They were almost thought to be extinct. A few years ago, the population of the small, flat insects in domestic bedrooms continued to increase: the bed bug. Through the targeted use of the very powerful pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), the population of the bug could be greatly reduced. However, since DDT has been banned, the insect’s population has also been able to recover. Found mostly in bedrooms, the bug infests humans and causes itchy sores on the skin through its bite. Once the annoying insect has been identified as a bed bug, targeted control can take place.
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causes of infestation
In addition to the ban on the pesticide DDT, there are other reasons why bed bugs feel comfortable in the bedroom at home again. In this context, the increasingly negative attitude towards chemical pesticides and insecticides plays an important role. In addition, the parasites could develop resistance to numerous chemical substances. Certain living conditions also lead to an increased risk of being affected by an infestation:
- Willingness to travel, especially trips to warm or poor countries (import of bugs via luggage)
- Preference for antiquarian furniture in which bed bugs can hide
- Poor hygiene leading to rapid spread of bugs
The bed bug family comprises around 20 genera and more than three times as many species. Of these, the species Cimex lectularius is of particular importance in Germany. Adult animals can be seen with the naked eye as they reach a size of up to 8mm. The shape of insects shows some particularly typical characteristics; they are hairy parasites with six legs and a very flat body. The bed bug presents itself overall as an oval, compact structure.
If the bed bug has sucked blood, you can recognize it by its red to brown colored body. Normally it is transparent. The parasites also increase in size after a meal. In addition to their characteristic appearance, the insects can be recognized by their typical smell. Bed bugs use special glands to produce a sweet scent when alarmed.
But if there is an infestation of bed bugs, not only the adult animals are found. Female insects lay up to 15 eggs a day, from which larvae hatch; Depending on the room temperature, these develop into adult bed bugs within a few weeks to a few months. If the room is warmer, the larvae hatch faster. The insects reach sexual maturity after almost eight weeks; the rapid reproduction usually results in a mass infestation; Clusters of bugs, eggs and larvae, also called “nests”, can then be found in cracks and crevices.
During its development phase and also in adulthood, the parasite is able to survive extended periods of starvation. At moderate temperatures, it is possible to survive without a blood meal for up to six months without any problems. If the temperatures are high, the service life will be reduced in this case. With good nutrition, bed bugs can live for about a year; during this time, females lay around 500 eggs. Bugs feed on the blood of their hosts. Basically, the parasites prefer animal hosts; but due to the strong increase in the population, it has become necessary to switch to humans as hosts. The nocturnal animals emerge from their hiding places during the night hours. They are attracted by the warmth, the smell and the air people breathe. Then, after a well-aimed bite, they ingest the blood of their host; this process takes three to 20 minutes.
Typical hiding spots
Combating bed bugs begins with a reliable detection of the parasites. Since bed bugs are afraid of light and only appear during the night hours, they can only rarely be observed. During the day, the parasites return to their hiding places. If you suspect that bed bugs are in the bedroom after a night-time bite, you should first search the immediate area for suitable hiding places. Areas in and around the bed should be inspected particularly carefully:
- Cracks inside the mattress
- holes in the pillow
- Niches between the duvet cover
In addition to these typical hiding places, there are other areas of the bedroom that are suitable hiding places for bugs. These include, first of all, sections of wallpaper that are in the immediate vicinity of the bed. Woodchip wallpaper in particular is used as a hiding place. In addition, bed bugs seek shelter in cracks and crevices in various furniture, for example the bedside table or the wardrobe. Skirting boards or wall coverings should also be checked for the parasites.
