BIOLOGY: Bedbugs (or bed bugs) are small, elusive, and parasitic insects of the family Cimicidae. They live strictly by feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. The name ‘bed bug’ is derived from the insect’s preferred habitat infesting houses and especially beds or other common areas where people may sleep. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding unnoticed on their hosts.
SIZE: Adults grow to 4–5 mm in length and 1.5–3 mm wide.
COLOR: Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown, flattened, oval, and wingless. Bedbugs have microscopic hairs that give them a banded appearance. A common misconception is that they are not visible to the naked eye. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent, lighter in color and become browner as they moult and reach maturity.
FEEDING HABITS: Bedbugs are bloodsucking insects. They are normally out at night just before dawn, with a peak feeding period of about an hour before sunrise. Bedbugs may attempt to feed at other times if given the opportunity and have been observed feeding during all periods of the day. They reach their host by walking, or sometimes climb the walls to the ceiling and drop down on feeling a heat wave. Bedbugs are attracted to their hosts by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide. The bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow feeding tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place.
BITES: Most observed bites consist of a raised red bump or flat welt, and are often accompanied by very intense itching. The red mark is the result of an allergic reaction to the anesthetic contained in the bedbug’s saliva, which is inserted into the blood of its victim. Reactions to bedbug bites may appear indistinguishable from mosquito bites although they tend to last for longer periods. Bites may not become immediately visible and can take up to nine days to appear.