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Why are Bed Bugs such nightmares?

 

The Basics

Bed bugs are small 2-4 mm parasites that feed on warm blooded animals. They have plagued humans for thousands of years with their itch-inducing bites.  The average life span of a bed bug is ten months to a year.  During that time, a female bug will lay 200-400 eggs.  Typically, bed bugs breed all year indoors, hatching up to three generations in a year.  Female bed bugs need a blood meal before laying eggs.  The newly-laid eggs hatch in about 10 days.  The nymph will reach adulthood in five weeks to two months.  Young bed bugs will shed their skin 5 times before becoming an adult, and they must get a blood meal before each shed.   

 

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Why are bed bugs in the news now?

Bed bugs were largely eradicated in the 1940ís, but have been making a comeback since the mid 1990ís, especially in urban areas and the U.S. east coast.  It is unclear why they are making a comeback, but increased global travel and pesticide resistance are likely important factors.  They are hard to kill because they can survive in a very wide range of temperatures and environmental conditions and up to a year without feeding.  Additionally, many bed bugs are now pesticide-resistant. 

 

Why is locating bed bugs so difficult? 

A bed bug feeds for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, typically an hour before dawn.  Their bites arenít felt as they occur, as the bug injects venom that acts as an analgesic and blood thinner.

Before a meal of blood, a bed bug is about the size of an apple seed and as flat as paper.  That makes it easy for them to flatten their bodies to fit behind wallpaper, in electrical outlets, or in joints of furniture, in addition to living in your mattress, upholstery, carpets, and clothing. They can also unobtrusively hitch a ride on animals, clothing, and luggage, or travel to connected dwellings or hotel rooms. 

 

What kind of harm do bed bugs do?

When bed bugs are present, there are a variety of reactions, as they affect everyone differently. There is now research that 70 percent of people bitten by bed bugs have allergic reactions, so skin rashes are common, in addition to the visible bite marks they leave behind.  A bed bug infestation brings on stress, sleeplessness, and anxiety.  In very bad infestations, there have been cases of anemia in children and elderly.