Bed bugs have been with man for a long time. We know for certain that bed bugs feed on the blood of Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans a few thousand years ago. Bed bugs are mentioned in a second millennium Egyptian papyrus. During the industrial age (late 18th century onward) bed bug populations exploded throughout Europe, as people concentrated in cities and with the wide spread of central heating. By the 1930s an etymologist reported that 1/3 of the inhabitants in London where living with bed bug infested quarters.
Bed bugs where first introduced into America by the early colonists. Colonist’s writers of the early 18th century documented severe bed bug poblems in the English colonies and in Canada, but not in Indian villages. Old sailing ships were noticeably infested with bed bugs. Some so much so that some ships forbid passengers and colonists from bringing bedding on board.
Bed bugs are rated among the top 3 pests in and around structures. Surveys showed that as many as 1/3 of all residents were infested in some cities. In lower income areas virtually all residents had bug bugs at one time or another. In these areas bed bugs are public enemy number one. Movie theater seats are commonly infested and are a common source for hitchhiking bed bugs as are trains, streetcars and busses. Moving vans are often infested with bed bugs (One European survey showed that in the late 1930s discovered bed bugs in 1410 out of 3000 inspected vans). In other words people of the 1920s and 30s where constantly at risk of picking up bed bugs and bringing them home… often to add to populations of bed bugs already there.
Bed bugs are not only found in beds, they nested behind pictures, in the seams of wall paper, they can be found in stacks of clothing, in couches, in stuffed chairs, under rugs, behind baseboards, and in window frames, pipe runs, closets, and ceiling cracks.
Up until WW2 it is safe to say that bed bugs where everywhere. Then something surprising happened, the bed bugs disappeared, at least in developed countries. By the 1950s American entomologist where hard put to find live bed bugs for lab work.
What happened? DDT happened, bed bugs finally met their match, DDT would be sprayed or dusted on or around the bed and the control would last for a year or more. Although the DDT resistance appeared within the few years, control remained effective, with the other chlorinated hydro carbons particularly Lindane, and eventually the organophosphate Insecticide Malathian (although Malathian had a strong odor which limited its use.) By the mid 1950s bed bugs had changed from major household pets to an occasional pest. In socially depressed setting under unusual circumstances. A rare bed bug might have shown up in shelters, prisons, youth hostel or cabins in the wilderness but almost never in homes or hotels.
Bed Bug Resurgence
Bed bugs have made a comeback big time! In the mid to late 90s bed bugs began appearing more and more in hotels and motels, even in premium ones and in apartments, private single family homes, nursing homes, hospitals, even office buildings, and schools. However hotels and apartments have been the hardest hit.
Bed bugs began nationwide news with media exposure on bed bug attacks in 5star hotels. Entire sections of hotels where closed for weeks, and the experts appeared on television explaining just how disgusting these little blood suckers are! Bed bugs even made it into popular culture appearing in sitcoms. The trends for bed bugs have been upward in all types of residences: private homes, condominiums, and apartments. Managers of apartment buildings and pest control companies servicing them have seen an increase in the number of bed bug outbreaks in many urban and suburban cities. In most cases the outbreaks are not just in one or two apartment units but spread throughout a building or even through a complex. Count on it bed bugs will become a major challenge to most apartment property managers, companies, and the pest control firms that service them. Bed Bug infestations pose significant risk of health department involvement, lawsuits, and public relations nightmares.
Furthermore, the cost of controlling bed bugs is high. Pest control companies experienced in bed bug control charge anywhere from $200-$1000 for the initial service in an infested 2 bedroom apartment unit, and about half as much for each follow up service.
Bed bugs are usually the most difficult and most expensive pest to control in apartment buildings. By the time a site manager realizes there are bed bug problems on the property, the infestation is typically wide spread and the bed bugs are infesting much more than the beds. They can be in the furniture, under the carpets, in the walls. At this point only the most aggressive action will succeed. It is not unusual for a medium size apartment property raging 200-500 units to spend thousands of dollars while attempting to eliminate a wide spread infestation. Afterwards there may still be some small level of bed bug population that can bounce back again in only a few months.