If there is a hi-fi system in the bedroom, niches between buttons and switches offer ideal retreats. In this context, empty CD cases should also be checked for infestation; there are often veritable nests here. If there are unused sockets in the bedroom, a thorough investigation is recommended there as well. However, you should look carefully here and avoid direct contact. Bed bugs can also often be found in niches on bookshelves. A flashlight and a magnifying glass should be used for a thorough examination.
traces on the skin
Since bed bugs are nocturnal animals, an infestation cannot usually be detected by directly viewing the parasites. In most cases, the suspicion is confirmed when there are bite marks on the skin in the morning. However, at first glance, the bite can easily be mistaken for a mosquito bite. However, if the bed bug is responsible for the bite, certain characteristics can be identified. These are reddish spots that appear in a row. Due to their small body size, bed bugs usually do not succeed in hitting a blood vessel on the first try. The search for a vessel results in an arrangement resembling a line appearing on the skin. Such a “bug street”, which usually contains four or five bite sites, occurs preferably on body parts where there is no hair growth. Particularly popular areas include:
- areas on the face
- shoulders and arms
- neck and neck
The individual bites can reach the size of a small fingernail. Similar to insect bites, these cause severe itching. In addition, particularly sensitive skin tends to form small hemorrhages or wheals. Gel-like preparations help against the itching. If there is minor inflammation, the affected skin area can also be treated with a light cortisone ointment. Rarely, allergic reactions or inflammation can also occur. Complications such as anaphylactic shock or an asthma attack are observed in the rarest of cases.
footprints in the bedroom
In addition to the visible and noticeable symptoms on the skin, bed bugs leave various traces that can be used to easily identify them. These include, for example, small black dots on the duvet or mattress. These are the excrements that bed bugs lose during their migration. Such balls of droppings can also be found in the hiding places of the parasite or on the skin. In addition, small bloodstains can be seen on the bed cover on the mattress. The secretion comes out of the wound that the insect causes when it bites. Remnants of all five developmental stages that larvae go through before they become bed bugs can also sometimes be found. These include, above all, remains of the characteristic molting, which have a round shape and are transparent.
Control of bed bugs
Getting rid of bed bugs is very difficult and time-consuming. If there is a suspicion of an infestation, it has proven to be useful in any case to notify an exterminator. The fact that the parasites are in different stages of development is particularly problematic; introduced insecticides are not 100% effective against all stages, so pest control must be carried out several times in a row.
The fight against bed bugs is divided into different phases; The first step is to check whether an infestation is actually present. The parasites often hide themselves so carefully that they cannot be found. In this case, it has proven useful to apply double-sided adhesive tape to the wallpaper, baseboards or bed frame. The bed bugs stick to the tape.
The bugs can be detected more professionally with the help of a special trap. This is a small plastic device that uses a special technique to release an attractant. Such traps are often used for follow-up care.
If there is an infestation, the actual fighting takes place. For this purpose, a suitable contact insecticide is first introduced into the affected hiding places. This measure works best with special sprays. However, treatment with a neurotoxin is not sufficient in most cases. For this reason, additional, non-chemical processes are usually used. Various options are then available for the direct handling of objects:
- Washing of clothes and sheets at 60 °C
- Freezing clothes and objects (-18 °C); preferably for two days
- Application of diatomaceous earth, which leads to the desiccation of the bugs
Special heaters are also set up by the Kammerjäher, which reliably kill most bed bugs with temperatures around 60°C. Conversely, a special process with carbon dioxide, which leads to the development of extreme cold, can help to combat the parasites. However, very well hidden bugs are not completely destroyed by this treatment. Then combating bed bugs with a gaseous neurotoxin can be helpful. This is fogged up in the affected room, or even better in the adjoining rooms. Due to the strong potency of the poison, the apartment should then not be entered for at least two days.
Getting rid of bed bugs is difficult. For this reason, targeted prevention is of particular importance. For textiles that can withstand high temperatures, cleaning with hot water is very helpful for this purpose. In addition, tourists vacationing in warm or tropical countries should store their luggage at a safe distance from the bed during their stay; Suitcases and bags should always be kept closed. Immediately after returning from vacation, you should clean textiles, suitcases and bags very thoroughly.