Bed Bug Bites: The Truth about Bed Bugs and Your Health – PestWorld

The Truth About Bed Bugs & Health


Ten Things to Know About Bed Bugs and Your Health

The words “bed bugs” tend to evoke many unpleasant feelings and the idea of being in the proximity of these pests can often send people running. However, as bed bug infestations have become more commonplace in the past few years, it is important to know why bed bugs are drawn to us and what implications these blood-sucking pests have on human health. Here ten important bed bug facts to know:

Fact # 1 : Bed bugs are attracted by warmth and carbon dioxide. So, if you are alive, warm and breathing – you are a bed bug magnet. Although bed bugs are not nocturnal, they are most active at night because that is when their human targets are sleeping and emitting a steady stream of carbon dioxide allowing for prime feeding time.

Fact #2 : Just because you don’t see them, it does not mean they are not there. In fact, you have to look closely because they can be hard to see. Bed bugs love to hide in the cracks and crevices associated with mattresses, cushions, bed frames and other structures. They are rarely seen out in the open or on the resting surface of beds or chairs— with the exception of large-scale infestations. They are champions of hide-and-seek. It is not uncommon to miss bed bugs altogether, so also look for telltale signs of an infestation such as specks of blood or feces found on linens, mattresses or on walls.

Fact #3 : Bed bugs have flat oval bodies, are reddish-brown in color and are sometimes described as having the size and appearance of an apple seed. Adult bed bugs range in size from 5-7 mm ( Fact # 4 : Bed bugs typically feed at night by biting exposed areas of skin such as the face, neck, hands, legs and arms. The bite itself is painless and usually goes undetected at the time because bed bugs inject an anticoagulant (a blood thinner) along with an anesthetic to create a numbing effect as they feed. Because feeding usually takes 5-10 minutes, this anesthetic-like compound allows the bed bugs to easily feed uninterrupted.

Fact #5 : Bed bug bites can look a lot like other insect bites. Clues that can suggest the presence of bed bugs include finding red, itchy bites upon awakening – especially if the bites line up in a row on the skin (known as breakfast, lunch and dinner). However, while some people develop a bite reaction immediately, others may not see a reaction for 2-3 days — and some may not see a reaction at all. A bed bug bite can appear as a tiny puncture wound without a surrounding reaction, and can easily be missed (30 percent of individuals living in bed bug infested dwellings report a lack of bites or skin reactions). This appears to be more common amongst the elderly, as noted in the studyThe Sensitivity Spectrum: Human Reactions to Bed Bug Bites. On the other hand, other people have exuberant reactions, with large red, raised and itchy welts. This is especially true if one becomes sensitized to bed bugs bites, so that with repeated bites there may be a more exaggerated skin reaction.

Fact #6 : In situations with persistent exposures to the pest, bed bug bites may appear in groups. Given bedbug bites usually take 3 to 6 weeks to heal, as long as the infestation is still present, new bites may accumulate even as the older ones disappear. Thus, people may have various bite reactions in various stages of evolution at the same time.

Fact #7 : Bed bug bites do not typically require treatment. Itching is by far the most common complaint by those who experience bed bug bites. If the itching becomes severe, people will find relief with topical steroid creams or oral antihistamines. Clean the bite site(s) with soap and water and avoid scratching so as to prevent infection. If a secondary infection occurs, consult your physician so it can be managed with antibiotics as appropriate. Progressive swelling, warmth, tenderness and (albeit rare) fever may be signs of secondary infection.

Fact #8 : Unlike mosquitoes and ticks, bed bugs are not known to transmit disease to humans. While some pathogens have been detected in and on bedbugs – including hepatitis B, and exotic organisms such asTrypanosoma cruzi (cause of Chagas Disease, most commonly found in Central and South America) orWolbachia species – bed bugs have not been associated with disease transmission.

Fact #9 : Bed bugs do not transmit MRSA. There have been reports of persons developing methicillin resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections (such as a boil or abscess) associated with bed bug bites, but it turns out the infections were secondary. MRSA infections associated with bed bug bites are actually an example of scratching leading to minor skin trauma and subsequent secondary bacterial infection. In these cases, people who are carriers of MRSA scratch at the bites and provide a port of entry for the MRSA (which was already present on their skin) to get in and under the skin and cause the secondary infection. The bed bug can be blamed for the itch, but not for the infection.

