How Did Bed Bugs Come To America

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

They’re Back: A Bed Bug History

These cities are all plagued by a massive resurgence of Cimex lectularius, the speck-sized insect that loves to infiltrate the mattresses–and haunt the dreams–of its human hosts. In the last decade, bed bug calls to exterminators have nearly tripled, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. Experts have also noticed that the pests, which are usually associated with residential areas, are venturing into new terrain, cropping up in stores, movie theaters, offices and other public spaces.

This is not the first time America has seen an unwelcome surge in one of its peskiest populations. “Probably, most ships of the 17th century and before harbored bed bugs, and the colonists and their belongings brought them to America,” said Robert Snetsinger, a professor emeritus of entomology at Penn State University. But because the bed bug family comprises many species, he added, we don’t know whether it was Cimex lectularius or one of its many cousins that hitched a ride across the Atlantic. According to Lou Sorkin, an insect expert at the American Museum of Natural History, there is no record of a Native American word for bed bugs, yet another indication of their colonial origins.

On the other hand, ample evidence from other parts of the world suggests that humans have been battling the critters for millennia. In the 1990s, archaeologists found fossilized bed bugs while excavating a 3,550-year-old site in Egypt. They appear in several plays by the ancient Greek writer Aristophanes, who died in 386 B.C., and in the Jewish Talmud, among countless other literary sources. Though generally considered as much of a nuisance in ancient times as today, they were sometimes prized for their supposed medicinal properties: The Roman philosopher Pliny wrote in 77 A.D. that bed bugs could heal snakebites, ear infections and other ailments.

Ever the opportunists, bed bugs thrived in the New World, particularly after the advent of the railroad. In the days before cars and airplanes, many salesmen and other business travelers would stay in rundown hotels near train stations that essentially became “distribution centers for the spread of bed bugs to homes,” said Snetsinger.

As the bed bug population proliferated, so did methods for eradicating the bloodsucking creatures. Early techniques included smoking them out with peat fires, sterilizing furniture with boiling water and scattering plant ash. In the1920s, cyanide fumigation for bed bug management resulted in numerous human deaths, according to Snetsinger, author of “The Ratcatcher’s Child: The History of the Pest Control Industry.” And then, in the 1940s, along came DDT, a pesticide used to kill typhus and malaria carriers during World War II, which proved so effective against bed bugs that their numbers dwindled for almost 30 years.

That golden era for America’s mattresses came to a halt, however, when the Environmental Protection Agency outlawed the chemical for its health and environmental effects. Other insecticides that had helped quell the bed bug epidemic, including chlordane and diazinon, were banned for similar reasons in the 1980s.

Since then, the bed bug population has made a worldwide comeback, nourished in part by a marked increase in international travel. But New Yorkers, Philadelphians and all those who obsessively inspect the seams of their pillowcases can take solace in one important fact: Unlike many of the pests that have run rampant throughout history—from the rats that unleashed the Black Plague on 14th-century Europe to the mosquitoes that continue to infect millions with malaria each year—bed bugs are more annoying than hazardous.

“There have been no studies that positively demonstrate that our common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, transmits disease to people,” said Sorkin. “There have been various disease organisms isolated from bed bugs, but these organisms are not viable and have not been transferred between hosts by the bed bug.”

Bedbugs: Why They’re Back

Experts Explain Why Bedbugs Are Everywhere Again — and What to Do

Dec. 6, 2011 — For a while, it seemed the bedbug had gone the way of the Edsel automobile and cold water flats. Not anymore — as we’ve learned. They’re back with a vengeance, and experts now seem to know why.

Bedbugs may not get as much play in the media as they did in the summer of 2010, but they are here to stay, experts warned at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) in Philadelphia. New research presented here helps explain why they are back and a lot of it has to do with an ability to outsmart existing treatments.

We saw hide nor hair from these vermin in the U.S. for close to 60 years, but now the number of bedbug infestations in homes, hotel rooms, and the like has jumped 10- to 100-fold since 1990.

What Is a Bed Bug?

Bedbugs are wingless, rust-colored insects. They are about the size of an apple seed. They don’t spread disease, but they do bite and munch on your blood. Their bites can trigger allergic reactions, including welts and itching in some people. Other people may not have any symptoms after a bite.

Part of the reason they are here en masse is their tremendous capacity for inbreeding. Researchers studied bed bugs from buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey and found an uncanny family resemblance among them. This was confirmed in another study of 21 bedbug infestations from Maine to Florida.

Others species don’t survive after inbreeding, but bed bugs don’t just survive, they thrive, says Coby Schal, PhD. He is an entomologist at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. “A single mated female can create a whole new population or infestation,” he says.

