Bed bugs may be small (we're the shape and size of an apple seed), but we're infallible: our presence makes your hair stand on end.
Find out what you need to know about bed bugs to get a good night's sleep and ensure you don't get bitten.
1. We are attracted to certain colors
A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology found that bed bugs like dark red and black (so it's best to avoid sheets and comforters in these shades), while we tend to avoid white, green and yellow. Researchers believe that these shades protect us from predators like ants and spiders.
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Also, because our exoskeleton is red and we like to huddle together for protection, this palette is likely to get our attention because it indicates the possible presence of other bed bugs.
2. Heat is killing us
Exterminators treat rooms and furniture with a combination of dry steam, intense heat and chemicals.
If your clothes have been in an infested room (or your sheets in an infested bed), put them in a hot dryer (at least 50 degrees Celsius) for about 30 minutes to kill the bugs; washing them in hot water will not do the trick.
3. Do you have a lot of bites? Don't panic.
We feed on blood. To reach adulthood, we must eat once in each of our developmental stages.
Mature female bugs also need blood to produce eggs, which are the size of a speck of dust. We have long beaks that we use to pierce the skin and extract our sustenance.
But finding the right blood vessel may require more than one puncture, so we usually make several attempts. For this reason, the number of bites you have is not equivalent to the number of bed bugs that have bitten you.
4. We like peace and quiet
We are sensitive to movement and prefer our table to be still while we eat. That's why we're attracted to places where people rest: apartments, houses, hotels, dormitories, trains, buses and even cruise ships.
In fact, if our food moves while we eat it, we are more likely to remove our beak and look for another place to eat in your body.
5. We're not picky at all.
When it comes to feasting, we love all the parts of your body that are exposed while you sleep, such as your hands, neck, face, shoulders, legs and arms.
6. We eat quickly
It takes us 3 to 12 minutes to get full. With a full belly and a happy heart, we tend to retreat to a secluded place to digest.
We often pass out the leftovers from previous meals while indulging in a new meal, which is why you may find brown or black spots on your sheets. Yes, we know: we are the worst eaters!
7. We prefer to eat human food, but...
We do not despise the taste of other mammals (your dogs or cats, for example) and birds. Since our bites don't hurt, our hosts don't realize that we steal their blood.
8. We hide well
Our body is very thin and flat (about the thickness of a credit card). When we're not eating, this allows us to hide in tight places.Some of our favorite hiding places are mattress seams, box springs, headboards, nightstands, crevices and behind peeling wallpaper.
We are able to live for several months without eating (a whole year, if the weather is right), so we can rest for a long time in these places.
9. We like accumulation
For us, a house full of junk and objects, old and new, means a home with more places to hide. Obviously, this makes it harder for you to track us down and eliminate us, so we are safer!
10. Flexibility is our thing: we adapt to your schedule.
We are opportunists. Although our peak feeding time is between 2 and 5 a.m., if your work is in the evening, we have no problem going out during the day and biting you if we get hungry.
We are actually attracted to the body temperature of humans and even more so to the carbon dioxide they exhale.
11. We move around
We usually move from place to place with people who travel. We get into the folds and seams of suitcases, duffel bags, folded clothes, linens and furniture.
Most people don't realize that they are smuggling us into their vehicles and that we are infesting the places they are traveling to. That's why you should always check your home for signs that we've been there too: live insects, bloodstains and our corpses.
Keep in mind that we are not a problem due to a lack of cleanliness or hygiene; we are present in modest hotels as well as in five-star hotels.
Other tips: don't put your clothes or luggage directly on the bed (if we are in it, we climb easily) and use the metal cabinets to put your luggage in (we are not very good at climbing on metal surfaces).
12. We walk
Bedbugs don't have wings, so we can't fly. Unlike other wingless insects, like fleas, we can't jump long distances either. So how do we get from one host to another? By walking.
Fun fact: although we can walk about 100 feet each night, we usually don't live more than 2 feet from where people are sleeping.
13. If you look hard enough, our tracks will appear.
In addition to bites, some signs that your space is infested are: blood stains on the sheets, presence of feces and shed skin during molting. It is easy to confuse our bites with those of fleas, mosquitoes and other insects.
In our case, the bites are usually clustered in a small area and sometimes in a straight or zigzag pattern; you'll notice small flat or raised areas that may swell, itch, redden or blister.
Symptoms may take a few days to appear, but not everyone reacts the same way to bites; it mostly depends on your reaction to the anticoagulant we inject with our saliva when we pierce the skin. If you have been bitten several times, your wound may be larger and your reaction more intense.
14. We don't spread disease
If there's one good thing to say about us, it's that... The itchiness we cause can lead to excessive scratching, which increases the chances of triggering a secondary skin infection - that's usually the worst physical effect.
When it comes to disease, worry more about mosquito bites.
15. You can prevent us from invading your home
Follow these simple precautions suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): look for signs of infestation on used furniture, beds and sofas before bringing them home; use a protective cover to cover mattresses and box springs and eliminate hiding places (buy a quality, tear-resistant cover, and check regularly for holes); vacuum frequently to remove successful invaders; reduce clutter; if you use public laundromats, bring your clothes in plastic bags, put them right back in them when you take them out of the dryer, and fold your clothes at home.
Getting rid of us on our own is a challenge.
Home treatment is complex because we hide so well and reproduce so quickly. Also, the egg stage is resistant to many extermination techniques, so one attempt may not be enough.
The EPA provides some manuals, but before you try it yourself, understand that it can take weeks or months to completely eradicate us, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation.