12 Useful Frequently Asked Questions about Bed Bugs

12 Frequently Asked Questions about Bed Bugs

Do questions ever pop into your mind when someone starts talking about bed bugs? Although most of us consider bed bugs to be gross, and we do our best not to think about them, often inquiring minds do have a question or two about bed bugs. In the next few minutes, we will attempt to answer some of those questions without the need for you to break out the Webster’s Dictionary, Smithsonian Handbook of Insects, or the Applied Entomology Manual to understand what we are discussing. 

Ready, here we go… 

1. Let’s start at the very beginning… what is a bed bug?

A bed bug is a small insect that is found indoors and whose preferred hosts are humans. Until about ten years ago, the common bed bug was rarely encountered. Unfortunately, they have consistently become more widespread over the years. They are mostly nocturnal and are often found in bedding material. Their attraction to carbon dioxide along with the darkness of the night makes people sleeping in beds the perfect host for feeding. Although their feeding time is generally around 2:00am through 5:00am, a bed bug will feed anytime that an opportunity presents itself.  

2. Is there more than one kind of bed bug? 

There are several species of bed bugs. Most of the species look similar and they all are parasites that feed on warm-blooded hosts. Related species such as the bat bug prefer to feed on bats and other wild hosts but will also feed on humans if given the chance. However, only two of the known species of bed bugs in North America have any interaction with humans and are officially classified as a bed bug. Limited information is available pertaining to most of the other species.

3. What does a common bed bug look like?

Adult bed bugs are about ¼ inch long and are normally reddish-brown in color. Their body color depends upon how long it has been since they have eaten. A bed bug that has just finished eating will be a bright red color as opposed to a darker red/brown colored bed bug that has eaten several days previously. They have an elongated oval shape with a flattened body. Their six legs are located near the front of the body, and they have an antenna on either side of their mouth.

4. How big are bed bugs?

A mature bed bug is generally the size of a large apple seed. Bed bug eggs are white or translucent, shaped like a tiny pellet, and are about the size of a large grain of salt. The nymphs (bed bugs that have recently hatched) go through several life stages and range in size but can be about the size of a piece of flat white rice. 

5. Do bed bugs sting? 

Bed bugs do not have a stinger and thus cannot sting. 

6. Can bed bugs swim, hop, or fly?

Bed bugs do not have wings and so cannot fly. They do not hop or swim. The only mode of transportation for the bed bug is simply to walk or run. Although the bed bug is confined to simple navigation, it can scamper pretty quickly once disturbed or exposed to light. 

7. Do bed bugs get in your hair?

Normally bed bugs avoid hair when possible. It is rare that a bed bug will get in your hair. Bed bugs do not have claws or adhesive-type footpads. Their feet, legs, and bodies are not equipped to navigate through hair. You will find that they may still bite around the neckline, scalp, and face; however, they tend to avoid dense hair.

8. What are the symptoms of a bed bug bite?

Bed bug bites produce a small red welt. These welts can be either flat or raised. They will normally present themselves within an hour of the bite; however, some may not be noticed for 12-24 hours. Bites may result in localized painful itching and swelling, which if scratched, could possibly lead to a bacterial infection. 

Usually, there will be several bites as opposed to a single bite like a spider bite. The bites from a bed bug will be in a straight line or in rows. If the bites are not in a row, they will probably be in a grouping. The bitten area will usually itch. Depending upon skin composition, the bite can blister as well.  

9. Is it painful to get bitten by a bed bug? 

The bed bug bite is a subtle action. It is not felt like the bite of a horsefly or the sting of a wasp. Most times, a bed bug bite will be undetected until the red welt appears. The bed bugs’ mouthparts are positioned for precise piercing of the skin and sucking blood. They have very tiny needlelike, slender, surgical probes called stylets that are inserted into the skin and are withdrawn after feeding. During feeding, the bug injects saliva that contains various protein fractions, some of which have anticoagulant properties. It has been stated that bed bugs inject an anesthetic, although none has yet been identified.

 10. Will bed bug bites make you sick?

Bed Bugs are considered to be a public health pest.
Bed Bugs are considered to be a public health pest.

Bed bugs have the potential to make you sick by way of a reaction. Although most people have absolutely no reaction at all from a bed bug bite, some people will have an allergic reaction with an itching sensation. Reactions will vary in different individuals. Some people will see a reaction to a bed bug bite the following morning while others may not see a reaction for several hours after the bite. Adverse effects from bed bug bites seldom have had any type of fatal outcome. Once a person is removed from contact with bed bugs, symptoms will normally resolve within seven days.

11. Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs have not been known to carry or transmit disease. To date, there are no proven cases of bed bugs being an infectious agent in transmitting illness or disease.  Therefore, bed bugs are considered a low risk of danger. 

Technically, bed bugs are considered to be a public health pest. Public health pests are organisms that are a nuisance to the general public but do not transmit disease. Although they do not transmit disease, bed bugs do contribute to the possibilities of physical pain & irritation as well as mental distress including paranoia, obsessive behavior, nightmares, and anxiety. 

12. How do I know if I have bed bugs?

Finding fecal smears and spots on bedding materials such as pillowcases, sheets, and mattresses is a good indicator that a bed bug has been active in the area. The fecal smears consist of digested blood that is normally a dark brown or rust color. Also, you may see eggs or beginning stages of bed bugs crawling in or around the bed. Heavy infestations of bed bugs may emit a raspberry-like odor.

Mattresses color is a good indicator that a bed bug is active.
Mattresses color is a good indicator that a bed bug is active on your matress.

Well, there you have it! That is all the questions for this time. There are many more questions to explore, and we look forward to sharing additional answers with you in another blog. So, if we did not answer your question in this article, stay tuned as we hope to address more questions soon. If your question is urgent, please reach out to us on live chat or feel free to call our office and one of our trained agents will be happy to help you.