What are bed bugs?
There are two types of bed bugs. The most common type of bed bug is the common bed bug. There is also the martin bed bug which usually lives in birds’ nests but they can sometimes bite people.
The common bed bugs are very small (around 5 mm long) oval insects. They do not have wings. They are red/brown in colour and are usually flat. However, they become more rounded and their colour changes to red/purple after they have had some blood.
Where are bed bugs found?
They can live in many different places in your home. For example, the bed mattresses, bed frames, within plug sockets, in clothing or soft furnishings. They can even live behind picture frames. They can move to different rooms, usually on clothing or furniture. They live in both clean and dirty environments. They tend to occur more in messy areas.
Bed bugs are not usually seen in the day time. They come out at night when they are attracted by the warmth of sleeping bodies and also the carbon dioxide in breath.
The adults can live for up to 18 months. They breed by laying eggs which hatch after around 10-20 days and take between 9-18 weeks to become adults. Females can lay around 300 eggs in their lifetime.
Why are bed bugs becoming more common?
Bed bugs seem to be becoming more common. It is thought that increases in international travel and immigration have contributed to an increase in bed bugs. In addition, there has been more resistance to some of the pesticides used in the past to kill bed bugs.
How do I know I have bed bugs?
The following may indicate that you have bed bugs in your home:
- Seeing spots of blood on bedding.
- Noticing brown spots on bedding, from their excrement.
- A sweet almond smell may be noticeable if there are many bed bugs around.
There are different degrees of infestation with bed bugs. This can vary from light, causing 1 or 2 bites a week, through to heavy infestations where more than 50 bites per night occur.
Do bed bugs cause diseases?
Although bed bugs do not actually cause any diseases they are usually a nuisance. When you are sleeping they inject a fluid which aids them to obtain your blood. These bites can be very itchy and irritating. The area where you have been bitten may swell.
Having bed bugs can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep, which, over time, can be bad for your health.
Is there any treatment for bed bugs?
The bites usually improve without any treatment. However, if your bites are particularly bothersome, for example itchy or swollen, then antihistamines may be beneficial. Antihistamine tablets can either be bought from the chemist or obtained from your GP. Sometimes hydrocortisone cream is recommended by your doctor.
How can I get rid of bed bugs?
Any affected bedding or clothes should be washed in a hot wash (over 40°C).
If bites occur when you are on holiday then you should carefully inspect any hotel rooms for signs of bed bugs.
Your local pest control team may also be able to help to eradicate them by using an insecticide which is usually sprayed on and around the affected areas of your house. This is usually very effective.
Further help and information
The US Environmental Protection Agency has produced some comprehensive information about bed bugs. This can be accessed on www.epa.gov/pesticides/bedbugs
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