Bed Bugs

Biology

Adult bedbugs are 4-5mm in length, wingless, red-brown in colour changing to a dark mahogany colour if recently fed. All stages feeding on mammalian blood, principally human but also dog, cat or rodent. Bed bugs are nocturnal, hiding by day in crevices in beds, wallpaper, light switches, furniture and skirting boards, emerging every few days to feed.

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Egg – nymph – adult.  

Eggs – up to 200, possibly more, laid 4-5 per day, glued into crevices, often in large numbers, they only hatch above 10 -13oC. Nymphs – 5 moults taking from a few weeks to several months depending on food supply and conditions.

The bed bug is found worldwide and throughout the UK. Bed bug bites may cause an allergic reaction, but the bed bug is not a known disease carrier. The bite often gives rise to a whitish hard swelling which distinguishes it from a flea bite which normally leaves a dark red spot surrounded by a reddened area.

Infestations are usually caused by introducing second hand furniture or bedding. They are also associated with lodging houses, hostels and hotels where they may be transported on luggage.

Bedbugs produce a characteristic smell from their faeces and scent glands. They can ingest up to 7 times their body weight at any one feed, but will go for prolonged periods without feeding. The adults are highly resistant to starvation and low temperatures, but under suitable conditions several generations annually are possible.

First steps in control should be an attempt to determine the source of the infestation so that proper control measures can be taken. A thorough inspection of the bed, headboard, mattress etc, should reveal their presence, (smears and blackish deposits of excrement will indicate this) close to harbourages, as fully fed bugs have to remove excess liquids before returning to their narrow crevices.

Infected sheets etc should be laundered and rooms thoroughly vacuumed paying particular attention to cracks, crevices, the bed itself, light switches, rear of headboard, underside and rear of furniture items etc.

DIY treatment is not advisable, as to successfully eradicate the infestation, detection of all hiding places and thorough treatment of these is a job that requires experience.