn or not.

If you believe that you may have a bed bug infestation, contact a pest control professional as soon as possible. The quicker you can address the issue, the easier it will be. Remember that bed bugs reproduce quickly, so you don't want to let them hide in your home for long.

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John arrived within the scheduled service window. He was very pleasant and did a great job. He double checked to see what issue I was having to ensure he put down the correct treatment type. He treated the inside, garage and outside perimeter of the house. In addition, he did a granule treatment on the shrubs per my request. John also took the time to explain how dampening the granules will activate them.?
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