Bed bugs are dark brown colored parasites that prey on both humans and animals. They appear flat and oval when they are unfed, but this soon changes to an elongated and engorged appearance after feeding. Varying in size from about one to four inches in length, these opportunistic pests feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals. Bed bugs need to feed regularly in order to survive and reproduce. 

Adult bed bug feeding
3d rendered illustration of a bedbug on human skin

They get the name bed bugs because their preferred habitats are domestic settings such as beds, sofas, cushions, mattresses, carpeting, and other soft furnishings. Typical bedbugs can survive in temperatures as low as 7 degrees Celsius and die when the temperature rises above sssssssss45 degrees Celsius. Thus, bedbugs are more commonly found in colder regions, except for a certain species of tropical bedbugs that can withstand higher temperatures as well.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all consider bed bugs to be a public health pest. It is difficult to get rid of bed bugs, but it is not impossible. You need to know how to control them.

Bedbugs- An Introduction

Bedbugs can be found in homes, and other locations such as hospitals, offices, and even hotels. They hide in dark cracks and crevices near to the human population e.g. in electrical switchboards, picture frames and cracks in walls, and usually only come out at nighttime to feed. Bedbugs are known to be great hitchhikers and can move from one site to another by traveling in backpacks and other luggage. 

These elusive, nocturnal pests are fast crawlers, thus their spread to the adjacent rooms and nearby human settings is pretty rapid. Contrary to what one may believe, the presence of bedbugs is not a sign of uncleanliness because unlike rodents that feed on a variety of items even dirt and feces, bedbugs only feed on blood, primarily human blood. Thus, they can be found in even the most hygienic places such as premium hotels. Bedbugs can be commonly found in overcrowded settings which experience a large turnover in occupancies such as homeless shelters, public transport, and hospitals.

Identifying Bedbugs

Bedbugs can be hard to identify because they usually only come out to feed in the nighttime on the blood of sleeping humans.  And on top of this, they can hide easily in small cracks and crevices because of their small size.

You must thoroughly check for bedbugs especially when buying second-hand furniture, bedding, carpets or travel accessories and while staying away from home in hotels, etc. Bedbug infestations are a major inconvenience, but it is easier to treat a minor infestation as compared to when it becomes widespread, therefore timely identification and control can be proved beneficial. However, identifying a minor infestation is a very challenging task and other insects like beetles can often be misidentified as bedbugs. This misidentification gives more time to the bedbugs to further spread in your house.

Signs You Might Have Bed Bugs

Here are some signs that you might be dealing with a bedbug infestation:

  • brown-reddish or rusty spots on bed sheets or mattresses which are a result of bedbugs being crushed
  • Bedbug droppings which are very small (about the size of a dot) and spread like a blood smear when touched
  • Presence of very tiny eggs and eggshells
  • Presence of small pieces of pale-yellow skin, which is shed by bedbug nymphs as they grow larger in size
  • A foul, musty odor which is released from the bedbugs’ scent glands
  • Presence of bedbug bites on the body especially in the morning upon waking up. These bites appear as dark red itchy spots, usually in clusters located on the arms, hands, neck or the face
  • Witnessing live bedbugs crawl especially during the night

The Risks Associated with Bedbugs

Bedbugs are pesky creatures but unlike rodents and other house pests, they don’t cause damage to the home structure or other house items or transmit deadly diseases. However, they do still pose a threat to an individual’s health and lifestyle. The cost to remediate these widespread disinfestations can lead to a significant financial burden.

Most importantly, if bedbugs are not exterminated on time, they can put you at risk of serious health problems.  Some of these are listed below.

  • Skin infections

Once the bedbug draws blood from the pierced skin, it walks away leaving behind swollen red bumps on the skin. These bumps are very itchy and since they usually bite during the night when we are asleep, we unconsciously scratch the bumps until the itchiness goes away which usually leads to the formation of flesh wounds. These small wounds may be harmless on their own but they serve as sites of entrance for various bacteria and viruses, causing contagious skin infections, some of which happen to be boils, cellulitis, and Impetigo (red pus-filled sores).

