Bed Bugs 101 is your premier online resource for bed bug information. Bed Bugs 101 was created by Richard Cooper, who is regarded as one of the industry's top experts on bed bugs and co author of the most comprehensive text on bed bugs, Bed Bug Handbook – The Complete Guide to Bed Bugs and Their Control. Bed Bugs 101 was created as an educational tool to help share our knowledge and important research findings with the public.
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Bed Bugs 101
Bed bugs were a common problem in the United States up through the World War II era. Around this time, they were virtually eradicated from the US with the wide scale usage of pesticides, such as DDT and Malathion. During the late 1990's bed bugs began to re-emerge as a pest in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, along with a number of other countries. Their secretive behavior, coupled with a lack of public awareness, has enabled this insect to move very efficiently from one dwelling to another and has facilitated their rapid dispersal throughout the country.
Adults are small, brownish insects, just under a 1/4” long and are relatively flat. They are nearly as wide as they are long, and oval in shape. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are much smaller and lighter in color. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and are no bigger than a pinhead (1 mm). After feeding on a blood meal the immature bed bugs may appear bright red in color. Bed bugs lack wings and therefore they do not fly, but they are capable of moving swiftly on both horizontal and vertical surfaces.
Bed bugs belong to the family of insects known as Cimicidae. All members of this family of insects feed exclusively on blood which they require in order to develop and reproduce. There are a number of closely related species in this family that feed on birds, bats and other animals. However, the species most adapted to living with humans is the common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, which is found world wide. The immature bugs go through five developmental stages before reaching maturity. A blood meal is required between each stage.
Although over 28 disease pathogens have been found in bed bugs, transmission of these pathogens to humans has never been documented and is considered highly unlikely. For this reason, they are not considered a serious disease threat. Their medical significance is mainly limited to the itching and inflammation associated with their bite. Not everyone reacts to bed bug bites in the same fashion. Some people have reactions that are delayed for several days or more while others do not react at all.
The thought that bed bugs are the result of poor sanitation and/or poverty is a big misconception. Bed bugs do not discriminate based on one’s social status or the cleanliness of their home. The fact is that cleanliness has nothing to do with getting bed bugs. Bed bug infestations can occur in the most expensive hotels, multi-million dollar estates as well as homeless shelters and everything in between, regardless of the existing sanitary conditions.
It is important to remember that in order for a new infestation to become established, bed bugs must first be introduced into the previously un-infested environment. The best way to prevent a bed bug infestation is to avoid the activities that place you at risk for an infestation. Some activities are easier than others to avoid. For example it is much easier to avoid purchasing used items than it is to eliminate travel, having overnight guests, or sending children off to summer camp or college.
The detection of bed bugs can be very difficult and bed bugs can easily go undetected during an inspection particularly during the early stages of an infestation when only a few bugs or eggs are present. Even the most qualified inspector will be challenged when the entire infestation consists of only one or two bed bugs or eggs that are present on a piece of luggage that hitch hiked a ride back to your house after a recent stay at a hotel.
There are many steps that can be taken when traveling to reduce the likelihood of staying in a bed bug infested environment and infesting your home when you return from your travels. Preventive measures begin with the type of luggage you have, how you pack, what you do when you arrive at your destination, as well as the steps you take when you return home. The extent to which you try to prevent an unanticipated encounter with bed bugs is directly related to the level of concern you have and how much you are willing to be inconvenienced.
Can bed bugs ever be eliminated once they infest an environment? The simple answer is yes, it is possible to eliminate a bed bug infestation in most situations particularly if the bed bugs are detected shortly after they have been introduced into the environment and client cooperation is not an issue. The longer bed bugs exist without being detected, the greater their opportunity to disperse within the environment, making it harder to find and eliminate 100% of the population.