This small, reddish-brown insect, just a bit longer (5 mm) than it’s width (3 mm), is flat in shape so that the top and bottom of its body are not very far apart. It has a small tube under its head for sucking liquids.
Other infestation - confirming indicators : Bedding and mattress spotted with blood.
When the female lays her eggs, she produces a sticky substance to glue them in place. When the young insect (larva) leaves the egg, it is already a miniature version of the adult. It is yellowish in colour at first, then becoming reddish after its first meal of blood. It will gradually develop if it can occasionally draw blood from a human, a bat or a chicken. When they reach maturity, the male and female mate, and after sucking blood another time, the female will lay her eggs (up to 200). Bedbugs are gregarious; eggs, larvae and adults live together.
Places where they can be found in the home
These insects are not always easy to detect since they are active mainly at night. During the day, they hide near mattress seams (even in waterbeds). When the infestation progresses or humans or animals are no longer accessible, they disperse a bit more. They are then found in small cracks in walls and wood (such as bed frames, bedsprings, furniture, the floor, or door and window frames) where they will lay their eggs. Bedbugs can also be found hiding behind moulding, and underneath wallpaper or under pictures. Although they propagate more slowly than cockroaches between apartments, they can follow pipes to travel between them and even between houses.
While recycling is good from an environmental viewpoint, we must be aware that using an old mattress found by the roadside constitutes a risk of introducing bedbugs.
If you sleep in a place frequented by many travelers, such as a hotel, you can lift the sheets to see if there are any brown or black spots. If there are, they are bedbug excrement. Exuviae (old skin) lost through molting can also provide evidence they were there. The more modern mattresses offer less possible hiding places than older ones. When the number of these insects is large, they produce a characteristic odour.
Since bedbugs can also draw blood from animals, we must first make sure there are no bats or chickens in the immediate vicinity. As is the case with other similar plant bugs, we should also watch out for swallow nests.
If the infestation is recent, the problem could be solved by getting rid of the mattress. However, you do not need to throw away a mattress that is still useful, since you can take it outside in the cold or steam clean it. After discovering bedbugs on the sheets (using a flashlight, for example), you can remove them with a vacuum cleaner, place the bag containing the insects in a plastic bag before throwing it out. The sheets, covers, pillowcases, pillows, and pyjamas should then be washed and dried at a high temperature or dry cleaned. If you decide to take them to a laundry, carry them all in a hermetically sealed bag and warn the clerk ahead of time.
Temporary measures can be used to protect against bites. The mattress can be covered with plastic. The feet of the bed can be placed in glass bowls or tin cans filled with soapy water to prevent the insect from returning. Also ensure that no part of the bed is touching the wall.
Bedbug control consists primarily of eliminating good hiding places for the insect in the room where the bed is located. All small cracks in the floor and furniture around or supporting the bed, as well as places where the walls are mouldy should be vacuumed and filled in.
These insects are sensitive to extreme temperatures. You can kill a good number of them by raising the temperature to 36 or 37 degrees Celsius, and the problem could be solved. You can kill the adults and larvae in several hours by exposing them to temperatures of from 0 to 9 degrees Celsius, but it would take one or two months to kill the eggs.
Although undesirable, the presence of Pharaoh ants at least has the advantage of helping to solve the bedbug problem since the latter are part of the ants’ menu. Spiders also feed on them, as does the masked hunter – a larger plant bug that is easier to detect and can indicate the presence of bedbugs.
Diatomaceous earth that contains natural silica fragments can be spread around areas where the insects pass through. By rubbing against this earth, they scratch their rigid body envelopes that are then incapable of retaining internal fluids, and they die of dehydration.
Since bedbugs manage to live several months without food, it may appear that the problem is solved, when in fact it is not. Chemical insecticides (sometimes prepared from flowers) are often necessary and should be used with discretion since improper use can contribute to enhancing the bedbug’s resistance to such products.
It is often believed that only people who live in dirty places or have inadequate hygiene can be invaded by insects like bedbugs. This is not at all the case. It is simply a question of bad luck. If your suitcase, clothing or antique furniture happens to be located near this insect, it will take advantage of the situation to cling to it. In our days, bedbugs are mainly considered “accidental invaders”, although the problem seems to be on the rise. One can find them on a seat while watching a movie or a show, on a bus or a train, at the laundry, etc. Property owners should not blame their tenants.
Other interesting facts
The amount of blood drawn by a bedbug is small and normally without consequence, although iron deficiencies have been reported in India in children who were bitten many times by bedbugs. Repeated bites should not be tolerated. Some persons in the same family may not even be aware of blood being drawn, while others may react strongly to the injected saliva (anticoagulant enzyme) and have a large swollen red spot on the arms or elsewhere, in addition to feeling pain.