One of the most hated and misunderstood pests known to man is the bed bug (Cimex lectularius). How many of us dozed off to sleep at night as children with the words of our parents in our ears ‘sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite’?
Bed bugs probably started to feed on man at about the time we moved into caves, the ‘bat bugs’ Cimex pilosellus and Cimex pipistrella primarily feed on bats and it is probable that bat feeding species of bug evolved to dine on human blood when our ancesters started living in bat infested caves.
Until the advent of DDT in the early 20th century bed bugs were common non-paying guests in most poor quality homes.
The later part of the 20th century saw pest control companies dealing with very few bed bug problems indeed, their presence being largely confined to inexpenisve vacation camps and student lodgings etc.
Many people mistake dust mites, which aren’t visible to the unaided eye, with bed bugs which certainly are.
Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown, about a quarter of an inch in size and very swollen after a meal of human blood.
They have an incomplete metamorphosis which means that the babies are just smaller copies of the adult, they don’t have a maggot stage like fleas or a fly.
Bed bugs typically feed on human blood every 7 – 10 days, emerging in the hours before dawn and finding their target by sensing the exhaled carbon dioxide from human breath and when close in on their target, infra red body heat.
In the absence of a convenient human host to feed on they can [lay|lie|stay|remain dormant for periods of up to 18 months.
Indications of a bed bug problem are spots of blood on bed sheets and on the underside of mattresses and some people can react badly to their bites.
The early 21st century has seen bed bug numbers explode across the globe, the cheap availability of world travel and economic migration have both been blamed for the come back.
What is certain is that thet are now making a real return not only in poor quality dwellings but high class hotels, schools and often hospitals.
One London borough reports a doubling of bed bug infestations every single year from 1995 – 2001.
A single night away in an infested hotel is all it takes, they catch a ride in your suitcases or bags. Pest control firms are also now reporting instances of transport related bed bug infestations on tubes, trains and buses so a simple journey to work on an infested bus or train can be sufficient to spread the infestation to your home.
They are an expensive pest to deal with as contrary to popular opinion they do not just live in beds. They hide any nook and cranny conveniently close to a sleeping human being, beds, electrical sockets, televisions, bed-side telephones etc and eradication is both difficult and time consuming. They have even been found living under the toe-nails of infirm persons and in the rolls of flesh on heavily over-weight people.
They are not a pest that can be eradicated by an amateur and a professional will almost certainly be required.