Knowledge, Ideas and Stories
Bed Bugs 101
Who hasn’t heard the expression, “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”? But until we personally encounter them, how much do most of us know about bed bugs? Probably not that much. So we’ve come up with a little bed bug primer to give you an idea of what they do, where they come from, and what they look like.
Bed bugs have been feeding on human blood for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks and Romans recorded instances of bed bugs, and these icky infestations likely go back even further. The problem got worse in the first half of the 20th century, possibly due to the development of electric heating, which led to year-round bed bug activity. Heavy use of potent pesticides and an increase in public awareness helped curb bed bug populations for several decades (1940s through ‘80s). But a subsequent decrease in public awareness and the prohibition of some pesticides have resulted in a resurgence of bed bug infestations. Fortunately, effective new methods like heat treatment are now available.
Adult bed bugs range in color from light brown to a deeper, reddish brown. They are flat ovals with only vestigial front wings and no hind wings. Adults are less than a quarter-inch long and an eighth-inch wide. Younger bed bugs, called nymphs, start off translucent and light, then gradually become darker as they go through six stages of molting to become adults. Females are larger than males, and will lay three to four eggs per day once fertilized.
Bed bugs feed primarily on human blood. Once they find a sleeping person to feed on, they’ll set up shop nearby. That’s why we call them bed bugs. (Of course, they can be found not only in and around beds, but also in sofas, chairs, luggage, electrical sockets, etc.) Bed bugs do not need to feed very often to survive. The nymphs feed once per molting cycle, and the adults feed about once a week, though they can go many months without feeding. Cooler temperatures allow bed bugs to survive longer without blood. In the absence of human blood, bed bugs will feed on the blood of other animals.
That’s it for Bed Bugs 101. Now go look at a picture of a puppy or a kitten to get your mind off these creepy critters!