Common Name: Bedbug
Name: Cimex lectularius
About Bedbugs and Bedbug Bites
Bedbugs are small insects that feed on human blood. They range in size from about the size of a small sesame seed, to the size of a large apple seed, depending on their stage of development. They will typically feed at night while the host is asleep. Bedbugs will feed on areas of exposed skin. As such, common areas to find bites are backs of the hands, fingers, forearms, feet, calves, neck, and face. Because of the way bedbugs feed, it is fairly common to find three bite marks in a row. Bedbug infestations cannot be diagnosed by bites alone. But bites, in combination with other evidence, such as shed skins, droppings, or dead bugs can clearly indicate a bedbug problem.
Everyone reacts a little differently to bedbug bites. Some people don’t react at all, and other people have serious reactions including hives, redness/itching and swelling around the bite area. The physical bite marks also appear at different times for different people. Some people who react, will notice the bite marks and symptoms within hours of the bite. However, the bite marks and symptoms may take several days to appear on other people. This difference in reactions and reaction times can make it difficult to locate or determine the sources of an infestation.
Bedbugs are relatively harmless, and because bedbugs are so good at hiding, and so many people don’t react to bedbug bites, it is not uncommon for an infestation of bedbugs to go completely unnoticed for long periods of time. Bedbugs are not known to spread any infectious diseases or viruses. Studies in labs have shown that certain pathogens have been found inside bedbugs, but so far, there is no evidence of bedbugs transmitting any such pathogens. The psychological effects of having bedbugs is currently the most serious health issue surrounding bedbugs.
Bedbugs start as eggs and will grow through 4 growth stages before becoming adults at the 5th stage. Only Adult bedbugs will produce eggs. Bedbug eggs resemble tiny grains of white (or pale yellow) rice, about 0.5 to 1 millimetre in length. These eggs are typically stuck to fabrics or surfaces in groups, and are usually laid within one meter of a food source, though in heavy infestations, eggs have been found several meters from a food source. Eggs are stuck to surfaces with a glue-like substance excreted by the mother when the eggs are laid. This can make the eggs very difficult to remove from some surfaces. Eggs are small but are still visible to the naked eye with close inspection. After hatching, the newly hatched bedbug nymphs will need to feed within a few days or they will die of dehydration. However, once a bedbug has had its first meal, it is capable of going months without feeding again before it will die of starvation. Bedbugs will typically feed about once per week when a host is readily available. Bedbugs require a blood meal in order to grow from one developmental stage to the next, and they will shed a skin/exoskeleton each time they go through this development. Each time a bedbug sheds its exoskeleton, the emerging bedbug will be quite light, or even white, in colour. This colouration darkens over time to the normal redish-brown colour.
How To Identify Bedbugs
Bedbugs are visible to the naked eye at all stages including eggs, but can be difficult to find because bedbugs like to find harbourage points in dark, hidden places that are relatively undisturbed during the day. Bedbugs tend to aggregate, and their harbourage areas are often found containing bedbugs of all stages, along with eggs, fecal spots, and shed exoskeletons. These harbourage spots can be any place where the bedbugs feel safe and are relatively close to a host. They can be found in folds or seams of mattresses or box springs, joints of a bed frame, undersides of drawers, behind baseboards, behind outlet covers or switch plates, inside electronics, under lamps, inside books, etc… Airborne chemical pheromones allow bedbugs to find each other over fairly large distances. Large infestations can be quite easy to find and identify. But, if you have only brought one or two bedbugs into your home, it can be extremely difficult to find them, even for professionals, as their aversion to light, and their ability to fit into very small cracks make them very good at hiding. The best way to inspect is to remove bedding, carefully inspecting each piece inside and out as you go, then carefully inspect all sides, edges, and seams of the mattress and box spring. After that, the search can be expanded to include the bed frame, making sure to take the pieces apart and inspect all joints, cracks and screw holes. Once the bed frame has been inspected, the search can then be expanded to include clutter or furniture that is close to the bed. Pay special attention to items that have sat undisturbed for more than a week. The next place to inspect would be the edges of the baseboards, heating vents, outlet covers, and wall hangings such as pictures, or mirrors, along with dressers, nightstands, wardrobes or other furnishings. Inspections should start with the sleeping area itself, and work outwards from there. The same process can be used to inspect sofas, bedding foam, mats or bedrolls that have been placed directly on the floor for sleeping. If at any point during the inspection you find evidence of bedbugs, it is best to call a professional for a proper treatment of the entire home.
