Read the headlines and you get the impression that punaisedelit have invaded our shores in force and are chomping their way down Main Street USA. Until five years ago bed bug reports were virtually non-existent in the U.S. Then the blood-sucking insects started cropping up in homes, apartments, hotels and college dorms across the country fueling a media frenzy.
The bloodsucking critters are back, and in numbers that amount to a scourge. Segal claims that the scale of this swarm has been overstated, maybe wildly so. The bugs are back is so perfect a trend story that it seems hand-forged by the trend-story gods. It’s what happens when you combine a creepy villain, primal fear and squishy statistics.
A female bed bug can produce up to 500 eggs during its average one-year lifespan, laying about 5 eggs per day. Difficult to detect without magnification, the eggs are whitish, pear-shaped and about the size of a pinhead. The female lays her sticky eggs in bedding and carpets or cements them into cracks and crevices near the bed to ensure a food source when the nymphs hatch. Nymphs, which are lighter in color and look like slightly smaller adults, hatch in 4 to 12 days and begin to feed immediately. Bed bugs progress through five nymphal stages, molting after each stage. The whitish carapaces they shed are a telltale sign of bed bug infestation. It takes 5 to 8 weeks for nymphs to reach maturity. Since several generations of bed bugs can be produced in a year, all stages of growth can be found in an infested room.
Bed bugs feed every 3 to 5 days and must feed at least once to develop to the next stage and to reproduce. They often void while feeding, leaving telltale rusty or tarry spots on sheets and in hiding places. Bed bugs can survive for 1 to 7 months without a blood meal and have been known to live in an abandoned house for as long as a year. They give off a distinctive musty, sweet odor often likened to ripe red raspberries or coriander.
Bed bugs will readily travel 10 to 15 feet to feed but have been observed traveling more than 100 feet from their established harborage to feed on a host. Once established, infestations can spread rapidly to adjoining rooms or units through crawl spaces, wall voids and electrical and plumbing conduits. Adept hitchhikers, bed bugs can easily enter your home on clothing, bedding, luggage, used furniture, cardboard boxes, etc.