Cimex lectularius, or "bed bugs" as they are commonly called, are pesky little insects derived from the Cimicidae family. They eat off warm-blooded animals to survive. Wingless, these insects are extremely small and often difficult to locate and identify. An adult bed bug can live up to 18 months without a food source before dying. Their long dormant period makes them easy carriers among travelers as they visit from location to location, dropping off bugs along the way.
One way to recognize the early presence of bed bugs could be by the stains they leave behind--stains from blood and feces. Stains from their excrement are a rusty color that is difficult to remove from linens and bedding. Other things that the bugs may leave behind are dried-up shedding of their skin. This shedding may also include eggs, dead bugs or dried-up larvae. Shedding looks like little dried-out shells of the bug. These items may be found anywhere the bugs live and travel.
Bed bugs mainly live in mattresses and the beds of people and pets but they can be found in other areas of the home as well. In early infestation cases, bugs may be transmitted into the home by clothing, furniture, pets, luggage and packages. In rare cases, they are transmitted in food. Because they feed mainly at night, they tend to hide during the day in dark locations when there is likely no host around. Found in carpeting, baseboards, behind wallpaper, ceiling tiles or inside furniture, bed bugs typically remain 100 feet or closer to where the host sleeps. Early on, they reside in the seams, tiny crevices and box springs of the mattress.
The bugs are small and difficult for an untrained eye to identify. Most resemble a lentil or apple seed. They have an oval appearance and a flat body. They are slow movers, much like lice. They crawl rather than jump onto their hosts. Most bed bugs that feed regularly off a host live around 9 months. In early infestations, there may be a small amount of bugs in the home. The female bed bugs can lay up to 5 eggs each day. These eggs are barely visible to the naked eye and are as long as a few grains of salt. The eggs are a milky color and only take around 2 weeks to hatch. The nymphs start feeding immediately on hosts and are generally the beginning of a large-scale infestation if not treated properly.
One of the first signs of bed bugs will likely be bites. These bites generally occur while the host or human is sleeping at night. Not all bites are felt immediately; some can take days to appear. The appearance is a large red, welt or raised area on the skin. It is similar to a mosquito bite. One bug generally bites in one location and then leaves the host. If they are disturbed in any way, one or two more welts may appear next to each other as they refuel on the blood. There is an intense itching involved with the bed bug bite. This results from an allergic reaction to the anesthetic in the bug's saliva. To reduce the itching, use over-the-counter hydrocortisone or corticosteroids prescribed by a physician.
The first indication of bed bugs should result in getting rid of them to prevent infestation. Any early indication of bites or bug remnants is a good indication the bugs are spreading. Destroying the hideouts and homes of the bed bugs will deem the best results. This means getting rid of infested furniture, mattresses, box springs, carpeting and other areas where the bugs appear. A professional pest control company must be called to eliminate the bugs chemically. Home remedies do not always work and infestations have a strong chance of recurrence.