How To Get Rid Of Bedbugs
Getting rid of bedbugs can be very difficult. because they are great at hiding, and they can go so long without feeding, great care has to be taken when treating for bedbugs. There are many products and methods used for killing bedbugs, but if not used correctly, these products or methods could make the problem worse, or at the very least, more difficult to solve. For instance, if you find a bedbug on your mattress and you spray it with a can of any bug spray labelled for bedbugs, you will likely kill that bedbug. However, if there are more bedbugs in the area, they will smell the residue from the spray, and will either run or hide from it. If they are sufficiently stressed by the smell, they can continue hiding for days, weeks or months until they either feel safe, or are hungry enough to try leaving their hiding spot. This is also true of heat treatments, if not performed correctly.
If you think you only have a couple of bedbugs, and you want to treat them yourself, it is best to carefully go through each part of a detailed inspection using a sticky lint-roller and/or hand-held steamer to physically remove and kill any bedbugs or eggs that you find. However, even this process, if rushed, or not done properly, can make things worse or send bugs into hiding.
The best method for treatment, is to have a professional come in and assess the home for the best possible treatment option based on the layout and use of the home as well as the level of infestation. And because bedbugs are so good at hiding, proper treatment should always include a follow up and warranty period. When comparing prices from different professional companies, always consider the total cost including any follow up and additional treatments that may be required, as some companies price their services differently from others. In addition to the treatment itself, there are other costs that should be taken into consideration. Laundry is a large factor in bedbug treatments. Some treatments and preparation guidelines will vary as to the timing, but in the end, all bedding, some drapery, and a great deal of clothing will need to be washed and dried at high heat settings. Even if you have adequate laundry facilities available, this process can be very time consuming. Other preparation and cleaning can also take a great deal of time. Also consider the time that you will need to be out of your home while the treatment is being done and following the treatment. Re-entry times may vary slightly based on the type of treatment, but you should be prepared to stay out of the home for at least 8 hours, and possibly 24 hours or more for some pets or for people who are immune compromised, pregnant, or infirm.
The two most common types of treatment used by professionals are chemical treatments, and heat treatments. There are pros and cons to both types of treatment, and each professional will have their own opinions on which may be best at killing bedbugs. However, the science behind it all says that when used properly, both are just as effective at killing bedbugs. The real difference comes in the way each method is conducted.
Chemical Treatments For Bed Bugs
Slower results. Typically 2 treatments. Can take 3-6 weeks following 2nd treatment to see complete results.
Application of pesticides requires special certification of the applicator and special registration of the business. These registrations and certifications are regulated by provincial and federal governments.
Chemical treatments work by applying a residual pesticide to key, problem areas throughout the residence. There are number of pesticides that can be used in the eradication of bedbugs, and a number of ways the pesticides can be applied. The three most common types of pesticide used for treating bedbugs are Liquid Emulsions, Aerosol Sprays, and Insecticidal Dusts.
Chemical treatment for bedbugs is a much more surgical procedure than a heat treatment. Chemical treatments involve thoroughly inspecting for all possible bedbug harbourage points, and applying pesticide as needed to eliminate the bedbugs. A residual pesticide is used for harbourage points that may not be accessible such as spaces behind baseboards, cracks, joints or spaces in furniture, or other hard-to-reach places where bedbugs are likely to be hiding. Because the process is so much more surgical, involving a thorough inspection, non-chemical methods are often included as part of the treatment. At Lavellan, we often use special vacuums, and steamers in conjunction with a chemical treatment to kill and remove any bedbugs that are found during inspection/treatment. This reduces the amount of chemical used, and provides a quicker, more thorough, result.
Factors that can cause a chemical treatment to be ineffective at eradicating bedbugs:
Resident not letting the applicator know of any previous treatments performed by someone else or another company in the previous 6 months
No access to key areas due to too much stuff/clutter
Improper application of pesticides
Bedbug resistance if only one chemical used
Unseen bedbugs repelled by pesticide smell, go deeper into hiding
Potential risks with a chemical treatment:
Returning to the home before posted re-entry time, before pesticides have had time to dry, can lead to possible exposure of pesticides.
At Lavellan Pest Solutions, we us a unique, investigative assessment-based strategy to eradicate bedbugs.
This approach strategically utilizes specific non-chemical methods, along with a very localized chemical treatment to achieve amazing results in eliminating all bed bugs from your home.
