Although they can’t fly and aren’t really interested in hanging around on your body, the insects, which are making a comeback around the world, do occasionally bite during the day.
Bedbugs, formerly a problem in some states, are now a problem in all 50 states. Small, flattened insects known as Cimex lectularius, which only consume mammalian and bird blood, have coexisted alongside us for a very long time. Prior to World War II, bedbugs were common in the United States, but during the 1940s and 1950s, thanks to advancements in hygiene and the use of pesticides, they all but disappeared. The pests have, however, made a comeback over the past ten years, with an outbreak following the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney serving as a sign of things to come. Due of highly crowded urban areas, international travel, and rising pesticide resistance, researchers claim that this comeback may be the worst yet. This is something to keep in mind as the summer tourist season begins.
Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, claims that “by every statistic we use, it’s growing worse and worse.” Numerous contacts to pest control companies and health officials are routine, and the epidemic may still be developing. He continues, saying that because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are never any good or bad times of year to deal with them. According to Schal, “the situation in the United States is just getting started.”
Misinformation regarding the biology and behavior of bedbugs is rampantly disseminated alongside the insects. Here are the truths behind some of the most well-known beliefs about the tiny bloodsuckers, straight from the professionals.
Myth 1: Bed bugs have wings.
Bedbugs are unable to fly because they lack wings. According to Stephen Kells, a bedbug researcher at the University of Minnesota, this is unless you place a blow dryer behind them. They will then soar 1.2 meters in the air. He claims that bedbugs can move roughly one meter per minute on their own.
Myth 2: Bedbugs multiply rapidly.
Bedbugs have a low rate of reproduction in comparison to other insects: A common housefly lays 500 eggs over the course of three to four days, with each adult female producing roughly one egg every day. It takes a bedbug egg 10 days to hatch, and another 5–6 weeks for the young to grow into an adult.
Myth 3: Bedbugs can usually go a whole year without eating.
Although scientists disagree on this issue, research suggests that bedbugs can only survive for two to three months without a blood meal at a regular room temperature of about 23 degrees Celsius. Being cold-blooded, however, the insects’ metabolism will slow down in colder regions, allowing them to survive for up to a year without food.
Myth 4: Bedbugs only feed at night
Despite the fact that they are typically nocturnal, bedbugs are like people in that they will get up if they are hungry. The bedbugs will come seeking for you even though it is daytime if you spend a week at a friend’s house and then return and sit down on the couch.
Myth 5: Only mattresses are home to bedbugs.
“Bedbug” is such a misleading term, argues Kells. They ought to be referred to as pet bugs, suitcase bugs, train bugs, and theater bugs. He claims that bedbugs can be observed on every surface, including chairs, handrails, and ceilings, and that they can travel from beds into living spaces.
Myth 6: Bedbugs love dirty, metropolitan environments.
Bedbugs are incredibly indifferent, according to Schal. Bedbugs can be found in posh high-rises as well as homeless shelters. Therefore, the preponderance of bugs in low-income dwellings is not due to an insect preference, but rather to dense populations and a lack of funding for effective extermination methods. Any site is exposed, according to Kells. But some people will struggle more than others.
Myth 7: Bedbugs may move around on our bodies.
According to Kells, bedbugs do not enjoy the heat. As a result, unlike lice or ticks, they do not adhere to hair or skin and prefer not to stay in our garments near our body heat. The likelihood of bedbugs traveling on backpacks, luggage, shoes, and other goods that are distant from our bodies is higher.
Myth 8: Bedbugs spread sickness.
Although bedbug bites can cause stress, insomnia, and even secondary illnesses, there have been no examples of bedbugs infecting people with diseases. However, they do contain human infections. Although these germs do not replicate or reproduce within the bedbugs, at least 27 viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and other organisms have been identified in bedbugs. At the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Canadian researchers reported (pdf) that bedbugs recovered from three patients in a Vancouver hospital contained MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. However, there haven’t been any confirmed instances of the bugs actively dispersing disease among humans.
Myth 9: DDT should be reinstated
Most bed bugs were resistant to the contentious pesticide DDT when it was banned in 1972, according to Schal, and current populations are even more resistant as a result of the usage of a new class of pesticides. Similar to DDT, the primary class of insecticides used to combat bedbugs today, pyrethroids, targets sodium channels in bedbug cells. As a result, bedbugs grow cross-resistant to DDT as they become resistant to pyrethroids.
Myth 10: Bedbugs can be killed with spray.
The spray cans from your neighborhood hardware store will not work because of pesticide resistance, according to Schal, who also adds that “relying only on chemicals is generally not a healthy answer.” Fumigation and heat treatments are the most efficient remedies, but they can set you back between $2,000 and $3,000 for a single-family home. Other methods are being rigorously researched by scientists, such as freezing and cockroach-like bait. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Schal and colleagues published a method to track bedbug movement using low-cost infrared and vibration sensors in the Journal of Economic Entomology in October 2010. This method could be used to create automated traps that can identify pests.
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