  • Severe allergic reactions

One of the most serious health risks of a bedbug infestation is allergic reactions that occur as a result of bedbug bites. Because the bedbugs directly insert their beak into the bloodstream, some people can experience very severe allergic reactions which cause swelling of the tongue, tightness of chest, shortness of breath due to the constriction of air passages in the body, all of which can send the body in a state of shock known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylactic shocks are often life-threatening and require quick medical attention.

  • Stress

Living in a household infested with bedbugs is frustrating because of their rapid uncontrollable spread, recurring damage to the curtains and bedsheets and repeated itchy biting on the body. Constantly living in such a stressful environment has a negative psychological impact on our body and leads to the development of emotional anxiety.

Anxiety on its own is a cause of various health problems like high blood pressure, depression, digestive issues and immune system suppression which makes our body vulnerable to a number of infections and diseases. It can also lead to the development of negative and unhealthy habits like smoking, alcoholism and drug use.

  • Sleep deprivation

If the bug infestation becomes too widespread it can lead to sleep deprivation. Constant itchy bites by the bedbugs and the thought of bedbugs crawling throughout the house are frustrating and would prevent the residents from having a good night’s sleep. This causes physical and mental exhaustion. This exhaustion leads to impaired thinking, accidents, weak decision-making ability, poor performance at the workplace and a rise in family problems and arguments. 

If we happen to compare the nuisances and health risks of bedbugs with other house pests like mosquitos and rodents, which are responsible for the transmission and propagation of deadly diseases like malaria, plague, leptospirosis which damages the liver and kidney, and a number of others we come to a clear conclusion that the health problems caused by bedbugs are comparatively less harmful and life-threatening. But these minor damages have a chance of accumulating over time and can eventually pose a major health risk. Therefore, these bug infestations are not to be taken lightly and techniques to control these pests should be employed as soon as their presence becomes evident. 

Dealing with Bed Bugs

Here are some steps you need to keep in mind when dealing when you are trying to eliminate a bedbug infestation. 

  • Wash all bedding, curtains, cushions, and upholstery using hot water.
  • All items such as stuffed toys and shoes that can’t be washed should be placed in a dryer at the highest temperature setting. 
  • Scrub your mattress thoroughly to get rid of any bedbugs or their eggs
  • Thoroughly vacuum your room and then discard the plastic bag completely in a distant outdoor place. 
  • Seal the mattress tightly using a plastic covering. This way, you can ensure that even if there are any bedbugs remaining in the mattress even after cleaning, they won’t be able to feed on you. This way, the bedbugs will eventually die out of starvation. 
  • In case of a severe infestation, it is a good idea to get rid of the mattress or any other badly affected item to ensure proper disinfection. 

Consult the Experts

If getting your hands dirty doesn’t sound very appealing to you, then it might be a good idea to enlist the help of a professional. Exterminators are skilled and trained at properly dealing with bedbug infestations. 

Bedbugs and Pesticides

There are many pesticides that are recommended and confirmed by formal authorities of the USA. The problem with using chemicals to deal with bed bugs is that such products can be very harmful to humans as well. Therefore, you need to look for EPA registered pesticides. They are checked by the authorities to make sure they are effective and do not harm the user or the environment. Also, you need to read the instructions carefully so that you use the product in a proper manner. Using pesticides is better than using other measures such as foggers (bug bombs) because they are dangerous and can cause an explosion if used improperly. 

