First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS to everyone who celebrates!!
Since it’s Christmas, I want to start with a topic that’s not too difficult for me to handle, but might be a bit disturbing for those who are more squeamish.
This topic is a pretty personal one for me at the moment, as I’m struggling with a bed bug infestation in my apartment. There tends to run the high tensions of “who brought them in,” “who’s going to pay for the treatment,” and “when can I get my life back on track?”
While bed bugs are not known to transmit infectious diseases to humans or their pets, they are a nuisance. To most, it may just be the uncomfortable stigma, but for those who are sensitive to insect bugs (ie. Me), they can be a nightmare of itchy rashes. The stigma, however, may be the most difficult to deal with because of the constant wonder people have when they interact with you. Even if they don’t say it, everyone seems to be wondering “are there any on you right now?” And no matter how many times it’s explained to be independent of living conditions, people are probably going to assume you’re a dirty, unsanitary person.
The CDC has the broad lifecycle of the bed bug covered pretty well. They tend to feed from humans, but other mammals and birds will suffice if humans are absent. Bed bugs take about 5-10 minutes for a full meal and adults can live for 6-12 months. (Aside: bed bugs also secrete a chemical in their saliva which numbs the skin during feeding, making it highly unlikely that you’d ever notice them during feeding. They can also survive for long periods of time without feeding). Females lay about 5 eggs daily through their adult lives in a sheltered location (likely due to the mating ritual… you can read that one yourself as I’m not sure how nsfw/disturbing it is). The eggs will hatch in about 4-12 days. (Aside: As a result, bed bugs do NOT form colonies. This is another reason why bed bug infestations are so difficult to treat).
It’s been found that bed bugs exhibit a natural circadian rhythm, which allows them to be more active during the night regardless of the light stimuli received throughout the day. Additionally it’s been found that short-term starved adults move more frequently than long-term starved adults. (Aside: This decrease in locomotor activity likely allows the bed bugs to survive for extended periods of time and may result in the probability that treatment misses a certain population of bed bugs.) The effects of insecticides was also evaluated. The typical insecticide on the market are pyrethroids; as a result, the resistance to pyrethroid insecticides is widespread. Deltamethrin (pyrethroid pesticide) and chlorfenapyr (pyrrole based pro-insecticide) were used on 20 bed bug populations to determine effectiveness. Deltamethrin was occasionally effective in the presence of an inhibitor (P450 inhibitor piperonyl butoxide) but resulted in beg bug avoidance of treated areas. Chlorfenapyr does not result in bed bug avoidance, is effective against the pyrethroid resistant strains, and has long residual activity. However, it doesn’t result in quick knockdown, so bed bugs will be able to freely move before death.
Bed bugs are spreading throughout a large majority of cities in the United States. On the 18 of December in Minneapolis, MN, a 62 year old man was reported to have murdered his 89 year old mother as a result of the bed bug infestation in her apartment. He claimed that she would be evicted and he would have to help her move as the main stressor behind his actions.
What this means to you
While it seems a little extreme to murder someone over a bug, it must be remembered that bed bugs are an infestation. Due to their biology, they are hard to eliminate and multiply quickly. They are unlikely to transmit diseases in their current state but are heavily associated with negative stigma and can be traumatizing for both the person with the infestation and their friends or family. It’s important that if you suspect you may have bed bugs or know someone who might, that you look into proper techniques for bed bug treatment. This post was merely to discuss the biology, not the proper techniques to take if you or someone you know is infested. If anyone would like to know the information I’ve gathered in regards to that, please let me know and I’d be glad to share! If anyone has any experiences to add, those are more than welcome as well.
CDC. “Parasites – Bed Bugs – Biology” (17 Mar 2015). CDC. Accessible: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/biology.html
Romero, Alvaro. “Biology and Management of the Bed Bug, Cimex lectularius L. (Heteroptera: Cimicidae)” (2009). University of Kentucky Doctoral Dissertations. Paper 762. Accessible: http://uknowledge.uky.edu/gradschool_diss/762
Kes, Tyler. “Man murders mother with statue of himself over bed bugs,” (22 Dec 2015). WOWKTV 13 News. Accessible:http://www.wowktv.com/story/30807730/man-murders-mother-with-statue-of-himself-over-bed-bugs