Lots of us remember the old saying, "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite," as a quaint childhood memory, but unfortunately thanks to a recent surge in bed bug infestations, bed bug bites are a real problem. Bed bug infestations are taking over in homes, hotels, motels, cruise ships and youth hostels--anywhere where there are beds, bedding and humans to feed on.
What are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are nearly invisible to the naked eye. These wingless insects feed on the blood of warm blooded animals, like humans and pets. They are considered to be nest parasites, with some types preferring actual bird nests or animal nests and other preferring human "nests," or beds. They can be light or dark colored and appear darker when engorged with blood. They are most active at night.
Immature bed bugs are called nymphs and resemble the adults, but are smaller. Female bed bugs can lay hundreds of eggs over their lifetime, usually depositing 1 or 2 per day in secluded areas like crevices. As the bed bugs grow, they molt (shed their skin) five times before reaching maturity. They must feed in between each of these molting sessions. In warm climates (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit), the bugs reach maturity in as little as a month. They can live up to a year without feeding so active steps must be taken to remove the infestation.
For a few people bed bugs represent nothing more than a nuisance. For many, however, repeated exposure to the bed bug saliva--which they secrete when feeding on you at night--can create an allergic reaction resulting in extreme discomfort. The bites can resemble other blood-feeding insects such as mosquitoes or fleas, so it can't be determined whether or not you have an infestation. Other than an itchy allergic reaction, bed bugs pose no other threats.
Ridding your home of bed bugs can be a time-consuming and sometimes costly venture. First, remove all clutter and thoroughly clean the entire house, not just the infected rooms. This will limit places for the bed bugs to hide. Scrub hard surfaces, dismantle your bed frame and clean, remove dresser drawers and scrub all cracks and crevices in your furniture. Purchase a special air-tight cover for your mattress and box spring. Any bed bugs caught inside will eventually die. As a last resort, call in a licensed exterminator with experience in bed bug removal.
If you've stayed in a hotel or other area that you think may have bed bugs, be sure to take preventative steps before transporting the creatures into your own home. Wash all clothing in hot water and scrub, clean and vacuum all suitcases. You can also expose your suitcases to extreme heat, such as locking them in the car in full sunlight for an afternoon. This will kill the bugs.
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