bed bugNo one likes waking up to bed bug bites. These flat, oval-shaped insects may be tiny, but they’re every bit as irritating as a pest can be. They sneak into carpets and beds and bite the unsuspecting victim to feed on its blood. Many scientists agree that this tiny vampire started feeding off humans around 10,000 years ago. Before that, they lived in dark, cooler places and fed of warm-blooded animals. It wasn’t long before they got smart and moved on to an easier meal; humans – unlike other mammals – aren’t covered in hair, making us simple targets.

Danger Level

While bedbugs don’t spread diseases, they can cause skin rashes and allergic reactions to particularly sensitive skin. Their bites produce angry red welts that itch. One or two may not be noticeable, but multiple bites can be irritating and uncomfortable. Since they drain blood whenever they bite, frequent feeding can even cause blood loss, leading to anemia in malnourished children.

Are They Near You?

The common misconception is that bed bugs are a sign of an dusty or unclean bed. And while this isn’t actually the case, it’s easy to see where the misunderstanding comes from. Bed bugs thrived with the advent of the railroad in America. When people started traveling, lodging inns near the railroad started popping up. The less cleaner ones were considered breeding grounds for the bitty, blood-sucking crawlers. Contrary to their name, bed bugs don’t actually live in just beds. They’re found in any place where lots of warm-blooded (read: people) animals tend to gather. This includes houses, hotels, schools, offices, and even public transportation. They don’t stay among the bed sheets either. They like to hide in small cracks and crevices like behind baseboards, wallpapers, electrical switchplates, and even picture frames. They’re great hitchhikers as well, and can hide in suitcases, boxes, shoes, and packages. They can even live in their chosen mode of transport temporarily, so long as a warm source of blood is nearby.

Fun Facts

  • They don’t have wings, just legs to skitter about on. For really long distances, they rely on humans to carry them from one meal to the next.
  • While some variations exist, but bed bugs are – commonly – a reddish-brown color
  • Their size ranges between 1 millimeter to 7 millimeters.
  • You can tell if it was a bed bug that bit you by the bite. Bed bug bites appear in small groups or straight lines, while mosquito bites are more sporadic and pop up in single bites all over your body. Flea bites are very small and are usually focused on your legs or ankles.
  • Bed bugs have five immature life stages and a final sexually mature adult stage. They shed their skin at each stage.
  • While they’re more active at night, they’re not exclusively nocturnal. They can be up and about during day time as well.

Some Common Species of Bed Bugs

Tropical Bed Bug

Like the name suggests, this species of bed bug can be found in more tropical places. Other than their preferred temperature choice, there’s not much difference between the bed bug and its tropical counterpart. Interestingly enough, tropical bed bugs do not like light. They hide in cracks to avoid it during the day, and they feed and do most of their activities at night. They are known to prefer hiding in wood, paper, and wall plaster. They’re also capable of traveling further than the common bed bug. Tropical bed bugs can travel up to 20 feet just to reach their food source.

Controlling infestation. Like the common bed bug, controlling tropical bed bug infestation might prove to be a little difficult. Use flashlights when inspecting crevices and gaps in wall paneling and wood. In potential harboring areas – where all the little critters converse – try using flushing agents or contact insecticide. However, prevention or professional services may be the best cure against bed bugs. Change sheets regularly and strip the bed right down to the linens when cleaning. Vacuum or brush bedding areas at least once a month, and discard severely infested bed covers, blankets, and so on.

Bat Bugs While these blood-sucking parasites are related to the common household bed bug, they’re actually not the same. They will bite humans if given the opportunity, but bats are their chosen prey, hence the name. However, they look so much like bed bugs, microscopic examination is needed to see the differences. Bat bugs infestation in households are usually through bats carrying the bugs with them. In a stable structure, bat bugs will stay as close as possible to their food source – in other words, wherever the bats are roosting. That could mean the attic or the chimney, or so on. If their food source is eliminated or leaves, they move on to explore the rest of the house. Their bites are just as itchy and irritating as their identical cousins, but they’re also not dangerous. As far as modern science can tell, they don’t transmit any diseases through their bites.

Controlling infestation. Check your area and see where the bats are coming from. It is illegal to kill bats in some jurisdictions, so it might be best and more humane if you contact professional services for this. Once their food source has been eliminated, get rid of bat bugs the same way you would get rid of common bed bugs. Check possible breeding areas and treat with contact insecticide or flushing agents.