The scientific name for bed bugs is Cimex lectularius. They are small creatures that grow up to 5 mm in size, or about the size of an apple seed. They have a flat oval-shaped body and will become significantly larger if they have fed. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, bed bugs start life as a tiny egg, then grow into a nymph before becoming an adult.1
Bed bugs occur in all regions of the globe. Rates of infestations are relatively common, following an increase since the 1990s. The exact causes of this increase is unclear; with proposals including greater travel, more frequent exchange of second-hand furnishings, a greater focus on control of other pests, and increasing resistance to pesticides. Bed bugs have been known human parasites for thousands of years.
Kept replacing the sticky traps just in case but never caught anything other than the occasional spider. Always cycled the sheets and such using the car+sun. They were still getting to us. Bed bugs cannot fly or jump. They had to be in the bed frame. I check it over and notice rusty spotting, which is apparently bed bug fecal matter. Luckily ours was from IKEA so it was easy to take apart – and sure enough – there they were. The way my bed works is a metal frame with holes, rubber end caps fit into those holes, and wooden slats run across the frame in the end caps. So every few days I’d mix up a 50/50 mix of bleach and water in a bucket and soak the wooden slats and end caps for ten minutes. The bed bugs were gone a couple of weeks and came back. I started soaking the things longer and scraping them with a disposable spoon, which was hard to do on the end caps. It warped the wood a little but nothing too bad. After a couple of weeks or so, I stopped finding bed bugs in the frame. I was worried they were in the metal too, but I completely stopped getting bites. I think the added time and scraping got rid of eggs. Not a lot can survive a 30 minute bleach bath.
To check for signs of a bedbug infestation, Dr. DerSarkissian says that you may notice rusty-colored spots on bed linen and mattresses. These spots could be either blood stains or bedbug excrement. You may also find shed skins around bed frames, mattresses, and other hiding places. Also, a musty smell is usually present where a large number of bed bugs are living.4
After bedbugs find a food source, they bite down with their mouths and inject anticoagulant and anesthetic compounds into the skin. Depending on the species, these parasites feed on the host blood via 1 of 2 mechanisms. Vessel feeders directly insert their mouthparts into superficial capillaries, whereas pool feeders damage the superficial tissue and feed on the accumulated blood. As bedbugs feed, their color may change as they swell with the host blood, as shown in this picture of a larval bedbug feeding on a volunteer host. Image courtesy of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To use sprays effectively to eliminate all traces of bed bugs, you need to know the signs of a bed bug infestation. The first sign that you may have bedbugs are some itchy bite marks on your skin when you wake up in the morning. Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the bites from bed bugs cause red itchy bumps on the skin.3 You can learn about their other signs and symptoms in my articles on what do bed bug bites look like.
Doctors often misdiagnose those afflicted because it is nearly impossible to tell, if you are experiencing an allergic reaction, what bit you. Often healthcare providers and individuals that have been bitten by a member of the Hemiptera order mistake bites for those of a mosquito. The only way to discern, with complete surety, what your bites are from, is to get a sample of what has bitten you.
Bed bugs are very hardy insects. Both adults and nymphs can survive prolonged periods without food or under adverse temperature conditions. Adults can live for a year or longer without feeding and can survive over winter in an unheated building. Nymphs are not as hardy as adults, but they can survive for considerable periods under adverse conditions.
Some less proven heat weapons have been suggested online, such as clothes irons. Clothes irons might reach the temperature needed to kill bed bugs, but the heat won’t penetrate deep into soft materials to where bed bugs might be hiding. You also can’t iron areas besides clothes and sheets, like cracks and crevices in walls, floors, and furniture. The metal surface and high surface heat would damage many of the materials it wasn’t designed to be used on.
First up are the contact sprays, like STERI-FAB and JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs. These will kill quickly, but evaporate shortly after, leaving no long-lasting protection. Spray along baseboards, below drawers and on drawer slides, behind cabinets, and behind night stands. Follow up with a residual spray, such as Bedlam Plus and JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus. Residual sprays will offer long-lasting protection against bed bugs and hatchlings. Bedlam Plus is ideal for cracks and crevices throughout the room, while JT Eaton Plus can be used below the cushions and bases of sofas, chairs, edges of carpets and other fabric items.
Bed bugs were mentioned in ancient Greece as early as 400 BC, and were later mentioned by Aristotle. Pliny's Natural History, first published circa AD 77 in Rome, claimed bed bugs had medicinal value in treating ailments such as snake bites and ear infections. (Belief in the medicinal use of bed bugs persisted until at least the 18th century, when Guettard recommended their use in the treatment of hysteria.)