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What are Bedbugs?

Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Bedbugs are small, brown, wingless parasites that feed off blood. Even though they cannot fly, they are not easily seen, as they are less than a quarter-of-an-inch (half a centimeter) long and often hide during the day. While bedbugs prefer to bite humans, they will also feed from other mammals if necessary.

Bedbugs get their name from the fact they often live in unsanitary mattresses and bedding, but they can be found in other places such as carpets and cracks in walls. Although they are often found in dirty accommodation where poor sanitation is a problem, bedbugs have been known to travel in a person's clothing or luggage to other locations.

One sign of bedbugs is finding spots of blood in or around beds. Bedbugs typically leave tiny, itchy bites in orderly rows on a body. Some may notice that rooms that have many bedbugs have a sweet smell.

Bedbugs are mainly prevented by good sanitation and frequent cleaning, such as regular housecleaning and washing of bedding. As bedbugs are found worldwide, travelers abroad should also be watchful for signs of infestation. Travelers in rustic or less-developed areas can reduce their chances of being bitten by staying in reputable, well-maintained accommodations that appear clean. Travelers can also reduce chances of an infestation at home by washing all clothing and luggage upon returning home.

Bedbugs can leave itchy bites that typically heal over a few days. The itch common to the bites can usually be solved with a variety of common bug-bite remedies. A doctor should be consulted in more serious cases.

Bedbug infestations can be difficult to eliminate, as the pests can hide in a number of places. Mattresses and carpets suspected to contain bedbugs can be thoroughly vacuumed to remove the pests, with mattresses then being covered and left in a sunny place for as long as possible. Bedding and clothing can be washed thoroughly in hot water. However, professional pest control should also be considered, especially in larger or repetitive cases.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are bedbugs and where do they come from?

Bedbugs are small, nocturnal insects belonging to the family Cimicidae, known for feeding on human blood. They originate from environments where they can live close to humans, such as beds, furniture, and cracks in walls. They spread by hitchhiking on luggage, clothing, and furniture, infesting new areas rapidly.

How can I tell if I have a bedbug infestation?

Signs of a bedbug infestation include small, itchy bites on your skin, often in a line or cluster. You may also find tiny blood spots on your sheets, dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on mattresses and walls, and a musty odor. Spotting live bedbugs or their shed skins is a definitive indicator.

Can bedbugs transmit diseases to humans?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bedbugs are not known to spread disease to humans. However, their bites can cause allergic reactions, secondary infections from scratching, and significant psychological distress. The primary concern with bedbugs is the discomfort and inconvenience they cause rather than disease transmission.

What is the best way to get rid of bedbugs?

The best way to eliminate bedbugs is through a combination of cleaning and chemical treatments. Professional exterminators can apply insecticides that are more effective and safer than over-the-counter options. Heat treatment is another method, where infested items are heated to temperatures that kill bedbugs at all life stages.

How can I prevent bedbugs from entering my home?

Preventing bedbugs involves vigilance when traveling or bringing second-hand furniture into your home. Inspect hotel rooms for signs of bedbugs, keep luggage off the floor, and wash clothes in hot water after returning from a trip. Regularly vacuuming your home and sealing cracks can also deter bedbug infestations.

Are bedbugs visible to the naked eye?

Yes, bedbugs are visible to the naked eye. Adult bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed, roughly 5 millimeters long, and have a flat, oval-shaped body that becomes swollen and reddish after feeding. Nymphs (juveniles) are smaller and can be harder to see, especially if they haven't fed recently.

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Discussion Comments

By bagley79 — On Jul 08, 2011

Sometimes you might not actually see the bed bugs, but see evidence of them. If you get a bed bug bite, it will look like a small red welt on your skin and will often times itch. The bugs themselves are dark brown and very small and their eggs are white, so they can be hard to spot.

Whenever I get home from a trip, I always make sure I wash everything I took with me so there are not any of them in my clothes or suitcase from staying in a hotel room. Hotels have problems with bed bugs just as much, or more so, than residential homes do.

By andee — On Jul 07, 2011

If you know for sure that you have bed bugs, they can be very hard to get rid of. Many times just washing your bedding is not enough to get rid of them for good.

I like to try natural methods as a first choice for these kind of problems. I remember reading that using essential oils of lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, and clove mixed with water can be a deterrent for bed bugs. This bedbug spray is mixed in a spray bottle and used all over the bed, mattress and bedding after it has been thoroughly cleaned to try and prevent more bedbugs.

Many times they are so hard to get rid of that you have to have professionals take care of the problem. This natural method might be worth a try first to see if it works.

By anon112783 — On Sep 22, 2010

will throwing my already clean dry clothes in the dryer eliminate them? I only found one but suspect there are more. better safe than sorry i suppose.

By anon109913 — On Sep 09, 2010

No, it's worse. the sweet smell is probably their excrement!

By snappy — On Dec 21, 2009

Now that I'm creeped out, if they are so small what exactly is it that causes the "sweet smell"? Please tell me it's not because that particular room has SO many that the sheer numbers are the cause of the smell!

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