How Many Bed Bugs Cause An Infestation

Bedbugs

In this Article

In this Article

In this Article

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 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.

How Can You Tell the Severity of a Bed Bug Infestation?

ByChris Williamson April 29, 2015.

Bed bug exuviae (shed skins)

A concerned property owner in Rochester, New Hampshire recently asked me if I could tell how long bed bugs had been in an apartment. With legislation in place regarding bed bug infestation and the responsibility of property owners, his concerns were justifiable. New Hampshire now mandates that bed bug or other infestations are the responsibility of the property owner, regardless of the cause of infestation. Fleas may be the only exception to this rule, as pet activity associated with a tenant may directly cause the infestation.

Cockroaches, bed bugs, ants, rodents, fleas, and wasps are the main problems that property owners and property management run into at typical apartment settings. Fleas from a previous tenant will also be covered by this legislation. Now the burden lies on the property owner to provide a pest free living space to all occupants.

As a rule, early detection of a pest problem can lead to an early solution. Problems develop over time, so early detection is critical. This may not be possible, as tenants may not report an issue until it is beyond a quick fix. Non-notification of pest problems may be due to many reasons that I will not go into here. Frequent property inspections and good tenant relations can go a long way in pest prevention.

Documentation of any complaints is critical. Thorough inspection with photos to document the conditions before and after renting an apartment or property will be very helpful to all parties. Always use a Pest Control Professional when dealing with pest issues to avoid potential mistreatment or poisoning.

In the following sections, I will try to describe the different levels of bed bug infestation, divided into three categories: Light, Moderate, and Heavy.

Light Bed Bug Infestation

  • New infestation, just arrived. It takes 45-60 days from egg to mated adult (1-2 months)
  • Few sightings and blood stains noted if any, 1-2 caught as specimens for identification, minimal irritation from bites. Adult bed bugs are tan to dark reddish brown, flattened, compact insects about 5-6mm long; juveniles are much smaller and are clear with a red or black dot after feeding. Both adults and juveniles are visible.
  • Minimal fecal staining (small black stains in areas of travel, feeding, and harborage). Fecal stains will be anywhere the bed bugs hide or travel and can be used to detect hot spots.
  • Minimal cast skins (exuviae are the skins shed during the molting process). These small translucent to tan shells can be found near harborage sites, in dust, or in webs. Each bed bug will produce five cast skins during its 100-day juvenile stage.
  • Few if any visible eggs. Eggs are laid in clusters near harborage sites and along feeding routes. Eggs look like small white dots or lines glued to surfaces near the host. Females may lay 3 eggs a day if continuous feeding is available, laying over 300 eggs during her 10-11 month lifetime.
  • Only 1 or 2 areas of suspect activity noted. Bed bug infestations usually starts in one or two “hot spots” of the home or apartment, then spread as the population increases. Natural migration by females to new areas and spreading through movement of personal items allows bed bugs to find new areas to infest.

Moderate Bed Bug Infestation

  • Established Infestation (4-8 months since initial arrival of bed bugs)
  • Many live adults and nymphs noted (bloodstains on walls and mattresses, live insects engorged with blood on mattresses, furniture, walls, under carpets, etc.)
  • Visible fecal stains present in multiple areas (staining on mattress, sheets, pillows, bed frames, bedside tables, dressers, books, walls, baseboards, curtains, chairs, couches, behind pictures, under and on carpets, etc.)
  • Many cast skins (on floors, in webs, under carpets, in dressers, along with dead bed bugs, and bed bugs caught by spiders). By now, there should be hundreds of exuviae.
  • Many hot spots (beds and sleeping areas, couches, corners, most furniture has staining and live insects present, all rooms including bathroom may have live bed bugs on walls and ceilings, as well as under carpets near sleeping areas and feeding routes). The bed bug population has spread out from initial hot spots to locations throughout the apartment/home and now pose a threat to neighboring units above, below, and to sides.

Heavy Bed Bug Infestation

  • Heavy infestations take 6 months to 1 year to develop. Bed bugs mature relatively slowly; at a certain threshold, multiple overlapping generations are produced and the population will explode if conditions permit.
  • Countless adults and nymphs present (Adults walking on walls, clustered in cracks on walls, stained curtains, etc. Dead bed bugs and blood stains on sheets, mattresses, walls, bed frames, on/under carpets, moldings, under tiles, almost every where they can hide and get to a host).
  • Heavy fecal staining. This thick blood byproduct becomes like black paint in areas of high bed bug density and traffic. As they move to and from the human host, fecal droplets fall off the backside of the bed bug. Densely populated harborage sites also contain heavy fecal staining. Over time, it becomes thick and even has a semi-sweet, bug smell for aggregation. It is a bad infestation if you can smell this odor. Heavily stained mattresses, box springs, carpets, and other fabric items may need to be discarded or deep cleaned to remove the organic material. Walls, ceilings, and floors will also need attention once the infestation has been taken care of, and certainly prior to rental.
  • Cast skins are all over the place. Multiple overlapping generations have produced thousands of exuviae, especially in harborage sites. Heavy infestations create so many exuviae that they will be readily evident upon inspection of areas near sleeping areas.
  • Eggs and hatched eggs are visible (along seams, edges of molding, mattress tufts, in couches, dressers, tables, carpet edges, all around hotspots).
  • The population is now only limited by access to the host (tenants).
  • Heavy infestations can populate entire structures. Due to natural movement from overcrowding as well as transport of personal items, bed bugs can spread to previously uninfested dwellings. Wall voids, pipe chases, electrical apertures, and other hidden conduits may contain adult bed bugs, which can live over 1 year if no host is present, and actively seek a new host.