A popular and effective option among the many pesticides available is Crossfire which has a two-pronged effect. In other words, it combines a contract killer with a long-lasting chemically stable residual, both of which combined can prove to be highly effective against bedbugs. It can handle both the size and population of the bed bugs very well. Crossfire is non-repellant and kills within 5 minutes of exposure. It’s also been proven effective against residuals of bed bugs and their eggs. It is the only pesticide that has a minimal harmful and toxic impact on humans. Still, it is recommended that you use it while wearing all kinds of safety measures like long sleeves, socks, shoes, mask and make sure that there is no contact or explore to your eyes or skin. Unnecessary exposure to these medicines can cause health problems for humans. Use the applied area again when it is fairly dry.

How to Use Crossfire for Bedbugs

The method of using it is that you mix 13 ounces in 1 gallon of water. Do it in two parts, first pour half a gallon of water and the mixture, then after the mixture starts dissolving pour the other half. Make sure that the solution is well mixed and then you are ready to use it. You have to now apply Crossfire to cracks and crevices, like on or around baseboards, floorboards, bed frames, headboards, furniture, door and window frames, closets, beneath floor coverings, and the edges of the carpet. Spray it all across these areas. Keep on spraying until the targeted area is damp but do not make it wet. Have it on for some time and wait till they are dry to check the bed bugs and then use the spaces again.

Note: Read the product label and instructions to maximize the effective use and ensure safety. Its formula and speed with which it performs make it an ideal choice for treating homes and apartments.

Crossfire For Bed Bugs
Crossfire For Bed Bugs

Bedbugs and Pets

Not only do they bite and feed on humans, but bedbugs are also infamous for feeding on pet cats and dogs, thus becoming a potential health risk for your furry friends as well. 

 Can my pet carry bed bugs?

This is highly improbable but not entirely impossible. This is because bedbugs do not live on house pets, or even on humans for that matter.  Neither do they spend a significant portion of their life cycle on them unlike fleas, ticks, lice or mites; but they are capable of biting your pets. Instead, bedbugs prefer to live in dark corners and under covers such as in the bedding, between the curtains or in your pets’ bed. 

Bedbugs can be commonly found in overcrowded settings which experience a large turnover in occupancy such as homeless shelters, public transport and can easily hide in small cracks and crevices because of their small size.

You must thoroughly check for bedbugs especially when buying second-hand furniture, bedding, carpets or travel accessories and while staying away from home in hotels, etc. because they can easily hitchhike into your home along with your luggage and create a havoc. Cats can also be responsible for spreading bedbugs to adjacent homes or luring them in residential spaces. The reason is that cats are warm-blooded creatures that exhale carbon dioxide, just like humans. Both of these conditions provide an ideal environment for bedbugs to thrive in. 

Bedbugs and Dogs

Bedbugs usually don’t feed on dogs when they get an adequate supply of blood from human hosts. These creatures also have difficulty moving through thick fur, but in case of extremely heavy infestations when food becomes scarce, they may feed on your pet.

Identifying bedbugs biting your pet can be difficult because of their tiny size, but when you find your dog scratching itself then it may be a sign that it has been bitten. However, you are more likely to notice bedbug bite symptoms in your family members first. In the presence of both a human and a dog, bedbugs will definitely choose the human over a dog. The carbon dioxide gas exhaled by a human being attracts a bedbug from distances as far as 50 feet.

Transmission of Disease to Dogs?

Although bedbugs have not been known to transmit disease-causing pathogens, their bites, however, can cause itching, wounds, allergic reaction, boils and secondary infections from scratching the bitten area. Bed bugs bite at areas that are remotely covered with hair and fur so that they could easily suck on blood. This is the reason why you are likely to find bedbug bites along your back or limbs rather than your scalp.

While biting pets, bed bugs will bite at places that give them easier access to skin. It is difficult for them to go around digging in fur, so they’ll pick body parts such as their bellies, ears, and legs.

Bedbugs and Cats

You need to keep checking your cat thoroughly to observe where they have scarce fur, and if they have red spots resulting from bedbug bites over there. Species of cats having a thicker coat of fur as compared to others are less susceptible to bedbug bites because of a lesser area for the bedbugs to latch onto.