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Fact #10 : Some people experience anxiety, sleeplessness, and unease as a result of having bed bugs. Bed bug infestations are understandably significant psychosocial stressors, and some people may experience sleeplessness as they worry about bugs biting them or their family members. People have been known to self-isolate, avoiding family and friends out of concern for spreading the infestation. Additionally, some people may also be stigmatized by friends or others in the community, or find they have problems at work if their bed bug problem becomes widely known. As a result, victims of bed bug infestations may experience moderate to severe levels of stress, anxiety and depression and should seek treatment as necessary.

Finally, when it comes to controlling bedbugs this is definitely NOT a case of “do it yourself” as bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that victims of bed bug infestations contact their landlord or an experienced pest management professional.

Is Your Bug Bite Dangerous? These 6 Photos Can Help You Tell

Umm. is that a bullseye I see?

Bug bites are an unfortunate little annoyance in life, and the odds are prettttttyyyy high that you’ve been bitten by some creepy-crawly (er, or a variety of creepy-crawlies) in your lifetime. And while you probably just want to scratch the darn spot and move on, it’s wise to try and figure out what actually bit you.

Why? Some bug bites are relatively harmless, but others have the potential to bring on more serious health issues if you don’t treat them appropriately, and fast. Here are several fairly common insect bites you may experience, and how to know whether or not a bite warrants a trip to your doctor’s office.

Bed bug bites

While the thought of bed bug bites may skeeve you out, they’re more annoying to deal with than an actual threat to your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bed bug bites are primarily just super itchy and can keep you up at night. The bigger issue with these pesky bugs is that they can spread really fast and lead to an infestation, and it can be an inconvenient and expensive process to get rid of one. (Also, the idea of little bugs feeding on your blood while you sleep isn’t exactly a comforting thought.)

People can have a range of reactions to bed bug bites, says Nancy Troyano, PhD, a board-certified entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control. Some people have no reaction at all when bitten, but most people will notice an itchy, red, welt-like mark that looks similar to a mosquito bite, Troyano says. “Bites may appear in a linear fashion if there are multiple bugs feeding, and bites can occur anywhere, but they are often found in areas where skin is readily exposed,” she notes.

Firewood Pests: What to Look Out For

Wintertime isn’t wintertime without a warm, crackling fire in the fireplace. But even this most delightful of seasonal pastimes can turn sour when you receive unwelcomed visitors.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Firewood is a dream home for pests, and those pests can easily hitch a ride into your home when you move infested wood. Identify the signs of infestation and take adequate precautions, and you can help keep pests away from your firewood and your winter season plans.

Firewood Pests

Here’s the bad news: Firewood is attractive to a wide array of pests. Some of the most common include wood-boring beetles, which can burrow under the bark and into the wood.

If wood contains beetle larvae, adult beetles can emerge up to two years after the wood is cut. Other species of beetle, such as bark beetles and ambrosia beetles, are drawn to freshly cut wood. If the wood is too wet, large “click” beetles or other larger beetles that attack rotted wood may be present and decide to crawl into your living room.

Dry firewood can attract carpenter bees and horntail wasps, as well. Like beetles, wasps lay eggs in wood, where larvae develop and adult wasps hatch.

Then, there are termites and carpenter ants. Swarms of these pests can infest wood that is damp or stored on the ground.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Also, large roaches, wasps, many species of ants and other insects commonly spend the winter under the bark of wood.

Signs of Infestation

Always inspect firewood for telltale signs of infestation before bringing it into your home. Tunnels on the outside or inside of the wood are evidence of infestation. If the tunnels are clean or are filled with sawdust-like frass, or powdered wood leftover from boring insect activity, chances are the wood contains wood-boring beetles. Exit holes on the exterior of the firewood are another indicator of wood borers.

Termites, on the other hand, leave behind mud- or soil-lined tunnels on the outside of and within the logs. Termites must have contact with their nest in the soil to survive. If termites enter a home via firewood, they’re not likely to start an infestation because if the firewood is stored inside a home, there is no pathway to the ground provided. However, termites can wreak havoc on your home if you store your wood against your house or close to your foundation.

Precautions Against Insects in Firewood

Fortunately, there are many simple ways to reduce an infestation of your firewood.

