How Do Bed Bugs Detect Humans

US EPA

Bed Bugs

How to Find Bed Bugs

If you have a bed bug infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.

However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else’s house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.

Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs

A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots (about this size: •), which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.

If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.

Bedbugs

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Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.

Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.

Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

When Bedbugs Bite

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.

Continued

Signs of Infestation

If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

  • Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
  • Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
  • An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands

If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.

Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.

If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.

Bedbug Treatments

Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:

  • Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
  • Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
  • Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
  • Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
  • Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
  • Get rid of clutter around the bed.

If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.

Continued

Bedbug Extermination

While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.

Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.

Sources

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."

The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."

Bed bugs: How to identify if your bites are from bed bugs

BED BUGS feed off human blood by biting the skin of their victims while they’re sleeping. But how do you know if your bites are from bed bugs or from other insects? Here’s how to tell.

Bed bugs are small insects that live in and around beds and furniture. They crawl out at night and bite exposed skin to feed of blood. Bed bugs are not dangerous and don’t carry diseases, but their bites can be itchy and irritating to live with. If you are getting bitten at night and don’t know why, how can you tell if your bites are from bed bugs or from other insects? Bed bug bites look similar to bites from other insects, in that they appear as itchy, red bumps on the skin.

Related articles

Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling

While this may make it seem difficult to distinguish between the potential culprits, there are a number of ways to detect where your bites are coming from.

Firstly, you may be able to tell if your bites are from bed bugs by looking at the pattern in which the bites appear on your skin.

Bites usually occur on exposed areas like the face, neck, hands or arms, and are less likely to occur under clothing.

As bed bugs are crawling insects, they typically bite in lines or clusters along the skin while they are crawling.

Flying insects like mosquitoes are more likely to bite in random places on the body while they are flying.

Bed bugs are crawling insects that bite exposed skin during the night (Image: Getty Images)

Secondly, you may be able to detect the source of the bites by checking for evidence of bed bugs in your bedroom.

Bed bugs are small, but are still visible to the human eye. Adults can grow up to 5mm long.

They usually hide away in cracks in the bed and surrounding furniture so you could try to find them by searching the mattress and bed frame, and shining a torch into the crevices of the furniture.

You may also be able to spot evidence of bed bugs by checking for markings on the bed sheets and mattress.

In homes with bed bugs infestations, the bed sheets and mattresses will often be covered in brown or black or red spots.

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Bed bugs live in beds and surrounding furniture (Image: Getty Images)

Bed bugs bite in clusters or lines along the skin (Image: Getty Images)

Bed bugs: How to spot them and how to get rid of them

Bed bugs: What are bed bugs? How to spot an infestation and how to get rid of them.

Bed bugs: How to spot them and how to get rid of them

The brown or black spots are dried poo from the bed bugs, while the red spots are blood stains which occur if you squash a bug while sleeping after it has fed.

Bed bugs shed their skin as they grow, so you might also notice mottled bed bug shells on and around the bed.

In addition, you may be able to detect the presence of bed bugs by the tiny white eggs they lay.

“Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper,” said the NHS.

“Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.”

If you think you have a bed bug infestation in your home, you may need to call in pest control to get rid of them.

Bed Bug Confidential: An Expert Explains How to Defend against the Dreaded Pests

Everything you ever wanted to know about bed bugs but were afraid to ask

  • By Kate Wong on January 23, 2012

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Chances are, you or someone you know has had a run-in with bed bugs. It might have happened in a scrupulously clean bedroom. Or maybe it was a hotel room, office or college dorm. In the February issue ofScientific Americanentomologist Kenneth Haynes of the University of Kentucky explains how, after a lengthy absence, bed bugs are staging a comeback. The good news is scientists are intensively studying these insects, and their insights suggest novel ways of detecting the bugs and eradicating infestations. Some of those potential solutions are a long way off, however. In the meantime the best bet is to avoid bringing bed bugs home in the first place. I called Haynes to ask him how to do that and what to do if one suspects an infestation (eek!), among a bunch of other practical-minded questions.