When bitten, the cat is certain to constantly scratch the bite because of the itchiness. As they scratch the affected area, they can open up little scratch wounds and bleed. These open wounds on the skin are extremely likely to become infected, harboring a number of disease-causing pathogens, if the cat doesn’t let the wounds heal properly. If you happen to find such wounds on your cat’s body, clean them up constantly using a suitable antiseptic.

Just like humans, no two pets will have the same adverse reaction to bed bugs. Some people will get a rash when bitten while others don’t. In some people, bed bug bites get very itchy, while others experience no such itchiness. It is the same with other animals, so it is possible that your cat might not display any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Allergic Reactions in Cats

Other than secondary infections from wounds, bedbug bites can also lead to a severe allergic reaction in your cat. A research paper in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology states that bedbug bites can trigger the release of the IgE antibody, similar to the one that leads to asthma.

Whether internal or external, all sorts of parasites are known to cause allergic reactions. Following are some typical symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Red or pink bumps around the bite marks
  • Inflammation; either local or throughout the body, which can even be lethal
  • Excessive buildup of mucus leading to a runny nose 

Before blaming bedbugs, it is crucial that one rules out all other potential possibilities of inflammation or allergic reactions. This reaction might be due to attack by an altogether different parasite, or some other causative agent. No matter what, it is ideal to consult a vet on an urgent basis for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Debugging your pet

Unlike fleas and mites, bedbugs don’t live on pets, rather they hide in furniture, bedding and small cracks and crevices in walls. Once they have finished feeding, they return to their hiding spot until it is feeding time again. It is likely for a bedbug to carry itself along on a dog, therefore your pet can act as a carrier for bedbugs to gain entrance into the house, but the pests cannot survive in its fur. The preferred hiding places for bedbugs are furniture, carpets, beddings, and narrow crevices, for the purpose of keeping themselves inconspicuous.

Pet-friendly extermination techniques

If you want to protect your pet from getting bitten by bedbugs, it is crucial that you eliminate every single one of these pests from your house, otherwise, they will form extensive colonies back again within days since they have a very high reproduction rate enabling them to spread robustly. Following is a step by step guide of how to get rid of bed bugs on cats.

  • The first step should be cleaning your cat’s bed. If your cat has a regular bed that they sleep in all the time, it is extremely likely for you to find live bedbugs or nymphs around it. You can either dry clean the bed or simply buy a new one.
  • Repeat the similar procedure all-around your house. All the furniture, curtains, bedding, etc has to be either thoroughly cleaned or replaced. It will burden you financially but not doing so will cause the bedbugs to return in full strength.
  • Buy a mattress encasement to eliminate bedbugs right at the source.

These steps should be sufficient for getting rid of most of the bedbugs. The source of most of the bedbug population is your bed, thus isolating bugs using an encasement is a big enough step towards dealing with the infestation. The remaining colonies in your furniture can then be eliminated using a spray or a steam cleaner.

It is not necessary to throw all your pet’s bedding, clothing or stuffed toys out in the trash. Following are a few tips you might find helpful:

• Launder your pet’s bedding at the highest temperature settings of about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to be extra cautious while carrying the bedding to the laundry and sorting it out so that you prevent further spread of the bed bugs.

• If the clothing or the bedding cannot be washed, then you can try putting them in the dryer at medium to high heat for about 20 minutes.

• If the bedding or clothing happens to have spots, tears or holes in it then it is advised to get rid of it for good. Don’t dump them out in the open, rather place them in a sealable plastic bag, and mark it with a clearly visible sign that it is infested with bugs.

Crossfire and Bedbugs

Arguably the most effective method of eliminating bedbugs from your home is by using the pesticide Crossfire. It can not only get rid of all the bedbugs but can also prevent them from returning for months. This is because the pesticide continues to work long after it has been used. This way once the larvae hatch, they are automatically eliminated too. And the best part is that they are pet-friendly so you can use them in your home without worrying about how it will affect your pets. 

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Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.

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