The first thing people realize when dealing with a bed bug infestation is just how little they really understand about these blood hungry little pests. Sure, everyone probably knows that bed bugs are parasites. We know that they feed on the blood of human hosts. It’s probably also a good bet that most of us have heard how common bed bug infestations have become, reaching heights that haven’t been seen for more than half a century.
But beyond that, what passes for common knowledge about bed bugs gets a little thin on the ground. Over the years a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding has driven the public’s opinions and insights about bed bugs. But understanding these parasitic pests is half the battle. If we want to properly identify and treat bed bug infestations we need to dispel some of the more popular myths.
So, without any further ado…
Bed Bugs Can Fly
This is one of the more common misconceptions people tend to have about bed bugs. Because so many other insects do, in fact, fly it’s easy to just assume that bed bugs do as well. But bed bugs don’t have wings. In fact, they can’t even jump.
Bed bugs are crawling insects. They can travel up to one meter (3.2 feet) per minute. That makes them pretty mobile for a crawling insect, and pretty quick on their feet all things considered. But they do not, and cannot, fly. So that’s one less thing we need to worry about.
Bed Bugs Only Come Out at Night
Because of their name, many people assume that bed bugs only come out to feed at night. But that’s not strictly true. Bed bugs have become associated with night because they tend to live and gather around mattresses. It’s convenient to the host, and the host is usually sedentary when they’re lying on their mattress.
But bed bugs are actually only attracted to the heat and carbon dioxide humans give off when they sleep. The time of day, and the location of the host itself, is largely immaterial. Bed bugs are happy to feed at any time of the day as long as their host is sedentary and close at hand.
Bed Bugs Only Live in Beds
This misconception is fairly easy to understand. Due to their name it is easy to assume that bed bugs are likely to be found in beds. But that’s far from the truth. Bed bugs can be found in a wide variety of locations within a home including bed linen, headboards, baseboards, couches, luggage and closets. They can also be found in a wide variety of environments other than a home, such as public transportation, office break rooms, theaters, and government buildings. In short, any place where you can find humans you will likely find bed bugs.
Bed Bugs Bite in Threes
There has long been a prevailing myth that bed bug bites appear in groupings of three, usually in a zigzag pattern. The thought is that a bed bug tends to probe three times before finding a suitable feeding spot. What is more likely, however, is that multiple bed bugs are feeding on the host at the same time. This is what creates the cluster of bites that makes up a bed bug rash. It’s also worth noting that bed bug bites look different on different people.
Don’t wait for a mythical zigzag, or a pattern of three bites, to tip you off to a bed bug infestation. Any bite is an odd occurrence and should be promptly investigated.
If You Aren’t Being Bitten, You Don’t Have Bugs
Bed bug bites are one of the surest signs of a bed bug infestation. However, just because you aren’t seeing any bites doesn’t mean there might not be a problem. In the first place, bed bugs don’t bite everyone. In the second, bed bug bites affect everyone differently.
Some people have little or no reaction to a bed bug bite. They won’t notice the bites, they won’t be bothered by an itch, and they won’t develop the ‘telltale’ bed bug rash. Other people react much more violently, and the bites and irritation will be a very real source of misery. Moreover, it can take up to 15 days for bed bug bites and rashes to appear, if they ever do.
So it’s a mistake to rely solely on the appearance of bed bug bites to determine if you have an infestation. Look for other obvious signs of bed bug activity such as shed skins, blood spotting, fecal stains, and sweet musty odors.
Bed Bugs are an Invisible Enemy
Some people believe that bed bugs are too small to be seen. But that’s certainly not the case. While bed bugs are small, typically no more than 5 millimeters in length, they can definitely be seen with the naked eye. Also, their distinctive reddish-brown coloring makes them fairly easy to spot if you’re looking in the right places. Even bed bug eggs, usually no larger than a pinhead, can be seen upon close inspection with nothing more than the naked eye.
Bed Bugs are Carriers of Diseases
This is a myth that definitely needs busting. It’s understandable in a way to think of bed bugs as spreaders of disease. They bite us when we sleep and feed on our blood when we’re at our most vulnerable. That alone suggest something sick and unhealthy.
But all indications are that bed bugs do not carry or spread any form of infectious disease. While their bites may be irritating, particularly for those that suffer a severe allergic reaction to the attack, they are not vectors of disease. Having said that, it is important to remember to treat bed bugs with care. Constantly scratching at a bed bug rash can result in wounds that tend to become infected, and that can ultimately require medical intervention.
Tackling Bed Bugs with a Clear Head
Discovering you’ve been sharing your home or office with bed bugs can be stressful, and more than a little upsetting. But the more you know about these parasitic insects the better equipped you will be to handle the situation with a clear head and an effective plan. Dispelling some of the more commonly help myths concerning bed bugs makes it that much easier to tackle an infestation head on, intervening before it gets out of hand, and ensuring that you and your family continue to enjoy a home free from bed bugs.