Bed bugs are no joke, they are real, and can cause serious problems if left untreated. If you suspect bed bugs, call Colonial Pest Control at 1-800-525-8084.

Does One Bed Bug Mean an Infestation?

When you see a housefly buzzing around your curtains, it doesn’t mean you have a fly infestation. When you see a spider making a web in the corner of your ceiling, it doesn’t mean you have a spider infestation. When you see a centipede scurrying across your bathroom wall, it doesn’t mean you have a centipede infestation. When you see a bed bug in your apartment… well, unfortunately, that’s a different story.

Should I Be Worried if I Found One Bed Bug?

You’re not going to like this, but unfortunately, the answer is yes. If you see any bed bugs in your hotel, home, or apartment – even if there are only one or two – the unit or building is virtually guaranteed to be infested. When it comes to bed bugs, seeing is a single specimen is just like seeing the tip of an iceberg. While only a tiny portion may be visible to you, it’s a sure indicator that there’s more – sometimes much more – hiding beneath the surface.

Unlike many other bugs and insects, which announce their presence with noisy vibrations or flashy colors, bed bugs are experts at concealing themselves in almost every nook, cranny and other hiding spots in any room they are in. This is due to several reasons, which all combine to create a species perfectly equipped for stealth:

  • Bed bugs are a dull red-brown color, which acts as camouflage against wood and most upholstery.
  • Bed bugs cannot fly, which makes them less conspicuous.
  • Bed bugs are silent, so you won’t hear them chewing through the walls or buzzing behind your blinds.
  • Bed bugs are tiny. Even fully-grown adult specimens seldom exceed six to seven millimeters in length, which makes them roughly the size of a fingernail or pencil eraser. To the untrained eye, bed bugs can easily be mistaken for specks of dirt.
  • Similar to ticks, unfed bed bug adults will appear smaller and narrower than those which have recently fed, since their bodies are not distended with a blood meal.
  • Nymphs, or juvenile bed bugs, are typically one to five millimeters in length, approximately the same size as a flea. Eggs are whitish in color and are typically one millimeter long, which makes them nearly impossible to observe with the naked eye.

Do Bed Bugs Build Nests? Where Do They Hide?

It isn’t just bed bugs’ skill at hiding which contributes to the problem. Another reason “lone” specimens indicate infestation is that bed bugs are not solitary creatures by nature – even if they appear to be.

Bed bugs are not technically considered social insects, because they do not feed or clean each other. However, they do use chemicals called kairomones and pheromones to communicate with each other, which enables them to share information about feeding, location, and reproduction/mating.

Furthermore, while bed bugs do not construct organized nests in the manner of ants or bees, they do tend to congregate in hiding places which are used again and again by multiple individuals, often packed tightly together. These hiding places usually contain a mix of the following contents:

  • Adults, nymphs, and eggs.
  • Fecal matter (i.e. digested blood), which appears as dark, nearly black splotches.
  • Bright red blood stains mean that a living bed bug was squashed before the blood was digested and excreted. If you wake up to red stains on your mattress, you can be certain that bed bugs were feeding on you during the night.
  • Molted skins, which appear papery, delicate, and pale brown in color, almost to the point of translucence.
  • Of course, the most common example of a hiding place would be inside of bedding material – hence the name of the species – but bed bugs may surprise you with their adaptability to varying environments.

    To name just a few of many possible examples, bed bugs are capable of infiltrating furniture, clothing, carpeting, and even electronics and appliances. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), respondent pest control companies reported bed bug infestations in hospitals, college dorms, office buildings, nursing homes, train stations, bus stations, day cares, and even movie theatres.
    If you see a bed bug in your living space, there are a few steps you should take (depending on the kind of structure you live in):

    • If you’re a renter, call your landlord right away. Depending on county code provisions where you live, it’s possible that your landlord is required to exterminate infestations, which means you won’t have to pick up the cost.
    • If you’re staying at a hotel, call the front desk and request a room change. Hotels are prohibited from renting rooms which are known to be infested, and must provide sanitary quarters for their guests.
    • If you own the home, call a pest management company immediately. Gentle home remedies such as diatomaceous earth are not effective against bed bugs, nor are the cheap pesticides available in hardware stores and pharmacies. You need a professional bed bug heat treatment to ensure extermination.

    If your landlord refuses to assist you, or if the pest control company fails to solve the problem, you should call the bed bug lawyers of Whitney LLP at (410) 583-8000 immediately, before the situation escalates any further. You will not be charged any fees for your consultation, and we will keep your information private. If a landlord, hotel, or pest control company is negligent in their duties, they may be liable for compensating injuries and illnesses caused by the infestation. Call us today for a free assessment of your case.

    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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    The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

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