You’ve all heard the saying, “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”! There are multiple origin theories around the rhyme, specifically the “sleep tight” portion and its relation to bed bugs. One theory in particular suggests that it is referring to the way beds were made during the 16th and 17th centuries. Before the introduction of spring mattresses, mattresses where stuffed with coarse materials such as straw or feathers and sat on a latticework of ropes. Since it was necessary to tighten the ropes regularly to prevent the bed from sagging, many have suggested this is where the phrase “sleep tight” originates. Tightening the ropes would both allow for a good night’s sleep and keep the mattress off the ground to potentially avoid bedbugs. However, humans have been combating bed bugs even earlier than the 16th century!
Fossils and ancient texts have shown us that bedbugs have existed as far back as ancient Egypt and Rome. The colonization and industrialization of North America lead to their worldwide dominance, until extremely harmful pesticides like DDT wiped out most of them in the mid-20th century.
Nowadays, however, these parasitic bugs are increasingly becoming a problem within residences of all kinds, not just including homes. Apartments, hotels/motels, cruise ships, dormitories and shelters can all suffer from an infestation. The bugs transfer from an infested house to other houses on furniture, baggage, boxes, in suitcases, packed clothing, and bedding— especially when people travel frequently or change residences.
They are small, reddish-brown, wingless insects that feed solely on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bedbugs and their relatives have evolved as nest parasites. Hatchlings are the size of poppy seed, and adults are about ¼ of an inch in length. From above, they are oval in shape, but are flat from top to bottom. A pest control treatment is the only way to get rid of this infestation, and it usually takes 2-4 treatments.
Detecting an Infestation
Contrary to popular belief, bedbugs are not associated with filth or social class. Bedbugs will infest anywhere that blood meals are plentiful. There are a few different ways to detect whether your home has an active infestation. In heavily infested home or apartments, there will be an overpowering sweet smell, similar to the smell of ripe raspberries. Early on, bed bugs are found most commonly in the bed and bedroom area—hence their name. They hide in the folds and creases of the mattress. However, they can leave blood stains or smears on bedding, walls, and curtains. Later on in an infestation, they will seek to hide behind loose wallpaper, behind pictures, window/door casings, baseboards, and cracks in plaster.
The lifecycle of these bugs includes five stages, called instars, as they develop from nymph to adult. In order to transition to the next instar, the bug must have a blood meal. Because of this, bedbugs do bite which typically happens at night. They leave a flea-sized mark; which can become a large, red, inflamed oval or oblong accompanied by severe itching caused by an allergic reaction to their saliva. Depending on which instar they are in, bedbugs can survive anywhere from three months to one year without a meal. Once a host is found, the bugs will feed for only a few minutes. They become engorged, and then return to their hiding place for several days in order to completely digest the meal.
How To Prevent Bed Bugs
You can prevent the spread of bed bug infestations by taking some precautionary steps when traveling, moving, or staying away from home.
- Be sure when traveling to inspect mattresses of the room(s) you are staying in.
- In hotels, be sure to keep clothes off the floor.
- When returning from a trip, be sure to dry, not wash, all clothing on the hottest setting upon unpacking.
In order to provide you with the most effective service possible, we ask you review all the necessary steps listed prior to our arrival. Bedbugs take multiple treatments to properly eradicate, and all efforts will be lost if the proper protocol is not followed. If you believe to be experiencing problems associated with bedbugs, do not hesitate to give us a call. We have experience eradicating infestations in private homes, community centers, dormitories, and apartment buildings for over 25 years, and no job is too big or too small! Give us a call today.
Cohen, Jennie. “They’re Back: A Bed Bug History.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 31 Aug. 2010, www.history.com/news/theyre-back-a-bed-bug-history.
Potter, Michael F. “The History of Bed Bug Management—With Lessons From The Past.” American Entomologist, Vol. 57, no. 1, Spring 2011, pp. 14–25.