First, dry your wood promptly. The drier the wood, the less hospitable it is to insects.

Second, store your firewood properly. Always store your wood off the ground on a rack or platform. This makes it difficult for soil-dwelling pests such as termites and ants to infest the wood. Never stack wood up against your house or garage. Maintain a minimum distance of 3 feet between the building and wood to ensure that any infestation in the wood does not move into your home.

Finally, keep your eyes peeled. Always inspect wood before bringing it into your home.

Firewood is a favorite of pests, but you don’t have to let them ruin your holiday season. Take appropriate precautions, and, if necessary, seek out a pest control professional to help ensure your winters are merry and bright.

The Best Mouse Trap Method

Everyone has seen the cartoon mouse trap: A big wedge of cheese perched precariously on a small wooden rectangle, just waiting for an unsuspecting mouse to come along. Most modern mouse traps don’t use pieces of cheese, although they can still use food as bait. One of the most popular baits, believe it or not, is peanut butter. There are still versions of the snap trap from cartoons, but there are also other kinds like electronic traps. Because these traps usually mean dealing with dead mice, plenty of people wonder if there’s a way to help get rid of mice without classic mouse traps. Although mouse traps are the most effective in helping to get of mice, you can also try the following natural methods to see if they help remove these pesky rodents.

How to Help Remove Fruit Flies from Your Home

Fruit flies are one of the most common household pests and they can be a huge nuisance for homeowners. Not only that, but researchers have found that fruit flies can “transfer bacteria from a contaminated source, food, or waste to surfaces or ready-to-eat food.

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How to Naturally Get Rid of Bugs on Plants

Buying houseplants can put you at risk for harboring unwanted pest infestations. Before these bugs cause damage to your new plant, know how to take care of them using natural remedies.

How to Help Prevent Mosquito Bites

Itchy bites and illness may occur after exposure to some arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks. The bites can cause discomfort and, in some cases, transmit pathogens (bacteria, viruses and protozoans) that can cause a variety of diseases. Some examples of diseases that are of concern in the United States include: (mosquito) chikungunya, dengue, La Crosse encephalitis, West Nile fever, Zika; (tick) Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The good news? There are many precautions you can take to help avoid bites from mosquitoes and ticks.

Sow Bugs-Pill Bugs

Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs

Sowbugs are land crustaceans which look very similar to pillbugs, at least at first glance. Sowbugs are small crustaceans with oval bodies when viewed from above. Their back consists of a number of overlapping, articulating plates. They have 7 pairs of legs, and antennae which reach about half the body length. Most are slate gray in color, and may reach about 15 mm long and 8 mm wide.

The pillbug on the other hand has a rounder back, from side to side, and a deeper body, from back to legs. When disturbed, it frequently rolls into a tight ball, with its legs tucked inside, much like its larger but dissimilar counterpart the armadillo.

Sowbugs have gills which need constant moisture, so they tend to live in moister northwest climates. They are primarily nocturnal, and eat decaying leaf litter and vegetable matter. They may also feed on the tips of young plants, so can be considered pests, but they also help the environment by breaking up decaying plant matter and help speed up the recycling of the nutrients they contain.

Controlling Sow Bugs Sow bug / Pill Bug control specialists

The presence of sow bugs or pill bugs in the living quarters of a home is an indication high moisture conditions. This condition will also contribute to a number of other problems including mildew, wood rot and a good breeding environment for other insects.

  • Reduce moisture or humidity level indoors. Use bathroom fans, stove hood vent fans, vent clothes dryers outside. Crawl spaces and attics need to be well ventilated.
  • Remove excess vegetation and debris around exterior perimeter of the home. Make sure that leaf debris (leaves hold moisture and hide the bugs) is cleaned up from around the outside of your house. Keep rain gutters and downspouts clean and in good repair.
  • Instead of chemicals, use a caulking gun to close any cracks or crevices at or near ground level. Houses built on a concrete slab poured directly on the ground, can have more of a problem with sow bugs or pill bugs if there is no moisture barrier under the concrete.
  • Built-in planters are usually a bad idea for many reasons. Window box planters and planter boxes on decks tight against the house are good breeding places for many bugs.
  • Make sure all your doors (ground level, to the outside) are weather-stripped. If your garage is attached or integral with the house, make sure those doors are properly weather-stripped also.
  • Watch for obvious moisture problems in the garage and bottom level.
  • Keep soil levels well below structural wood around the home.

