Bed bugs have five immature nymph life stages and a final sexually mature adult stage. They shed their skins through ecdysis at each stage, discarding their outer exoskeleton. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color, and become browner as they moult and reach maturity. Bed bugs may be mistaken for other insects, such as booklice, small cockroaches, or carpet beetles; however, when warm and active, their movements are more ant-like, and like most other true bugs, they emit a characteristic disagreeable odor when crushed.
Reactions to bed bug bites vary among individuals. Many persons show no signs of bites. Others don’t realize they’ve been bitten until redness and swelling appear around the bite, sometimes with intense itching. Some exhibit inflamed swollen spots that may occur in linear series or have a rash-like appearance. Such bite marks, when they appear, may not show for several days after the person is bitten.
To know it's bedbugs, it's important to find the bugs themselves. Look at bedsheets and mattresses for little spots of blood, rusty-looking stains (crushed bugs), or black dots (bugs' poop). You might see live bugs around the seams or tags of mattresses and box springs, or in cracks of bed frames and other furniture. They can even hide in books, carpet edges, and electrical outlets.
Until fairly recently, most people (and even pest control professionals) had never seen a bed bug. Bed bug infestations actually used to be very common in the United States before World War II. But with improvements in hygiene, and especially the widespread use of DDT during the 1940s and ‘50s, the bed bugs all but vanished. The pests persisted, however, in some areas of the world including parts of Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Over roughly the past decade, bed bugs have made a dramatic comeback in the U.S.― they’re appearing increasingly in homes, apartments, hotels, health care facilities, dormitories, shelters, schools and public transportation. Other places where bed bugs sometimes occur include movie theaters, laundries, rental furniture, and office buildings. Immigration and international travel have contributed to the resurgence of bed bugs in the U.S. Changes in modern pest control practice, less effective insecticides ― and a decrease in societal vigilance ― are other factors suspected for the recurrence.
If you need to treat items that can’t be laundered or steamed, you can use a portable bed bug heater, like a ZappBug Oven or a ThermalStrike Ranger. These heaters can safely treat household items like books, papers, CDs, and dry clean only clothing. Not only are bed bug heaters an effective part of a bed bug treatment process, but they’re one of the most popular prevention tools on the market. When you come home from a trip, just put your suitcase in the heater, zip it shut, and turn it on. In just a few hours, any bed bugs or eggs hiding in your belongings will be dead.
The effective use of pesticides for bed bug control typically involves a thorough inspection during which the technician will kill any bed bugs he/she discovers, applying contact or residual pesticides directly on the bugs. This is followed by residual application to all cracks, crevices and voids, likely to harbor bed bugs. The pesticide used should be one that remains active for weeks, allowing bed bugs that were missed on the initial inspection to contact treated surfaces long enough to receive a lethal dose.
Scrub infested surfaces with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs. Vacuum the room extensively. Use a vacuum hose attachment to thoroughly vacuum cracks and crevices on furniture and along baseboards on the walls. Vacuum along baseboards, furniture, bed stands, rails, headboards, foot boards, bed seams, tufts, buttons, edges of the bedding, as well as the edges of the carpets (particularly along the tack strips). A good vacuum cleaning job may remove particles from cracks and crevices to encourage greater insecticide penetration. Bed bugs cling tightly to surfaces, so it is best to vacuum by scraping the end of the vacuum attachment over the infested areas to pull out the bed bugs. Caution: It is not good to use a bristle attachment, because you may transfer bed bugs to other areas since they cling to the brush. Dispose of vacuum cleaner bags after you are finished in an outdoor trashcan.
While your laundry cycle is running, use a vacuum cleaner to remove any bed bugs, shells, fecal droppings, or eggs that might be along the seams of your mattress, pillows, box spring, and along the cracks and crevices in the bed frame, headboard, and footboard. Follow up the vacuuming with a high pressure steamer to penetrate deep inside mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, and footboards to kill bed bugs and eggs on contact.
Bed bugs are highly vulnerable to heat; exposing them to a certain amount of direct heat will kill them instantly, while lower temperatures can kill them in a matter of minutes. This is why many forms of heat treatments are recommended. Some methods, such as steamers and portable heaters, have been proven effective through professional use and are quickly becoming standard issue in holistic treatment arsenals.
Probably chiggers -- they are very small, red mites that usually cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are about as small as the period at the end of this sentence. To stop the itching, use OraJel (usually sold for teething babies), which contains benzocaine (an anesthetic). Also, rub in hydrocortisone cream. To prevent chigger bites, wear long pants and stuff the cuffs into your socks.
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.
In the case of beds, a more economical option is to encase both the mattress and box spring in a protective cover like those used for allergy relief. Encasements specifically designed to help protect against bed bugs are available through retail or pest control firms. Higher quality ones tend to be more durable and comfortable to sleep on. Once the encasement is installed and zipped shut, any bugs which happen to be inside are entombed and eventually will die. Encasements also help protect newly purchased beds, and make it easier to spot and destroy any bugs residing on the outer surface during subsequent examination. Encasements will not, however, keep bed bugs from crawling onto a bed and biting a sleeping person.