Los Angeles County West Vector & Vector-Borne Disease Control District

Bedbugs
 

Bedbugs or bed bugs are small parasitic insects of the family Cimicidae (most commonly Cimex lectularius). The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals. The name “bedbug” is derived from the insect's preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts

More of a nuisance than a health hazard, they’re showing up to suck blood from people in hotels, college dorms, and hospitals. Take an informative look at bedbugs: what they are, where they lurk, and how to spot them before they get you.

 

 

Know the Enemy

Bedbugs are small, flat, wingless insects with six legs that, like mosquitoes, feed on blood from animals or people. They range in color from almost white to brown, but they turn rusty red after feeding. The common bedbug doesn't grow much longer than 0.2 inches (0.5 centimeters) and can be seen by the naked eye to the astute observer.  Bedbugs get their name because they like to hide in bedding and mattresses. 

 

 

Am I at Risk for Infestation?

Bedbugs are most often found in hotels, hostels, shelters, and apartment complexes where lots of people come and go. Because bedbugs hide in small crevices, they can hitch a ride into your home on luggage, pets, furniture, clothing, boxes, and other objects. Bedbugs are found worldwide, but are most common in developing countries. Once rare in North America, they may be on the rise due, in part, to increases in international travel.

 

 

Feeding Habits

These nocturnal creatures can hide in beds, floors, furniture, wood, and paper trash during the day. We humans usually become their dinner during the night, with peak biting activity just before dawn. They can obtain their meal in as little as three minutes, after which they are engorged and drop off the host, then crawl into a hiding place to digest their meal. Bedbugs can live for 10 months, and can go weeks without feeding.

 

 

Signs and Symptoms of Bedbug Bites 

Amazingly, these sneaky little bloodsuckers dine on you without waking you. You don't feel their stealthy bite because they inject a numbing agent into your body, along with an anticoagulant to keep your blood flowing as they suck. The first sign of bedbugs may be itchy, red bites on the skin, usually on the arms or shoulders. Bedbugs tend to leave straight rows of bites.

 

 

Treating Bites 

Bedbug bites do not usually require treatment. If a secondary infection occurs (usually from scratching), apply a local antiseptic lotion or antibiotic cream or ointment. Creams with corticosteroids and oral antihistamines may be advised in the presence of allergic reaction or larger skin reactions. In these more severe cases, you may need to see your doctor.

Do Bedbugs Transmit Diseases?

Bedbugs are more of a nuisance than a health hazard. In a recent study, researchers reviewed 53 recent studies on bedbugs and their health and medical effects. There is little evidence to suggest they are carriers of human disease. 

Bedbug or Imposter? 

Don't assume your bites are bedbugs. Bites can be hard to identify, even for doctors. Rule out mosquitoes, fleas, mites, and biting gnats by conducting a visual inspection. It's best to collect and identify bedbugs to confirm bites. Look for the bugs themselves or their bloodstains, especially along the seams of mattresses. Further, look for dark spots of insect waste where bedbugs might crawl into hiding places on furniture, walls, and floors. 

Management and Control of Bedbugs 

Eradication of bedbugs frequently requires a combination of pesticide and non pesticide approaches. Get rid of infested mattresses and box springs or cover them with a plastic mattress bag to trap the bugs. Wash clothes and bedding in hot water, and dry on high heat. Clean furniture and vacuum cracks in wood floors and doors where bugs may hide. Shake out suitcases. 

Use an insecticide in the cracks of floors or bed frames, but read the label; do not apply to areas that come in direct contact with skin. Pesticides that have historically been found to be effective include: pyrethroids, dichlorvos and malathion. Resistance to pesticides has increased significantly over time and there are concerns of negative health effects from their usage. Mechanical approaches such as vacuuming up the insects and heat treating or wrapping mattresses have been recommended.  

The carbamate insecticide propoxur is highly toxic to bedbugs, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been reluctant to approve such an indoor use because of its potential toxicity to children after chronic exposure. 

Predators and Biological Control 

Natural enemies of bedbugs include the masked hunter (also known as "masked bedbug hunter"), cockroaches, ants, spiders, mites, and centipedes. The Pharaoh ant's (Monomorium pharaonis) venom is lethal to bedbugs. Biological pest control is not very practical for eliminating bedbugs from human dwellings.  

Professional Help

Bedbugs can be difficult to completely eliminate on your own from a dwelling.  In most cases, it is necessary to call in a licensed private pest control operator that specializes in bedbug control and extermination.

Additional Information:

Click on the thumbnails below to access additional information from the CDC, State Health Department and others.

         

 

 

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