Bed bugs are blood sucking insects usually found in a variety of dark locations including under mattresses, floorboards, paintings and carpets, behind skirting, in various cracks and crevices of walls, within bed frames and other furniture, and behind loose wallpaper. Bed bugs tend to stay in close contact with each other and heavy infestations are accompanied by a distinctive sweet sickly smell. Blood spotting on mattresses and nearby furnishings is often a tell-tale sign of an infestation. Bed bugs are transported via luggage, clothing, bedding and furniture.
Colour: Reddish brown
Shape: Wingless, dorsally flattened insects
Size: Adults about 6 mm
Region: Throughout Australia
Bed bugs spend most of their life hidden away in cracks and crevices where they will not be seen or disturbed. Typically they will emerge between midnight and five in the morning, when people are in a deep sleep, in search of their blood meal. They will travel over several metres in a random manner in search of a host. They are attracted by heat and carbon dioxide given off by resting people, but usually they need to be within 1 m of the source to detect this.
They mate by a technique referred to as traumatic insemination. The male bed bug literally stabs his reproductive organ into the female’s body wall where it penetrates a specialised organ on her right side, known as the Organ of Berlese.
The number of eggs that a female will lay is dependent on the number of blood meals she obtains and the ambient temperature. On average a female bed bug will lay between 1 – 7 eggs a day for up to ten days after each blood meal. Typically she will produce around 110 eggs in her life and these will hatch 50:50 into males and females. This means a bed bug population can double in as little as 16 days in optimal conditions.
Bed bugs undergo an incomplete metamorphosis during which they pass through five nymphal instars. Each of these nymphal stages needs to feed on blood before it can moult into the next stage and eventually into the adult reproductive form. Both adult males and females then need to continue to take regular blood meals in order to reproduce.
The total development process from egg to adult can take place in as little as 37 days, though often it might take much longer. The adult bed bugs will typically live for about one year, depending upon temperatures and availability of blood meals.
Most infestations are focused around where people sleep, but in cases of large infestations they will spread out. There is also a modern trend with infestations occurring in shops, offices, hospitals, physician waiting rooms, and public transport systems.
Once the bed bug finds a host, it probes the skin with its sharp mouthparts seeking a capillary space. They may probe several times to find a suitable blood flow to feed on. Thus people may get several bites from the same bed bug. Typically they feed for around 5 – 10 minutes before leaving to hide away once more in a dark crack or crevice nearby. They usually feed every 3 – 7 days, so most of the time the population is hidden away digesting their previous meal.
Due to the nature of this pest, its increasing prevalence and the traumatic injuries they can cause, they have been the subject of a great deal of research in the past. In Australia it has been well documented that some of our bed bug populations are resistant to the commonly used pyrethroid insecticides, which makes control more challenging.
Bed Bug prevention tips
- Check for bed bugs before unpacking after a trip away from home.
- Wash any used or second hand clothing immediately.
- Regularly wash and clean bedding.
- Carefully inspect any used or second hand furniture before bringing it into your home.
- Regularly vacuum and if possible, dispose of the vacuum contents carefully in a plastic bag that you can seal and remove immediately.
The treatment for elimination of bed bugs typically requires a combination of chemical and non-chemical controls, together with hygiene and housekeeping measures. Surekil Pest Control works together with our clients to implement a management plan to eradicate their Bed bug problem.