Do bed bugs only feed on humans?
No. Bed bugs are also pests in poultry operations, and they’re known to parasitize bats. Some labs that study bed bugs rear them on guinea pigs and mice. The bugs might feed on cats and dogs. Fur is probably a barrier to them, but they could feed at any place on the body without fur. Bed bugs are not specific to humans, but they are adapted to parasitizing us.

Could you have a bed bug infestation in your home and not know it?

That’s very possible. I have heard of couples reporting that only one partner is getting bitten. The truth is that both are getting bitten, but only one has a reaction to the bites. Thirty percent of people or more don’t react to bed bug bites at all, and the elderly are less reactive than the rest of the population. Among those people who do react to the bites, most of them don’t respond to early bites, but develop a sensitivity to subsequent ones. Those individuals who are not sensitive to bed bug bites may not know they have an infestation. Because bed bugs are nocturnally active, it’s hard to see other signs of their presence—unless you’re accustomed to waking up at 3 A.M. and taking a census. With a huge infestation, bed bugs start to move away from the bed, so you’re more likely to see one in an exposed place during the day. In very severe infestations people can become anemic. That takes a lot of bugs though—maybe 100,000 feeding once a week or more.

Another clue to infestation is odor. Like many species of bugs, bed bugs release odors called alarm pheromones. When a group of bed bugs gets disturbed, you may get a whiff of that odor, which is similar to the odor stink bugs give off. At higher concentrations the odor is unpleasant. Some people say at low concentrations it’s a pleasant smell—like coriander. In fact, older literature refers to the bed bug as the coriander bug. I’ve tried to smell the coriander scent in bed bug alarm pheromones and have not been able to make the connection, however.

What can one do to avoid getting bed bugs?
The first thing is you have to be able to recognize and distinguish a bed bug from any other insect. Everything starts to look like a bed bug if you start to worry about them. An adult bed bug is about the size and shape of an apple seed. If it has not fed recently it will be flattened and brown. If it has fed it will be round in circumference and reddish. Immature bed bugs have a similar appearance to adults, with the smallest being the size of the head of a pin. You can then learn to look for their fecal spots, which can be easier to detect than the bugs themselves. Check your hotel rooms when you travel. And think twice before bringing home used furniture. If you are purchasing used furniture, ask the furniture store how they deal with bed bugs. If they have no plan whatsoever, that’s probably not a good sign. If you purchase used clothing, put it through a clothes dryer on a medium to high setting for a cycle as soon as you bring it home. And before you move into an apartment, ask the landlord whether there has been a bed bug infestation, or whether the building has ever been treated for bed bugs.

What should one do upon suspecting a bed bug infestation

The first question I would ask that person is, what makes you think you have bed bugs? A skin reaction alone does not necessarily indicate the presence of bed bugs. Other bugs, allergies and irritants in the environment can produce similar skin reactions. And it’s hard to confidently identify a bed bug bite because reactions vary from person to person. My next question would be, have you seen an insect in an area where you sleep and, if so, was it the correct size and shape to be a bed bug? Carpet beetles in an immature stage are commonly mistaken for bed bugs. The carpet beetle actually doesn’t look anything like a bed bug, but it is the right size. And it’s another common insect to have indoors around the bed. If you find an insect that you think is a bed bug, save it in a pill bottle or another container so its key characteristics won’t get crushed and a professional can identify it.

I wouldn’t try to get rid of an infestation on my own. I would call a pest control operator. A good pest control operator will spend a fair amount of time inspecting the place for evidence of bed bugs, and will educate the person on what makes it clear that it’s a bed bug infestation.

Once you have a suspicion or a confirmed infestation, do not spread things outside of the bedroom. Don’t take linens off the bed and go to sleep somewhere else—that will just move the infestation to other rooms. Ultimately pest control operators will tell you to put everything you can through the washer and dryer, since bed bugs cannot withstand high temperatures. I don’t think bed bugs would be able to survive solvent-based dry cleaning, but I don’t have any first-hand knowledge that that’s true. Unfortunately, dry cleaners and Laundromats can be places where people pick up bed bugs. I think it’s a low probability, but it only takes one adult female bed bug that has been mated to get an infestation going.