This unique method is both more effective, as well as safer for your family and pets.
Heat Treatments For Bed Bugs
Immediate results following single treatment. Though activity can return weeks or even months later if treatment was not done properly.
There is no certification, specific training or industry regulation for heat treatments. As such, anyone with a bit of equipment can perform a heat treatment. This means there is a large variety of people performing heat treatments, leaving a large margin for human error due to inexperience or lack of proper training.
A heat treatment works on the principle of heating an entire space and everything in it, to a temperature hot enough to kill bedbugs, and holding at that temperature for a set duration of time, and then ventilating and lowering the temperature again. Doing this requires high-temperature heaters - either gas or electric, a series of fans to disperse the heat, and a number of thermometers that can be placed throughout various parts of the space being heated. The trick is in getting every corner of space, piece of furniture, pile of clothes, etc… up to the desired temperature without getting some areas so hot so as to cause damage to anything. This gets more and more difficult as the space being heated gets larger and/or filled with more stuff. Fans, heaters, thermometers, and belongings need to be constantly monitored and adjusted during the treatment. Between the equipment, the set up, the process itself, and the space and number of items being heated, there are a huge number of factors involved in a proper heat treatment, and there is a lot of room for error. Heat treatments have the best results in small, easily controlled environments. And, heat treatments have the lowest efficacy rates in large homes with multiple rooms and multiple floors.
Factors that can cause a heat treatment to be ineffective at eradicating bedbugs: For
Not enough equipment to heat the entire space properly
The wrong type of equipment for the space
Not enough thermometers
Poor placement of thermometers
Inconsistent monitoring of temperatures
Lack of adjustments made to equipment and personal belongings during treatment
Too much stuff in the space/ no room to adequately move items around
Not heating all rooms or areas of the home sufficiently
Only taking surface temperatures (i.e. laser) and not internal temperatures
Not removing baseboards or outlet covers
Not lifting carpet edges when required
Not reaching adequate temperatures
Not sustaining adequate temperatures for long enough
Bedbugs repelled by heat go deeper into hiding
Potential risks with a heat treatment:
Heat damage to property or certain items that may have gotten too hot, like electronics or musical equipment, etc…
Damage to property or items through large amount of shifting and moving of items around during treatment
Serious damage or fire due to explosive items that were missed, such as the lighter that slid down the inside of the sofa, or the can of hairspray that rolled under the bed, etc…
Damage to plumbing pipes or seals due to water not being run during treatment
Damage/Fire caused by improperly used gas heater
Adequate heat not reaching all problem areas where bedbugs are hiding
How To Prevent Bedbugs
Preventing any bedbugs from entering your home can be next to impossible. But there are certain steps and precautions you can take that will greatly reduce the chance of bringing bedbugs into your home.
First, understand that there are a large number of ways that you can bring bedbugs into your home. While bedbugs do not live on people, they do frequently hitch rides on people, clothing, purses, bags, backpacks, luggage, etc… These hitchhiking bedbugs can then get into your home through delivery, or through transference. The four most common ways that bedbugs are spread are:
Direct Delivery - Someone, coming from an infested area, brings bedbugs into your home while visiting or spending time there.
Indirect Delivery - Someone, coming from an infested area, drops bedbugs from their clothing or personal items into a common or shared space such as the hallway or corridor as they leave. These dropped bedbugs then make their way to the nearest refuge with a possible food source, which is often neighbouring units or residences in a multi-residence facility. NOTE: This happens commonly in multi-residence facilities, but bedbugs that drop off on the exterior of a building rarely live long enough to find their way back into a home.
Transference - This happens when you, or someone in your household, visits or spends time at a place that has bedbugs, and one or more of these bedbugs hitch a ride on you, your luggage or your personal items and gets brought back into your home.
Secondary Transference - This happens when a person coming from a place that has bedbugs drops bedbugs in a non-domicile setting such as a library, movie theatre, airplane, or public transit. These dropped bedbugs then find their way on to you or your items and get brought back into your home. This type of secondary transference also happens through used clothing or furniture that may have come from a place that has bedbugs, or from a moving van that was previously used to move furniture that has bedbugs.
It is also important to understand a bit about the behaviour of bedbugs. Bedbugs have four main driving factors behind the majority of their actions and behaviours.
