Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius) are hardy little creatures that all but disappeared a generation ago in the United States because of DDT and other strong pesticides. However, they were still prevalent in the rest of the world just waiting for the U.S. to let its guard down for their triumphant re-emergence. Today they are prevalent in all walks of life, in the fanciest hotel rooms on down to the lowliest of homes. Nobody is immune from these little blood-suckers.
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The female lays about 200 eggs during her lifetime, usually one to 12 eggs a day. They are laid on rough surfaces and the female coats them with a transparent glue to make them stick to the surface. The eggs are whitish and tiny, about the size of a dust speck so they are very hard to see with the naked eye. They hatch in six to 17 days and are called nymphs.
Nymphs emerge from their eggs the size of a pinhead and are a nearly colorless. They are oval with a little dark spot where their head is. They resemble the adults in shape, which are about 3/16 inch long and flat when not eating, but are smaller. When they feed, they turn blood red.
Bed bug nymphs molt five times, each time getting a little bigger. A blood meal is needed between each molt. The molting process takes about 10 weeks but can happen in as little as a month if temperature, moisture and availability of blood meals are ideal.
Bed bugs do not make nests, but do tend to congregate in communities. The nymphs live among the adults. They can be found in the crevasses of mattresses and box springs, in peeling wallpaper, in carpets or wherever there are dark places, preferably warm and damp, with people around. They can go a long time without feeding, as much as a year, so the absence of people and other animals is no guarantee they are not there. Telltale signs are little dark spots and smudges at the entrance of where they congregate. This is their excrement. Sometimes you can see little smudges of blood on sheets and mattresses where they have been squished after feeding. Unlike cockroaches and other bugs, bed bugs do not depend on filth to flourish. They reside in the fanciest homes and hotels as well as the dumpiest motels.
Bedbugs do not normally transmit disease to humans. The main health concern is the itching and welts they cause. Although they are not dangerous in the common sense, they can affect quality of life by causing itching, sleeplessness, anxiety and embarrassment.