When you were a kid your parents might have told you not to let the bedbugs bite for a long time. They were so unheard of that, you might have asked your parents, what a bedbug even was.
But today bedbugs are the fastest-growing pest control emergency in the U.S. one in five Americans either have had bedbugs or know someone who has and the problem isn’t going away.
It’s actually getting a lot worse known in the scientific world as cimex, lectularius bed bugs are blood-feeding insects that are about the size of an apple seed. Once, they’re fully grown. They survive on the blood of mammals and insects, but they prefer human blood.
6 Things You Should Know About Bedbugs
1. Bed Bugs Myths
A colony of bed bugs can have thousands of individuals, and you can have them without even knowing it. So, here’s what you need to know about bed bugs. The name bed bug might make you think they only live in bed.
Bed bugs will live just about anywhere they can hide. An adult bed bug is 5 millimeters long and as narrow as a piece of paper and they can crawl up to 30 meters in a night to find a meal.
That means bed bugs will hide behind light switches on the wall underneath peeling paint and wallpaper or the gap between walls in the baseboards or just about anywhere else bugs have even been found living inside a prosthetic leg.
We’ve been dealing with bedbugs for a really long time. You know, they infested ancient Rome, the Romans, actually brewed them, and drink them as a cure for snake bites, which I’m sure was delicious. We also know, they were an ancient Egypt because the Egyptians wrote about them bubbly complaining to the landlord.
In fact, archaeological evidence tells us that bed bugs have fed on humans for at least 3500 years because fossilized bed bugs have been found at dig sites.
Bed bugs may have been plaguing us for much longer than that based on what’s in their mitochondrial, DNA. That is the DNA inside the PowerHouse of the cell, by comparing the mitochondrial markers and bed bug populations around the world. We’ve learned that they originated in caves in the Middle East where they would have fed on that now.
Read also: How Big are Bed Bugs?
2. Do Bed Bugs Fly Or Jump?
Bed bugs can’t fly and they can’t jump. They can’t crawl very far either. 30 meters in height isn’t setting any land speed. And so it’s a lot more likely that we met them when we went into their caves, instead of them coming out of their caves after us, the first humans that bedbugs ever chewed on were probably caving dwellers. So we’ve had them forever and they can hide anywhere.
3. Simplest Way to Eliminate Bed Bugs
How do we get rid of the simplest way to wipe out of bed bug infestation is heat both eggs and adults will die in under 10 minutes. If exposed to temperatures above 46 degrees celsius, you know, how the old-timey movies, cheap beds, like in hotels and hospitals had all those janky.
Metal Frames were popular because you could rub them in kerosene and light them on fire. I would definitely take care of any bed bugs living inside. Another method that was used was to clear bed bugs out of furniture was to pack the joints with gunpowder and explode them.
Maybe don’t try that one though. So I show is officially telling you not to set your bed frame on fire. Please don’t burn down your house. Even though bed bugs hate heat. You can’t just wait for them to die on a hot summer’s day for a couple of reasons.
First of all, just because it’s 46 degrees outside, doesn’t mean it’s 46 degrees where the bed bugs are actually living in the shade under your bed or in the cool recesses inside your walls. It’s a lot more comfortable but more importantly, bed bugs are capable of something called diapause.
Diapause for insects is kind of like hibernation for Bears. It’s a deep sleep where the bed bug shuts off, most of its metabolic processes, and survives on its energy stores until it either runs out of energy or wakes up bedbugs entered. I pause when it starts to get too hot or if temperatures drop below freezing or if they can’t find food.
That’s why putting your bed in trash bags to try to starve. The bed bugs out don’t work. Thanks to diapause bed bugs can survive over a year without a meal in the same way that a bear won’t just go into hibernation if you stick it to a big freezer for a few hours.
Bed bugs won’t enter diapause, if it only gets hot over a short period of time, diapause is a reaction to slower environmental changes like the onset of summer which is why setting a bed on fire kills, but heat isn’t the only way to kill a bedbug.
4. Bed Bugs DDT Treatment
The reason you grew up thinking that bed bugs were maybe not even real things, is because bed bugs were almost wiped out in 1950 all because of an incredibly useful. But also, super terrible, a toxic little chemical called DDT.
