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Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals.

Bed bugs and their relatives have evolved as nest parasites. Certain kinds inhabit bird nests and bat roosts and await the return of their hosts; others have adapted well to living in the ‘nests’ (homes) of people. Hatching bed bugs are about the size of a poppy seed, and adults are about 1/4 of an inch in length. Looking from above they are oval in shape, but are flattened from top to bottom when viewing them from the side. Their color ranges from nearly white (just after molting) or a light tan to a deep brown or burnt orange. The host’s blood may appear as a dark red or black mass within the bug’s body. Because they never develop wings, bed bugs cannot fly. When disturbed, bed bugs actively seek shelter in dark cracks and crevices.

Bed bugs seek out people and animals, generally at night while these hosts are asleep, and painlessly sip a few drops of blood. Bed bugs prefer the dark. While feeding, they inject a tiny amount of their saliva into the skin. Repeated exposures to bed bug bites during a period of several weeks or more causes people to become sensitized to the saliva of these bugs; additional bites may then result in mild to intense allergic responses. The skin lesion produced by the bite of a bed bug resembles those caused by many other kinds of blood feeding insects, such as mosquitoes and fleas.

Because bed bugs readily hide in small crevices, they may accompany (as stowaways) luggage, furniture, clothing, pillows, boxes, and other such objects when these are moved between apartments, homes and hotels. Used furniture, particularly bed frames and mattresses, are of greatest risk of harboring bed bugs and their eggs. Thus, one should carefully scrutinize and consider the history of any used furniture, particularly ‘street’ items so plentiful at the beginning and end of each academic year. Because they readily survive for many months without feeding, bed bugs may already be present in apparently ‘vacant’ and ‘clean’ apartments. Bed bugs can wander between adjoining apartments through voids in walls and holes though which wires and pipes pass.

Bedbugs are generally active only at night, with a peak attack period about an hour before dawn, though given the opportunity, they may attempt to feed at other times of day. Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, the bug pierces the skin of its host with two hollow tubes. With one tube it injects its saliva, which contains anticoagulants and anesthetics, while with the other it withdraws the blood of its host. After feeding for about five minutes, the bug returns to its hiding place. The bites cannot usually be felt until some minutes or hours later, as a dermatological reaction to the injected agents. Although bedbugs can live for up to 18 months without feeding, they typically seek blood every five to ten days.

Bed bugs hide in cracks and crevices during daylight hours. They hide in the folds and tufts of mattresses, coils of springs, cracks and hollow posts of bed stands bed rails and headboards. They may be found inside the cabinetry of furniture and the bottom and sides of drawers. They also can be found behind loose wallpaper, behind pictures on the walls, under door and window casings, and behind baseboards.

However, they are not restricted to these places.

It is important to recognize that not all bites or bite-like reactions are due to bed bugs. Bed bugs or their signs will be present if it is a bed bug bite.

Bed bugs do not live under the skin. If you experience biting sensations during the day, it may be an allergy-related condition.

Bedbugs are often erroneously associated with filth. They are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide, not by dirt, and they feed on blood, not waste. In short, the cleanliness of the infested environment has no effect on bedbugs. Their numbers may be reduced temporarily by vacuuming, but will recover and require vacuuming again.