Bedbugs

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Click here to return to the Medical News Today home page. There are two species of bedbugs that are known to feed on human blood. They are known scientifically as Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus. They have been found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians from 3, years ago. Over millions of years, bedbugs have evolved as nest parasites, inhabiting the nests of birds and the roosts of bats.

Some of them have learned to adapt to the human environment.

Newborn bedbugs, called hatchlings or nymphs, are tiny but visible and about the size of a poppy seed. Adults grow to about 0. After feeding, they can double in size. Nymphs, eggs, and adults are visible to the naked eye. They are called bedbugs because of their preferred habitat in human homes: Sofas, bed mattresses, clothing, and other soft furnishings. They also prefer the dark. Bedbugs are seen as a growing problem within all types of dwellings, including private homes, dormitories, cruise ships, army barracks, and shelters.

When seen close up, their color may range from a white, light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange color. When they have fed, a dark red or black blob may be observed within their body. They seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices when disturbed. The most obvious sign of bedbugs in the home is that people complain of bites that occurred while they were asleep. If this happens, examine the bedrooms for bedbugs and signs of bedbug activity. Look carefully in bed linen and the seams and tufts of mattresses and box springs for bugs or eggs.

The eggs will look like tiny, pale poppy seeds.

How to Identify and Remove Bed Bugs | Orkin

Signs of bedbug activity may occur beneath loose areas of wallpaper near beds, in the corner of desks and dressers, in the laundry, and in drawers. Keep an eye out for dark brown or rust-colored bedbug droppings that stain material and mattresses. Bedbug excrement is a liquid that looks either light brown or black, and it usually either beads up or is absorbed by the material around it.

A large population of bedbugs may produce a coriander-like odor. Some of these treatments are available for purchase online, including cortisone and antihistamines. Since bedbugs can hide in a wide range of places in the home, they are not easy to remove. It is advisable to bring in a pest control professional. Removing excess clutter from the house, giving the bedbugs fewer places to hide, makes inspection and removal less difficult. Some pest control companies request that furniture is pulled away from walls and mattresses and box springs stood on edge before they enter the home. Other companies prefer everything to be left where it is so that they can perform a check before moving the furniture themselves.

Scientists at Ohio State University have determined that combining the chemical signals of bedbugs with a common insect-control agent can make it an effective treatment for killing the bugs. While feeding, they inject a small amount of saliva into the host's skin. If they feed on one particular person for several weeks, the individual may become more sensitive to their saliva and the chemicals that it contains.

The host might eventually develop an allergic response.

Appearance, lifestyle and habits

Bedbugs, like fleas, tend to bite in rows. There are likely to be two or three bites in each row. This is probably because the bedbug is interrupted while feeding, and then comes back about half an inch further down for its next bite. Bites can take up to 14 days to become visible but often appear within several days. Bedbug bites are larger than fleabites and do not usually have a red dot at the center. The bites tend to be raised and red. They can be scattered or occur in clusters of three over the paths of blood vessels, known as the "breakfast, lunch, and dinner sign. Most people who are bitten show no symptoms at all and often do not know it happened.

This makes it more difficult to prevent or identify potential infestations. Some individuals, however, may become ill and nauseous.

NYT journalist was called a 'bedbug' - and the argument escalated fast

It is possible to get scars and skin infections from scratching the bites. Very rarely, people might have an anaphylactic reaction to bedbug bites. It is possible but rare to have an asthmatic reaction to bedbugs. They may get into a new home as stowaways when luggage, furniture, and bedding is moved in. People should be careful when purchasing second-hand furniture and should never purchase used mattresses. A careful visual inspection should allow a person to detect bedbugs or their droppings. Even vacant and seemingly clean homes may have bedbugs in them.


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They can survive for over two months without any food. It is also believed they can move from apartment to apartment through hollows and holes in the walls and the tubes through which wires and pipes run. It is possible to encase both the mattress and box spring in a protective cover, as some people do for allergy relief.