DDT stands for dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, and it was the first chemical pesticide to be put to widespread use. It was rolled out after WWII and by the end of the 1950s bed bug populations had been so reduced in the developed world that scientists mostly stopped studying them because they literally couldn’t find any DDT is from a family of pesticides called pyrethroids, which are synthetic versions of a compound created by the Chrysanthemum flower is how it works.
Most animals, insects, and humans included have pores in the membranes of our nerve cells that can be opened to let in sodium and sodium enters a nerve cell. It triggers a nerve impulse, pyrethroids buying to those sodium pores. Locking them into the open position that allows sodium.
Time to flood the cell. So nerve, impulses start to fire uncontrollably, eventually leading to paralysis and death. Pyrethroids have a much bigger effect on insects and when larger animals like birds or mammals are even better pyrethroids can affect insects at all stages of their life cycle.
Including when they’re in the egg, one treatment of DDT was enough to completely wipe out a population of bed bugs and they would stay wiped out for up to a year. But DDT was banned in the u.s. In 1972 for a lot of reasons.
For one thing, females who are exposed to DDT before puberty are five times more, likely to develop breast cancer. DDT has also been linked to male infertility, as well as miscarriage nervous system and liver damage, and developmental disabilities in children may not kill humans the way it kills insects, but it sure isn’t.
Good for us. So we should like not to bring DDT back every modern bedbug treatment can be effective, but they’re costly and not as reliable as DDT was, there are other pyrethroids now, for example, they don’t have so many harmful side effects.
We can try using those against bedbugs, but the bugs have evolved a near-complete immunity to that bed bugs. Today are 10,000 times less vulnerable to pyrethroids than they were 50 years ago go back to those sodium pores then made up of about 2000 amino acids.
And it turns out that if you changed a handful of those amino acids. The sodium poor can still do its job at the pyrethroids, can’t bond to those new amino acids that make pyrethroids, DDT included, totally useless against bedbugs. They don’t have anything else that works anywhere near as well.
Steam treatments are effective, hot steam will kill bed bugs and their eggs, but steam needs to come in direct contact with the bugs to kill them, which can be tough. If they’re like inside your mattress and that situation bed, bug, proof mattress covers are available.
Essentially you wrap your bed in airtight plastic and starve the bed bugs out. But like I said earlier that can take up to a year, so I hope you like the sound of crinkling plastic, while you sleep.
5. Bed Bugs Prevention
You can also seal the cracks and crevices where bed bugs, like to hide that will cut down on the number of locations where they can lay their eggs. Linens and furniture can be put in a freezer unit for a couple of weeks to freeze the bedbugs to death.
If you have a bed bug infestation, you may end up needing a professional exterminator to do. All of those things may be more than once the cost can run into the thousands of dollars.
6. Do Bed Bugs Transmit Diseases?
Okay. So is there good news? Well, yes, kind of it’s weird for a blood-feeding insect, but bed bugs don’t spread disease.
Most sources of human blood-borne illness break down inside the bed bugs, almost immediately. For example, HIV. The virus that causes AIDS decomposes in the bed bug’s digestive system in under an hour since bed bugs only feed once every few days.
There’s basically no danger of it getting passed on through b, there are a few diseases that can survive for longer Hepatitis B for example remains in the bed bugs digestive system for up to six weeks after feeding.
There’s no evidence that the virus will actually pass into a new host said bug seems to be very clean eaters disease-carrying blood feet like mosquitoes can make you sick because of the compounds they inject into your bloodstream when they feed like an anesthetic.
So you don’t feel the bite and anticoagulants or blood keeps flowing while they feed, those substances are tainted with the blood of other victim bedbugs also inject you with anesthetic and anticoagulants, but without the blood mixed in theoretically, it’s impossible that bed bugs could transmit something say If you rolled over on a bed bug it burst and its blood got into an open sore gross.
I know but there’s never been a case of that actually happening. Scientists can’t even make it happen in a lab, the one exception is Saugus disease which they managed to spread to mice by putting bedbug feces directly into an open scrape.
Again, it’s never happened to a person. So if you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation or just want to know what to do, if you ever are in contact, with your local pest control expert, just don’t look to the lessons of history because of old-school ways of wiping out bed bugs were bad.
Probably our best hope is that science will come up with something new as effective as DDT, but not as you know, awful, and hopefully, they come up with it soon.