Although it is best known for its ruthless biting on slumbering humans, the Bed Bug is a parasite of birds and bats as well. They do not transmit diseases to people, but they can create areas of great skin irritation and itching from their bites caused by a reaction to the Bed Bug's saliva.
The Bed Bug's body is very flat and rusty red colored; sometimes it looks purple or even brown. It is more reddish in color just after a blood feeding. They are only 4mm to 6mm in length and can be difficult to spot on dark bedding or mattresses. Antennae are present and appear quite thin and segmented. Short stubby legs complement the short - almost unseen - stubby, useless wings.
Bed Bugs enjoy the warmth and constant food supply that a mammal host offers. During the day, they hide in crevices. At night they come out of hiding to feed. They suck the blood out from their host to mature into adulthood. The bites themselves are not painful so the host remains sleeping through the night. A Bed Bug will bite its human host, drink some blood and then move a little and bite a new place. This repetitive behavior results in huge areas of afflicted skin. Bed Bugs can survive without food for 12 to 15 months. They will travel a great distance for a meal.
To reproduce, males inject sperm directly inside the female's abdomen where eggs are fertilized. A female can lay up to 300 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs are very small and white, but are still visible on a mattress for those carefully looking for them. Many generations of Bed Bugs can be born in a year which means they can reproduce quite rapidly in an area a spread to surrounding areas, quickly infesting other mattresses.
Bed Bugs do not just stay on mattresses in bedrooms. They can hide in furniture crevices and clothing as well. Because of this, people can transfer Bed Bugs to various locations, which is why hotel rooms can be plagued with them. Immaculate housekeeping cannot prevent infestation.
To check for Bed Bugs, uncover the mattress by removing the sheets and any mattress cover. Visually scan all edges and seams for the brown bugs, their tiny white eggs, small spots of blood (from previous victims) and/or brown spots of fecal matter left by the bugs. If you strongly suspect Bud Bugs presence, check the box spring beneath the mattress as well. If staying in a hotel or vacation rental, do this mattress check BEFORE unpacking. This limits exposure to your belongings should you find evidence of Bed Bugs and need to leave the room permanently.
If you have been bitten by Bed Bugs, seeking medical attention can help treat the symptoms (swelling, redness, intense itching) and make your recovery more comfortable. On the bright side (if it helps) at least the bugs do not transfer diseases that will make you sick.
A professional exterminator needs to be contacted to remove infestations.
Category: True Bug
Common name: Bed Bug
Scientific Name: Cimex lectularius
Adult Size (Length): 4mm to 6mm (0.16in to 0.24in) COMPARE
Identifying Colors: red; brown; purple
General Description: small, brown, eggs, harmful, biting
North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico
* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.