Like apartments and other types of multifamily housing, private homes are also becoming infested more often by bed bugs. No one can say for certain why bed bug problems have risen so dramatically. A number of different factors have probably attributed to the recent increase of bed bug populations in the United States. Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and once they are introduced to an environment they are readily able to spread from infested locations to a new and previously uninfested location. Spend a night in a bed bug infested area and there is high chance that you will take at least one bug with you to your next destination.
Bed bugs, are becoming widely dispersed in the hospitality hotel industry , as well as apartments and other multifamily housing although probably for different reasons. Entomologists and pest control professionals have some reasonable theories as to why bed bugs problems have increased, but they are only theories most involve the factors discussed. They include increased worldwide travel, and changes in pest management practices.
Poor recognition of bed bugs and a new underground economy of large populations of transient workers have contributed significantly to bed bug infestations. Rental furniture and second hand furniture and merchandise, a reconditioned mattress or any item that had previously been in a bed bug infested environments can lead to new bed bug infestations.
The adult bed bug is about a quarter of an inch long and less than 1/8th of an inch wide. The color ranges from brown to reddish brown. The tip of the females abdomen is rounder and the males is more pointed. The bed bug is very flattened and thin. A nymph can fit into a crevice only slightly wider than a business card is thick. A bed bugs body is covered with short golden colored hairs arranged in bands and can be seen under a microscope or with a good hand lens.
Each of 5 bed bug nymph stages is a smaller version of the adult but without wing pads. Eggs are pearly white, about .04 of an inch (1mm) in length. When disturbed a bed bug gives off a distinctive odor described as “musty”, “sweet”, “coriander-like”, or “strawberry-like”. Large infestations can produce a strong noticeable order although apparently not everyone can smell it. Other insects can also be confused with bed bugs including cockroach nymphs and certain types of Beatle larva. Bed bugs feed only on blood. All species of bed bugs are blood feeding temporarily ectoparasites meaning they go on to the their host only to feed and then spend the rest of the time in protected hiding places. Such as nests cracks and voids.
To a bed bug conditions are rarely ideal and a blood meal can be difficult to find. At times when an apartment becomes vacant, or a cabin is unused under the winter. Bed bugs seemed to have adapted to starvation and can survive for surprisingly long periods. Adults and late instar nymphs can survive much longer than early instar nymphs. Bed bugs prefer humans but with bite and feed on the blood of other animals including family pets. In laboratory setting bed bugs have produced off spring from feeding off of mice, crickets, chickens, pigeons, bats and rabbits, and they have been observed feeding or living in the sleeping areas of other animals including house pets. Unfortunately the subject of a host preferred presences is poorly understood, so it is unclear if some bed bugs will feed on a mouse or while other bed bugs are feeding on humans occupying the structure, or if an alternate host are only fed upon in the absence of a human host.
Once a bed bug has found a preferred feeding site on a host, it hooks the claws on its forelegs into the host’s skin in order to gain leverage needed to penetrate into a blood source. The beak is placed at the right angle to the skin and the bug flexes it s body and rocks back and forth as its mouth parts are inserted. The cutting parts of the beak move and slice probing and forging a path through the tissue seeking a suitable size blood vessel. The bite process is usually painless. Once a proper blood vessel is located the blood is sucked up through the beak into its digestives system. The bug swells and fills with blood. A drop of blood is often excreted out the anus of the bug as the bug finishes its meal. It is this blood drop that produces a typical brown or rusty spot seen on sheets or clothing in infested sites. Feeding may take anywhere from 3 to 12minutes. After feeding the bug quickly returns to a harbored spot to digest its meal over the next few days. Bed bugs grow by a simple metamorphosis molting at each consecutive life stage by shedding its ectoskeloten which is its outer covering. An immature bed bug is called a nymph and there are 5 nymph stages.
The nymph stage and the adult stage look alike except for its size color and the fact the adult bed bug has wing pads. The duration of the life cycle of the bed bug from egg to egg is typically one and a half to two months. Male bed bugs mate with the female bed bug by puncturing her body wall with a special organ and injecting sperm into her abdomen. Although the style of mating is unusual the female lays her eggs in a normal manner.
