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Cimex lectularis

Common name: Bed Bug

Length: Approx. 6mm at adult stage.

Colour & description: Are pale brown when unfed but brown when engourged with blood. Oval but flattened unless recently fed. Are wingless with a short head and long slender mouthparts.

Habits & habitat: Nocturnal parasite with all stages feeding on mammalian blood. Hide by day in cracks and crevices in beds, furniture, behind skirting boards emerging when hungry to find food.

Life cycle: up to 200 days

Reproduction rate: Following insemination females produce 2-3 eggs per day for life (several hundred eggs in her lifetime).

The following extracts have been copied from an article supplied by a main supplier and manufacturer of Chemicals that are especially formulated for the pest control industry.

The History of Bedbugs

Bedbugs have been around for thousands of years, and in that time have changed very little. In the 1930’s one third of all London homes were infested with bedbugs, and some experts believe we will soon be heading back to those days if greater levels of control are not achieved soon. Following on from this period, with the introduction of DDT as an insecticide, bedbug control made significant advances and the problem was massively reduced.

It is only recently that bedbugs have started to become such a problem once again. Local authority reporting of bedbug infestations in some boroughs has doubled year on year since 1995, with hot spots being identified in most major cities throughout the UK.

There may be several reasons for this, the most likely being:

1. Loss of many effective pesticides, withdrawn as a result of recent UK or European Legislation. More ‘work’ to be done by fewer pesticides, from fewer chemical classes has, and will continue to challenge the effectiveness of the few products remaining, leading to –

2. Insecticide resistance. Pests with short generation times and cryptic life-styles such as bedbugs are ideally suited to withstand pesticide attack, especially where inadequate chemical coverage and sub-lethal dosing allows genetic selection of survivors.

3. Changes in patterns of home ownership, cultural changes and changes in pest  management responsibilities have all exerted a modifying influence on the prevalence of domestic pests in high population density metropolitan and urban environments. This is especially true for bedbugs fleas and cockroaches.

4. A huge increase in movements of the human population both on the ‘micro-‘ and the ‘macro-‘ scale has allowed the mechanical migration of bedbugs throughout our major cities and towns. Bedbugs by themselves do not travel long distances and are more inclined to ‘hitch-hike’ from one location to another, slowly spreading the infestation from one premise to another. Increases in tourist movements have allowed ‘stowaway’ bedbugs to colonise hotels, hostels and domestic houses far more frequently than was possible a few years ago.

Breeding and Lifecycle

Fertilised female bedbugs usually deposit their eggs on rough surfaces and can lay up to five eggs per day, depending on the ambient temperature and their success in blood feeding. The eggs are fertilised while still in the ovary, and the embryo has already undergone some development when the eggs are laid.

Eggs are oval in shape and approximately 1mm in length, with an ‘operculum’ or lid at one end. The eggs are laid individually into cracks and crevices where they are held in place by a transparent ‘cement’. The minimum time for development is 4-5 days at around 30°C, so usually 8-11 days at an average UK room temperature. No eggs will hatch if the temperature is above 37°C or below 13°C, and eggs which have not hatched within three months will die.

The juvenile bedbugs or ‘nymphs’ hatch by pushing off the operculum from the egg. These tiny nymphs are yellow in colour and translucent prior to their first blood feed. In between each of the five molts a bedbug nymph must go through to reach adulthood, a blood feed must be taken. Each instar looks essentially similar to the adult, but somewhat smaller. The normal time taken to reach adulthood is 5-8 weeks, depending on temperature and frequency of feeding.

Adult bedbugs normally live for several months but can live for longer in ideal conditions. They also have the ability to survive for long periods without a blood feed, up to 6-8 months, increasing their survival rates and making eradication difficult if treatment is not thorough and complete.

Behaviour

Bedbugs can infest any type of human living quarters, and may not only be found in housing and short duration accommodation such as hotels and hostels, but also in cinemas, bus/truck/rail/taxi terminals, restrooms, offices, police cells and holding areas, as well as institutional dormitories like military barracks, hospitals and detention centres.

Bedbugs are poor hunters and can only recognise a food source once they are quite close, at which time thermal and chemical sensors allow them to locate their prey. Bedbugs are known to fall from the ceiling onto their victims, but such an action is not thought to be intentional or purposeful.

Bedbugs are attracted by exhaled carbon dioxide and body heat, not by dirt. They feed on blood, not waste, so in short the cleanliness of their environment has an effect on the control of bedbugs but, unlike cockroaches, does not have a direct effect on bedbugs as they feed on their hosts and not on waste. Good housekeeping will certainly assist in control.

Bedbugs shy away from light, this combined with positive thigmotaxis (the tendency to remain in close contact with hard surfaces) ensures that they hide away in cracks and crevices during the day.

Bedbugs produce an aggregation pheromone which brings them together. This is not a sex pheromone as it equally attracts both female and male adults. It is this pheromone that explains the grouping of bedbugs and also explains why hundreds of eggs can be found laid close together.

Bedbugs secrete an oily liquid from their coxal glands which, in heavy infestations, causes a distinct sweet smell. This smell combined with the presence of blood and excreta spots characterises bedbug infestations.

Identification

Bedbugs do not move quickly enough to avoid the attention of an astute observer, when disturbed they will not move faster than around 2cm /second.

Bedbugs travel easily along pipes and boards, and their bodies are very flat, which allows them to hide in tiny crevices, often avoiding detection. In the daytime bedbugs prefer to remain hidden in such places as mattress seams, mattress interiors, bed frames, nearby furniture, carpeting, baseboards, inner walls (through electrical sockets), or bedroom clutter.

Bedbugs are capable of travelling to feed, but will usually remain close to the host in bedrooms or on sofas where people may sleep, generally they will only travel as far away as they need to find an adequate hiding place.

Control

Successful bedbug control can only be achieved by a systematic and thorough approach to the problem, especially if the infestation has proved difficult to control in the past.