Can You See Bed Bugs? The Looks, The Labels, The Lowdown.

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By Laura Kindell

Before we answer the common question, “Can you see bed bugs?” we should first go over the basic details about bed bugs. Bed bugs are bloodsucking insects that infest houses and particularly beds. They can feed on the blood of any warm-blooded animal. However, they especially like us humans because of our excessive amount of exposed skin to bite.

Can you see Bed Bugs?… The Looks:

Can You See Bed Bugs?The answer to this question “Can you see bed bugs?” is yes. Not many people realize that we, as humans, are able to see bed bugs. However, they can be easily spotted by the human eye. Bed bugs have a flat, broad, oval body with six legs and are about a ¼ of an inch in length when fully grown. They have antennae and are wingless.  Adult bed bugs are approximately the shape of an apple seed. Oddly enough, their color actually changes from brown to purplish-red after taking in a blood meal. Makes sense, right? Also, after feeding they become larger.

When bed bugs first hatch, as nymphs, they are 1/16 of an inch long and look like an adult in general shape. These newborns start out colorless, but this changes when they feed. Remember, they feed on blood! This causes their complexion to turn into a lovely shade of maroon.

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A bed bug develops fully over the span of five weeks. When the eggs hatch they are in the nymph stage, as described in the previous paragraph. Then they shed (or molt) their skin five different times before reaching their adult size. The bed bug must eat before each molt. Interestingly enough, bed bugs grow the fastest when the temperature is at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You know the saying, “Seeing is believing”? Well the same is true in this case. If you see bed bugs, then you have an infestation. Simple right? Unfortunately, it is not always simple. You must make an effort to inspect for these pests and you must keep in mind what to examine for. Remember to look for all of these attributes described above when answering for yourself, “Can you see bed bugs?”

Types of Bed Bugs… The Labels:

There are many types of bed bugs! Some types of bed bugs include the household bed bug (Cimex lectularius), the tropical bed bug (Cimex hemipterus), and the bat bugs (Cimex adjunctus). The Mexican chicken bug (Haematosiphon inodora) and the barn swallow bugs are similar to bed bugs, but are not in the same genus.

History of Bed Bugs… The Lowdown:

Bed bugs have been one of the most hated household insects for much of history. No one likes them! They have been documented as an issue since the beginning of recorded time! Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans even wrote about them! Scientists have come to believe that bed bugs first infested bats and then gradually moved to humans. How we wish they would have just stayed with those bats!

Bed bugs were a part of many peoples’ lives in the US before World War II. However, then DDT, an insecticide, came into play. It worked wonders for a while. People used DDT with the intention of killing larger pests, but in the process, the bed bugs were exterminated as well. However, in the mid 1970’s some popular insecticides, like DDT, were banned due to their harmful effects on the environment, animals, and people. Nevertheless, the bed bug problem was eradicated. At least for a while…

Sadly, the idea of bed bug extinction was too good to be true. Bed bugs have recently been making a comeback around the world. By the time we noticed them again, they were already back in large quantities. They are spreading rapidly thanks to our frequent traveling. They voyage in items such as luggage, souvenirs, and furniture that we so carelessly bring into our homes. Lovely thought, isn’t it? …Note the sarcasm.

 Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?

As well as asking, “Can you see bed bugs?” many people wonder where bed bugs come from. As already stated, bed bugs have been around since as early as the first century. They originally came from tropical climates all over the world and are now just about everywhere. They have spread because bed bugs are extremely good “hitchhikers”. Even though you may firmly oppose the idea of picking up hitchhikers from unknown places, it is possible you can unknowingly do just that. In the recent years of bed bug revival, these pests have been reported in parts of Europe, North America, and Australia. Bed bugs have spread like a wildfire.

Why Bed Bugs are a Problem?

Bed bugs present a problem to humans physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically.