Under favorable conditions a newly emerged female will feed and mate and then start laying eggs from 3-6 days later. Under ideal conditions the female can lay approximately 3 eggs per day. But under typical conditions the female can lay 5-7 eggs per week. As the female ages she lays fewer eggs. A female can live 6-18 months. During a females life time she can lay 200-500 visible eggs.
The female preferably lays eggs in a textured material such as fabric, woods, behind pictures, in furniture, along the edges of base boards, under floor boards, and in similar sites. The eggs are covered with a sticky substance that acts as cement attaching them firmly to the surface. The eggs are laid on their sides and are easily removed. Eggs may be deposited individually by females or laid in clusters in harbored sites. Eggs usually hatch in 7-10days if in room temperature. During egg hatch the immature bed bug opens the flat cap of the egg forces its head and thorax through the opening and expands its body with internal fluids until only the tip of the abdomen remains inside. Within minutes the first instar nymph emerges to begin a bed bug life.
Bed bugs cluster together in harbor sites in order to protect themselves from predators, and perhaps in order to more easily find mates. They typically spend more than 90% of their life in these harborage areas. Bed bugs only leave these sheltered sites when driven by hunger to find a host, and then return once they have obtained an adequate blood meal. Bed bugs prefer to squeeze together “shoulder to shoulder” inside a harborage site packed together along with their droppings, egg shedding and other debris. All stages will be present together and adults will usually make up about 1/3 of the population. Pheromones and perhaps other substances seem to agitate and influence the bed bug behavior. Bed bugs do not discriminate by one social status or cleanliness of a home. Many people associate bed bugs with filth or poor sanitation. But the fact is that bed bugs will infest any conceivable structure regardless the sanitary conditions or the financial status of the occupants.
Pristine hotels and other locations all have plenty of hiding places that are conducive to bed bug presence. It would be wrong to relate poverty to bed bugs, although most places where people to live in poverty do favor bed bugs. Old poorly maintained or dirty unused buildings provide many of hiding places for bed bugs. Such as the cracks around window trims, doors, behind wall paper, in wall sockets, under warped wood flooring as well as old tiles.
Cleanliness in and of itself has little to do with getting bed bugs. Clutter however can significantly impact on how effectively bed bugs can be controlled. One of the biggest obstacles in achieving control is dealing with cluttered rooms, piles of clothes; toy in closets, stacks of boxes and materials against the wall and under the bed. While under the shelter of this clutter the bed bugs can be protected from insecticides or other pesticides that are utilized to kill bed bugs. Transient and overcrowded conditions are particularly susceptible to bed bug infestations.
Facilities such as shelters, hospitals, camps and other group homes set a stage for perpetual reinfestation because people are constantly moving out and in often from other highly infested conditions. In some overcrowded apartments residents rent spaces on cheap mattresses laid in on the floor. One room with often be designated for storage and the clutter can be unbelievable.
It is difficult to tell whether a red mark or welt on the skin has been caused by a bed bug. For one thing bed bug bite reactions vary from person to person. For another a wide range of other insects such as spiders, chiggers, or other anthropoids produce similar bite reactions and another of other conditions specifically fungal skin conditions can mimic bed bug bites.
Do bed bugs produce diseases or transmit desises? It is not clearly known, review of research done on bed bugs suggests that there is some potential for common bed bugs to transmit disease but no researcher has documented that bed bugs do transmit a single human disease. A bed bug infestation is not something that you take lightly, you can ignore it and hope that it will go away, but it will indeed only get worse with time. Whether you are a hotel manager, apartment manager, or the owner of a pest control company. Mishandle a bed bug problem, be unresponsive, or show that you are unsympathetic to those being bitten and a bed bug infestation can quickly evolve into a public relations nightmare.
As much as 88% of people will complain to a manager if bitten by bed bugs 50% will leave a hotel or apartment complex, 58% will never return to that hotel or apartment complex, 38% will be less likely to stay at another hotel of the same chain. 51% will notify the health department, and 50% will tell 5 or more people about their bed bug experience.
Laws will vary from state to state and city to city relative to what can be done legally against bed bugs. The laws in Arizona are consistently changing and evolving and have not been firmly put in place as of yet. People are always surprised how much it costs for a bed bug service from a professional pest control firm. Cost will vary greatly on the type of facility, the faculty, the individual pest control firm, the type of control and the geographical location.