Bed bugs are becoming a very serious pest in the United States. The term usually refers to species that prefer to feed on human blood. All insects in this family live by feeding exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals.
A number of health effects may occur due to bed bugs including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. Diagnosis involves both finding bed bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms. Treatment is otherwise symptomatic.
In the developed world, bedbugs were largely eradicated as pests in the early 1940s, however have increased in prevalence since about 1995. Because infestation of human habitats has been on the increase, bedbug bites and related conditions have been on the rise as well. The exact causes of this resurgence remain unclear; it is variously ascribed to greater foreign travel, more frequent exchange of second-hand furnishings among homes, a greater focus on control of other pests resulting in neglect of bedbug countermeasures, and increasing resistance to pesticides. Bedbugs have been known human parasites for thousands of years.
The name "bedbug" is derived from the insect's preferred habitat of houses and especially beds or other areas where people sleep. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts. They have however been known by a variety of names including wall louse, mahogany flat, crimson rambler, heavy dragoon, chinche and redcoat.
A number of health effects may occur due to bedbugs including skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. Although bed bugs are able to be infected by at least 28 human pathogens, no study has ever found that the insect is able to transmit the pathogen to a human being. Bedbug bites may lead to a range of skin manifestations from no visible effects to prominent blisters. Diagnosis involves both finding bedbugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms. Treatment involves the elimination of the insect but is otherwise symptomatic.
Dwellings can become infested with bedbugs in a variety of ways, from:
- Bugs and eggs that "hitchhiked in" on pets, or on clothing and luggage.
- Infested items (such as furniture or clothing) brought in.
- Nearby dwellings or infested items, if there are easy routes (through duct work or false ceilings).
- Wild animals (such as bats or birds) .
- People visiting from a source of infestation; bedbugs, like roaches, are transferred by clothing, luggage, or a person's body.
Bedbugs are elusive and usually nocturnal, which can make them hard to spot. Bedbugs often lodge unnoticed in dark crevices, and eggs can be nestled in fabric seams. Aside from bite symptoms, signs include fecal spots, blood smears on sheets, and molts.
Bedbugs can be found on their own but often congregate once established. They usually remain close to hosts, commonly in or near beds or couches. Nesting locations can vary greatly, however, including luggage, vehicles, furniture and bedside clutter. Bedbugs may also nest near animals that have nested within a dwelling, such as bats, birds, or rodents. The eggs of bed bugs are found in similar places that the bed bugs themselves are found and are attached to surfaces by a sticky substance.