Bed bugs are a type of insect that feed on human blood. Their bites can result in skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms. Bed bug bites may lead to skin changes ranging from invisible to small areas of redness to prominent blisters. Symptoms may take between minutes to days to appear and itchiness is generally present. Typically, uncovered areas of the body are affected and often three bites occur in a row.
They can go without a meal for more than a year. If you’ve ever thought you might be able to starve bed bugs to death by not sleeping in an infested room for a while, you are out of luck. In some cases, bed bugs have been known to survive more than a year without a blood meal.
Bedbugs feed on the blood of humans (though some species have a taste for other mammals and birds, too) by inserting a sharp proboscis, or beak, into the victim’s skin. The critters become engorged with blood in about 10 minutes, which fills them up for days. Bedbug bites can look very similar to bites from other insects like mosquitos and fleas. People also have widely varying reactions to bedbug bites. Some people have little visible reaction to the insects’ nibbling — they don’t develop lesions or bumps or pustules at all.
Bedbugs often invade new areas after being carried there by clothing, luggage, furniture or bedding. The creatures don’t discriminate between dirty and clean homes, which means even luxury hotels can be susceptible to bedbugs. The most at-risk places tend to be crowded lodgings with high occupant turnover, such as dormitories, apartment complexes, hotels and homeless shelters.
As a survival instinct, bed bugs are elusive. They know to stay out of view during the daytime, hiding in mattress crevices, box springs, baseboards, behind electrical switchplates, in picture frames, and even behind wallpaper. But at nighttime, the carbon dioxide we exhale often tempts them out of their hiding spots.
People often wonder why a biting bed bug doesn’t wake up its human host when it feeds. The answer is that components in bed bug saliva act as an anesthetic and promote increased blood flow at the bite site, making the feeding process quick and nearly painless. If you have a bed bug infestation, don’t try to treat it alone. Instead, contact a licensed pest professional who is trained on the (unique, often sneaky) habits of bed bugs. They will be able to inspect your home and recommend an effective course of treatment.