Bedbug bites themselves are typically painless. However, the subsequent allergic reaction that may develop can cause intense pruritus. While feeding, bedbugs may inject one of several pharmacologically active substances, including hyaluronidase, proteases, and kinins. These compounds may induce different skin reactions, such as erythema, wheals, vesicles, or hemorrhagic nodules. Repeated bites may sensitize individuals, leading to more pronounced cutaneous manifestations or systemic hypersensitivity reactions. The local trauma from bedbug bites can lead to secondary bacterial infection, causing ecthyma, cellulitis, or lymphangitis. There is some evidence that bedbugs may also be a vector for hepatitis B and Chagas disease. Histologic findings from bite-site biopsy specimens typically show eosinophilic infiltrates, which are indicative of the allergic nature of the reaction. The image shown is papular urticaria, which may develop from bedbug bites.
Adult bed bugs are brown, 1/4 to 3/8 inch long, and have a flat, oval-shaped body. Young bed bugs (called nymphs) are smaller and lighter in color. Bed bugs hide in a variety of places around the bed. They might also hide in the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, and in the folds of curtains. They come out to feed about every five to ten days. But they can survive over a year without feeding.
Bed bug sprays usually act as an insecticide and repellent. The best kind of bed bug sprays should kill bed bugs on contact and need to be used repeatedly to help eliminate your bug problem. According to the Texas A&M University, bed bug sprays are best used in combination with other bug control methods like natural bed bug powders. This is because bed bugs don’t build up resistance to natural bug powders and products like diatomaceous earth which kills bed bugs as long as the powder is dry.5
* Typically used for control of wood-destroying organisms, true fumigation of structures is occasionally performed for bed bug control. Fumigating a structure involves “tenting” it, i.e., draping and sealing it with tarps so that the fumigant, a poisonous gas, can be applied into and contained within the structure where it penetrates the contents and kills all pests within. Like whole-room heat treatments, fumigation has no lasting effect (it leaves no pesticide residue), is labor-intensive, and can damage contents. It is also more expensive, especially in northern states where fumigations are done less frequently. The advantage of fumigation over heat treatment may be that fumigation is more likely to kill all the pests within a structure.
Consider using insecticides. Residual insecticides (usually pyrethroids) are applied as spot treatments to cracks and crevices where bed bugs are hiding. Increased penetration of the insecticide into cracks and crevices can be achieved if accumulated dirt and debris are first removed using a vacuum cleaner. Many readily available aerosol pesticide sprays will cause bed bugs to scatter making eradication more difficult. Dust formulations may be used to treat wall voids and attics.
Oil-based products have been so frequently touted as natural bed bug killers that they’ve even attracted government intervention. The Federal Trade Commission has charged multiple companies with deceptive advertising for overhyping their cedar oil-based products’ ability to treat an infestation. By claiming that their products can stop and prevent bed bug infestations, these marketers opened the door to government lawsuits for misleading their customers.
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.
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.
Some bed bug species are parasites of bats or birds, and may bite people if the wild hosts are no longer available. Although similar in overall appearance, the species of bed bugs that normally feed on bats, swallows, chimney swifts, pigeons or other wild hosts can be differentiated from those that prefer humans. Entomologists and knowledgeable pest managers can make this determination. If bat bugs or bird bugs are present, roosting and nesting sites should be the primary focus, and the animals should be removed and excluded from the building.
I can definitely understand. This is has been going on with us for almost a year. My hands and arms look like I have leprocy or something. Horrible blisters, rash, scabs, and bunches of “bumps” especially in my right hand. I wind up with painful blood blisters some times. I am living on benedryl and calamine lotion. I hate going out because of what I look like. I have taken to using cover up and foundation on my hands to make the mess less noticable. i have a long-sleeved summer weight sweater that I wear whenever I do have to go out.
Treatment for bedbug bites is typically supportive. Local antiseptic lotions or antibiotic creams can be applied for secondary infections, whereas corticosteroid creams and oral antihistamines can be used for allergic reactions. Bedbugs can be eliminated through the use of permethrin insecticides, baited traps, special bedbug-free beds, and bed nets. Homemade methods, such as wrapping duct tape around bed legs as shown, may be effective, but bedbugs have been known to climb other objects and then fall down onto a bed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
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Occasionally, you might find other bugs which resemble the common bed bug including the bat bug and swallow bug. Both of these species superficially resemble the common bed bug. However, their primary hosts are bats and birds and there are small but diagnostic morphological differences. Problem infestations with these bugs may occur in attics or unused chimneys. Typically, when one host is gone these bugs seek an alternative host blood meal. This is when humans are bitten. It is important to differentiate between the common bed bug and other bugs that feed on bats and birds because control efforts can be targeted at the wrong sites and infestations can continue.
Bedlam Insecticide is a convenient water-based and non-irritating aerosol spray that is specially made to kill bed bugs on contact and provide lasting residual performance. It should be sprayed in cracks and crevices and around baseboards, floor/head boards, door jams, walls and other hard surfaces. Since it is water based, it is safe to use to use to treat mattresses and bedding. It will also not stain fabrics or materials.
However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else's house to start a new infestation. Learn about identifying bed bugs.
Systematically examine and treat all furniture (beds, bed frames, dressers, chairs, couches, night stands, etc.) following the same procedures and recommendations above. As a piece is treated it can be returned to the parts of the room that have been treated. Note that furniture should be taken apart, drawers and cushions removed in order to inspect and treat every nook and cranny. When treating upholstered furniture, pay attention to each welt, button and fold. You may wish to discard low-value, stuffed furniture that is infested and too difficult to treat. After spraying, return each article of furniture to the part of the room that has been treated. Do not reintroduce any furniture or other items to the treated room until they have been thoroughly cleaned, inspected or treated.
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
Bed bug bites: What you need to know Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that feed on human blood. They often bite humans during the night or early morning when people are asleep. While they don't carry disease, they can cause irritation, sores, and itchiness that might prevent a good night's sleep. Learn how to identify, control, and prevent bed bugs. Read now
Insecticides are an effective way to eradicate bed bugs, but not the only way. If you or someone in your house is highly sensitive to chemicals, or you’re just not crazy about the idea of spraying chemicals where you sleep, kill the little blood suckers with heat. Temperatures above 120 degrees F kill all stages of bed bugs. Steamers can be used to treat all the same areas where you would have sprayed contact killers. Steamers like the one shown at (top) cost about $150 and are good for many other projects like removing wallpaper, cleaning tile, removing labels, cleaning engine parts and removing wrinkles from fabric.
Other types of bed bug traps include those that do not rely on humans as bait, but instead use CO2and/or other attractants. CO2 is thus far the most powerful lure for bed bugs, as it is the primary cue they follow to locate hosts. Traps that issue CO2 for a period of time are more expensive than Climbup™ traps, but can effectively trap bed bugs when no host is present, such as in common areas, vacant homes or units, offices, schools, and theaters. Thus they can help confirm infestation and eradication.
I'm a former scientist, using words and an audio recorder as my new research tools to untangle the health and food issues that matter most to consumers. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I cook as much as possible. You can find me in the grocery aisle scrutinizing the fine print of every food item I put into my cart. Follow me on Twitter @juliacalderone.