For people who remember the 80s, the term bed bugs may well conjure up memories of a board game where you had to pick up plastic bugs using giant tweezers. For other people they will simply think of the famous saying “don’t let the bed bugs bite” which no one has ever taken seriously, of course. So, in many cases people don’t even think bed bugs are real but the truth is, they are and they really are very unpleasant, and on top of that they are on the rise in the UK!
So what are they? What do they do? How do I know if I have them? All common questions once you realise, they are a real thing. So, put down your lunch as this may put you off and we can have a look at the real facts about bed bugs and how to deal with them!
What are Bed Bugs?
The word bug does actually have a true scientific meaning, it is a group of insects called the hemipterans or “true bugs” these are most commonly seen as shield bugs but there are more. Sadly though, thanks to our friends from the USA the word bug is used to describe almost any insect as well as arachnids and arthropods like woodlice. So is the word bug correct? Well no, bed bugs are insects but not in the bug group. There are two main species Cimex Lectularius (common bed bug) and Cimex Hemipterus. They are brownish in colour when adults and quite flat looking. They can grow to around 5mm and can look a little like ants when moving.
What do They Feed on?
Bed bugs feed on human blood and there is no nice way of saying that. They find us by following the CO2 we breath out so there is very little we can do about putting them off unless we stop breathing.
Are Bed Bugs a Problem in the UK?
According to pest control experts Empire Pest Control in London, bed bugs have been a growing problem since the 1990s. Of course, they have been around for millions of years but as we live closer and closer together and we travel more globally things have got worse. They are also spreading because of international freight, increasing temperatures and a relatively new idea of upcycling old furniture, buying secondhand furniture and the popularity of vintage household goods.
More and more properties are having to deal with bed bugs, and it has nothing to do with being clean or dirty. It is all to do with coming into contact with bugs and eggs and this can happen through clothing, bedding or furniture. It only takes one person to buy a cushion on eBay and bring it into a home to potentially start an infestation.
How Do We Know if We Have Bed Bugs?
There are a number of things to look out for but the first one is noticing bites on your skin. These bites are quite obvious and can be itchy. During the summer we all get the odd bite but if you start seeing clusters and you don’t think you have been out in the woods or camping it may be bed bugs. You may also see small red or black marks on your bed sheets. In some cases, these are tiny spots of blood from where they have been feeding on you, these can often be seen in a line as they do not travel far between feeds. They can also drop faecal matter when disturbed which is black. The later also has an unpleasant sweet small which can be noticed in a room if there are a lot of them. You can also sometimes see the bugs themselves or their shedded skin as they grow.
What Do We Do About Bed Bugs?
The first thing to do is call in professional help. Bed bugs are classed as vermin and it is your legal responsibility to deal with an infestation. They can easily be spread between things as they are very mobile. They can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime which isn’t actually that much compared to other insects but left uncheck it is enough to create quite a problem. Once the professionals have treated the house or room it is important to vacuum the suspected furniture items as often as possible to help support the treatment. Once you actually know you have a problem it is a case of being pro-active. The tricky part is being aware enough to notice there is an issue.
Anyone who isn’t feeling a little itchy after all this talk of bed bugs must be very strong. Yes, bed bugs are real, yes we have them in the UK and yes it is easy to get them. They have nothing to do with dirt but can be common in homes with high traffic of people so even houses regularly let out for air BNB can be prime locations. There are a lot of myths about bed bugs too like they can fly, they only live in bedding and they spread disease, these are not true but that doesn’t make them something you want around. If you see evidence, don’t panic, call pest control and they will get the problem solved.