Bedbugs 101

What is a Bedbug?

Bedbugs are small parasitic insects that feed on human blood. The bedbug (Cimex lectularius) is a member of the family Cimicidae, all insects in this family feed exclusively on the blood of warm blooded animals. The name bedbug comes from the fact that this insect is mainly nocturnal and prefers to live in cracks in mattresses, box springs, bedframes, and other furniture, walls, and baseboards near places where people sleep.

Bedbugs have many other names including wall louse, mahogany flat, crimson rambler, heavy dragoon and redcoat. Many of these names come from the reddish-brown coloring and flattened oval shape of these insects. These wingless insects grow to be 5-7 mm long and 1.5-3 mm wide.

Feeding Habits

Bedbugs are attracted to their targets by three things: carbon dioxide, warmth, and certain chemicals. Bedbugs have two hollow feeding tubes. One tube injects the victim with its saliva that contains anticoagulants, which keep the blood from clotting, and anesthetics, which causes numbness, while the second tube extracts the blood. Because of the anesthetics the actual bite is not felt. Bedbugs feed for about five minutes before retreating back to its hiding place. Although bedbugs like to feed approximately every five days, they can survive for a year or longer without feeding.

Resurgence of Bedbugs

Bedbugs have been largely eliminated in the developed world since the 1940’s and 1950 with the use of DDT’s but these pests made a big comeback in 1980’s and 1990’s.

The resurgence of bedbugs in developed countries has been attributed to the rise in foreign travel and immigration, the increase of second hand furniture, as well as greater resistance to pesticides.

Bedbugs can be found in both dirty and clean environments, meaning any bed, no matter how sanitary, is not immune to an infestation of bedbugs. Crowded living quarters with a high rate of guest turnover makes motels, hostels, and even high end hotels particularly susceptible to bedbug infestation. Just one bedbug hitching a ride on a piece of clothing or in a suitcase can create an infestation.

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