"We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg," Schal says. "They are here to stay for awhile.”

But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid movie theaters, hotel rooms, or other places where bedbugs lurk.

“Bedbugs don’t hitchhike on people,” he says. “They are more likely to take a blood meal for five to 10 minutes and leave.”

This means they piggyback on your stuff instead. “You can pick up bed bugs on furniture and clothing,” he says.

Continued

Beat BedBugs at Their Own Game

“Movie theaters are dark, so bedbugs are difficult to spot,” Schal says. Don’t skip the blockbuster. Instead, strip down when you arrive home and place all of your clothes in the dryer at high heat for 30 minutes.

“When kids come back from college for Christmas break, take preventive measures if their dorm has been infested,” he says. Put all their belongings in the dryer on high heat or leave them outside in the cold air to chill, as the cold will kill them off too,” he says.

When Schal checks into a hotel room, the first thing he does is take out his flashlight and check the bed, mattress seams, headboard, coffee table, and dresser. “I look in cracks and crevices to see if there is any sign of bedbugs,” he says.

Here’s another tip: “Remove the headboard if it is not too heavy and look behind it,” he says. “Bedbugs don’t like to be disturbed by housekeeping when they make the bed or change the sheets.” That is why they may congregate behind or under headboards, where they are less likely to be disturbed.

Viviana Temino, MD, says that bedbug bites can look a lot like hives and that she is seeing a lot more of them these days. She is an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

“We have to start to think of bedbugs as possible diagnosis of hives, especially if hives happen at night and in the day you are OK,” she says. Temino was not at the meeting, but reviewed the findings for WebMD.

So, what do you do if you find any bedbugs or bedbug bites?

That is the tricky part, as we are running out of solutions, says Ken Haynes, PhD. He is an entomologist at the University of Kentucky in Louisville. Insecticide resistance is present in 88% of bedbug populations in different parts of the country, he says.

Resistance means that many of the treatments don’t work anymore. Haynes and colleagues are now trying to understand what went wrong and seeing if they can fix it.

Unless and until they get some answers, “we need to have a better scheme for managing insecticide resistance,” he says. Using heat treatment instead of chemicals may play a role.

Sources

Ken Haynes, PhD, entomologist, University of Kentucky, Louisville.

Coby Schal, PhD, entomologist, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

Peter J. Hotez, MD, dean, national school of tropical medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

Viviana Temino, MD, assistant professor of allergy and immunology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 60th annual meeting. Philadelphia, Dec. 4-8, 2011.

What Causes Bed Bugs, And How Do They Spread?

What causes bed bugs? How might they spread? Learn more about how you might be able to stop a bed bug infestation before it starts.

In recent years,bed bugs(Cimex lectularius) have gone from relative obscurity to center stage in America.

WHERE DO BED BUGS COME FROM?

As the name indicates, bed bugs are often found in close proximity to beds. They are attracted to and feed on warm-blooded animals to survive. This can be humans or animals, but little is known about what causes bed bugs to have a preference for humans.

BED BUGS IN THE BEDROOM

To feed on humans, bed bugs want close proximity to the host. Box springs, headboards and bed framing are favorite harborage sites for these pests. They may also settle into furniture and fixtures that are close to a bed.

Bedrooms are not the only place where bed bugs can be a concern though.

BED BUGS OUTSIDE THE BEDROOM

Bed bugs are looking for human hosts who are inactive long enough to provide a meal. The feeding doesn’t have to be at night. They will feed opportunistically, even in the daytime.

Where else might bed bugs find and feed on you?

Sitting for two hours in a movie theater while being distracted by adventure and popcorn? You could become an extra large drink for a bed bug.

Maybe the movie is enjoyed (or possibly slept through) in that favorite recliner in the living room. You could be a target.

Have a long cab ride into the office?

You get the idea. Any place that humans sit, rest or sleep can be a place that bed bugs are introduced or feed.

HOW DO BED BUGS SPREAD?

Bed bugs are consummate hitchhikers. In fact, they are primarily transported by humans and human belongings like suitcases.

If bed bugs or evidence of bed bugs are discovered, leave the area and call a qualified pest management professional to assist.

Bed bugs will move to other areas when they are disturbed. This may cause other areas to be infested that may be much more difficult to inspect or treat.

If you spot signs of bed bugs,click hereto schedule your inspection.

Do Earwigs Bite?

If you shudder a little when you think about earwigs, you’re probably not alone. They’ve developed quite a nasty reputation, thanks to urban legends (mostly false) that have been circulating for years. But are they harmful?

The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives

Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.

The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.

What are Earwigs?

Most people have probably heard of earwigs at some point or another. These creepy-looking insects are associated with some urban myths. Learn the truth about earwigs, including what attracts them and how to help get rid of them.

