The small wingless insect that settles about your sleeping area waiting for you to come home (so they may feast upon your blood) is called a bed bug. When it comes to this resilient pest, many misconceptions surround their infestation habits and purpose. For example, bed bugs are not attracted to dirt, grime, and filth – but instead, seek out warm-blooded creatures in order to satisfy their only source of food – blood. Therefore, it means that the cleanest of homes, hotels, and other establishments can become a gathering place for bed bugs.
What are Bed Bugs?
In search of warm-bloodied creatures for their supply of food, bed bugs started out in the world attacking nest-bound critters, but have quickly learned how to adapt to human households. When a bed bug first hatches, they are about the size of a poppy seed. An adult measures around Ľ of an inch in length, which is oval in shape with a flattened appearance from top to bottom. At first, bed bugs are nearly white in color (right after molting) and become light tan, deep brown, or burnt orange when mature. The shade of their body color comes as a result of digesting meals of blood.
Throughout the world, bed bugs and their cousins are found across the globe. At the end of the 20th century, the bed bug population and threat was not as great as today. Since then, higher numbers have been seen throughout parts of North America, Australia, and Europe.
In the household, bed bugs are commonly found in rooms where people sleep, as they typically infest beds, furniture, and nearby cracks and crevices. In the middle of the night, bed bugs are most active, as they feed on their hosts. If they are hungry enough, they will seek out a host to feed upon during the day . The hour before dawn is an especially lively time for bed bugs before they scatter for their favorite hiding spots, including bed frames, mattresses, and box springs.
A room that is cluttered with additional furniture or objects only provide bed bugs with more places to hide, making it increasingly difficult to get a hold of an infestation once it becomes established.
Signs of Bed Bug Infestation
A small number of residences become affected by bed bugs, where an infestation often becomes prevalent when an incidence of bug bites take place in the middle of the night. Although this is a common sign, all bites received during the night are not all caused by the bed bug. When inspecting the folds and creases of bed linens, mattresses and box springs, you may catch sight of characteristic dark brown or reddish fecal spots that bed bugs are responsible for leaving behind. Heavily infested households will showcase a strong odor that some liken to the spice, coriander.
Additionally, bed bugs shed their skin and the hollowed-out leftovers of the insect (known as “skin casts”) are the result of the nymphal stage of the bed bug life cycle. Although difficult to spot with the naked eye, bed bug eggs are detectable. They appear close to 1 millimeter in length and are shaped like rice.
Bed bugs are able to fit into small cracks and crevices (due to their size and body shape), meaning they easily hide undetected in furniture, luggage, clothing, pillows, boxes, and other objects . As these items are transported between apartments, households, and hotels – the bed bug is able to infest new surroundings. Some people acquire their extra houseguests when they purchase used furniture and other items and bring the bed bugs and eggs into their home.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are also able to survive for many months without feeding, meaning individuals entering a clean or vacant home or apartment may already show the presence of this pesky insect. In apartment complexes and condominiums, bed bugs are known to travel using pipes and wiring.
Negative Effects of Bed Bugs
The bed bug has been linked to pathogens present in their bodies, such as plague and hepatitis B, but there is no definite evidence that suggests the insect is responsible for transmitting diseases that cause medical threats to humans. Although no immediate health concerns are seen with the presence of the bed bug, the very sight of them is enough to make your skin crawl and cause embarrassment to homeowners dealing with an infestation. Additionally, bed bugs have caused:
a) Infection and Scarring:
Some victims constantly scratch at the skin and their bed bug bites, which can lead to skin infections and scars.
In the most extreme cases of bed bug infestation, one may produce a response called “delusional parasitosis,” which makes one feel as if they are still infested with the insect even after the problem as been dealt with . There have even been cases of post-traumatic stress disorder attached to people who have recently survived a bed bug attack within their home.
c) Unattractive Welts:
The appearance of red welts that cause intense itching is a concern for people who have been bitten in visible locations about the body, including the arms, neck, back, and legs.
d) Possible Anaphylactic Shock:
Very few people will undergo anaphylactic shock in response to some of the allergens present in bed bug saliva.
e) Unpleasant Scent:
A rather pungent odor is noted when bed bugs are present in a room, as they emit an oil-like liquid from their bodies .
f) Financial Effects:
In most cases, the elimination of bed bugs becomes the duty of a trained professional, who may have to come to the home to destroy this rather resilient insect. Depending on the severity and methods used, it could cost a pretty penny. On the average, bed bug extermination may cost between $200 and $400.
Natural Cures for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are one of the most resistant creatures to the many varied attempts to destroy their presence, making home and natural cures pretty slim. Bed bugs are known to outlive temperatures reaching 100 degrees for a short period of time and can survive being placed in the freezer. Additionally, they are known to live without eating for up to one year. In the earliest stages of an infestation, a homeowner may learn how to control their numbers by using some of the natural suggestions listed below:
a) Black Walnut:
The National Park Service suggests that using the leaf teas consisting of black walnut provide an astringent effect, as well as serves as a decent insecticide against bed bugs.
b) Herbal Approaches:
There is a range of natural cures that people have used to treat their bed bug problem with varying degrees of success. A few suggestions is to try include spraying lavender, thyme, tea tree, or eucalyptus on bed linens, clothes and in other locations where people sleep in the house.
c) Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth:
While the exact bed bug population is not solved, the number of insects has been known to decrease when using food-grade diatomaceous earth as a repellent for bed bugs.
d) Boric Acid:
It is suggested to spread boric acid powder about the places where bed bugs choose to frequent, feed, and hide. This natural cure should never come in direct contact with a mattress or box spring. This remedy is often used to control the migration of bed bugs in a home.
e) Steam Treatment:
To eliminate bed bugs from mattresses and additional upholstered items, some pest control professionals will use stream to naturally treat a sleeping area. As it brings about limited effectiveness, this method has shown promise when involving less than ˝ inch of penetration. Some people have purchased small steam cleaners to treat their bedding.
f) Clothes Dryer:
Placing infested linens within a clothes dryer and heating the items for more than 20 minutes is said to kill bed bugs.
g) Natural Heat:
In cities where the climate reaches extremely high temperatures, hanging linens in the sun will kill attached bed bugs who falter in the extreme heat of the sun.
h) Botanical Insecticides :
Insecticides that contain natural pyrethrins are known to serve as a temporary natural cure, as the insects are repelled by this remedy and become ineffective for a short period of time. Unfortunately, natural pyrethrins quickly break down and are unable to provide the necessary bed-bug fighting power that lasts long enough to wipe out the entire population.
Natural Cures for Bed Bug Bites
When you are in need of a natural cure to sooth the presence of bed bug bites, you may turn to one of the oldest and simplest of poultices – made of mud – which offers soothing relief for bites. For maximum results, it is suggested to mix herbal tea and powdered white clay with mud. Plantain found in the wild is also used to successfully treat bed bug bites.
Starchy substances, such as arrowroot powder, grated potato, and mallow root can treat the pain and severe itching that accompanies bites caused by bed bugs. Finely ground grains like rice or oatmeal are also effective. Some people seek out the leaves of willow, maple, oak or hazel trees, which are believed to effectively soothe bed bug bites.
You may also make a fresh herb poultice using chewed fresh herbs that are directly placed on top of bites. Try considering popular selections, such as chickweed (Stellaria media); wild mallow (Malva neglecta); comfrey (Symphytum uplandica x); wild geranium (Geranium maculatum); and yellow dock (Rumex species).