The safest and most effective approach to getting rid of bed bugs is heat treatment, in which a trained professional heats the home’s rooms one by one to a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius and sustains the heat for four hours. Heat does not penetrate well into wall voids, though, so desiccant dusts are often applied to those areas. No single technique can eliminate bed bugs—combinations of approaches are essential to getting the job done.

What are the mistakes people make in trying to get rid of bed bugs on their own, without professional help?
DIY approaches come with risk. It’s not uncommon for someone to use a pest-control bomb or fogger that is available over the counter. These don’t work well against bed bugs, according to research from Ohio State University. They can also expose people to toxic chemicals. Neither are over-the-counter aerosol insecticides effective against bed bugs. Most of these products have either pyrethrin or a pyrethroid as a main ingredient and those compounds have the same mode of action as DDT, which bed bugs have become resistant to. If you spray the bug directly you might kill it, but that is not going to get rid of the infestation. The problem is finding all the bed bugs. Some just can’t be reached with insecticide. It’s difficult for nonprofessionals to do anything more than kill what they can see, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s there.

Some of the dusts that are available to consumers, such as diatomaceous earth, can help in this regard. Pest controllers will put dusts in wall voids and other places where pesticide won’t reach. What happens is the bugs will wander through the dust and pick up particles and be more vulnerable to desiccation after that exposure. But dusts will not solve the problem if deployed incorrectly, and if they are applied at too high a level they can cause breathing difficulties in some people.

The Internet abounds with so-called miracle cures for bed bugs. But bed bugs are hard to get rid of, so anything that advertises an immediate solution is not accurate—it’s snake oil. These "cures" have included (as reported by pest control operators who come in afterward to tackle bed bugs correctly) using bleach, ammonia and even DIY heat treatment, which carries fire risk.

Another solution you hear about is vacuuming. You can vacuum up a lot of insects, but eggs are harder to get, and vacuuming won’t in and of itself kill bed bugs. Indeed, vacuuming can end up spreading bed bugs to other rooms—when emptying the canister, for example. Pest control operators who use vacuums take measures to prevent bed bugs from escaping when the vacuum is emptied.

Encasing mattresses is one of many good parts of a solution, but it doesn’t get rid of the infestation. There are going to be other bugs away from the mattress, hiding nearby. What mattress covers are good at is entombing the sometimes large number of bed bugs that can live on a mattress. And because the covers tend to be uniform in color and don’t have a lot of seams that the bugs can hide in, it’s easier to see the insects.

Given that you work with bed bugs, how do you avoid bringing them home?
I have four risk factors. I work with bed bugs in a lab situation, so we have to take extreme precautions to prevent escapes there. I visit infested apartments sometimes. I travel a fair amount, so I may be exposed to bed bugs in hotels. And I’ve had college-age kids, who can bring bed bugs home from dorms.

In the lab we handle all the bed bugs in a specific room that we steam clean once a week, and we have double-stick tape barriers that they can’t walk through (as long as the adhesive remains dust-free). And the bed bugs themselves are enclosed in containers that they can’t get out of. We actually feed them inside those containers—we lay a blood reservoir against the cloth "lid" and the bed bugs have to push their mouthparts through the cloth into the reservoir to eat.

If I go to an infested apartment, then when I leave I check my shoes very carefully for bugs that may have crawled onto them. I also keep a change of clothes in my garage and put them on before entering my house. Once inside, I immediately put the clothes I wore to the infested apartment in the dryer, which is located in a room just off the garage.

When staying in a hotel, I check the bed before I bring the suitcase into the sleeping part of the room so that if I have to ask the manager for another room, then I haven’t exposed my suitcase to the bugs. When settling in, I put my suitcase up on the suitcase stand or the desktop so that any bugs are less likely to crawl into it. An extreme measure would be putting the suitcase in the tub. If it’s a porcelain tub, bed bugs would have a hard time crawling up it. It’s also unlikely that they would randomly crawl up a tub, because it’s not near the bed. But if I don’t see bed bugs in the room when I inspect it, I just put my suitcase on the stand because I know the probability is really low that a bug is going to crawl up the stand and into my suitcase. I keep my clothes in the suitcase or hang them in the closet—I don’t leave them on the floor because wandering bed bugs might crawl into them.

