When we hear the phrase bed bugs, most of us have our hair stand on end or suddenly feel the need to scratch our skin. It helps to know the characteristics of bed bugs, their life cycle, what causes an infestation, and other aspects of their existence to prevent them from entering your living spaces.
Keep reading so that these nuisances don’t have a chance to ruin your sleep and comfort!
Characteristics of Bed Bugs
The more you know about the characteristics of bed bugs, the more likely you will be to prevent them from infesting your building.
As expected, bed bugs are not cute by any means. Their appearance will make your skin crawl, and for a good reason. Some of the physical characteristics of adult bed bugs include:
- Flat, oval-shaped body
- Wingless (at least!)
- Light-brown when unfed
- Rust red when fed
- About half a centimeter in length
- Six legs
- Large antenna
- Produce a sweetish, musty smell
Young bed bugs, also called nymphs, are:
- Much smaller in size
- Almost transparent when unfed
And last but not least, bed bug eggs appear as extremely tiny (think pinhead) white spheres that will have an “eyespot” if they are over five days old.
Like any living creature, bed bugs will follow a life cycle of growth over time. Females can lay 2 to 3 eggs per day, and the eggs will hatch within 8 to 11 days. Once hatched, the nymphs will go through five stages of growth over the next 5 to 8 weeks.
As adults, both males and females must feed on blood, which makes humans so desirable to them. Unfortunately, adults can survive 6 to 9 months without food, making them highly resilient and challenging to combat. In some lab testing, adults lived up to four years without eating!
The most common way for bed bugs to enter a home or building is via second-hand furniture or when a home’s occupant catches them while at a motel, hotel, hostel, or other communal sleeping areas. They can infiltrate any home or living space, regardless of how clean or well-kept it may be.
Common Hiding Spots for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs love to hide in furniture, clothing, bedding, luggage, and other materials with small crevices, linings, or seams. Their most common hiding spots include:
- Furniture, especially along seams and cracks
- Sheets and blankets
- Between cracks in wooden floors
- Underneath loose wallpaper flaps
Basically, these insects will hide inside any crack or crevice they can find.
How to Recognize a Bed Bug Infestation
There are some sure signs that you have a bed bug problem on your hands, and seeing the bugs themselves is not usually one of them. Because of their almost microscopic size, and their ability to hide so well in cracks and crevices, it can be very difficult to see these pests until they number in the thousands.
Instead, one of the most common signs of an infestation is the bite marks they leave behind on their victims (more on that below). As well as bite marks on your skin, you may also start to see small blood spots on mattresses, clothing, and furniture.
Sometimes this blood is from a bite, and sometimes it is from the bugs themselves getting squashed after feeding or from their excrement. Lastly, bed bugs give off a musty, almost sweet smell which is more evident when they are present in large numbers.
Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bites can initially look similar to mosquito bites in that they create a large welt on the skin that then shrinks down to a smaller red mark. However, the welt created by a mosquito is usually whitish, while a bed bug bite will be red and may have a small white center. Also, like mosquito bites, bed bug bites will cause itchiness and redness.
The most significant way to tell the difference between mosquito bites and bed bug bites is their quantity. Bed bugs will often bite repeatedly in the same area, causing clusters of bites. The bites may also form a path or pattern on the skin due to the bug’s movement.
Lastly, bed bugs prefer to attack a human’s upper body, such as the abdomen, chest, and arms. Fleas prefer the feet, ankles, and legs, while mosquitos will get you anywhere they can reach!
Treatment and Control
Like most bug bites, the best form of treatment includes:
- Avoiding the urge to scratch
- Applying anti-itch creams
- Using ice packs to numb the area
- Keeping the skin clean and dry
The best way to get a bed bug infestation under control is with the help of a professional exterminator. Other DIY possibilities include:
- Washing bedding and clothing in hot water and the highest setting on your dryer
- Vacuuming mattresses and other surfaces
- Sealing objects in dark plastic and leaving them out in the sun
- Steam cleaning carpets and furniture
The best thing to kill bed bugs is high temperatures and certain pesticides, but always take caution when performing these methods on your own as they come with risks.
ESS Universal manufactures and supplies high-quality, cost-effective commercial grade beds, mattresses, and furniture to camps, hostels, shelters, dorms and more. View our entire line of furniture products including our popular waterproof foam mattress for institutional use, single metal bed frames, single over single bunk beds, single over double bunk beds, and triple bunk beds. Download our catalog for detailed information on our complete product line.