What Are Bedbugs?
The Bedbug Family.
Bedbugs come from the family Cimicidae. They belong in any of the 75 species of insects in the true bug order, Heteroptera. Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, prefers to feed on human blood. Other Cimex species feed on other animals like the bat bugs, such as Cimex pipistrelli (found in Europe), Cimex pilosellus (found in the western US), and Cimex adjunctus (found in the entire eastern US).
How Bedbugs Look Like.
Adult bedbugs appear light to reddish-brown, broad, flat, and oval-shaped. It measures 4 to 5 mm (less than 0.2 inch) long and and 1.5–3 mm ( less than 0.118 in) wide. The atrophied, scale-like, vestigial wings are inconspicuous and non-functioning. They have segmented abdomens with microscopic hairs that give them a banded appearance.
Bedbug nymphs appear translucent, lighter in color, and turn brown as they molt and reach maturity. A nymph that has just consumed a blood meal has a bright red, translucent abdomen. It fades to brown over the next several hours, and to opaque black within two days as the insect digests its meal.
Bedbugs may be mistaken for other insects, such as book lice, small cockroaches, or carpet beetles. But when warm and active, their movements are more ant-like. Like most other true bugs, they emit a characteristic disagreeable odor when crushed.
How Bedbugs Feed.
Bedbugs are bloodsuckers (hematophagous). Most species feed on humans only when other prey are unavailable. They get all the more moisture they need from water vapor in the surrounding air. They get attracted to their hosts by carbon dioxide, by warmth, and also by certain chemicals. Bedbugs prefer exposed skin, such as the face, neck, and arms of a sleeping person.
Bedbugs have mouth parts that saw through the skin. They inject saliva with anticoagulants and painkillers. Human sensitivity varies from extreme allergic reaction to no reaction at all. The bite usually produces a swelling with no red spot. But when many bugs feed on a small area, reddish spots may appear after the swelling subsides.
Bedbugs can live for over a year without feeding. During warm conditions they try to feed at five- to ten-day intervals. Adult bedbugs can survive for about five months without food. Younger bedbugs can survive for weeks without taking a blood meal.
Cimicosis: When Bedbugs Bite.
Bedbug bites result to skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic symptoms. These parasites don’t transmit any pathogens or capable of transmitting any of these to humans.
Bedbugs have been human parasites for thousands of years. In the early 1940’s, developed countries had them eradicated. An increased prevalence came in 1995 due to pesticide resistance and international travel. Because bedbug infestation has increased, bites and related conditions have been on the rise as well.
Bedbugs can exist alone, but tend to congregate once established. They spend only a tiny fraction of their life cycles attached to hosts despite being called parasites. Once a bed bug finishes feeding, it relocates to a place close to a known host, near beds or couches. They go in clusters of adults, juveniles, and eggs—which entomologists call harborages. Bedbugs may also nest near animals that have nested within a dwelling, such as bats, birds, or rodents. They are also capable of surviving on domestic cats and dogs, though humans are the preferred host of C. lectularius.
Bed bugs emit their characteristic smell of rotting raspberries. Trained bedbug detection dogs can pinpoint infestations, with high precision and accuracy rate.
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