Bed bugs are oval flat insects approximately 5mm in length. They are light brown in appearance when unfed, changing to a deep mahogany colour after the ingestion of a blood meal. Adults are wingless and flat, unless recently fed.
Where to find them
Bed bugs hide by day in cracks and crevices in beds, furniture, wallpaper, skirting boards and electrical fittings. One reason why bed bug infestations are so difficult to eradicate is that they are resistant to low temperatures and capable of surviving for up to 12 months without food. They are easily transported on luggage or second-hand furniture.
Disease risk and damage
There are no specific diseases associated with bed bugs and their importance is related mostly to the unpleasant irritation following their bites. The itchiness and swelling occurs due to the saliva that the bedbug injects into the host to prevent the blood from clotting. A severe bed bug infestation may result in sleep disturbance to the host and is extremely unpleasant. Heavy infestations are characterised by a sweet almond type odour.
Bed bugs can be difficult to eradicate however control may be achieved by the use of broadband residual insecticides which are only available to professional operators.
When spraying with insecticide particular attention is paid to the bed frames, skirting boards, furniture and any cracks or crevices in which the bed bugs are likely to be hiding.
It is extremely important to recognise that the eradication of bed bugs is not achieved immediately after a course of treatment. The bed bugs hide deep within harbourages in inaccessible areas and will only come into contact with the insecticide if it senses the presence of a blood meal and emerges to feed. It is the carbon dioxide that humans exhale coupled with the warmth of the body that draws the bed bug out of its harbourage. For this reason it is recommended that people continue to sleep in affected rooms after they have been treated.
Bedding should be laundered at a temperature of 60° for at least 30 minutes. Delicate materials such as lamp shades, curtains and cushions may be placed in a plastic bag and put in your freezer for 2-4 days depending on temperature.