I actually haven’t found bed bugs in my hotel rooms, but I’ve seen them in other peoples’ rooms. Enough of my students and postdocs have found them that I’m surprised I haven’t seen them yet in a room where I’m staying.

How should one check a hotel room for bed bugs?
Bring a little flashlight—hotel room lighting is always pretty poor and the dimmer the lighting, the harder it is to see small bed bugs or their fecal spots. I would pull back the bed covers and look all around the head of the bed. Pull back the sheets, too, and look at mattress seams and edges that are exposed. bed bugs love to hide under mattress tags. Look all around the box springs, too. If there’s a dust ruffle, pull it up and look under it as much as possible. Look for moving bugs and stationary, hiding bugs.

The space behind the headboard is prime bed bug territory. Most headboards are hanging on the wall. If my wife is with me, we’ll remove it and look behind it. This exposes a lot of possible bed bug territory. Even if you don’t remove headboard, look around it. Or if you move the bed out from wall, look at the wall under the headboard.

Bed bugs could also be at the foot of the bed, but they’re more likely to reside at the head of the bed. The foot of the bed, if the sheets are tucked in, doesn’t allow bed bugs easy access to a sleeping host. The bugs would have to come up to the head of the bed to get you, and they typically minimize the distance to the host.

All of the stages of bed bugs are visible, at least if you don’t need reading glasses and you have a sufficient amount of light. So if you’re looking closely enough, you can even see bugs in the nymphal first instar stage. A fecal spot, for its part, can be as large as a bed bug itself in terms of the area it covers. The spots are basically digested blood, so most are dark in color. On a white mattress, they stand out pretty well.

Are there tactics that professional exterminators use that don’t work?
No one tactic alone will be effective. A good pest control operator will develop a strategy to deal with the bed bugs that takes the particulars of the setting into account, and will return several times to check on progress. Dry ice sprays that freeze bed bugs have limited potential to reach hidden bugs. Steam has somewhat better penetrating ability. The downside of steam is that it leaves moisture behind. Dry ice doesn’t leave any residue at all. Vacuuming has a role, but it has limitations, too. Some insecticides leave behind deposits that are slow to act but are effective in the long-term. Other insecticides kill on contact, but only reach insects that are in view. Insecticide resistance makes the choice of tactics more difficult.

An important thing to remember is that good professional pest controllers do get rid of bed bugs. The fine line that bed bug experts have to walk in talking to the public is the line where the anxiety and depression and so forth that can result from thinking about bed bugs too much can cause more problems than the bugs themselves would.

Insects and Ticks > Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are well known as annoying biting pests, and they are increasing in importance, including in hotels and other lodging establishments in the U.S. You are encouraged to learn more about the biology of bed bugs and their association with homes, apartments, hotels, and lodging establishments so that you can make more informed decisions about health risks, how to protect yourself when traveling, and whether bed bug control is warranted in a residence or lodging establishment.

Are Bed Bugs a Public Health Risk?

Bed bugs require blood in order to reproduce and complete their life cycle. The effect of bed bug bites varies among people, but they eventually produce red welts that itch. The bites themselves are not painful and typically are not felt. However, frequent feeding can disrupt people’s sleep and make them irritable, and seeing bites may cause emotional distress in some people. Heavy rates of feeding can result in significant blood loss and eventually lead to anemia, especially in malnourished children.

At least 27 agents of human disease have been found in bed bugs, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic worms. None of these agents reproduce or multiply within bed bugs, and very few survive for any length of time inside a bed bug. There is no evidence that bed bugs are involved in the transmission (via bite or infected feces) of any disease agent, including hepatitis B virus and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Bed bugs belong to the family Cimicidae of the insect order Hemiptera, the group of insects known as "true bugs." In addition to the three species that are associated with humans, there are at least 88 species of Cimicidae in the world that live with and feed on bats or birds. Approximately 10-12 species of these bugs occur in the continental U.S., including four species in Indiana. Two species are known as "bat bugs," one is known as a "swallow bug," and one is known as a "purple martin bug." Bat bugs and swallow bugs typically feed on their bat or bird hosts, but will feed on humans if their normal sources of blood are not available. The effects of their bites are similar to those associated with the bites of bed bugs. There is no evidence that bat bugs and swallow bugs transmit disease agents to humans.

