An Introduction to Bedbugs

We've all heard the familiar rhyme, "Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite!" at one time or another in our lives, and while it's a light-hearted, fun saying, actually having bedbugs is really nothing to laugh about.

What Exactly Are Bedbugs?

Bedbugs are tiny creatures whose main diet is the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Bedbugs, or technically “cimex lectularius”, have evolved over time into what are referred to as nesting parasites – meaning they invade the nests of their hosts and make themselves at home while feeding and multiplying.

Are Bedbugs Dangerous?

Despite the irritation – and the thought of your bed or clothes dressers infested with bugs – bedbugs are not harmful, save for the itching that some people experience after being bitten. Bedbugs have not been found to spread diseases nor are they believed to have the capability of transporting bacteria or disease-causing pathogens between humans. However, scientists have identified more than 28 disease pathogens within the bedbug, though none of these have ever been passed on to a person and the instance of that happening is considered to be highly unlikely.

Identifying the Bedbug

Adult bedbugs are approximately a 1/4 inch in length, oval-shaped, have a flattened surface, and are just about as wide as they are long. The eggs of the bedbug are a pearly white color and barely 1 mm long, just about the size of a pinhead, and are incredibly hard to see. Nymphs, or immature bedbugs that are newly hatched, are translucent and relatively close to the size of the eggs. Due to their transparency, the nymphs are actually easier to see right after they've had a meal as they turn reddish or brown in color.

Bedbugs do not have wings but nevertheless manage to get around quite well on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, so it’s important to keep your bed away from the wall and all blankets or sheets up off of the floor. Bedbugs are most active during the middle of the night, when you’re sleeping and they are able to feed undisturbed on their unsuspecting hosts.

Getting Rid of Bedbugs

The first important rule to remember when it comes to trying to rid your home of bedbugs is to never use any type of pesticide or insecticide on objects that will come in contact with humans, unless, of course, the product is specifically intended for topical use.

Most commercial pesticides are neither intended for nor effective at getting rid of bedbugs, and some may even make the problem worse by causing the bugs to scatter and find new homes and hiding places to nest. For this reason, it’s best to consult a professional who is knowledgeable in insect infestations and trained in handling the various chemical treatments that may be needed.

In the meantime, there are other things you can do to remove bedbugs from your residence, such as laundering your clothing and bedding frequently using the hottest water possible, as heat is a natural enemy of the bedbug. Also, investing in a mattress and box spring cover is another way to prevent the bugs from thriving as once the bed is encased in the plastic, they are unable to reach their host and will eventually die out.