Humans are the favourite target for these blood-feeding insects but they will also feed on warm-blooded animals. And – yes – as their name suggests, they generally do feed at night when you’re in bed, returning to their hiding spot to digest during daylight hours. If lacking night victims, they may still come out to supplement their blood-lust during the day, although adult bugs can survive more than a year without a blood meal.
Know your enemy
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius or Cimex hemipterus) are oval, wingless insects that are rusty brown in colour and around four to five millimetres long fully grown, which allows them to hide in narrow cracks and crevices.
Bed bugs like to hide (and lay eggs) close to where you sleep in any obliging household object, such as your mattress, bed frame or furniture, as well as behind skirting boards, loose wallpaper, between floorboards and in walls.
As populations grow worldwide, increasing numbers of infestations have been reported in Australia, often in accommodation venues such as backpackers’ hostels and motels. Worryingly, they can hitch a lift over long distances in the seams of clothing, luggage, bedding and furniture.
How do you know if your bedroom is bugged?
Bed bugs usually bite you on the arms and shoulders, which are the parts uncovered by bed clothes, although they will attack any bare skin surface. This can result in small areas of swelling and itching along with great discomfort and loss of sleep. Some people, however, may not react to the bites, and others can have a delayed response of up to nine days.
In severe cases, the bites can cause intense itching, resulting in a secondary skin infection.
With heavy infestations, you may notice a distinctive sickly, sweet smell and you may find spots of blood on your mattresses and/or bedding and nearby furniture.
What do you do if you find bed bugs?
First, you need to know if you really do have bed bugs. And that’s not easy. For example, we collect live or dead specimens, nymphs and eggs and identify them under a microscopic. Infested areas – including any possible hiding place – should then be treated with the correct insecticide. However, for total eradication, we really recommend professional help.