Bedbugs are small, wingless insects found all over the world. They are nocturnal parasites, which means they rest during the day and are active at night. However, bedbugs are opportunistic and will bite in the day, especially if starved for some time. They feed on the blood of humans. Bedbugs prefer to hide in bedding and on mattresses where they have ready access to a source of food.

Bedbugs have highly developed mouth parts that can pierce skin. Their bite is painless. Some people do not react to the bites, but for others the bites can become itchy and swell into reddened wheals.

Although bedbugs can harbour diseases in their bodies, transmission to humans is highly unlikely. They are not dangerous, unless a person is allergic to them. However, their presence can be distressing and their bites can be highly irritating.


Symptoms of a bedbug bite
The bite of a bedbug has certain features, including:


  • large wheals that reduce to a red mark, then gradually fade over a few days
  • itchiness
  • reddening of the skin
  • localised swelling
  • formation of blisters
  • small loss of skin tissue in some cases.




Treatment for bedbug bites
Bedbugs are not known to transmit any blood-borne diseases. However, the bites can be itchy and distressing.

Suggestions to treat bedbug bites include:


  • Resist the urge to scratch.
  • Use calamine lotion or anaesthetic creams to treat the itching.
  • Wash the bites with antiseptic soap to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Apply an icepack frequently to help relieve swelling.
  • Take pain-relieving medication if symptoms are severe.  See your doctor if the bite develops an infection.


Appearance

  • Bed bugs are around 5 to 6mm long before a blood meal extending to about 7mm when fully engorged.
  • Oval and flattened from back to underside with thick, well-developed legs. Bed bugs do not have wings.
  • Their mouths are pointed for piercing and sucking.
  • Adult bed bugs are rusty red-brown in colour.
  • Eggs are whitish cream, getting darker as they hatch to larvae.
  • Their shed skins are lighter brown and look like flaky exoskeletons.


Lifecycle

  • Bed bugs lay 200 – 500 eggs over a 2 month period in batches of 10 to 50.
  • The adult female must have a blood meal before egg-laying.
  • The eggs are usually laid in crack and crevices and can be attached to items of furniture or fittings in clusters by a transparent substance.
  • There are 7 stages to the lifecycle from egg to fully grown adult which can be from 45 days but may be up to a year.
  • The typical life span of a bed bug is about 50 days to over a year depending on favourable conditions.
  • They can survive for weeks to months without feeding.


Habits

  • Bedbugs feed on human blood and are attracted to body heat and CO2 from sleeping humans.
  • They inject an anaesthetic when they pierce the skin, so the bite can go unnoticed at first.
  • They are found in cracks and crevices, headboards, behind peeling wallpaper, broken plaster, light switches, under carpets and skirting boards etc. so they are near to people for feeding.
  • Bed bugs usually visit their host for a blood feed just before dawn. When alarmed they move quickly and emit an odour.

BED BUGS

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