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Experts say bed bugs are making a comeback because of increased global travel and a shift toward less toxic pest control chemicals. Bed bugs are not associated with unclean conditions; bed bugs are associated with people. A bed bug's preferred food source is a sleeping human and this can be available no matter how clean the environment. Once bed bugs are introduced, they often spread throughout a building.
Bed bugs typically bite people at night while they are sleeping. They are attracted to body heat and carbon dioxide. They feed by piercing the skin with an elongated beak through which they withdraw blood. The feeding takes about three to ten minutes, but the victim seldom knows they are being bitten. Immediately after feeding, the bed bugs scurry off and reside elsewhere to digest their meal.
Even the most skilled dermatologist cannot pronounce with certainty that you have been bitten by a bed bug by examining the bitten area. Oftentimes, bed bug bites are mistaken for mosquito bites, so infestations may go a long time before being noticed. If you wake up with itchy bites that you did not have before you went to sleep, bed bugs may be the cause. Some people, however, do not have a reaction until several days after being bitten; others have little or no reaction. It should be stressed that finding and identifying the bugs themselves is really the only positive confirmation that you indeed are dealing with bed bug bites.
In Hawaii, bed bugs can be found in hotels, motels, college dorms, restaurants, hospitals, airlines and cruise ships--anyplace these pests have access to sleeping humans. They are difficult to detect visually in the early stages of an infestation because they are nocturnal and, when disturbed, bed bugs actively seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices. They'll hide inside mattresses, behind headboards, under carpets, in nightstands, clock radios, in baseboards, in electrical outlets--the possibilities are unfortunately endless! As long as they have access to a warm body for a blood meal, these nocturnal pests don't care if it's a four-star or one-star hotel. Travelers can accidentally carry bed bugs home in their luggage, clothes, or even reading materials. Or, bed bugs can be carried into a home via used furniture and reconditioned mattresses. They can be detected by the naked eye, but are detected far better by K9 scent detection teams.
Although bed bugs can harbor pathogens such as Hepatitis and HIV, transmission to humans is considered unlikely. Their main medical significance is primarily limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites. Although disease transmission is not an issue, bed bugs can severely reduce quality of life by causing discomfort, unsightly bites, scarring, sleeplessness, anxiety, stress and embarrassment.
Adults: About the size of a small apple seed and approximately 1/4 of an inch long, bed bugs are flat and oval. Adult bed bugs are brown unless engorged with their human victims’ blood, and then they are mahogany red.
Nymphs: Before bed bugs mature, they are called nymphs. Nymphs are almost devoid of color before they feed and are about the size of a poppy seed. After five molts, which takes approximately ten weeks, the nymphs reach maturity.
Eggs: The female bed bug lays approximately 200 to 500 eggs during her lifetime at a rate of one to 12 eggs per day. The eggs are laid on rough surfaces and coated with transparent cement. Within four to 12 days, bed bug nymphs emerge from the eggs.
Oftentimes, bed bugs are carried into the unaware victim's home via suitcases or clothing. Once the infestation is evident, bed bugs can be difficult to eliminate. Typically, several treatments are needed. As one expert remarked, "People who throw away all their possessions and battle this for months and spend thousands on pest control only to relocate and have the bugs reappear are really traumatized. They are getting only a few hours of sleep at night, they feel itchy all the time; some go to therapy over it."
There have been a number of bed bug lawsuits filed recently by hotel guests who have been bitten; some have carried them into their homes.