Don’t let the bedbugs bite

bedbugs
Bedbugs are not teeny-tiny, invisible insects. Adult bedbugs are between 3/8 to 1/4 of an inch long and are reddish-brown in color and look similar to a flattened tick. UNL Extension

There may be more to the whole “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’” bedtime rhyme than you think.

 

A recent survey has shown an increase in the areas’ bedbug population. So what exactly do these insect look like and how can you prevent their dreaded bite?

 

Bedbugs are not teeny-tiny, invisible insects. Adult bedbugs are between 3/8 to 1/4 of an inch long and are reddish-brown in color and look similar to a flattened tick. The immatures look exactly like the adults, just a much smaller version. When they first emerge from pinhead-sized, white eggs, the young are about the size of a pinhead and have more of a light tan appearance until they feed.

Proper identification of the pest is key. There are several insects that look like bedbugs except for minor differences. To tell the difference between a bedbug and a bat bug, for example, you would need to compare the length of the hair surrounding the head of the insect to the size of its eyeball, not an easy task for the untrained eye.

 

The food source and feeding habits of the bedbug are what makes most people squirm. Bedbugs feed on blood. They would prefer human blood, but they can feed on Fluffy, Polly or Fido as well. During the day, bedbugs hide in tight places near beds or where people sleep at night. At night they come out to feed. Bedbugs locate their food source through increased levels of carbon dioxide and by sensing body heat. They normally feed on areas that aren’t covered by clothing, usually around the head, neck, arms and shoulders or even the legs and ankles.

 

Determining a bedbug infestation from bite marks isn’t the most reliable method. At one time, it was said bedbugs would feed several times in a line. Recent research has proven bedbugs feed in more random patterns. To make it more difficult, not everyone reacts the same way to bedbug bites. Some people have severe reactions to the bites, while others can have no reaction at all. Determining if you have bedbugs based upon bite marks alone is not the best method. Identification of the insect is needed to confirm a bedbug infestation.

 

Bedbugs use a variety of methods to infest. These insects are excellent hitchhikers. They can crawl into luggage in hotels or come with overnight guests, hang onto clothing or hide in personal items like purses and diaper bags.

In apartments or higher density housing situations they can move and infest neighboring rooms or apartments or sit and wait for new tenants to move in. They can also be moved in used or garage sale items like couches, vacuums or mattresses.

Bedbugs make their living in tight quarters. They live in tight places, gaps or cracks around the bed or where people sleep. With a bed, they are often found around the binding of the mattress or box spring or in tight corners of the headboard. Most bedbugs are found in the bed or within 15 feet of the bed. If you try to sleep on the couch to avoid becoming a meal of a bedbug, you might be spreading the infestation. Bedbugs can crawl as much as 20 feet away in a night looking for their next meal.

 

Prevention is the best way to keep from picking up these hitchhikers. When traveling, inspect the hotel room for bedbugs as soon as you enter the room. Look behind the headboard, the mattress and box spring and other locations near the bed. Place your luggage on the metal stand or store in the bathroom, which is usually the farthest away from the bed and has flooring that makes it easy to spot bedbugs. Zip up your luggage to keep large adults from crawling inside.

 

Inspect used items when purchasing or renting. If possible, wash in hot water and dry the item on the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes.

With a little prevention there are things that you can do to keep the bedbugs from biting and from becoming a pest. Sleep tight.

 

Elizabeth Killinger is the Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or ekillinger2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County Extension website at hall.unl.edu

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