They hide during the day.
They feed at night.
Their food source is blood—preferably human, definitely warm.
They’ve been around for centuries.
Think smaller. Think bedbugs.
According to the 2017 Top 50 Bed Bug Cities List by Atlanta-based Orkin, the Los Angeles region (L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties) ranked as the sixth-worst metro area in the United States for bedbugs; the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose area ranked tenth.
Reports of bed bug infestations appear in records as far back as 400 BC in Greece (even Aristotle mentioned them). Right now, the ancient little pest, whose name Cimex (bug) Lectularius (couch or bed) is longer than they are (they’re roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), is back with a vengeance.
Bed bugs were almost eradicated after the insecticide DDT was introduced in 1952. After the chemical was banned in 1972, it took the bugs a few years to regroup. New, extreme infestations began once again in the late ‘90s, first appearing in “gateway” cities such as Miami, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Now, they’re everywhere. They like to travel. They are famous for hiding in bags or attaching themselves to clothing to hitch a ride to their next destination.
Although bed bugs can travel approximately 100 feet per night, they prefer to stay within 8 feet of their food source. Their small, flat size allows them to hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, or behind wallpaper, waiting for their next meal (you) to lie down for the night.
The good news? They do not spread disease.
The bad news? They’re extremely hard to get rid of.
How do you know you have them? Aside from being bitten, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says to look for the following signs:
- Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
- Dark spots, which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
- Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
- Live bed bugs.
Maybe because the bed bug has been around so long (or maybe because they’re so hard to to kill), there are many myths about them; here are a few:
- You can’t see a bed bug.
False. You should be able to see adult bed bugs, nymphs and eggs with your naked eye.
- Bed bugs live in dirty places.
False. Bed bugs have been found in hospitals, five-star hotels, single-family homes, schools, libraries—even chicken crates.
- Bed bugs transmit diseases.
False. There have been no cases or studies that indicate bed bugs transmit diseases between humans.
- Bed bugs are not a public health pest.
False. According the Centers for Disease Control and the United States Department of Agriculture, bed bugs are a public health pest.
- Bed bugs won’t come out if the room is brightly lit.
False. Bed bugs prefer darkness, but they’ll come out and bite you at night whether you keep the light on or not.
So, how do you get rid of them? Personal or professional, it can take quite a bit of work. For do-it-yourselfers, the EPA offers information on how to prepare for and treat bedbugs in your home using both chemical and non-chemical methods. If the infestation is beyond the DIY stage, however, you may need to call on a professional. Make sure the company and operator are licensed; check the license status first with the Structural Pest Board of California.