What Are Bedbugs?
A bedbug is a wingless, rust-colored insect about the size of an apple seed. Bedbugs are nocturnal parasites, which means they rest during the day and come out to dine on the blood of humans at night. Bedbugs are attracted by human body heat and typically favor feasting on our shoulders and arms (ewww).
During feeding, the bedbug's proboscis pierces the skin of its victim, injecting bedbug saliva (double ewww). Bedbugs typically feed for five to ten minutes at a time. As the little critter fills with blood, its colouring changes from light brown to rust–red.
Do You Have Bedbugs?
Bedbugs hide in cracks and crevices. They love to live in bedding and on mattresses, where they have easy access to food (i.e. you). Other living areas favored by bedbugs include:
* Between wooden floorboards
* In wall cracks and crevices
* In carpeting
* In the seams and cracks of furniture, particularly bed frames
* Under loose edges of wallpaper
* Behind peeling paint
Bedbugs are rarely seen in action by their human victims. The first signs of a bedbug infestation are usually bites. Bedbug bites are generally painless, though itchy and annoying. They tend to start as swollen wheals, then fade to red marks and gradually disappear over a few days.
Experts suggest washing bedbug bites with antiseptic soap to avoid infection. The itching can be treated with calamine lotion or anaesthetic creams.
Aside from those nasty bites, other signs that bedbugs may have moved in include:
* Tiny bloodstains from crushed bugs on sheets or mattresses
* Dark spots of bug excrement on bedding or walls
* An offensive musty odor when infestations are severe
How Bedbugs Spread
Bedbugs often spread by hitching rides on people's clothing. They jump from host to host when people brush up against each other in crowds (yet another reason to keep your distance on the subway).
They also spread through mattresses. Reconditioned mattresses, which are refurbished old mattresses, often spread bedbugs into stores and homes. In addition, bedbugs can spread when old and new mattresses are transported in the same truck.
Experts say bedbugs have been all but dormant for decades. The recent comeback is said to be primarily the result of increased global travel, along with the banning of potent pesticides like DDT.
Getting Rid of Bedbugs
Getting rid of bedbugs can be tricky. In proper conditions, adult bedbugs can survive without a meal for a year or longer. However, these annoying pests can be eliminated, usually with the help of a professional exterminator.
Here are some do-it-yourself methods you can try before you call the exterminator:
* Thoroughly wash, vacuum or clean all surfaces and bedding.
* Wash or dry-clean bedding and affected clothing. Use hot water and a dryer on the hottest setting whenever possible.
* Vacuum mattresses, seal them in plastic and leave them outside in the hot sun for as long as possible.
* Steam clean carpets.
* Spray cracks and crevices with an insecticide designed to control bedbugs. Follow the label directions carefully. Do not treat bedding with insecticide.
If these methods don't work, it may be necessary to hire a professional. A qualified exterminator can use stronger insecticides to kill the bedbugs. Repeat visits may be necessary to ensure that all bedbugs are eliminated.