The bites are often itchy, red and run in a line. Bed bugs are small, oval, brownish insects that feed on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bed bugs have a flat body about the size of an apple seed. However, after feeding, their body swells and is reddish in colour.
Bed bugs cannot fly, but they can move quickly across floors, walls and ceilings. A female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs during her lifetime, each about the size of a speck of dust. Immature bed bugs, called nymphs, moult five times before they are fully grown and require a blood meal before each moult. Under favourable conditions, bed bugs can fully develop in less than a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Bed bugs can enter your home unnoticed through luggage, clothing, used beds and sofas and other items. With their flattened bodies, they fit into tiny spaces about as wide as a bank card. Bed bugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but usually live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are usually in mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards where they have easy access to bite people during the night.
Since bed bugs feed exclusively on blood, their presence in your home is not a sign of contamination. They are just as common in spotless homes and hotel rooms as they are in dirty ones. If you notice signs of an infestation, you should take steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return. If your mattress is infested, you should dispose of it and buy a new one. However, make sure to rid the rest of your home of bed bugs as well, otherwise they will infest your new mattress as well.
While cleaning the infested areas is helpful in controlling bed bugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, so it is important to use products that are safe to use in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically states that you can use the product on bedding. This skin irritation can range from mild itching to severe aggravation, sometimes resulting in a burning sensation.
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If you notice brown stains on any part of your furniture, you should thoroughly check for active bed bugs. Blood stains can also occur if bed bugs are accidentally squashed because you step on them, or if you roll onto a bed bug in your sleep (which has been eaten by a recent meal). You may see some dead insects in your home. One of the first signs of bed bugs is red and raised itchy bites on your skin.
They may appear in groups on your body – especially in places that are exposed when you sleep. Your hands, wrists, shoulders, back and neck are some places to pay particular attention to. Blood isn’t the only evidence bed bugs leave behind, either. You can also find their eggs, eggshells and the yellowish skins they shed as they grow.
These physical signs of bed bugs are all tiny (around 1mm or so), but can build up over time into more obvious signs of infestation. Infestations usually happen quickly and without warning, so early signs of bed bugs are often indicative of future problems. If you suddenly move or shift in your sleep, you could accidentally squash a bed bug that has just finished its meal. This isn’t exactly an early warning sign, but in the worst case scenario, bed bugs can pop up anywhere in your home.
If you suspect your pet has insects on them, they are usually fleas, but they can also be infested with bed bugs. If you see bed bugs in your bedroom or home, it’s a clear sign that you have a big problem. But whether you treat them yourself or leave them to a pest control professional, the early warning signs of a potential bed bug problem need to be dealt with immediately. If you don’t see the actual bed bugs, look for tiny rust-coloured marks they leave on mattress labels and seams, blankets, under seat cushions and behind headboards.
Pest control experts agree, however, that bites alone are not enough to diagnose a bed bug problem. The digested blood is dark brown or black in colour and, because it contains iron, gives off a faint, rusty odour that contributes to the overall unpleasant smell of a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs also shed their skin several times as they mature, so you may find their oval brown exoskeletons as you search. Look out for potential hiding places, such as chipped wallpaper or carpets, and conditions that may attract bed bugs, such as excessive heat or humidity.
Therefore, residents may overlook early bed bug problems until pest populations are already difficult to control.