There are two additional groups of Hemiptera that bite humans, the so-called "kissing bugs" and "assassin bugs," both of which belong to the family Reduviidae. Kissing bugs feed on the blood of mammals and birds, and transmit a protozoan parasite that causes a disease of humans known as "Chagas Disease." Chagas Disease is widespread in Central and South America, and an occasional case occurs in Texas. Assassin bugs, instead of being blood feeders, are predators on other insects, including crop pests. They are beneficial insects, but they will bite humans if mishandled, and the bites are very painful.

How Many Types of Bed Bugs Are There?

There is only one species of bed bug in Indiana,Cimex lectularius. This species is a pest of humans worldwide, including the entire U.S., and has over 50 common names, among them "mahogany flat," "redcoat," "wall louse," and "bed louse." A second species of bed bug,Cimex hemipterus, is limited to tropical regions of the world. A third species of bed bug,Leptocimex boueti, lives with and feeds on both humans and bats in West Africa.

How Can I Recognize a Bed Bug?

Adult bed bugs are about ¼ inch long, oval, reddish-brown, and wingless. Their body is very flat, and they possess long, slender legs and antennae. They have a long, segmented proboscis (beak) that extends forward when the bug takes a blood meal. At rest, the proboscis lies beneath the body and projects backwards between the legs. Immature bed bugs are known either as "larvae" or "nymphs." They closely resemble adults, but are smaller and less deeply pigmented.

What Is the Life Cycle of Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs develop from egg to adult via a process called "gradual metamorphosis." This means the last larval stage develops directly into an adult without passing through a non-feeding pupal stage. There are five larval stages, and each one requires a blood meal before molting into the next life cycle stage. Both adult male and female bed bugs feed on blood and take repeated blood meals during their lives. Females require blood for the development of eggs.

The five larval stages are completed in about a month under suitable conditions of temperature, humidity, and availability of hosts for blood meals. Larvae can survive inside dwellings for several months without a blood meal, but they do not molt into the next life cycle stage until they engorge on blood. Adults can survive even longer under the same conditions, but, again, do not develop eggs unless they feed on blood.

Where Are Bed Bugs Found Inside Dwellings?

Bed bugs typically are active at night and hide during the daytime. Being very flat, they are able to find a wide variety of places in which to hide. Typical hiding places include beneath loose flooring, behind loose wallpaper, inside box springs, in mattresses, and in upholstered furniture. One common hiding place in hotel rooms is behind bed headboards that are fastened to the wall and another is behind moldings just above the floor. Bed bugs also hide behind electric switch plates and inside appliances. However, sites that have surfaces consisting of plaster, stone, and metal typically do not harbor bed bugs.

How Do Humans Influence Bed Bug Development and Dispersal?

Human dwellings provide bed bugs with a place to live and access to a source of blood meals. Bed bugs commonly infest larger buildings such as apartments, dorms, prisons, and theaters, but they also can occur in individual hotel rooms and in private homes. There is a common misconception that bed bug infestations occur only in poorly constructed and poorly maintained buildings with unsanitary conditions. However, this is not the case, as explained below. Modern construction has aided the spread of infestations by enabling bed bugs to move from room to room via central heating ducts.

Humans can aid the dispersal of bed bugs from one structure to another via the movement of infested bedding, furniture, and packing materials. Even more widespread dispersal is associated with the movement of travelers via infested clothing, luggage, and lap top computers. International travelers from countries that have heavy bed bug infestations can be a source of bed bug infestations in hotel rooms, and there has been an increasing incidence of bed bugs in lodging establishments around the world, including in the U.S. Bed bugs do not require unsanitary conditions, and bed bugs do not discriminate between economy or luxury hotel rooms. Bed bugs only need a source of blood provided by humans, and they can exist in the cleanest hotels, motels, apartments, and homes.

How Far Do Bed Bugs Travel to Feed and Lay Eggs?

