Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bedbugs: Bloodsucking Bedmates

This article will explain why bedbugs are so good at sucking human blood, how to recognize a bedbug infestation, and how to reclaim your sleep haven from these blood-sucking critters.

Bedbugs are covert operations specialists
Few creatures can match the stealth of the bedbug in extracting a human bloodmeal. Under the cover of darkness, it silently crawls from a nearby hiding place to seek its next victim. A sleeping human, warm and exhaling carbon dioxide, is the preferred fare of this flat, apple-seed-like insect. It painlessly pierces the skin with a syringe-like mouth then proceeds to engorge itself with blood. The victim feels nothing during those few minutes he or she is feasted upon. An adult female can make lots of bedbug babies after a bloodmeal, totaling 400 eggs in a lifetime. Given the right conditions, these offspring become adults in two months.

Recognizing bedbug bites
Bedbugs are fidgety feeders, and usually leave a tell-tale three welt track on the skin of the victim. Unlike flea bites, which have a characteristic spot in the center, bedbug bites look more like
mosquito bites that get larger if scratched. Unexplained bites that occur while you are asleep rule out fleas, which bite painfully. Bedbugs strike from beneath, hitting near where the person’s body contacts the bed. So bites in those areas rule out mosquitoes, which launch airborne attacks.

Other bed-bug giveaway signs
Since bedbugs are so shy, chances are you won’t actually see one unless you initiate your own covert bedbug-finding operation. Starting with the bed, remove the sheet and check the mattress seams carefully. Bedbugs like hanging out next to mattress seams, wooden bedframe joins and any dark crevice. The critters aren’t exactly toilet-trained, and will poop right where the social is. Bedbug poo are dark stains - remains of the bloodmeal. If you do find these, a full-on bug-hunt will be needed to find the six-legged critters and confirm that the infestation is active.

The good news about bedbugs…
Bedbugs don’t carry any other bugs that can make you ill. You can’t get malaria, dengue, Lyme disease or any sort of insect vector-borne sickness from a bedbug bite. Some people have allergic reactions but these are very rare. It’s also a plus point that a bedbug bite doesn’t hurt while it is doing the deed. You may also be glad to know that bedbug infestations don’t imply a lack of hygiene, such as with cockroach and ant invasions. Even the best of us can fall prey to bedbugs.

Getting rid of bedbugs
Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Starving them out isn’t really feasible because these fasting gurus can live a year without eating. The pesticidal baits that roaches and ants are suckers for don’t interest the bedbug at all. Sprays don’t quite reach into the nooks and crannies that bedbugs hole up in or affect the eggs. In fact, a slapdash pesticide application could backfire by causing a mass-dispersal of alarmed bedbugs fleeing for their lives. It is absolutely important to find all the places where the bedbugs are hiding and do a one-time treatment that will get them all, then follow up a few more times after that to make sure any remnant bugs or eggs that hatch out later are destroyed. There’s a lot of conjecture out there about how to kill bedbugs and some of these methods could make things worse. Hiring a reliable pest control operator experienced in eradicating bedbugs to do the job is probably your best bet.

Bedbugs in hotels
If you travel and sleep in hotels, always do the mattress and headboard check (described earlier). Better to inspect the room and mattress first, before bringing your possessions in, and when you do, place suitcases up off the floor/carpet. If you somehow missed catching the infestation until too late (i.e., woke up in the morning covered with bites), then after reporting to the hotel, take all your stuff and put into heavy duty black trash bags, tie them tight and work on killing any possible hitchhikers in your stuff. Anything that can fit in the washing machine gets laundered on the hottest cycle, then in the dryer on the hottest cycle also. Anything else, keep in the trash bags and put on your car roof top in the sun for the day. Bedbugs are certainly tough to kill, but heat is their cryptonite - 113 F for more than 90 minutes will do it (or 118 F for 20 minutes).

Do you have any bedbug experiences to share? I have plenty of my own that I probably should blog about some time. Would love to hear yours!


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