Public health pests-Bed bug

Cimex lectularius

Pest description and damage Bed bugs are wingless, flattened, oval, brown insects that feed on blood. They are about half the size of a pencil eraser. One species, Cimex lectularius, is generally associated with infestations of human dwellings, however closely related species, such as bat bugs and swallow bugs, have also been known to infest houses and to bite people. In recent years, bed bug infestations have become common throughout the world, and have been reported from homes, hotels, cruise ships as well as used furniture stores, moving vans, clothing stores and other places where people congregate. A bedbug can live up to one year without a blood meal. Bed bugs hide in mattress seams, behind mirrors and pictures on walls, behind furniture against walls, in wall cracks and crevices, drawers and cabinets, and in similar spots. Low level infestations are generally found near the host's nest (i.e., the bed), but as populations grow, they tend to spread throughout the dwelling. They bite at night, leaving the host to hide during the day. Bed bugs can be carried into living spaces on clothing or luggage, but infestations are also known to occur as a result of introducing infested furniture or clothing to the home.

Bed bug bites cause a range of symptoms, depending on the host's susceptibility: human susceptibility is highly variable. Some people, especially those exposed over a long period of time, show little or no reaction to the bites - which appear as small red spots that may not itch. People never bitten before may suffer from local inflammation, anemia, intense itchiness, and sleeplessness.


Controlling bed bugs is difficult: the services of a knowledgeable professional are strongly recommended. Proper identification of the pest species, careful inspection of all potential harborages, steam cleaning, vacuum extraction and the application of pesticides are required. Monitoring devices are available which allow the verification of the presence of bed bugs. Because most pesticides have no effect on eggs, more than one pesticide application is usually required. Over-the-counter insecticides or "bombs" are not advised as bed bugs can be scattered outside of their current harborage area and create a more difficult control situation.

Bed bug populations have increased in recent years and it is not uncommon for travelers to encounter them in hotels and other lodging. Travelers are advised to examine the edges of mattresses and furniture near the bed before unpacking their luggage. A common place for beds in hotels to reside is behind the headboard of the bed. If luggage has suspected exposure to bed bugs, all clothing should be treated in a hot clothes dryer for 20 minutes and luggage and other hard goods should be carefully vacuumed, steam cleaned and treated with a pesticide labeled for bed bugs. Certain types of vacuums with HEPA filters are recommended when extracting bed bugs and their eggs. Great care must be taken when transferring any infested bedding, clothing or small furnishings as bed bugs can be transferred to other rooms or residences. Laundry bags that dissolve in the washer can be used. When these bags are used, laundry must be dry when placed in the bags, as any moisture will cause the bags to dissolve. Infested items can be stored under dry conditions in the sealed bags while waiting to be laundered. Mattresses and box springs should be encased in a bed bug proof encasement. Dissolvable bags and mattress/boxspring encasements can be purchased through a pest management professional.

Freezing conditions can kill bed bugs in small appliances and other items. For details, see:

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