A perimeter pesticide spray may help break the cycle for a short time but will not eliminate the problem permanently. Remember, if you don’t solve the moisture problem, the bugs will return no matter what chemicals you use, or how much you use them.

More Information

Structure, Appearance and Characteristics
Oval body, convex above and flat or hollow beneath.
Pale brown to dull blue in colour.
Can grow up to 19mm in length.
Head and abdomen are small.
Head has eyes and prominent segmented antennae.
Thorax is comparatively large and is composed of 7 hard individual but overlapping plates.
7 pairs of legs.
Mostly active at night.
2 prominent tail-like appendages (processes) from abdomen.
Become inactive during winter months because of temperature.
Depend on moisture to keep oxygen-absorbing gills under their bodies moist.
Life Cycle

Female gives birth to numerous, live young and carries her young in a pouch (marsupium) on the underside of the body. The brood is carries for an average of 44 days. Usually 2 new generations are produced per year depending on environmental conditions with an average of 28 young in brood. New generation are white in colour. 1st moult within 24 hours (7th pair of legs appear after 1st moult). 2nd moult during 2nd week. 3rd moult during 3rd week. 4th instar moults every 2 weeks until the animal is 20 weeks old. After 20 weeks, periods between moults are irregular.

Prefer moist locations and are found under objects on damp ground or under vegetable debris. Have been known to bury themselves under several centimeters of soil. Can at times invade damp basements, fern houses and first floors of houses indicating large number present outside the house nearby.

Feed on decaying vegetable matter.

Pest Status
In rare instances can become pests of young plants (especially in fern houses where climatic conditions are ideal). The slater does not bite and is harmless. In unusual climatic conditions (extreme wet), they can invade houses in large numbers creating concern for occupants. Their presence though is short-lived because these animals die from desiccation. Neither adults nor young are considered pests.

Habitat and food requirement leaves wide variety of areas to inhabit in gardens etc. Because of this need they cannot survive away from its ideal environment thus it will not breed or survive for long indoors. A high degree of moisture is required for survival.

Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs In The Garden

Are They A Pest?
These bugs play a vital roll in composting organic matter in the garden and compost bins. They can be more effective making soil than earthworms.

Sowbugs and pillbugs get blamed for more damage to garden plants than they actually do. They are deemed guilty as they are often found feeding in decaying or damaged garden produce, after diseases, slugs and other pests have inflict the initial damage. They are great opportunists.

Most annoyingly, sowbugs and pillbugs feed on tender seedlings, young roots, flowers and fruits and vegetables laying directly on damp soil. Most active at night, sowbugs hide in dark, moist protected areas during the day, such as under flowerpots, decaying leaves on the soil surface, boards, mulches and ground cover. They thrive under sprinkler irrigation.

How to discourage sow bugs in the garden

> Limit moist, dark hiding places. Clean up organic debris, boards, boxes and piles of leaves around the yard and garden.

> Water early in the day so plants and the soil surface dries out by the evening when sow or pill bugs are active.


> Mulch with coarse materials, so water passes through to the soil quickly.

> Elevate fruits and vegetables off the ground with old strawberry baskets or pebbles. Black plastic mulches are good because they get too hot in the summer to provide desirable shelter for sow bugs.

> Plant seeds deeply and do not water until seedlings have their first true leaves. Or start seedlings indoors. Then to maintain good drainage, transplant seedlings into the garden so that the soil around seedlings is higher than surrounding garden soil.

> A non toxic method for sow bug control is to place a rolled up newspaper tube on the soil surface. Leave it overnight. In the morning, shake out the tubes into a pail of soapy water.

Another less toxic method to control sow bugs is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth directly on the row where seeds have been planted to dry the soil surface enough to discourage sow bugs. Experiment with the amount of diatomaceous earth, as too thin a layer will not be effective and too thick a layer can become like plaster if it becomes wet.

Various species of sow and pill bugs are common around the world but they have many different names.