Physical Problems:

We all know bed bugs bite, but do you know truly what is happening when you have been chomped on? Bed bugs typically bite while the victim is sleeping, because they are attracted to the warmth and the carbon dioxide that is given off while a human, or other prey, sleeps. Then they penetrate the skin with two hollow tubes. Through one tube, they inject their saliva, which keeps the blood flowing out and into their empty bellies, instead of clotting. Through that same tube, they also inject an anesthetic, which keeps the host from detecting the bite and reacting to it. Isn’t that just awful?! The bed bug then proceeds with the feeding and sucks out blood through the second tube for as long as five minutes before returning to their hiding place.

Thankfully for us, bed bugs do not spread diseases. However, they do leave red, inflamed, itchy welts. These swollen bumps can be found in clusters or even in rows. Unfortunately, scratching these welts can lead to infection, so make sure you resist the urge to scratch!

Mental Problems:

Some scientists have said that the negative effects of bed bugs are more mental than physical. Bed bugs can cause stress and lack of sleep. There is even a disease, called Delusory Parasitosis, that can come from bed bug infections. This disease is when the bugs are truly gone, but you cannot shake the feeling that they are still there.

Emotional Problems:

When a homeowner discovers they have bed bugs, they constantly worry. They worry that friends, family, and neighbors will find out and their problem will become known. We often stereotype bed bug issues with uncleanliness or a low social status, but these bed bugs do not care where you lie on the totem pole, they just want their meal. Anyway, the infested families agonize over whether their secret will get out or not and that is never healthy.

Economical Problems:

As if bites, mental effects, and paranoia weren’t enough? … Getting rid of bed bugs is quite expensive! The cost of bed bug treatment can range from $600 to several thousand dollars! The idea of having bed bugs isn’t the only thing that keeps you awake at night. You must figure out how to invest the time and money in order to put an end to this infestation. That in itself can cause an abundance of stress!

How Can You Treat Bed Bugs?… The Logistics

Bed Bug TreatmentNow that we have answered the question, “Can you see bed bugs?” we are going to go over how to treat bed bugs. In case of bed bug infestations, it is smartest to seek professional help. They know what they are doing. It is advised to bag up bedding and clothing that might be infested. Dry them by setting the dryer to the highest heat for ten to twenty minutes. The minimum heat recommended is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You want to ROAST those little suckers! If you have items that cannot be placed in the dryer, put them in plastic, and set them outside on a hot, sunny day for at least twenty-four hours. It is advised that you pack the bag loosely in order to receive the best results. The goal is for the bags to reach an internal temperature of at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is wintertime, freezing is another option, however it is not as effective.

Vacuuming throughout your house helps remove some of the bugs before treating the house with insecticides. Be sure to vacuum the cracks and crevices as well. It is very important that you remove the eggs to prevent new bed bug nymphs from hatching.

Remember how you need to bring in those experts? Well this is where they come in. In order to fully remove the bed bugs, you must use insecticides. This is a job for the pest control professionals. This process may take several hours, depending on the size of your home and the extent of the problem.

How Can You Prevent Bed Bug Problems?

There are ways to increase your chances of avoiding bed bug issues. Remember these tips and hopefully you won’t have to deal with these bothersome pests.

  1. Do not take in mattresses or furniture from the curb.
  2. Frequently check you bed for blood spots.
  3. Keep luggage in plastic bags and off the floor when traveling.
  4. After returning from a trip, wash ALL clothes in hot water before putting anything back in your drawers or closet.
  5. Check hotel mattresses for little blackish-red specks.
  6. If you think you might have bed bugs, call in a pest control professional.

How Can You Spot Bed Bugs? And Where To Look.

As described earlier, look for little blackish-red dots. They are the about the size of an apple seed. Look for them in mattress seams, under the mattress tags, behind the headboard, along wood creases in bed frame, behind loose wallpaper and chipped paint. Also inspect for them under air conditioners, inside closets, and behind baseboards. In the case that you do find these maroon specks, call a pest control expert as soon as possible!

Can You See Bed Bugs?… And Lastly

Hopefully you have been highly informed on bed bugs after reading this. Overall, know that the answer to, “Can you see bed bugs?” is yes, you can. Know what to look for, where to look, and what to do if you do identify them.