ARE TICKS DANGEROUS?

The majority of ticks will deliver painless bites without any noticeable symptoms. However, some ticks can carry a variety of bacteria and pathogens for disease. Although not all ticks are dangerous, you don’t want to risk coming into contact with these blood-sucking insects.

ARE TICKS DANGEROUS?

The majority of ticks will deliver painless bites without any noticeable symptoms. However, some ticks can carry a variety of bacteria and pathogens for disease. Although not all ticks are dangerous, you don’t want to risk coming into contact with these blood-sucking insects.

Are Bed Bugs Contagious?

Bed bugs are not too picky about where and when they catch a ride and don’t necessarily have a preferred mode of transportation, so it’s no surprise how many people wonder, are bed bugs contagious?

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Tips to Get Rid of Stink Bugs in Your House

Now that it’s fall, it’s officially indoor stink bug season. Before it becomes winter, brown marmorated stink bugs are looking for comfortable overwintering sites to spend the cold months—and that can often mean that they may find a way to sneak into your house. While the odor that a stink bug releases is not dangerous, they are definitely a nuisance. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get rid of stink bugs in your house—without having to deal with the unpleasant smell.

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The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives

Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.

The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

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Where Do Bed Bugs Come From

By DoMyOwn staff

Where do bed bugs come from?

Bed bug History

Bed bugs derive from one of the three lineages of the Heteroptera suborder that have all adapted specifically as blood feeders. This adaption to require a blood meal is called hematophagy, haematophagy, or hematophagia.

The cimicids began as a family primarily feeding on bats or birds as hosts. Research speculates that the transition from birds to bats then to bats and humans took place in the era of humans dwelling in caves. The human time frame of inhabiting caves dates back to the Paleolithic period. It is said to have taken place anywhere from 2 million to 10,000 years ago during the Stone Age. The extension of theCimex lectularisto bats and primarily humans is said to have occurred somewhere is the range of the Indonesian areas.

Bed bugs are introduced in literature as far back as the historical Roman and Greek ages when writing techniques where perfected. This dates back to around 405 to 400 BC, over 2,500 years ago.

The history of bed bug and human relationship is reflected in both language and legend. The Indo-European, African, and Oriental languages all have names for bed bugs. These unpopular companions are mentioned throughout Greek literature. Bed bugs are even mentioned in the Talmud and New Testament.

This insect is also feature in works by many famous scientist and physicians like Aristotle, Pliny, and Guettard. The bed bug was said to aid in curing many ailments like bites and infections. Though they could have been written about long ago in the times of the Phoenicians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, no record of them has survived.

Between the 11th and 19th centuries it was said that bed bugs where introduced into the European civilizations in wood shipments to rebuild London after the Great Fire’s destruction. Bed bugs where repelled and killed it many unique ways. The people would use anything from oils, plants, fungi, peppers, insect juices, tobacco, and other herbs. The later centuries used smoked plant fires to produce a fumigant. They also used diatomaceous earth and other soil types as well to repel the bugs. All of the early techniques took a long time to affect the bed bugs. The use of plants with micro hooks, like bean leaves, proved to be a helpful form of trapping the bed bugs then the leaves where burned! During these centuries it was said that bed bugs thrived in the warmer seasons. It is suspected that the invention of heat and temperature systems aided in the survival of the species year round.

The use of DDT came into effect and all insects where halted by this pesticide. The bed bugs were then forgotten throughout the years. Bed bugs have appeared to have come out of thin air. The resurgence of bed bugs into the center stage has been quite a shock after spending over 50 years in the dark. Just over a decade ago, the bed bug was below the top insect pest charts. In recent years bed bugs have risen to generate about 90% of pest management issues. Humans have deemed the bed bug as one of the most successful and hardy ectoparasite in the world.

After the use of DDT in the 1940s to 1970s the species was thought to lose its place in the pest control world. Over the years, bed bugs have grown resistant to common pyrethroid insecticides. Due to the other pests lack of vigilance it has allowed the beg bug to reach epidemic proportions.

The bed bug travels worldwide with free tickets to any country it can hitch a ride to. Today, travel is at an all-time high, which allows bedbugs to shipped anywhere.

It is said that the bed begs come from the old world. The old world is made up of the European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indonesian areas. This is where the bed bug gained free travel through various trade routes and expeditions. The bed bug is flightless, so this mode of transportation was perfect for being introduced to new habitats. The adult bed bug is hardy and could survive long periods of time without blood meals. This allowed it to move from location to location perfectly undetected. When the adult females did feed, they release maximum amounts of egg volumes to increase the numbers of the populations.

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