Bed bugs are a pest that most of us are unfamiliar with (unless you’ve had the misfortune to suffer an infestation) yet there are many myths surrounding these elusive pests.
You may have recognised the phrase “Night, night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, if they bite squeeze them tight, they won’t come back another night” in the late 1800’s Victorian Britain as bed bugs were a well-established pest back then.
Improved pesticides and pest controls over the early 1900’s meant that bed bug infestations were almost eradicated. However, the banning of pesticides such as DDT in the early 1970’s gave these pests an opportunity to start recovering.
In the last 20 years or so, there has been a resurgence in bed bug infestations in residential homes and commercial premises. Below are some common myths and misconceptions about bed bugs. Armed with the factual knowledge and not the fiction about these tiny pests you can be vigilant against an infestation:
Myth One: Bed bugs can jump or fly
Fact: Many people do ask, “Can bed bugs fly?”. Bed bugs are unable to fly, they can’t even jump. People can confuse bed bugs with fleas or ticks, which do jump. The only way bed bugs move is by crawling, which they can do quite quickly (around four feet per minute).
Myth Two: Bed bugs can ONLY be found on beds
Fact: Despite their name, bed bugs can hide anywhere in a property, if it’s dark and provides shelter. Bed bugs prefer to stay close to where people rest (for ease of feeding) so cracks or crevices in bedroom furniture, wall sockets, light fittings, bedframes, mattresses and headboards are more obvious locations. However, they will take harbourage in soft furnishings like sofas, curtains, chairs, and have even been found in padded seating on planes, trains, and coaches. In fact, anywhere people rest for reasonable periods of time.
Myth Three: Bed bugs prefer unsanitary conditions
Fact: Bed bugs are not attracted to dirt and grime; they prefer lots of people rather than a dirty environment. The warmth and carbon dioxide our bodies emit during rest and sleep attracts these insects. However, clutter does offer them more hiding places and can make it harder to detect and exterminate bed bugs.
Myth Four: Bed bugs can’t be seen by the naked eye
Fact: An adult bed bug’s size is usually around 4-5mm long (about the size of an apple pip or seed) but grows larger after a blood feed, up to 6mm in length. With keen sight, knowledge of what you’re looking for and where to search you should be able to see adult bed bugs with your naked eye. Immature nymphs can also be seen but are smaller than adults, and translucent whitish yellow in colour.
Myth Five: Bed bugs can’t survive in luggage
Fact: It is quite possible to transport bedbugs’ home in your luggage, particularly if you leave your suitcase on your hotel bed or floor if these insects are present. Bed bugs can easily latch onto your clothing and bags or crawl into your luggage to hitchhike their way into your premises. Use a rack or the top of the wardrobe to store your belongings, as these are harder places for bed bugs to reach or place your suitcase or bag in the bathtub or shower, while you check the bed and mattress for any signs of bed bugs.
Myth Six: Bed bugs fear light
Fact: Bed bugs aren’t afraid of light, while they prefer darkness, keeping the lights on at night won’t deter these pests from biting you. The heat and carbon dioxide our bodies emit during sleep is very attractive to the insects, light will not deter them, especially if the bedbugs are hungry.
Myth Seven: Bed bugs need a host to stay alive
Fact: Technically an adult male bed bug could survive up to a year without a blood feed, but only if the temperature remained a constant 10 °C. In a room with the most favourable temperature (21 – 26 °C), bed bugs can survive for about 100 days without a feed. However, female bed bugs will feed more frequently as they need the blood to develop their eggs.
It’s important to know that 56°C (132F) or more will kill bed bugs at any life stage. This is the temperature at which a room (or the contents of a room) is heated during a bed bug heat treatment, which is one of the most effective ways of bed bugs extermination.
Myth Eight: Bed bug bites will wake you at night
Fact: Bed bugs have in their saliva anesthetic substances that increase the blood flow at the bite, and as they feed it reduces the sensation, keeping sleepers from feeling the initial bed bug bite when they start to feed.
Without knowing what to look out for, bed bugs can spread rapidly, meaning prompt detection and swift, effective action is key to controlling a bed bugs infestation. Bed bug control can only be maintained through a treatment strategy that includes a variety of techniques and careful attention to monitoring.
For business owners these pests can impact brand image, reputation and customer satisfaction, if overlooked. Seeking professional help swiftly is key to minimising the risk of a prolonged infestation. Rentokil offers a range of bed bug treatments in the UK, such as its non-toxic Entotherm heat treatment.