Once thought to be eradicated from North America, the legendary little pests known as bed bugs have been making an unwelcome comeback in hotels and homes. Lest you think bed bugs are relegated to fleabag motels, they have been spotted in the posher locales as well.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are the common name for Cimex lectularius, a reddish-brown, oval-shaped insect that can grow to a quarter of an inch long. Bed bugs are wingless and survive by sucking blood from a host animal, preferably a human.
Why Are They Called Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs commonly hide in mattresses, carpets, behind peeling paint or wallpaper, and in crevices in wooden furniture (like in the cracks of the wooden headboard of a bed). Bugs are nocturnal and typically bite people while they sleep in an infested bed. Bugs are usually active just before dawn.
Why Are Bed Bugs Reappearing?
Bed bugs were once all but eradicated with broad-spectrum pesticides such as DDT, which killed a wide variety of bug types. Concerns about health and the environment led to many of these pesticides being removed from the market. Today, pest control methods are more focused, designed to kill a particular species (like cockroaches). Bed bugs, since they are not specifically being targeted, are slipping through the cracks.
Where Did Bed Bugs Come From?
Bed bugs travel surprisingly well, and are quite comfortable stowing away in luggage and even clothing. The bugs are increasingly found hiding in beds, upholstered furniture and behind baseboards in urban hotels in America. Since they tend to stow away and travel with humans, any place that sees a number of world travelers is susceptible. Pilots, wealthy people, and business travelers can bring bed bugs along unwittingly.
What Can You Do to Avoid Bed Bugs?
Look around. Bed bugs are large enough to see. Look particularly under the mattress and in the seams, in and around the bed frame, and along any cracks or peeling paint in the wall or picture frames. Check for bed bugs in the cracks of any wooden furniture, particularly antiques. You can also spot droppings from bed bugs, which may be tinged with blood.
What Should You Do if You Are Bitten by Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs bite exposed skin and leave behind small, red, itchy welts. The good news? Bed bugs are not generally thought to transmit any diseases. The damage is more emotional than physical.
By Charlyn Keating Chisholm,