In Bed with the Enemy: A Quick Look at Bed Bugs

If you have a bed bug infestation, or want to keep your home bed bug free, your best defense is information.

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius and Cimex hemipterus) are tiny insects that love nothing more than feeding on human blood. Their bites are not only irritating, they can also cause serious health problems like skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic reactions.

They have plagued human beings for centuries but there are some things you can do to prevent or deal with infestations once "bedded in"; to borrow a phrase. Here we help you know your enemy and offer solutions to deal with them.

This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide. If you do have a bed bug infestation seek professional advice. 

RELATED: SHOULD WE EAT BED BUGS

What causes you to get bed bugs?

For any victim of insect infestation of any kind, apart from the odd expletive, your first utterance might well be "where did they come from?". This is a very good question and one we will attempt to answer here.

bed bugs infographic
Source: Pest World

You might be the cleanest, most houseproud person in the world, but bed bugs can often circumvent your best efforts to invade and infest your home.

Bed bugs, like many parasitic insects, have been finely attuned to their craft over millions of years of evolution. They are great hitchhikers, and can easily catch a ride back to your home from many sources outside your house.

This is especially true if you travel frequently. This gives you a much-increased chance of being exposed to these opportunistic little critters. 

"Bed bugs can be found in lodging and in many forms of transportations such as taxis and airplanes. You risk cross infestation when bed bugs latch onto your clothing or luggage that you bring back home." - Rentokil.com

Cinemas are another hotspot for these little stowaways, and you could find yourself exposed to these tiny vampires there. Other people's homes are another major source of bed bugs, especially if they already have an infestation they are not aware of. 

They can also be brought into your home from secondhand or used furniture like sofas or beds. If the furniture is especially rare or vintage, it may have traded hands many times, increasing the chance that bed bugs (or their eggs) could get into your home. 

However they hitch a lift with you, once in the home, they find safe places to lurk until it is feeding time.

How do bed bugs start in your home?

As we have already seen, bed bugs can grab onto your clothes and hitch a ride home relatively easily. Once inside your home, they will attempt to find somewhere to hide and wait until you sleep. 

Advertisement

They are instinctively drawn to dark places where they keep out of sight until they need to feed. Bed bugs prefer fabric materials to cold metallic surfaces to stay out of sight. 

Interestingly they even have preferred colors such as dark red and black for their hiding places so be sure to check those areas first if you suspect an infestation. 

"This explains why sofas with fabric material [are bed] bug hotspots, and with these comfy sofas usually placed at lounge areas, a relaxing place would be the last on your mind you would be on alert." - Rentokil.com

Once in your home, bed bugs will quickly establish in your home if left unimpeded. They can breed quickly with the average female bed bug able to lay 500 eggs in their lifetime.  

Advertisement

What scent keeps bed bugs away?

The best way to control bed bugs is to commission a professional pest controller, but there are some home remedies you can use to try to keep them away. According to sites like pest-control.com, the following scents have been shown to be effective.

  • Tea-tree oil

  • Lavender oil

  • Diatomaceous earth

  • Lemon juice

  • Pepper powder

What attracts bed bugs into your home?

Bed bugs are not so much attracted to your home rather than brought in on your clothing or other items that might be harboring them. Once in your home, they will begin to feed and breed which will lead to a serious infestation if left to their own devices.

"A few decades ago, bedbugs were somewhat of a novelty in developed countries. But since the early 2000s, infestations have become more common in places like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 2013 study in the journal Nature Scientific Reports suggested that bedbugs have evolved ways to resist insecticides." - livescience.com.

Advertisement
bed bug nymph
Source: Gilles San Martin/Flickr

For this reason, you should try to take the following precautions to prevent an infestation (credit to pestworldforkids.com): -

  • Don’t take mattresses or padded furniture that has been left at the curb or on the street.
  • Check your bed sheets for blood spots.
  • Keep your suitcases covered in plastic and off the floor when you travel.
  • When you travel, take a small flashlight to help you look for bed bugs.
  • When you return from a trip, wash all of your clothes - even those that have not been worn - in hot water to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet.
  • Bed bugs are hard to see, so if you think you have bed bugs, call a pest management professional.
Advertisement