10 things to know about bed bugs, including how to find them

When you hear the words “bed bugs,” you probably cringe. Sure, we’ve all heard of the creatures (the nursery rhyme, “Good night, sleep well, don’t let the bed bugs bite” may sound familiar), but they often resemble a pest that other people handle. In reality, according to PestWorld.org, 20 percent of Americans have a bed bug infestation or know someone who has encountered bed bugs. In other words, Bed bug outbreaks are incredibly common — but they’re also incredibly annoying and stress-inducing. However, as with anything else, it’s important to get all your facts straight in order to properly handle a bed bug outbreak.

women’s Day asked experts to separate fact from fiction, and discovered everything you never knew about bedbugs, including: when bed bugs come outhow to find bed bugs during the dayand what to do if you realize you have a bed bug infestation in your home.

Know what a bed bug (and a bedbug bite) looks like, how to treat a bedbug outbreak, and what? not what to do if you suspect you have bed bugs are the keys to dealing with the problem quickly and effectively. It may feel like the end of the world, but it’s a very solvable problem with a little patience and quick work.

If you think you may be dealing with a bed bug problem, step one is easy: Do not panic† It’s important to call a specialist exterminator right away, especially since, as the CDC explains, bed bugs can lay a lot of eggs very quickly, which only exacerbates the problem.

The following facts about bed bugs will hopefully help you feel better prepared in case you ever encounter the pests. It really is impossible to get a good night’s sleep when bed bugs sting, so if you want to be prepared for what is inevitable in many big cities, read on to learn all about bed bugs.

Why are they called bed bugs?

The Latin name for bed bugs is Cimex lectularius, which means ‘bug of the bed’. But don’t let that fool you – the pesky creatures are everywhere. “Bed bugs want to eat from you at night while you are quiet, so they are often found in your bed,” John Furman, president of the New York City-based pest control company Boot-A-Pesttells women’s Day† “But I always say the bed is 70 percent of the plague and the rest of the room the other 30 percent. They can be anywhere in your apartment — on the couch, behind picture frames, or in the crevices of baseboards.”

Who can get bed bugs?

“There is an unnecessary stigma attached to bed bugs,” Susan Jones, PhDassociate professor of entomology at Ohio State University, says: women’s Day† †Anyone can get bed bugs, as the CDC explains on its website. They are not associated with poor housekeeping or any level of poverty or anything like that.”

So if you have them – or know someone who does – remember that it has nothing to do with personal hygiene habits† “Every woman whose house I treat tells me how often they shower, how clean they are, if they get manicures — it doesn’t matter,” Jeff Eisenberg, founder of Pest Away Exterminating, tells WebMD. Women’s Day.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

Are bed bugs dangerous?

Unlike many other pests and insects, research is not yet proven that bed bugs do something more harmful than give you the creeps. But that doesn’t mean people should disapprove of them as no problem. And Jones believes the research is “incomplete and inconclusive.” And Eisenberg insists she’s a… mental health risks† “People can become so obsessed with bed bugs that they don’t sleep for weeks,” explains Jones. “They miss work. They spend hours Googling the subject. I call it bedbug paranoia.”

Bed bugs have also been shown to worsen allergy and asthma symptoms in people who already suffer from them.

What does a bed bug bite look like?

It is difficult to notice a suspicious bite and not immediately Dr. Consult Google for an immediate diagnosis. But just because a website tells you that bed bug bites look a certain way doesn’t mean your bites will follow that pattern. According to Jones, bites often appear in a group of three or a “1-2-3 — breakfast, lunch, dinner” pattern, but many people — about 30 percent, according to Furman — don’t respond to bites at all. And others may have some scattered bites.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

When do bed bugs hatch?

While these pests like to come out before dawn, don’t think you can wait all night to outsmart them. “A bed bug is an opportunist, and although their peak feeding time is between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., if you work at night, shall come out during the day and feed on you,” Furman says. And Jones explains that they are attracted to a human’s body temperature and, even more so, the carbon dioxide we exhale.

Can you always see bed bugs?

While itchy bites may indicate you have a bed bug problem, a thorough inspection is necessary to prove it.

“If you have a low-level infestation, most people will miss the signs. You really need to call a professional who will spend the time finding the evidence,” says Furman, who takes at least an hour to inspect rooms for signs of bed bugs.

How to find bed bugs during the day?

Things to look out for include “peppers,” which are black stool stains usually embedded in the mattress seams or on the box spring, as well as insect skins (immature bed bugs lose their skin five times before reaching adulthood). You may also see actual bed bugs, which are clear or rust colored depending on their age. You can never be too careful, but don’t panic.

“I’ve had people emailing pictures of hostess cupcake crumbs, fluff, fingernails, you name it,” explains Furman.

Can dogs smell bed bugs?

Well-trained and well-treated canines can detect bed bugs because, like bomb-sniffing and drug-sniffing dogs, they have learned to notice the scent. But according to Furman, “a dog is a tool to get a handler to a certain search area. You still need to find the bugs in the area they warned you about.”

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

What do you do if you have bed bugs?

A common misconception about bed bugs is that if you have them, you should throw away your mattress and send all your clothes to the dry cleaners. Not true! According to Furman, heat is the biggest killer of bed bugs† Exterminators treat rooms and furniture with a combination of dry steam cleaning, deep heat and chemical treatments.

If your clothes have been in an infested room, throw them in a hot dryer (at least 120 degrees) for 30 minutes to kill any insects.

How should you treat bed bugs at home?

Whatever you do, don’t try to disinfect your home for bed bugs yourself. “Don’t use a bug bomb or smoke machine, even if it claims it’s for bedbugs,” Jones warns. “All it will do is spread them all over your house, and if you have an apartment, it will give them to your neighbors.”

Jones says boric acid and other supermarket sprays don’t work either. Calling a professional is essential – and it’s best to call one early. “You have to get started with this right away,” explains Jones. “A single female bed bug can lay 500 eggs in her lifetime, so things can get out of hand quickly.”

Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

How long do bed bugs live?

According to Jones, bed bugs started making a comeback in the late 1990s for a variety of reasons. A spike in international travel coupled with a change in the pesticides and insecticides we use, as well as lifestyle changes, all played a part in their resurgence. “Bed bugs reproduce very quickly and live for a long time, so it was only a matter of time before their populations exploded,” she says. So what now? While the situation is manageable, “there is absolutely no end in sight. This is a plague that we will probably live with for the rest of our lives.”

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