When it comes to insects invading your home, bed bugs are the most problematic. Imagine dozens of small, blood-sucking insects feeding on your body while you lay asleep. It sounds like a nightmare, and this is one nightmare that doesn’t end when you wake up. Worse yet, bed bugs are extremely difficult to eradicate, often requiring the services of a pest control specialist.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny, brownish-colored insects that feed on the blood of animals and humans. They have flat, oval-shaped bodies roughly the size of an apple seed. However, their bodies become plump and turn reddish after gorging on blood. The lifespan of a bed bug is between 2 and 4 months, and it can live for up to 70 days without feeding.
For thousands of years, bed bugs have existed alongside humans, and they can be found in places all across the globe. And while incidents of infestations are common, they have increased over the past few decades. This slight jump is attributed to increased travel and the bed bugs’ ever-growing resistance to pesticides.
Signs That You Have Bed Bugs
When bed bugs first invade a home, they can go unnoticed for quite some time. However, as they reproduce and their numbers grow, you will notice the tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation. There are numerous signs to look for, and some are easier to recognize than others.
Here are some signs that bed bugs have invaded your home:
- Tiny bite marks on your body. Bed bugs are nocturnal insects that feed when it’s dark; therefore, their bite marks usually mysteriously appear overnight. These bite marks appear as small red bumps that are sometimes clustered together in groups of three or four. Although the bite of a bed bug is relatively painless, it usually causes the area to itch for several days after being bitten. Bed bugs differ from most other blood-sucking insects in that they will feed on any area of the body that is exposed while sleeping. Whereas mosquitoes, for instance, primarily target only the arms and legs of their victims. If you have bite marks on your mid-section, neck, or face, they were probably the result of bed bugs.
- An unexplainable musty odor. Bed bugs release a pheromone when they are bothered or threatened, and the scent of this pheromone is typically unnoticeable. Only when many bed bugs release the pheromone in unison does the odor become strong enough to detect. The pheromone is said to have a scent similar to that of cilantro or almonds. If you notice an unusual musty odor in your home and no identifiable source, it could be bed bugs.
- Bloodstains on your bedsheets. When bed bugs feed, their thin, flat bodies become swollen with the blood they gorged on. If you’re asleep while this feeding frenzy is taking place, you may inadvertently roll over and squish a few of the bugs. Although this is unlikely to kill the bed bugs, it does sometimes squeeze the blood back out of their stomachs. This can result in small but noticeable blood stains on the bedsheets.
- Fecal matter spotting on bedding and furniture. When bed bugs defecate, they leave tiny, dark brown spots and smears. These droppings consist of dried human blood that has been digested. Fecal matter spotting is usually found in places where bed bugs take refuge during daylight hours. These areas include box springs, mattresses, piles of clothing, and curtains. Because bed bugs tend to congregate in groups, the fecal matter spots tend to grow in size as the droppings multiply. When this happens, the stains become much easier to locate and recognize. Eventually, you will see large patches of dark brown droppings, often spanning several inches in diameter.
- Tiny eggs begin appearing. Female bed bugs lay between one and eight eggs per day. These eggs are about the size of a pinhead and white. Due to their minuscule size, they are difficult to notice with the naked eye. If you are finding bed bug eggs, you are probably already aware that they are infesting your home.
- Exoskeleton sheds are discovered. As juvenile bed bugs grow into adults, they shed their exoskeleton. The shed exoskeleton is also referred to as a shell casing or husk, and it is essentially a hollow, semi-transparent mold of the bug that sheds it. This shedding process occurs five times before bed bugs reach adulthood. Shell casings are most often found in places where bed bugs breed, such as mattress seams, crevices in furniture, and behind baseboards. If you are finding shell casings, then there is a high probability of having a bed bug problem.
- Finding a live specimen. There is one surefire way of knowing if you have bed bugs in your home, and that is by finding a live specimen. It’s generally true that bed bugs only come out at night, but occasionally they can be seen during the daytime. When this happens, it’s usually because their place of harborage has been disrupted, and they are scurrying to find a new place to hide. For an even better chance of seeing a bed bug, place a lamp or a bright flashlight close to your bed and periodically turn it on throughout the night. When the room lights up, quickly scan your body, the bedsheets, and the mattress for bed bugs. If you have already found other signs of bed bug infestation, then there is a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of them immediately after the lights come on.
Determining Your Next Move
By recognizing the signs of a bed bug infestation, you should be able to determine if these blood-sucking pests have compromised your home. Hopefully, it has not. If bed bugs have invaded it, you will need to develop a treatment plan to prevent the infestation from worsening.
Unlike other invasive insect species that can be eliminated using do-it-yourself applications, a professional exterminator must deal with bed bugs. Because bed bugs are exceptionally difficult to kill, and eradicating an infestation often requires intense treatment methods. If you need more information on bed bug treatments, you should contact a reputable pest control company and arrange a free consultation.