How to Find Bed Bugs

Some pest control firms sell them, as well as a number of retail outlets. Click here for a range of products that can help to protect a bed against infestation. Once encased, any bedbug trapped inside and prevented from feeding will eventually die. Some people keep their new beds encased, as it prevents the bugs from getting into the crevices in the mattress and makes it easier to keep the surface clean and bug-free. When traveling, avoid putting luggage on the bed to reduce the risk of bringing bedbugs home in a suitcase.

It is also worth vacuuming any luggage after you return home and making sure you get rid of the contents of the vacuum in a tightly sealed bag. Dispose of this bag in a trashcan outside. If you spot bedbugs in the home, call a professional and do not attempt to resolve the infestation. Bedbugs can spread from room to room in clothing, and trying to remove them yourself can often make the matter worse. Although they are not known to carry diseases, bedbugs can affect an individual's quality of life, causing distress, discomfort, embarrassment, and broken sleep.

Here are the important facts to have in mind when trying to remove or identify a bedbug infestation:.

Bedbugs - Akron Children's Hospital video

A review of bedbug research conducted in found that while they are highly resistant to removal methods, bedbugs seem to be more of a nuisance than a serious health problem. Research has failed to show any link between the bedbugs associated with humans and human disease.

The biggest risk for humans comes from secondary bacterial infection. With bedbugs, this would occur as a result of scratching the skin. Scratching, if it breaks the skin, allows normal bacteria from the surface of the skin to penetrate deeper. Article last updated by Adam Felman on Tue 13 February Visit our Dermatology category page for the latest news on this subject, or sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Dermatology.


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  • All references are available in the References tab. Bed bug biology and behavior. Bed bugs appearance and life cycle. Bed bugs FAQs. Benoit, J. Abundant in the U. In the past 10 years, however, the pests have staged a comeback worldwide—an outbreak after the Summer Olympics in Sydney was a harbinger of things to come. This revival may be the worst yet, experts say, due to densely populated urban areas, global travel and increasing pesticide resistance—something to consider as the summer travel season gets underway.

    Health authorities and pest control operators are regularly flooded with calls, and the epidemic may not have yet peaked. And because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are no high or low seasons throughout the year, he adds, only continual bombardment. Spreading rapidly with the bedbugs is a mass of misinformation about their biology and behavior. Straight from the experts, here are the facts behind some of the most notorious myths about the diminutive bloodsuckers. Myth 1: Bedbugs can fly Bedbugs lack wings, and therefore cannot fly. That is unless you put a blow dryer behind them, says Stephen Kells, a bedbug researcher at the University of Minnesota.

    Then they'll fly about 1. On their own, bedbugs crawl about a meter a minute, he says. Myth 2: Bedbugs reproduce quickly Compared with other insects, bedbugs are slow to reproduce: Each adult female produces about one egg per day; a common housefly lays eggs over three to four days. Each bedbug egg takes 10 days to hatch and another five to six weeks for the offspring to develop into an adult. Myth 3: Bedbugs can typically live a year without a meal Scientists debate this point, but evidence suggests that at normal room temperature, about 23 degrees Celsius, bedbugs can only survive two to three months without a blood meal.

    But because they are cold-blooded, their metabolism will slow down in chillier climates, and the insects may live up to a year without feeding. Myth 4: Bedbugs bite only at night Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they're like humans—if they're hungry, they'll get up and get something to eat.

    Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away. Myth 5: Bedbugs live exclusively in mattresses "'Bedbug' is such a misnomer," Kells says. Myth 6: Bedbugs prefer unsanitary, urban conditions "Bedbugs are terribly nondiscriminatory," Schal says.

    Bedbugs can be found anywhere from ritzy high-rises to homeless shelters. The prevalence of the bugs in low-income housing is therefore not a result of the insect's preference, but of dense populations and the lack of money to pay for proper elimination strategies. Myth 7: Bedbugs travel on our bodies Bedbugs do not like heat, Kells says.

    They therefore do not stick in hair or on skin, like lice or ticks, and prefer not to remain in our clothes close to our bodily heat. Bedbugs are more likely to travel on backpacks, luggage, shoes and other items farther removed from our bodies.