There are two main types of bed bug. The most common are the Common Bed Bug, found in dwellings, and the Martin Bug, which normally lives in birds' nests but can bite people. Common Bed Bugs (pictured) are oval wingless insects, approximately 5mm long, with six legs and two antennae. They are red-brown in colour and flat in shape. Their colour changes to red/purple after a blood meal and they become more rounded in shape.
Where do they live?
Any household can become infested with bedbugs. Though often associated with premises with low standards of hygiene, increased travel abroad has opened the doors of any house.
Bed bugs hide themselves in mattresses, within bed frames, under bed bases, within bed headboards, behind loose wallpaper, within paintings, wall sockets, and telephones. Also behind wall partitioning, suspended ceilings, skirting boards, on clothing or furnishings, and anywhere with a dark crack/crevice/seam providing harbourage. They normally come out at night, usually just before dawn, to feed on the blood of their sleeping hosts.
They like to stay close together. With frequent feeding, adults can live for up to 18 months. They breed by laying eggs that usually hatch after about 10 to 20 days. The bugs then grow through a series of stages. At each stage they need to feed on blood, until they become adults after about nine to 18 weeks. A female can lay between 150 and 345 eggs in her life.
The presence of bedbugs in a room can be detected by the following:
- blood spotting on bedding
- brown excrement spots close to where they live and on bedding
- whitish/opaque un-hatched and hatched eggs
- in heavy infestations, a sweet almond smell is common
- bed bugs are not normally seen during the day
Bed bugs will not travel too far from their host, but can move into adjacent rooms via interconnecting ducting/spaces. They are most likely to be transferred from place to place via infested linen, clothing, furniture and other articles. In hotels and hostels, housekeeping staff can unknowingly transfer bed bugs around the premises on all of the items mentioned above and guests can take bed bugs with them from hotel to hotel and eventually to their own home.
In the UK bed bugs reach peak numbers towards early autumn when all stages in their life cycle will be present. Activities decrease with the onset of cold weather, egg laying ceases and the development of the juveniles slow down. Bed bugs spend the winter mainly as adults unless in adequately heated premises
Are they a health hazard?
Bed bugs are not known to carry disease. However, they feed on human blood, usually at night whilst people are asleep in their beds. They inject a fluid into their host to help get their blood meal. These bites cause irritation and itching. Some people are particularly sensitive to the bites and experience an allergy and inflammation, especially to the arms and shoulders. This can be quite severe and require medical attention.
How can I treat them?
In all infestations an attempt should be made to determine the source of the infestation, so that proper control measures can be taken. The inspection would highlight the extent of the infestation since the measures necessary for control would depend on whether the infestation is established and widely distributed throughout the premises, or recently introduced and likely to be more localised.
Control measures should be thorough and directed at all the harbourages
Bed bug treatment
- Strip all beds of linen and wash in as hot a water as possible.
- Ensure the bedroom floor is clear of obstructions, remove and destroy and rubbish that could contain insects.
- The bed frames, skirting and floors of the effected rooms should be sprayed with a residual insecticide.
- Cover any fish tanks, remove other pets from the house.
High standards of hygiene and housekeeping ensure that the presence of bed bugs is revealed at an early stage. Bed bugs can thrive where hygiene standards are poor and housekeeping sloppy.
In hotels and hostels house-keeping staff should be trained to identify the signs of bed bug infestation and whilst cleaning rooms should be alert management to the possibility of infestation.
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