Seeking Food - Most commonly at night, hungry bedbugs will seek out body heat and carbon dioxide in search of food. It is also thought that bedbugs may be attracted to certain sweat smells produced by humans, but this is still being studied. While seeking food (blood), and under the cover of darkness, bedbugs can move quite quickly (about a meter per minute) and they can climb most non-smooth surfaces such as walls, fabrics, furniture legs, etc… Once they have fed, they will return to a safe harbourage spot and hide.
Hiding or Sheltering - Bedbugs really do not want to be caught, so they have become really good at hiding. They tend to avoid light and if they sense movement they will tend to stay still and/or slowly make their way to the nearest crack or shadow. Bedbugs get stressed by certain chemicals, certain temperatures or by certain predators. When bedbugs are stressed they may find a hiding spot and stay there until they feel safe, which could take hours, days, weeks or even months, depending on what was causing the stress.
Mating and Harbourage - Male and Female bedbugs produce pheromones and other chemical indicators that attract other bedbugs. This is mostly for mating purposes, but some have also thought that the pheromones may also indicate safe shelter areas.
Solitary Refuge - Bedbugs mate in a unique way known as Traumatic Insemination. This is a method of insemination used by some invertebrates, but is the sole method for reproduction used by bedbugs. It basically means that males use their aedeagus to penetrate the female abdomen to inject their sperm. This is very taxing on the female body and after a couple such encounters, the female will often leave the harbourage area and seek a solitary refuge where she can heal. The female will often stay in this solitary refuge until she lays eggs, at which time the solitary refuge becomes a new harbourage point. This behaviour is also partly why bedbug infestations spread out in the way that they do.
So, keeping all this in mind, we can determine that while bedbugs use humans for food, and the relationship is considered to be parasitic in nature, bedbugs don’t live on their hosts, and actually don’t want to be noticed by us at all, if possible. Their harbourage points, and hiding places are typically in dark, hidden areas that remain undisturbed by our movements and activities. This also means, that while bedbugs will often hitch a ride on our clothing, luggage, or personal items, they are unlikely to use these places as harbourage sites or homes.
It is often said that sanitation is not a factor for bedbugs to thrive. Because we are their food source, bedbugs don’t care how dirty a place is. From pristine, million dollar homes, to the filthiest slum, bedbugs are found all over the world and in a variety of living conditions. And, while this is true when considering where bedbugs can survive, I do believe that sanitation plays a large role in the transmission of bedbugs. Bedbugs most commonly end up on people’s clothing or items because they were left in close proximity to the sleeping area and/or left undisturbed for weeks at a time.
So, keeping your bedroom tidy, not sleeping in your day clothes, using proper fitting top and bottom sheets, keeping clean or dirty clothing off the floor or off the bed, washing clothing and bedding regularly, and taking regular showers, may not prevent you from ever getting bedbugs, but it will make early detection a lot easier. And, if you do get bedbugs, these simple practices will greatly reduce the risk of you transmitting bedbugs to other people or other places.
Here are some tips for preventing bedbugs or reducing your chances of bringing bedbugs home:
Be careful when buying or bringing home used clothing, items or furniture, especially, sofas, beds, bed frames, and night stands. Always carefully inspect second-hand items for any signs of bedbugs. or, have a professional inspect them for you. At Lavellan, we offer such inspection services.
When you go to large parties, or gatherings at other people’s homes, avoid placing your coat or jacket in a large pile with the coats and jackets from all the other guests unless you know for a fact that none of them have bedbugs at home.
Similarly, if you have a large party or gathering at your home, avoid stacking all the guest coats and such on top of your bed.
Be careful with where you leave your personal clothing and items while at work, school, or the gym, or any clubs where you might share locker space, or have common areas to hang outer wear and bags and such.
When staying at a hotel, or motel, do a quick check around the edges and folds of the bed skirt, mattresses, box springs, and headboards for any signs of bedbug activity. Carefully check drawers or closets before placing your clothes inside.
When traveling, avoid leaving clothing laying on the floor for days at a time. Keep your dirty clothes in a sealed bag away from your clean clothes. And carefully examine all luggage before packing to go home.
If you think you may have encountered bedbugs while traveling, make sure to wash all clothing upon your return and leave luggage open in a bathtub over night. Bedbugs cannot climb the walls of a clean bathtub, making bathtubs a handy trap for any hitchhiking bedbugs.
At home, clean all bedding regularly and do a quick inspection of the mattresses, box springs, bed frame and headboards 2 to 3 times per year.
Early detection is key in dealing with bedbugs quickly and efficiently.