Close up photo of an adult bed bug.Bed Bugs

This pest profile is dedicated to a small (but very viscious) insect known as the Bed Bug (Cimex lectularius).

Here you can learn about their appearance, feeding habits, detection and even answer the question: can bed bugs be transported on clothing?

Let’s take a closer look at this pesky home invader.


Bed Bugs Facts

The adult bed bug is brown (to reddish-brown), oval-shaped, and has a pair of front wings. Luckily, it can’t fly. Microscopic hairs cover its entire body. It can grow to be 4–5 millimeters long and 1.5–3 millimeters wide. A newly hatched bed bug is called a nymph and it appears translucent.

A variety of other common household bugs look similar to bed bugs, so make sure you know the difference.

Bed bugs have an appetite for blood. When other species are not available, they would gladly feed on humans. Water vapor in the air is enough for their need of additional moisture. Just like the mosquito, the bed bug is attracted to hosts mainly by carbon dioxide. It loves exposed skin, especially the arms, neck, and face of a sleeping person.

Under warm conditions, the adult bed bug will try to feed every five to ten days but it can survive for nearly five months without blood. Under cool conditions, it can last for over a year without feeding.

The most important thing is the host person must be kept from being bitten repeatedly. Once all the biting stops, the symptoms will subside on their own without any treatment in about a week or two.

There is no medical evidence that medications improve the condition of the victim. To avoid ongoing bites can be difficult as it requires the complete eradication of all bed bugs that reside at a dwelling.

In short – yes, bed bugs can be carried on clothing. If you are working in an office or simply have constant contact with people, there is a chance for bed bugs to transfer to you. But don’t worry, there are ways to prevent it.

You can’t stop the bugs to go to your clothes, but you can stop them from spreading around your home. Here is how:

  • If you have suspicion that you are carrying the pests, go to a room without carpets or other clothing materials (e.g. bathroom)
  • Remove your clothes and put them in plastic bags.
  • They should remain there until the wear is ready to be laundered or frozen
  • With washing machine – at least 2-hour long wash cycle at 45°C. Freezing will take longer (at least a week), but it must be with really low temperatures (-20°C/-30°C).

Along with DDT and organophosphates, some types of bed bugs have developed a genetic resistance to pyrethroid insecticides. This allows for other chemicals to be studied and used against the pests. Synthetic pyrethroid and chlorfenapyr are currently of growing interest.

However bed bug pesticide resistance seems to be increasing more and more. Sampled bugs across the United States seem to show tolerance to pyrethroids which is a few thousand times higher than the usual.

Health Effects

A bed bug infestation can lead to several health effects such as allergic symptoms, skin rashes, and even psychological problems. Depending on their number, bed bug bites can lead to a variety of skin problems such as gruesome blisters. About 30% of hosts respond to bites with reddish spots and itching that can last for a few days.

Some symptoms might be delayed and can appear several days after the actual bites took place. From a psychological point of view, an infestation can cause stress, sleep deprivation and anxiety.

Bed bugs are active during the night and act elusive. The peak of activity is usually between 10pm and 6am. This makes their detection somewhat difficult. They prefer to hide in the darkest places you wouldn’t usually check.

Bite marks are the obvious symptoms but other signs include faecal matter in the form of small black droppings that might resemble black pepper. If you find some, then probably the nest is somewhere nearby.

This parasite doesn’t like to spend too much time on its host. Once done with feeding, it will return to a safe place where it won’t be noticed, typically a couch or somewhere near the bedding. These places are usually clustered with adults, young ones, and eggs.

There are a many ways for a dwelling to become bed bug infested. Here are a few examples:

  • Adult bugs and eggs can be brought into a place through another person’s clothes or luggage;
  • Through an infested brought-in item like an article of clothing or furniture;
  • From an infested nearby place if there are routes that allow it such as false ceilings and ducts;
  • People who visit infested areas like homes or means of transport (bugs can be found in the upholstery);
  • Wild animals such as bats can be carriers of bed bugs and similar parasites;

Modern methods of bed bug control include:

  • pesticides
  • isolation
  • heat treatment
  • disposal of contaminated belongings
  • use of organic and inorganic materials.

The use of pesticides remains the most popular choice but it has its drawbacks. The application of a pesticide may lead to dispersal of the bed bugs which leads to spreading the infestation. Also, some bed bugs have developed a resistance against DDT and pyrethroids which has created the need of advanced chemical approaches. Cyhalothrin is officially listed as the most effective insecticide against bed bugs.

What to do in case of a bed bug infestation

Technician performs second treatment for bed bugsIf you suspect or know for sure that your dwelling is infested with bed bugs, then you better enlist the help of professionals right away. Do not attempt to deal with the situation on your own as you might not be using the right pesticides.

Bed bugs are very intuitive and they will be on the move once they sense you are on to them. That is why you need the help of specialists who know what chemicals will work best against the pesky insects. This is the only way to be sure that the colony will be isolated and effectively eradicated.

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