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Bed Bugs

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Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are a broad range of insects belonging to the genus Cimex, known for feasting on human blood in our sleep. Unlike common opinion, bed bug infestations are actually rarely caused by poor hygiene, and are instead due to the introduction of bed bugs into your home from an external source. Most beg bug infestations are caused by either the Cimex lectularius, known as the common bed bug, and the Cimex hemipetrus, which is only found primarily in the tropics. There have been reported bed bug infestations in every region of Earth, and the number of infestations has increased following the 1990s, though there is no clear underlying reason for this increased activity. Some believe that it may be a direct result of globalisation, or it may be due to the pests increasing resistance to common pesticides.

What Do They Look Like?

Bed bugs are tiny creatures, typically only 1-7mm in size, with an average 4-5mm size for adults. They are either flat brown or a red-tinted brown, and they are a flat, oval shape. They do not have hind wings, though they do have vestigial front wings that perform no function.

At the front of their head are a pair of antennae that have four segments, which are used to help the bed bug navigate. Underneath the antennae is a proboscis, a mouthpart that allows the bed bug to pierce the skin of their host and feed off the blood underneath. The proboscis is retracted when not in use, and will elongate outwards once the bed bug is ready to feed. On the top of their head is a pair of compound eyes, which are used to further provide navigational information to the pest.

Bed bugs will be able to infest the mattress, but will struggle to hide in the headboard.

Bed bugs will be able to infest the mattress, but will struggle to hide in the headboard.

When Are They A Threat?

Bed bug infestations are not entirely uncommon, and they can appear in almost any home. Once bed bugs have decided to form a nest in your home, you are at risk of being bitten by the pest. If you have visited a known location of a bed bug infestation, due to their hardy nature, the measures you need to take to avoid bringing the pest into your home are extreme. You would need to check your shoes for any signs of bed bug presence, remove your clothes while outside the home, and place them directly into a dryer positioned outside of the home, and those are only measures designed to remove pests that you are carrying on your body - your belongings and luggage must also be decontaminated, making this a lengthy and arduous process if it needs to be repeated often.

How Do They Form New Nests?

Bed bug infestations are not related to personal hygiene, but rather to the physical introduction of the pest into your home. As previously specified, this could be on clothes or personal items, but it could also be due to eggs left clinging to furniture, typically furniture that was bought second-hand, and then brought into the home that way. Wild animals may also spread bed bugs around, or the bed bugs may themselves travel into your home if there is a nearby infestation and the journey is easy enough - for instance, they may pass through the airducts of an apartment building. Notably, while they will also feed on your pets given the opportunity, they will not cling to their skin or travel while attached to them, which makes pets a much lower spread factor than human beings.

Similarly, the bed also provides some respite, though the spaces between the wood panelling make it easier for bed bugs to find shelter during the day.

Similarly, the bed also provides some respite, though the spaces between the wood panelling make it easier for bed bugs to find shelter during the day.

Once in your home, bed bugs are attracted to their hosts via a number of signals, primarily carbon dioxide levels, secondarily by warmth, and then by a decreasingly important list of other chemical signatures. Additionally, there is also some evidence to suggest that the bed bugs may respond to human odours.

Despite their names, bed bugs actually only require a dark, snug place to rest when they are not feeding. They are repulsed by light and thus only feed in the dark, typically at night, but they are as likely to take up residence in your couch as they are your bed. Bed bugs feed once every few days with the frequency depending on which species of bed bug you have fallen afoul of, but they can survive as long as seventy days between feeding sessions without consequence.

What Risk Do They Pose?

For many people, bed bug bites are nothing more than minor irritations, though the pest is difficult to remove from your home without professional intervention. Some percentage of the population are even able to suffer bed bug bites with no physical symptoms, while others will suffer some minor swelling, irritation, and itching for a few days after the bite, not unlike a mosquito bite. However, due to the fact that the physical symptoms are so akin to the bite of other pests and the bed bugs are able to hide themselves so well, it can be difficult to determine the source of the bite, and that can lead to some psychological symptoms.

Some infestations of bed bugs can result in the presentation of anxiety, stress, and sleep problems in the patient. Some of these symptoms are directly related to the minor pain felt during sleep, but there is also a strong link between these symptoms and the apparent delusions that the patient forms around the bed bugs. They feel certain they are suffering from a bed bug infestation, but if they are unable to show any physical evidence of that infestation, especially if they are also unable to successfully contract a professional treatment for the bed bugs, then they may develop the aforementioned psychological symptoms.

Couches with cushions like these can also provide suitable shelter for bed bugs.

Couches with cushions like these can also provide suitable shelter for bed bugs.

Is There Anywhere In Particular They’re A Bigger Threat?

All of Australia presents a similar threat profile for bed bugs, and there is no known region of the country that presents any notable threat over any other. However, extra caution should be practised if you visit a site of a known infestation, as this is typically the easiest way to introduce bed bugs to your home. Similarly, bed bugs are becoming increasingly common in aeroplanes, so diligence after air travel is also well-advised.

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