Bed Bugs

bedbugBedbugs are small, elusive, and parasitic organisms all belonging to a family of insects called Cimicidae. They live strictly by feeding on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals (such as other mammals and birds). The name ‘bed bug’ is derived from the insect’s preferred habitat, infesting houses and especially beds or other common areas where people may sleep. These insects may also be found on carpets and other areas where host is present. Bedbugs, though not strictly nocturnal, are mainly active at night and are capable of feeding on their hosts without being noticed. The number of species of bedbugs has been estimated to be anywhere between 75 and 108. Most species only feed on humans when other prey is unavailable. In Malta the species number is yet unknown but the most cosmopolitan species are presumed present. The only species currently recorded locally is Cimex lectularius. The latter is mostly found in hotels but recently populations have exploded and several cases were reported from private homes. Adult bedbugs are reddish-brown, flattened, oval, and wingless. Bedbugs have microscopic hairs that give them a banded appearance. A common misconception is that they are not visible to the naked eye. Adults grow to 4–5 mm in length and 1.5–3 mm in width. The life span of bedbugs varies by species and is also dependent on feeding. Bedbugs are bloodsucking insects. They are normally out at night just before dawn, with a peak feeding period of about an hour before sunrise. Bedbugs may attempt to feed at other times if given the opportunity and have been observed feeding during all periods of the day. They reach their host by walking, or sometimes climb the walls to the ceiling and drop down on feeling a heat wave. Bedbugs are attracted to their hosts by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide. The bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow feeding tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants (so blood will not clot) and anesthetics (so you don’t feel them), while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. The bites cannot usually be felt until some minutes or hours later, as a dermatological reaction to the injected agents, and the first indication of a bite usually comes from the desire to scratch the bite site. Due to their natural aversion for sunlight, bedbugs come out at night.