Some common names are:

  • “armadillo bug”
  • “boat-builder” (Newfoundland, Canada)
  • “butcher boy” or “butchy boy” (Australia,
  • “carpenter” or “cafner” (Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
  • “cheeselog” (Reading, England)
  • “cheesy bobs” (Guildford, England)
  • “chiggy pig” (Devon, England) [9][10]
  • “doodlebug” (also used for the larva of an antlion)
  • “gramersow” (Cornwall, England)
  • “granny grey” (South Wales) [13]
  • “pill bug” (usually applied only to the genus Armadillidium)
  • “potato bug
  • “roll up bug
  • “roly-poly”
  • “sow bug”
  • “slater” (Scotland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia)
  • “wood bug” (British Columbia, Canada)

Are There Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs?

We receive many questions from our readers about bed bugs and other bugs that look similar to bed bugs. Most commonly asked question is ‘I have tiny bugs in my bed that aren’t bed bugs but look a lot similar, and what should do about them?’. The fact is that indeed there are many bugs that look similar to bed bugs. Let us discuss some of them.

Book louse

Book lice are also called psocids. While they do not transmit any diseases, they can be extremely annoying when present in large numbers. Booklice can also be present in cereal boxes and other moldy areas with food grains. The best way to eliminate book lice and lice bites is to treat the environment. A book louse prefers warm and moist areas, so avoid these.

Bat bugs

The bat bug or Cimex pilosellus is a close relative of the bed bug or Cimex lectularius. The name ‘bat bug’ comes from colonies of bugs that are found around bat nests in abandoned buildings, attics etc. Eventually, the bugs move to human populations to bite and feed on human blood. The good news is that the bat bug populations die off in absence of hosts to feed upon. This is a huge difference from bed bug behavior which can survive for months without a blood meal. Similarity includes the fact that both species, bat and bed bugs, have short broad heads that are attached to the prothorax and an oval shaped body.

Spider beetle

Spider beetle is very similar in appearance to a bed bug. It has a shiny brown body which measures about 1/7 th inches and has a humpbacked appearance. Like bed bugs, spider beetles prefer the dark and are most active at night. During the day, they hide in cracks and crevices as well as in areas with food grains. They usually do not bite humans.

Cockroach nymph

Small cockroaches are similar to bed bugs in appearance. They are dark brown to mahogany colored and measure about 2 inches long. Immature cockroaches are especially similar to bed bugs. Cockroaches do not bite humans but they can contaminate food. They typically hide in kitchens and other areas with food and debris.

Carpet beetle

Carpet beetles do not much resemble bed bugs since they have round, solid brown or blackish hairy bodies. They even have irregular patterns on their body. The only similarity is that carpet beetles also have antennae and a hard exoskeleton covering their wings, just like bed bugs. Also, both species hide in carpets, rugs beds, mattresses and box springs. Immature beetles are covered with tufts of hair.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are reddish brown, flat and oval. They measure about 1/5 th of an inch, have protruding eyes and short thick antennae. They also have wing like structures on either side of their head. Bed bug control is rather difficult and needs an integrated pest management approach. All infested sites have to be treated properly and at the same time.

As can be seen, there are many tiny bugs that can be present in your bed but they may or may not be bed bugs.

Bed bug bites

Typically, bed bug bites occur at night. Bed bugs can feed for up to 10 minutes on human hosts, before returning to their hiding place. You might notice a line of bites on your skin where several bed bugs have fed. These lines are usually present on the arms, legs, and torso and around the edge of the hem of your clothing. Many people do not immediately feel the effects of bed bug bites. Some people who are extremely sensitive may react to the protein injected by the bugs into the skin. As a result, they may develop reddish wheals which may be swollen and may itch terribly. The itchiness lasts for about a week after which, it diminishes. Bed bug bites produce variable symptoms as a result of which, it could become rather difficult to diagnose them. Regardless of these symptoms, it is very important to actually detect the presence of the bug in order to determine if it is indeed bed bug bites, dust mite bites, scabies or one of the many other possibilities.

Eradication of bed bugs

Eradicating bed bugs effectively needs an integrated bug management approach as stated above. You must dispose all infested items or at least wash them if possible. You can use insecticides but these need to contact the bed bug directly. Sometimes, bed bugs can walk across the treated surface but if they do not come in contact with the insecticide then they may not be killed.

Do visit the resources provided on this website to completely get rid of bed bugs.

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