Bed bugs typically do not travel far to feed and lay eggs once they become established in a building. Females lay eggs more or less continuously as long as they have access to blood meals. A well-fed female is capable of laying about 500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are laid singly in the same sites that harbor larvae and adults. These sites often are marked by masses of bed bug feces, which appear as yellowish to reddish-black specks and contain the remnants of digested blood. Large concentrations of bed bugs may be accompanied by a characteristic sweetish odor caused in part by secretions from scent glands.

What Should I Know About the Feeding Habits of Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs feed on warm-blooded animals. They have a normal host with which they live and on which they feed, but they will feed on other species. For example, bed bug larvae and adults feed readily on humans, bats, and chickens, and they do so when the host is at rest. Thus bed bugs living with humans typically feed at night while a person sleeps, but they also will feed during the day in dark structures such as infested theaters with upholstered seats. Male and female adults usually feed every 3-4 days and become engorged with blood in about 10-15 minutes.

Bed bugs detect carbon dioxide emitted from warm-blooded animals and respond to warmth and moisture as they approach the potential host. On humans, they tend to feed on exposed surfaces such as the face, neck, arms, and hands. Again, the bites are painless, and the host typically is not disturbed while bed bugs feed.

How Can I Avoid Being Bitten by Bed Bugs?

Preventing bed bug infestations is the best approach. This involves thoroughly searching for bed bugs or signs of infestation in any suitable hiding place, such as bedding, upholstered furniture, or packing materials that might be introduced into your home or apartment. You should search for feces, eggs, and shed "skins" of larval bed bugs, as well as for active bed bugs.

When staying in a hotel room, it is good practice to inspect the room for bed bug infestation. Upon arrival in a guest room, check the mattress, box springs, and behind the headboard before using the bed. It is very important to report suspected bed bug infestations to the hotel management immediately so that steps to control the infestation and prevent subsequent spread can be implemented as quickly as possible.

Hotel guests should place luggage and clothing on dressers or on luggage racks. Avoid placing bags and personal items on beds or upholstered furnishings because these types of fixtures may harbor bed bugs. Guests also should be vigilant and keep suitcases, brief cases, and computers and their cases closed when not in use. It is a good idea to search these items prior to vacating the room and again prior to bringing the items inside your home.

What Should I Do About a Bed Bug Infestation in My Residence?

Control of an infestation of bed bugs is very difficult and is best left to professional pest control companies that have both the approved insecticides and the application equipment to effectively treat the various places where bed bugs hide. The representative of the pest control company should examine the residence and describe any pre-treatment responsibilities of the homeowner. For example, eliminating or at least reducing clutter in rooms to be treated is a necessity, and infested bedding may have to be discarded before the infestation is treated.

What Should Hotel Managers Do About Bed Bugs?

Training housekeeping and maintenance staff to check for bed bugs is strongly recommended in order to identify an infestation. A professional pest control company should be contacted immediately if an infestation is found.

Hotel staff should examine guest rooms closely, including sheets and bedding. In infested rooms, sheets and pillowcases used by guests who are bitten by bed bugs may have small bloodstains, which appear as small reddish brown spots. Mattress seams should be examined for brown spots that could be bed bug feces, for shed skins, and for active bed bugs. Cracks and crevices should be examined using a flashlight. Sites to be searched include behind bed headboards, furniture seams, draperies, floor moldings, areas where wallpaper is loose, and behind picture frames and baseboards, especially those located near the beds. If a centralized forced-air heating system exists, the heating ducts in guest rooms should be checked for signs of bed bugs.

Where Can I Find More Information on Bed Bugs?

The following Web site contains accurate and detailed information about bed bug biology and bed bug control.

A recent symposium devoted to bed bugs took place at a meeting of the Entomological Society of America. The symposium was published in the journalAmerican Entomologist, Volume 52, number 2, Summer 2006.

We greatly appreciate the information pertaining to bed bugs provided by Dr. Sheryl kline, Department of hospitality & Tourism Management, Purdue University.

An excellent reference book devoted to the biology of bed bugs and their relatives is:

Usinger, R.L. 1966,Monograph of the Cimicidae (Hemiptera: Heteroptera).Thomas Say Foundation, Vol. 7, Entomological Society of America, College Park, MD.

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