Be careful! You may think or plan to sleep alone or with a significant other tonight, but that may not be the case. You may have every intention of waking up in the morning from a good night’s sleep fully rested and unbothered. That might not be true especially if you have uninvited guests in your home— the Cimex Lectularius which is better known as the common bed bug. Bed bugs are parasitic insects, like mosquitoes, feed on blood. The Cimex Lectularius, one of several types of bed bugs, specifically enjoys feeding on human blood. They are basically real-life miniature vampires disguised as insects. Other bed bug species, like the bat bug, prefer the blood of animals. The non-scientific name was given to the insect because of its habit of nesting in warm houses and especially in bedding or sleep areas. Bed bugs are primarily active during the traditional sleeping hours but can be found during the day as well.
The creepy crawly insects under the bed sheets have the unsavory habit of nibbling or gorging on their human hosts without being readily noticed or particularly detected. They have six legs but do not have wings. Most are typically small and flat with a natural color that can range from pale white to a dark brown. They turn a rusty red after nourishing on human blood. The common bed bug will not grow more than 0.2 inches or five millimeters and; thus, are not easily noticed. According to Wikipedia, a number of adverse health effects may be a direct result of bed bug bites that include allergic symptoms and skin rashes. The bed bugs are not believed to directly transmit pathogens; however, their psychological effects, particularly in young children, can be both devastating and long-lasting.
Bed bugs have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years and were once thought to be practically extinct. The western civilization, including North America, had mostly eradicated the little blood suckers more than 50 years ago. Unfortunately, the bed bug population has exploded in recent years, before the start of the 21st century, with a vengeance and has been found on every continent bar none. Several factors are to blame for the insidious insect increase including governmental bans on effective pesticides and international travel. The bed bugs are resourceful and, like most other parasites, will hitch and attach themselves to different entities (clothes, beds and luggage) to survive. According to some experts, in the right atmosphere, bed bugs can actually survive for as long as a year without eating.
The best way to determine whether or not a home has an infestation of bed bugs, besides the obvious bite marks seen on a person’s skin, is to start checking bed sheets and mattresses for small dark bed bug feces. It sounds like an unpleasant chore but definitely worth the trouble for the family’s sake. If careful, a person can sometimes actually see the bed bugs themselves with the naked eye hiding in the creases and folds of a mattress or the tight corners and cracks of a bed frame. The good news is that bed bugs, if found in your residency, do not have to persist. There are sprays like Ortho Home Defense Dual Action Bed Bug Killer that eliminates the insects and their eggs for two weeks after application. SayByeBug spray is another product on the market that promises to relieve residents of the unwanted insect. It also boasts of having no dangerous chemicals or smells that would harm any family members including pets.
The DC Department of Health (DOH) held a couple of summits in 2010 regarding the overall increase in sightings of bed bugs in the District as reported by landlords and tenants. The agency provides information on their website, www.doh.dc.gov, to help residents prevent an infestation but if bed bugs have sighted, only exterminators, at either the resident or landlord’s expense, will dispose of them and monitor them for a recurrence.